Richard Dawkins is not an accommodationist

Oh for God’s sake! An alert reader called my attention to two blog posts by Josh Rosenau and Chris Mooney/Sheril Kirshenbaum, both claiming that Richard Dawkins explicitly voiced accommodationist views in a Newsweek interview. “He’s changed!” they say.

Well, I know Richard Dawkins. I am at a meeting with Richard Dawkins. I just discussed these accusations of accommodationism with Richard Dawkins. And I can tell you, Chris, Sheril, and Josh, that Richard is not one of you.

Right now I feel like Woody Allen in Annie Hall. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll remember that in one scene Allen standing in line with Diane Keaton, waiting to see a movie, and becomes annoyed by some pompous guy trying to impress his date by nattering on about the work of Marshall McLuhan. Allen goes behind a movie sign and pulls out McLuhan himself, taking him over to confront Mr. Pomposity. McLuhan coldly eyes him and says, “Excuse me, but I am Marshall McLuhan, and I couldn’t help overhearing what you said. I have to tell you that you know nothing of my work!” Allen turns to the camera and quips, “Don’t you wish life could be like this?”

Well, I have a Woody moment now. Nobody who has followed Dawkins’s work and writing could possibly think he’s an accommodationist. Since I’m here with Richard at at the Conclave of the Godless, I simply emailed him the links to Rosenau and Mooney-and-Kirshenbaum’s websites. Here is Richard’s email response to the claims that he’s an accommodationist; it’s posted here with his permission, and was verified in person:

How utterly ridiculous. All I was saying is that it is possible for a human mind to accommodate both evolution and religion because F. Collins’s mind seems to manage the feat (along with lots of vicars and bishops and rabbis). I also needed to make the point that TGSOE [The Greatest Show on Earth] is not the same book as TGD [The God Delusion] because many interviewers who are supposed to be interviewing me about TGSOE have simply ignored it and gone right back to assuming that it is the same book as TGD.

I sympathize with politicians who have to watch every syllable they utter for fear it will be misused by somebody with an agenda.

So there”s your answer, Josh, Sheril, and Chris. I wish you weren’t so keen to validate your own ideas that you need to distort the views of others in a desperate ploy to show that they agree with your accommodationism. Really, you’ve read The God Delusion and, presumably, Dawkins’s other writings. Anybody with two neurons to rub together should know that the man is not an accommodationist.

Now that Dawkins has verified this, it would be nice to see Rosenau, Mooney, and Kirshenbaum correct their postings. And they need to stop pretending that the existence of religious scientists and religious people who accept evolution proves that science and faith are compatible. We settled that issue long ago. The issue is philosophical compatibility. Is that really so hard for anyone to understand?

152 Comments

  1. bobo
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Aren’t you supposed to be saying ‘faithiest’?

  2. Matt Penfold
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I have pointed this out to Rosenau on his blog.

    The idea that one can be religious and be a scientists is a trivial form of compatibility that no one denies. It is clearly true that there are scientists who are religious, and that includes some truly brilliant scientists. No one I am aware of denies this so I have some trouble understanding why Rosenau, Mooney et al continue to claim this is the type of compatibility the “new” atheists speak of.

    They are not stupid people, and I do not think they are straightforwardly lying. Rather I think they are playing politics. It suits their politic positions to claim that there is no incompatibility between science and religion, and since they lack the philosophical grounding to deal with the real claim of incompatibility they claim it is the trivial kind. Although I do not think they are lying, they are being less than honest and pretty unethical. Unless they are using political ethics rather than scientific ethics.

    • Posted October 4, 2009 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      “Although I do not think they are lying, they are being less than honest and pretty unethical. Unless they are using political ethics rather than scientific ethics”: pragmatic liars.

  3. Tyro
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    And please — stop pretending that the existence of religious scientists and religious people who accept evolution proves that science and faith are compatible.

    After reading some of their arguments and excerpts from their book, it seems as if they believe that this does prove compatibility.

    They’re certainly wrong but at least they’re consistently wrong.

    • Matt Penfold
      Posted October 4, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      After reading some of their arguments and excerpts from their book, it seems as if they believe that this does prove compatibility.

      Not only that, they also seem to believe that the ability to be both a scientist and religious is the type of compatibility that Dawkins, Jerry and others talk about.

      • Posted October 4, 2009 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

        Matt, the ability to be both a scientist and religious is EXACTLY the kind of compatibility Richard was talking about in the quotation under discussion. That was the point of the whole dustup.

        In any event, thanks to Jerry for getting this comment from Richard. I’ve sent Richard a request for clarification on some points, but this is a valuable addition to the dialogue.

        Alas, I don’t think my views were expressed quite correctly in this post, this does clarify things and advance the discussion more generally. I’ll try to clarify matters at TfK, both in terms of Dawkins’ views and in terms of my own.

    • Matt Penfold
      Posted October 5, 2009 at 2:32 am | Permalink

      Matt, the ability to be both a scientist and religious is EXACTLY the kind of compatibility Richard was talking about in the quotation under discussion. That was the point of the whole dustup.

      As you know, or should know, that kind of incompatibility is not something that Dawkins has changed his position on. It is like you have never bothered to read “The God Delusion”.

      So when you criticise Dawkins for his stance on incompatibility we at first assume you are referring to the type of incompatibility where there is disagreement: The philosophical incompatibility not the trivial one that quote concerns.

      It seems we may have placed to much belief in your arguing from a position of good faith.

      • Posted October 5, 2009 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        Matt, I do not know that Dawkins changed his views on this. He spoke rather harshly of the “Neville Chamberlain school” who used that rhetoric, and questioned the honesty and/or intelligence of Stephen Jay Gould for suggesting that any compatibility was possible. I cited the relevant passages in my original post on this, so there’s no excuse for you not to know this.

        One could argue, I suppose, that Dawkins was making a comment to Newsweek that implied no favorable judgment on his part of Francis Collins, but why then does he make a point of praising Collins? And if Dawkins is free to describe this sort of compatibility without it being taken as evidence of nefarious intent (which I believe is possible), then why cannot Eugenie Scott speak with the same freedom? Surely no one is telling her to “shut up”?

      • Sigmund
        Posted October 5, 2009 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        Josh Rosenau said
        “And if Dawkins is free to describe this sort of compatibility without it being taken as evidence of nefarious intent (which I believe is possible), then why cannot Eugenie Scott speak with the same freedom? Surely no one is telling her to “shut up”?”
        If Eugenie simply spoke about evolution being compatible with theism then she would have little or no problems. The issue is about the compatibility of religion and the scientific method.
        To say evolution and religion are compatible because Francis Collins believes in both is different to saying religion and science are obviously compatible because Francis Collins says he believes in both. Science is a methodology. Evolution is a theory that is the result of that methodology.
        You must know by now that the argument is over the epistemological compatibility question.

      • Posted October 8, 2009 at 6:31 am | Permalink

        Ummm. Science certainly has a range of epistemological stances associated with it.

        I don’t think that’s the case with religion.

        You guys talk about epitemological compatibility . . . what do you actually mean by that?

        What epitemological stance(s) do you take to characterize all religion?

  4. Posted October 4, 2009 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Maybe they’re confusing “remaining charming during heated public discourse” with accommodationism.

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted October 4, 2009 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      It would not be their first example of a facile confusion.
      As I have said to them on their blog, I cannot believe for a moment that they so sodding dim as to have not spotted the logical chasm to which they have alluded, vis:
      “that for Dawkins to have seen a certain behaviour is somehow a signal the he agrees with said behaviour”.
      For a conscious adult to hold the position that observation implies assent, (for that is what Josh, Chris & Sheryl contend), is such a bizarre conclusion that it defies analysis.
      They MUST be saying this not because they believe it to be true, but for some other reason.
      To obtain publicity, perhaps?
      A vain attempt to save what face they have remaining?
      Your guess is as good as mine!

  5. Posted October 4, 2009 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Not only that, they also seem to believe that the ability to be both a scientist and religious is the type of compatibility that Dawkins, Jerry and others talk about.

    Well Mooney at least did admit, at least once, that he got the point that it was epistemic compatibility that was at stake. He didn’t admit that he’d been getting it wrong (or obfuscating it) all this time, and he didn’t say he would do better in future, and he certainly didn’t admit he’d been energetically smearing people for saying what he now admitted, all this time…But he did admit that he got it. Maybe he’s gone back on that now.

    This was on The Intersection…in July some time I think.

    • Matt Penfold
      Posted October 4, 2009 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Ophelia,

      I had forgotten about that. I note that despite seeming to understand the real objection Dawkins and others have to the compatibility of science and religion he has failed to explain why they are wrong. At the time I think I asked him why he thought Dawkins was wrong, but other than say it was an interesting question he has not elaborated.

      At least he has gone further than Rosenau, who refuses to acknowledge the differences in the claims about compatibility.

      I now think they do not provide an answer for the simple reason they do not have one. I am sure someone philosophically inclined could come up with a response that would not be trivial to dismiss but if they have, I’ve missed it.

    • Posted October 4, 2009 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      He didn’t admit that he’d been getting it wrong (or obfuscating it) all this time

      Because, to him and most other accommodationists, the issue of epistemic compatibility is either trivial or boring. I suspect that he thinks that Coyne overplays the importance of the fact that faith is as different from science as rugby is from chess. I agree with him – that isn’t very important. Accommodationism is better defined as an internally consistent worldview that has a place for both sets of rules. Just as someone can play rugby and chess for similar reasons with different results, one can employ faith and science for similar reasons with different results. That the two are mutually exclusive in the sense that combining them for a single purpose bastardizes both does not prevent them both being employed separately for tasks that are at least similar on a semantic level.

      • Matt Penfold
        Posted October 4, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

        Because, to him and most other accommodationists, the issue of epistemic compatibility is either trivial or boring.

        That is an unusual excuse for dishonesty. It is also a pathetic one.

      • Wes
        Posted October 4, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        Because, to him and most other accommodationists, the issue of epistemic compatibility is either trivial or boring.Because, to him and most other accommodationists, the issue of epistemic compatibility is either trivial or boring.

        Whereas pointing out the fact that it is possible for person S to believe both P and ~P is really interesting and profound? Do you think “Joe believed in both evolution and unicorns, and saw no contradiction between them” to be a profound, interesting observation?

        Certainly Joe can believe in both by compartmentalizing his thinking. But that’s a trivial fact that isn’t relevant to the question of whether modern biology leaves any room for magical creatures like unicorns or centaurs.

      • Michael K Gray
        Posted October 4, 2009 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

        I’d like to see chess as played by the New Zealand All Blacks!

      • Posted October 4, 2009 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

        Not, however, if your job or your goal is science education. It’s not really science education to teach people that not believing things without evidence is perfectly compatible with believing things without evidence.

      • Posted October 4, 2009 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

        Whereas pointing out the fact that it is possible for person S to believe both P and ~P is really interesting and profound?

        The funny thing is that accommodationists and anti-accommodationists largely believe the same two trivial things, and probably differ little on a third.

        The first is that it is possible to accommodate both science and religion, the second is that science and religion are “EPISTEMOLOGICALLY INCOMPATIBLE!!!” (which reduces to the trivial fact that they are two different ways of looking at the world).

        Everybody agrees on both of those issues, accommodationist and anti-accomodationist alike… for the most part, and with the caveat that some on both sides make mistakes in arguing for their position – mistakes that could be used to suggest that they disagree with one or the other. But fundamentally, most will assent to both. And most can be shown where errors that seem to amount to disagreement are really superficial.

        Another issue is whether it is possible to accommodate both scienc and religion under an internally consistent larger world view. I see anti-accommodationists focusing on the differences between science and religion as epistemological methods to the exclusion of this issue and I suspect that this is because they find religion so revolting they cannot understand why anyone would want to have a larger, consistent world-view that had a place for both types of thinking. Yet, I think that if they put aside their revulsion long enough, they would assent to this position, too.

        In other words, the big hullabaloo is mainly over whether the positions that everyone agrees about should be characterized as accommmodationism or anti-accommodationism.

        Which is kind of silly.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted October 4, 2009 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

        Another issue is whether it is possible to accommodate both scienc and religion under an internally consistent larger world view. I see anti-accommodationists focusing on the differences between science and religion as epistemological methods to the exclusion of this issue and I suspect that this is because they find religion so revolting they cannot understand why anyone would want to have a larger, consistent world-view that had a place for both types of thinking. Yet, I think that if they put aside their revulsion long enough, they would assent to this position, too.

        It is not an “internally consistent larger world view” at all. If is delusional and dishonest.

        Your characterization of anti-accommodationists is absurd and off base.

        This is all hand waving. Evidence based knowledge (science) is not compatible with faith based woo and wishful thinking (religion).

      • Posted October 4, 2009 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

        Oh, Hi New England Bob! How’s everything with you?

      • Wes
        Posted October 4, 2009 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

        The first is that it is possible to accommodate both science and religion, the second is that science and religion are “EPISTEMOLOGICALLY INCOMPATIBLE!!!” (which reduces to the trivial fact that they are two different ways of looking at the world).

        No, that is not what it boils down to. In philosophy, compatibility of propositions has to do with whether they can both be true. If two propositions are incompatible, that means that if one is true, the other must be false.

        For instance, an incompatibilist position on free will would hold that free will is incompatible with determinism–if one is true, then the other must be false. A compatibilist, like Kant, would hold that they do not contradict each other and both can be true.

        To hold that religious belief X and scientific finding Y are incompatible is to say that if one is true, the other must be false.

      • Posted October 4, 2009 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

        No, that is not what it boils down to. In philosophy, compatibility of propositions has to do with whether they can both be true. If two propositions are incompatible, that means that if one is true, the other must be false.

        Well, science and religion aren’t two propositions – they are two systems of understanding. So, this statement is true of philosophical statements of truth, but not directly related to the controversies at hand.

        It is trivial to show that both science and religion can both be “true” in the sense of agreeing about a conclusion.

        It is also trivial to show that both science and religion are “different” in the sense that they operate by different sets of rules.

        It is also trivial to show that they are “different” in the sense that, applied to the same question, it is possible that they will yield different, and therefore “incompatible” answers.

        Given that they are different, it is trivial to show that science can answer some questions differently and incompatibly from the answers from certain religions.

        That is the statement focused on by anti-accommodationists.

        It is also easily demonstrated that there are questions science can or must remain agnostic upon that religion can answer definitively (but unscientifically). In that case the two answers are not incompatible, but rather arrived at by different means and therefore understood differently.

        This is a statement focused upon by accommodationists.

        But both groups: accommodationists and anti-accommodationists – realize or can realize the truth of both of those above statements. So accommodationism versus anti-accommodationism is merely a matter of focus.

        To recap – this is a matter of selective attention. Not a matter of real difference.

        But I do appreciate that you, Coyne, and others included are being very clear these days that the differences between atheists and religious people are philosophical ones, not scientific ones. That’s an important distinction to me – and it’s the reason I am interested in the debate to begin with. Earlier, it appeared that Dawkins, Coyne, and friends were making anti-religion a scientific rather than philosophical position. You are correct – it is a philosophical position. We do best when we promote it as such.

      • Matt Penfold
        Posted October 5, 2009 at 2:36 am | Permalink

        Well, science and religion aren’t two propositions – they are two systems of understanding.

        So it really is possible to believe that Jesus was the result of a virgin birth and the result of normal mammalian reproduction at the same time ?

        Sorry, but saying such things is rubbish.

      • Posted October 5, 2009 at 4:26 am | Permalink

        Ophelia Benson: “Not, however, if your job or your goal is science education. It’s not really science education to teach people that not believing things without evidence is perfectly compatible with believing things without evidence.”

        That’s it exactly, and this applies for general discussion as well as for education.

      • Posted October 5, 2009 at 5:41 am | Permalink

        Hi, Matt Penfold! How are things with you!

      • Bryan
        Posted October 7, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        “I sympathize with politicians who have to watch every syllable they utter for fear it will be misused by somebody with an agenda.” – Dawkins

        I’m pretty sure anyone with any sized platform has an agenda, Dawkins you’re not excluded. Everyone has to watch their syllables just as closely when interacting with you.

  6. Eric MacDonald
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    This is really unbelievable! In view of the fact that this matter has been thoroughly discussed, here on WEIT, on B&W, and Metamagicians and the Hellfire Club, on Chris Mooney’s Intersection, and doubtless elsewhere, it’s unconscionable to suggest that this kind of thing is what Mooney et co really meant all along. After all, obviously scientists can be religious believers too, and if that’s what the compatibility of science and religion was really all about the discussion wouldn’t – couldn’t – have got started. This was pointed out very clearly in response to the famous Eugenie Scott video clip. Do we not all remember?!

    They may not be stupid people, and they may not have lied outright, but it’s very hard to say, other than this, what we can say about what they did say or are now saying. Surely (as Wittgenstein used to say occasionaly) for a mistake, this is simply too big. The only other plausible explanation is that they are simply getting desperate. After investing so much time – but apparently so little intellectual effort – in the argument, they are grabbing at straws. What else could possibly explain this – what shall we call it? – lapse?

    • Matt Penfold
      Posted October 4, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      I agree. My suspicion is that they have too much vested in maintaining that religion and science are compatible, and that the only possible conflict between them is whether you can be a scientist and religious.

      In Rosenau’s case I suspect it is because of the position he holds within the NCSE. There seems to a party line in that organisation and he is parroting it.

      • Michael K Gray
        Posted October 4, 2009 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

        For the three of them to have all committed such a basic and transparent blunder as conflating observation with assent, goes beyond the simple unconscious slip, in my opinion.
        ‘Flailing Desperation’ comes to mind as an image of the death throes of their failed attempt to promote the unsupportable.

      • Matt Penfold
        Posted October 4, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

        For the three of them to have all committed such a basic and transparent blunder as conflating observation with assent, goes beyond the simple unconscious slip, in my opinion.
        ‘Flailing Desperation’ comes to mind as an image of the death throes of their failed attempt to promote the unsupportable.

        I think flailing is a good way of describing it. Mooney, Kirshembaum and Rosenau are all political and seem to have adopted a code of ethics that would be regarded as more fitting politicians than scientists. They really do seem to think it is OK to misrepresent an opponent’s position if it means you can score political points.

        They also probably wonder why politicians are so distrusted by the public.

  7. Eric MacDonald
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Crossed with Ophelia’s comment. As I say, surely we all remember!

  8. Posted October 4, 2009 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    It’s honestly like arguing with creationists when you try to get the point across an the accomodationist blogs. It’s almost as if they have no inkling whatsoever of the difference between accepting one result of the scientific method (evolutionary theory) with the scientific method itself. If it really were that simple then we should be able to say that Scientology, Mormonism and the Raelian religion are all compatible with science for the simple reason that they all accept the theory of electromagnetism.
    Like others here, however, I suspect that it is more a case of political posturing rather than intellectual integrity. Theists like Francis Collins really does seem to believe that his religion is compatible with the scientific method and I suspect the accomodationists are merely bending over backwards to keep the useful religious onside.

    • Matt Penfold
      Posted October 4, 2009 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      Rosenau is still denying he has done anything wrong, and still refuses to accept that Dawkins’ does not dispute the fact one can be a scientist and religious and never has done.

      • Michael K Gray
        Posted October 4, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

        How very sad.
        Another example of how religion twists otherwise great minds.

      • Posted October 4, 2009 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        The really silly aspect of this is that Josh seems to think this is a new position by Dawkins!
        As far as I can recall ALL the prominent anti-accomodationists have stated from the outset of this whole debate that it is possible to be religious and be a scientist. How could anyone in science think otherwise?
        Why doesn’t Josh just compile a list of such quotes by Jerry, Larry Moran, PZ Meyers, Ophelia Benson, Russell Blackford and the rest and claim complete victory!

      • Matt Penfold
        Posted October 4, 2009 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

        The really silly aspect of this is that Josh seems to think this is a new position by Dawkins!
        As far as I can recall ALL the prominent anti-accomodationists have stated from the outset of this whole debate that it is possible to be religious and be a scientist. How could anyone in science think otherwise?
        Why doesn’t Josh just compile a list of such quotes by Jerry, Larry Moran, PZ Meyers, Ophelia Benson, Russell Blackford and the rest and claim complete victory!

        This seems to be a common theme amongst the accomodationists.

        I suspect becuase it is so much easier to show that one can be a religious scientist. Coming up with arguments to counter the philosophical objections is much harder. Still there must be some accomodationists with training in philosophy who could at least try. I would like to see a decent response to the arguments put forward by Dawkins and others. I do not have much hope of seeing such an attempt though.

        Maybe Russell Blackford or Ophelia Benson could take pity and play devil’s advocate for a bit. Both are excellent at explaining the philosophical objection to compatibility, so I suspect they would have some idea of potential counter arguments.

    • newenglandbob
      Posted October 4, 2009 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      Oh, it certainly is political posturing or ‘framing’. Intellectual integrity is long gone from the accommodationist agenda.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted October 4, 2009 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

        I forgot to check the ‘notify me’ box. Carry on.

  9. articulett
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Deepity. It’s a “deepity” to say religion and science are compatible.

    • articulett
      Posted October 4, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      (or maybe it’s just “dipshitty”.

  10. Sili
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Is that really so hard for you to understand?

    Yes.

    This has been simple answers to simple questions. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

  11. JC
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    A scientist can be religious like a priest can be a pedophile. It doesn’t agree with what they teach, but they can do it anyway.

    • JC
      Posted October 4, 2009 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      and apparently someone else made the point better than I while I was awaiting moderation.

  12. Raiko
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    You’re being way too kind, if there people really claimed Richard was uttering accommodationist views – they all know better, very definitely and very consciously. If they uttered this nonsense, it’s not a mistake but a flatout lie, and they know it.

  13. moseszd
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    I see no point in accommodationism. Andrew Sullivan is taking pot-shots with theodicy again. And when two very respectful letters were submitted he cried and whined.

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/10/what-is-evil-for-the-darwinist-ctd-1.html#more

    Notice the title contains “Darwinist” in it. Every time I see that I think the person behind the term is the same kind of person that, in a different time and social convention, would be using racial epitaphs. Seriously, you’re crying for respect and you’re insulting people.

    • Matt Penfold
      Posted October 4, 2009 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Notice the title contains “Darwinist” in it. Every time I see that I think the person behind the term is the same kind of person that, in a different time and social convention, would be using racial epitaphs. Seriously, you’re crying for respect and you’re insulting people.

      I have noticed a difference in the acceptability of the term “Darwinism” between the US and the UK.

      Here in the UK the word is an acceptable way for a biologist to describe themselves. It indicates that not only do they accept evolution but they regards natural selection as being the principle mechanism in evolution.

      In the US is seems to be used as a term of derision by the creationist.

      All this is a long winded way of saying that whilst it can be used as an insult, it does have other connotations.

    • Posted October 4, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      Psst – you meant epithets. Not epitaphs.

      [tiptoes away]

  14. Jason A.
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    My armchair analysis is that they really didn’t ‘get it’ at first – they didn’t understand the existence of religious scientists doesn’t prove epistemic compatibility simply because they didn’t think that deeply about it. They may have just thought it was some No True Scotsman type thing where we were saying scientists aren’t religious and those religious scientists aren’t really scientists.
    Surely now they understand the real objection, but they may be too invested to admit they got it wrong (Mooney & Kirschenbaum) or just sticking with it for political reasons (Rosenau).

    • Posted October 4, 2009 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

      That sounds plausible. But being too invested to admit you got it wrong…for Christ’s sake…they’ve set themselves up as ambassadors for science! Surely one of the first and most basic criteria for doing anything with science, even ambassadoring for it, is being able to admit you got something wrong!!

      They should re-read Dawkins’s story of the science boffin who was told at a lecture that part of his life’s research had gotten something wrong, and warmly thanked the researcher who told him so – and how all the students, Dawkins included, applauded until their hands bled.

    • gillt
      Posted October 6, 2009 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      Jason A. “they didn’t understand the existence of religious scientists doesn’t prove epistemic compatibility simply because they didn’t think that deeply about it.”

      Actually, the incomprehension runs deeper. Throughout this whole debate Rosenau waits until now to claim he has no idea what epistemic compatibility actually means in relation to the issue.

      Rosenau: “For myself, I don’t know what it means to say that science and religion are “epistemically compatible…”

      I believe this is called stalling.

  15. Peter Beattie
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    » Matt Penfold:
    Although I do not think they are lying, they are being less than honest and pretty unethical.

    Spot on, Matt. I would submit that they are not even interested in whether they could be wrong. And that’s a point about philosophical illiteracy that I’ve been making for some time now, mostly in vain: if you have an ill-defined theory and pretty much only look for confirmation of that theory, then that’s what you’ll find. I realize that it might not be easy to apply this Popperian insight consistently to oneself, but I would expect anyone involved in this kind of discussion at least to make an effort.

  16. Posted October 4, 2009 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    There are quite a number of creationists and ID supporters who actually manage to do decent science (not in biology, for the most part, but in medicine, for instance I’m pretty sure there are quite a few on the clinical side of research – I knew one personally who was a world renowned hematologist).
    Presumably, by the NCSE’s definition of compatibility this means that creationism and Intelligent Design are compatible with science.
    Doesn’t it?

  17. articulett
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Believing in Santa is perfectly compatible with science– just look how many children readily accept a round earth AND a Santa that flies around it bringing presents to good little girls and boys!

  18. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    “Right now I feel like Woody Allen in Annie Hall. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll remember that in one scene Allen standing in line with Diane Keaton,…”

    The technical term for this is an “Annie Hall moment

    • JC
      Posted October 4, 2009 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I thought a woody moment sounded just… wrong.

    • Posted October 4, 2009 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      Yeah? But then what if you want to refer to a spider as big as a Buick moment, or an ‘I forgot my mantra’ moment, or a gawky flirting over the tennis rackets moment? There are a lot of moments in ‘Annie Hall’ – is the McLuhan moment really the Annie Hall moment?

      (I’m not doubting you – just making sure.)

      • Posted October 4, 2009 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

        There is another Annie Hall moment that also reminds me of this debate.
        “Scene [Alvy addresses a pair of strangers on the street]
        Alvy Singer: Here, you look like a very happy couple, um, are you?
        Female street stranger: Yeah.
        Alvy Singer: Yeah? So, so, how do you account for it?
        Female street stranger: Uh, I’m very shallow and empty and I have no ideas and nothing interesting to say.
        Male street stranger: And I’m exactly the same way.
        Alvy Singer: I see. Wow. That’s very interesting. So you’ve managed to work out something? ”
        Perhaps having religion and science compatible on a trivial and shallow level is enough for some people.

      • Reginald Selkirk
        Posted October 5, 2009 at 9:39 am | Permalink

        Mr. Google tells all.

  19. Flea
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    First Ardi proves Darwin wrong, later Moonie boy shows us that Dawkins is a faitheist(just like him!)… how lovely. Metinks it’s time for Ray Bananaman to have his say now.

  20. MadScientist
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    After Mooney’s latest display of intellectual dishonesty I no longer have any doubts that he should not have any credibility among thinking people (and Kirschenbaum isn’t doing herself any favors by remaining associated).

    Throughout the whole “Unscientific America” debacle Mooney has been using the dishonest tactics of creationists especially in handling valid criticism. I thought perhaps he was just trying too hard to sell a book which is not worth reading much less purchasing, but now I’m more inclined to believe that the dishonesty he habitually displays is not accidental and perhaps it is the sort of “science communication” which he promotes. Sorry Mooney, science has no need for lies; you should know that from how we treat the liars when they are caught. Even Nobel laureates in science are not excused by the community for lying.

    Now I think of Mooney as another Irving Kristol: the only thing that matters is what you want and there is no fundamental need for truth; if anything truth is the enemy.

    • Matt Penfold
      Posted October 5, 2009 at 2:42 am | Permalink

      After Mooney’s latest display of intellectual dishonesty I no longer have any doubts that he should not have any credibility among thinking people (and Kirschenbaum isn’t doing herself any favors by remaining associated).

      Interestingly Mooney posted on his blog congratulating Kirshenbaum on handing over a draft on her book about kissing to her published. The comment that struck me was how rewarding that was when it was your first book.

      I suspect it is just sloppy writing on Mooney’s part, but surely Kirshembaum’s first book was the one she co-authored with Mooney.

      • Paul
        Posted October 8, 2009 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        I mentioned it during the Intersection blog war regarding UA, and I still think Kirshenbaum was only brought on to the project to give it academic science cred to keep people from dismissing his opinions offhand on the changes he proposed in academia. I mean really, he’s the one that did all the dirty work, sliming the book’s detractors and trying to brush legitimate criticism under the carpet.

        Much good it did him, though. The book still sucked. Maybe he should have consulted with someone with a science Ph.D, although it might have been harder to get them to put their name on that train wreck.

  21. articulett
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    This reminds me of the Dover Trial where Behe was forced to acknowledge that, –per his definition of science–, astrology could be taught in science class.

    Per the accommodationist’s definition of “compatible”, all unfalsifiable supernatural claims and entities are “compatible” with science.

    But it’s dishonest to pretend that god belief is perfectly compatible without acknowledging that demon belief is equally “compatible” by the same definition. That’s what is so infuriating–

    You cannot pretend there are special ways of knowing “higher truths” without denigrating science–the “candle in the darkness” of Sagan’s “Demon Haunted World”.

  22. Tulse
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    What confuses me is how the accommodationists can, on the one hand, argue that religion is compatible with science, and then on the other argue against creationism. I don’t see any feature of creationism that isn’t ultimately present in any religion that postulates an interventionist god — why is it possible to have an uninseminated human female give birth to a male, but not possible for the world to have been created in six literal days? Once you grant miracles, all bets are off, and the best one can do is engage in some sort of special pleading as to why miracles are possible but not common. This seems like a losing hand to me, and is one more example of how the accommodationists are trying to win the battle by losing the war.

    • Matt Penfold
      Posted October 5, 2009 at 2:47 am | Permalink

      I have puzzled over the same thing. I have even asked some believers in a interventionist deity and did not get very good answers.

      Rob Knopp (remember him ?) argued that as long as miracles do not happen to often, or violate the rules of the Universe to much they can be allowed. Like you, I was puzzled over just how such a god could be so restricted. I never got a response when I asked.

  23. Posted October 4, 2009 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    Science and religion are compatible in the same sense that science and alcoholism are compatible.

  24. Dr.John R. Vokey
    Posted October 5, 2009 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    Let me see, let us think deeply for a while. Nope, they are just LLPOFs (a growingly important term in science, it seems: liar, liar, pants on fire). They have no leg other than one of deliberate lying to stand on. Simple. Why not just say that? Why all the “let’s be nice” nonsense? They lied. Simple. And, PLEASE, can we move on?

  25. Peter Beattie
    Posted October 5, 2009 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    I think at least in Josh Rosenau’s case, it is fair to say that his take on ‘compatibility’ is simply politically expedient apathy. He understands the distinction but chooses to ignore it:

    To the broader question, I’ve described myself as an apathistic agnostic, that is, I don’t think the existence of god(s) is knowable and I don’t much care. So I’m firmly committed to not weighing in on the truth value of claims about god(s), since I believe such discussions lack any basis for evaluating claims. Absent any knowledge (or way of getting knowledge, AFAICT) about the truth of religious claims, all I really can do is observe that many religious people do find science compatible with their faith, and say that I much prefer those people to people who rule out evolution for religious reasons.

    As I’ve said in that thread, that’s even worse than philosophical illiteracy, that’s deliberate philosophical ignorance. Somebody who doesn’t even want to know about the kind of thinking that makes science work should have no business in science education of any kind.

    • Matt Penfold
      Posted October 5, 2009 at 6:40 am | Permalink

      It is also a pretty incredible statement coming from someone who works for the NCSE.

      Does he really not care about the philosophical nature of science and religion compatibility ? Does he not see it as being relevant to his work in anyway ?

      • Posted October 5, 2009 at 8:24 am | Permalink

        If he saw it as not relevant in any way, I wouldn’t actually mind. The NCSE has to work with both people who consider science and “moderate” religion to be philosophically compatible (Ken Miller, say) and people who disagree (such as Jerry). I don’t believe that the organisation has to take any stance on that philosophical issues one way or the other. It should not use wording that suggests it does.

        It should be NEUTRAL on that issue, and welcome members, supporters, etc., with both views. It should not undermine people with either view.

        It should concentrate on (1) the scientific arguments (all the evidence shows that evolution is actually true) and (2) the legal arguments (the state should take no action to promote religious viewpoints, such as by undermining the teaching of well-established science to strengthen the social advantage of those religions which thereby benefit … something that the state has demonstrably been doing in each of the major cases so far).

      • Peter Beattie
        Posted October 5, 2009 at 9:52 am | Permalink

        Russell, can I perhaps ask you your opinion on my point about philosophical illiteracy/ignorance? I might possibly want to modify that stance, subject to any objections that other philosophically trained people like you might make. Would be much appreciated! :)

      • Posted October 5, 2009 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        This is actually a reply to Russell more than Matt, but I don’t get how commenting works here.

        The short answer to Matt’s question is “No.”

        And for largely the reasons Russell describes. My personal views on the matter would change nothing of the world, so who gives a damn? The world is what it is, and if compatibilists are wrong, they’ll deal with that when they do or don’t meet their Maker. Not my problem.

        To Russell’s broader point, I don’t feel that NCSE fails by those standards. There were things worth quibbling about, and it looks like most if not all of them were fixed since this fight started.

        The point about neutrality is key here, as that seems to have been the central demand all along. It strikes me as deeply unfair for people to have criticized Genie’s comments for not taking a position on philosophical compatibility while simultaneously chiding her for not doing more to rein in her organization from making such statements. And yet more unfair to level no criticism at all when someone else makes the exact same argument, twice, despite having taken a rather firmly opposite position on the philosophical question.

      • Posted October 5, 2009 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

        Josh –

        How can it not be your problem? How do you even know your views won’t change anything, given your job and your blog? You’re engaged with science education, no?

      • Posted October 5, 2009 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        It would be my problem if philosophy education were my job, clearly, but as Feynman reportedly said: “Philosophy is to science, as ornithologists are to birds.” One can be a good scientist with no philosophy of science background, or with incoherent views on philosophy of science. And questions about how science and religion connect are not even just philosophy of science, but philosophy of religion, and surely I shouldn’t have to teach about philosophy of religion just to encourage people to teach evolution.

        Indeed, I thought the criticism of NCSE’s position was that it did too much to endorse particular views of philosophy of religion. Now it’s a bad thing that NCSE, or I personally, don’t?

        My philosophy of religion is agnosticism, a well-developed and philophically defensible view, especially from the perspective of philosophy of science. At least IMHO.

        As far as science education, it is empirically true that people can be religious and can learn science, both as a matter of scientific method and as a matter of scientific knowledge. I say that, Genie says that, Dawkins says that.

        I don’t know how religious people do it, so it’s not useful for me to try to explain how it can be done. If people ask me that, I do what Dawkins does, I suggest they read Ken Miller or Francis Collins, and look for a local cleric who’s signed the Clergy Letter Project.

      • articulett
        Posted October 5, 2009 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

        Josh, are you equally “agnostic” about belief in demons or witches or astrology? Are you honest enough to admit that science is no more or less compatible with these notions than with god(s)? If not, why not? If so, then maybe religion ought not be catered to any more than other pseudoscientific notions and the NCSE should dismiss the topic as irrelevant. How else can we keep religion from dictating science? Who decides which magical notions we should coddle? How do you teach people the difference between fact and belief when you have self appointed “experts” such as yourself using language so fuzzily? If there are other easier ways of “knowing”, why learn science? If life is a “test” for determining one’s eternity, then why don’t all scientists put their brains into honing and refining the information? I submit it’s because there is nothing there–nothing to distinguish a real god from a myth. And to some people it feels dishonest pretending that gods are more scientifically compatible than the conjectur that we are in a Matrix or part of an experimental petri dish for some greater beings.

        Is it just god you are agnostic about? And by agnostic do you mean that you think there is a 50-50 probability that some god or gods are more than myth?

        As I’m sure you are aware, Dawkins also claims to be agnostic about god–after all, it’s an unfalsifiable claim–but he’s clear that he’s equally “agnostic” about fairies.

        The NCSE and you use terms like “agnostic” and “compatible” to let your audience hear what they want to hear, but you know full well that Dawkins is not using those terms in the “flexible” ways you are.

        You use words to suggest that god belief is somehow more scientific than similarly unfalsifiable notions and it is not–or rather, none of the “compatablilists” have made a case for why we should treat god belief differently than we’d treat belief in witches or hell.

      • Posted October 5, 2009 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

        “Josh, are you equally “agnostic” about belief in demons or witches or astrology?”

        I believe wiccans exist, certainly; they don’t seem to be able to work any empirical change in the world through any means inaccessible to me; their claims about the supernatural are untestable so I’m agnostic about that. Astrology isn’t science, and it’s wrong to the extent it’s presented as science. However, I like Douglas Adams’ comment on astrology from Mostly Harmless: “I know that astrology isn’t a science. … It’s just an arbitrary set of rules … They don’t make any kind of sense except in terms of themselves. But when you start to exercise those rules, all sorts of processes start to happen and you start to find out all sorts of stuff about people. In astrology the rules happen to be about stars and planets, but they could be about ducks and drakes for all the difference it would make. It’s just a way of thinking about a problem which lets the shape of that problem begin to emerge. … astrology’s nothing to do with astronomy. It’s just to do with people thinking about people.”

        As for demons, are they demons who do things in the real world, or are they sitting in Hades torturing souls? The latter doesn’t touch on the empirical, so yeah, I’m agnostic. The former does make claims, the claims are wrong, so I’m not agnostic.

        “…maybe religion ought not be catered to any more than other pseudoscientific notions and the NCSE should dismiss the topic as irrelevant.”

        Religions are not (all) pseudoscience. Words mean things, and religions which do not claim to be science are not. Pseudoscience is a narrow category that lets us deal with the gray area between science and non-science. Lots of things are non-science, including literature, history, dance, philosophy, and religion.

        “How else can we keep religion from dictating science?”

        Oppose religions that do that, and leave the others to their business, I suppose. Or oppose them for other reasons if you like.

        “Who decides which magical notions we should coddle?”

        I make a habit of not caring about people’s personal beliefs if they don’t cause harmful behavior (construed broadly) or interfere with my ability to hold my own personal beliefs. That’s not coddling, it’s indifference, and as Elie Wiesel notes: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

        “How do you teach people the difference between fact and belief when you have self appointed “experts” such as yourself using language so fuzzily?”

        How have I blurred that? When I give talks, I make it clear that I don’t “believe” in evolution or in gravity, the way that I “believe” in the Cubs or in true love. How hard is that? How am I using language fuzzily. I may be using it differently than you, but that’s a standard by which anyone could be accused, then. My definitions are straightforward and consistent, hence not-fuzzy.

        “If there are other easier ways of “knowing”, why learn science?”

        A) Who said they were easier? B) Because they don’t do what science does. That’s like asking why anyone drives a car when it’s so easy to be transported by reading a book.

        “If life is a “test” for determining one’s eternity, then why don’t all scientists put their brains into honing and refining the information?”

        I don’t know. Who says that’s what life is? Not me.

        “it feels dishonest pretending that gods are more scientifically compatible than the conjecture that we are in a Matrix or part of an experimental petri dish for some greater beings.”

        OK, but why are those beliefs incompatible with science? I honestly don’t know what that term is supposed to mean, and have yet to see a clear definition, but science would work fine as a method either way. It would produce accurate predictions and genuinely predictive theories.

        “Is it just god you are agnostic about? And by agnostic do you mean that you think there is a 50-50 probability that some god or gods are more than myth?”

        No. If I had a probability assessment, I’d have knowledge, and I think it’s impossible to have knowledge on the subject. I also think I could be wrong about that, so I don’t push that belief on others.

        “As I’m sure you are aware, Dawkins also claims to be agnostic about god–after all, it’s an unfalsifiable claim–but he’s clear that he’s equally “agnostic” about fairies.”

        But he also misdefines agnosticism, so don’t go too far with that.

        “The NCSE and you use terms like “agnostic” and “compatible” to let your audience hear what they want to hear, but you know full well that Dawkins is not using those terms in the “flexible” ways you are.”

        Well, in the quote in question he clearly was using “compatible” exactly the way I do, and other times I guess he’s used it differently, so I disagree with your judgment of him. Whatever, I still respect him. I see no evidence that I’ve applied these terms inconsistently myself, so the accusation of “flexibility” seems unjustified as well.

        “You use words to suggest that god belief is somehow more scientific than similarly unfalsifiable notions and it is not–or rather, none of the “compatablilists” have made a case for why we should treat god belief differently than we’d treat belief in witches or hell.”

        Nor is that my claim. I’m not a compatibilist, and I certainly don’t think belief in god is scientific. I think compatibility may be possible, or it may not, and in any event religious claims about god or other supernatural phenomena can’t be tested, so they aren’t science. They are no more science than lots of other things that aren’t science, and religions err in trying to edge closer to becoming a form of science.

      • Peter Beattie
        Posted October 6, 2009 at 7:57 am | Permalink

        » Josh Rosenau:
        The point about neutrality is key here, as that seems to have been the central demand all along.

        Seems to have been? Seems to have been? For crying out loud, it wouldn’t take a troupe of colour-blind hedgehogs in a bag that long to see that. In one of his first posts on the topic, Jerry goes on and on about neutrality.

        What’s more, this whole debate has never been about anything but neutrality. (Inane attempts by Mooney et al. to insinuate that the Bestselling Atheists were pushing their own agenda notwithstanding.)

        It strikes me as deeply unfair for people to have criticized Genie’s comments for not taking a position on philosophical compatibility while simultaneously chiding her for not doing more to rein in her organization from making such statements.

        This is misleading in so many ways, it’s hard to know where to start. First, as you can see in a video of Genie, she does take a stance on what you call philosophical compatibility. She says she doesn’t have to and could just point to empirical compatibility, but then leaves the trivial empirical compatibility behind, badly mangling philosophy and completely neutering science in the process. (‘Want to make stuff up about something “supernatural”? Go ahead, I’ll make sure scientists can’t call you out on it.’)

        Second, even if she and NCSE did keep to the empirical compatibility, that would still not be a neutral position to espouse, since there are at least as many people who cannot reconcile faith with science. Either you have to include this last group in your analysis, or you have to completely leave the issue to one side—which is incidentally what Coyne, Blackford, Rosenhouse, and Myers have been arguing for ad nauseam.

        It’s really not that hard to understand. And if one didn’t know better one could be led to believe that the NCSE’s holding fast to their incoherent stance was due to some political commitment that was overriding the rational aspects of the matter.

      • Joshua Slocum
        Posted October 6, 2009 at 9:55 am | Permalink

        Articulett, did you notice how Rosenau evaded your clear, unambiguous question?

        I believe wiccans exist, certainly; they don’t seem to be able to work any empirical change in the world through any means inaccessible to me; their claims about the supernatural are untestable so I’m agnostic about that.

        There claims about the supernatural are untestable? Really? Really? There’s no way to test the claim that, say, dancing around under the moonlight has an effect on whether someone wins the lottery? You expect us to believe you’re actually agnostic, that you have no idea at all whether supernatural wiccan claims are any more probable than the invisible dragon in the garage? What about demons – what do you think about those? Likelihood of them existing is, say, 50/50, huh? No way to know? No way to make an informed guess about the probability?

        I don’t believe you, Rosenau. What’s worse, I don’t think you believe you either. This squirmy avoidance isn’t philosophically sophisticated; it’s dishonest.

      • Matt Penfold
        Posted October 6, 2009 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        The short answer to Matt’s question is “No.”

        And that, Rosenau, is one of the reasons I no longer take you seriously.

        There was a time when you used to have worthwhile things to say.

        Tell me, have you apologised to Dawkins yet for misrepresenting what he had to say. Only there is nothing on your blog, and I know how important you consider civility. Or have you adopted the Chris Mooney approach and think that when you talk of civility it only applied to what others say ?

      • Posted October 6, 2009 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

        Matt, I’m suspending my normal application of Hanlon’s Razor in your case. I know reading is hard, but …

        “Tell me, have you apologised to Dawkins yet for misrepresenting what he had to say. Only there is nothing on your blog,…”

        And yet: “My intent was not to misuse his words, nor to bring ridicule or ridiculousness to him, and I’ve written Dawkins a note apologizing and asking for additional clarification, so that the needed correction is … correct.”

        I’m not holding my breath on your apology to me.

        Peter Beattie: “First, as you can see in a video of Genie, she does take a stance on what you call philosophical compatibility. She says she doesn’t have to and could just point to empirical compatibility, …”

        I’m going to cut in here, because saying that much got her labeled a dissembler, dishonest, etc. in the very post you point to. Her statement is nearly identical to Dawkins’s, but no one is calling him a dissembler.

        “but then leaves the trivial empirical compatibility behind, badly mangling philosophy and completely neutering science in the process. (’Want to make stuff up about something “supernatural”? Go ahead, I’ll make sure scientists can’t call you out on it.’)”

        I assume you know that’s not an actual quotation, nor does it represent a fair account of what she actually says. You and she differ on philosophy of science, but I think her’s is a defensible and widely defended view, so hardly dishonest. Surely honest disagreements can be settled without accusations of dissembling.

        “Second, even if she and NCSE did keep to the empirical compatibility, that would still not be a neutral position to espouse, since there are at least as many people who cannot reconcile faith with science.”

        Then take that point up with Richard Dawkins, too. I don’t know what you think the neutral position is, or if you think one can possibly exist.

        “Either you have to include this last group in your analysis, or you have to completely leave the issue to one side—which is incidentally what Coyne, Blackford, Rosenhouse, and Myers have been arguing for ad nauseam.”

        But have declined to take up with Dawkins now. This inconsistency was my major point in the blog post which started this particular row.

        “It’s really not that hard to understand. And if one didn’t know better one could be led to believe that the NCSE’s holding fast to their incoherent stance was due to some political commitment that was overriding the rational aspects of the matter.”

        The snarky reply here is to point out again that no one is criticizing Dawkins for doing the exact same thing here and in his Newsweek quote. If he were still out selling TGD, he’d answer in a different tone, at least.

        The substantive answer is to note that calls for neutrality are calls for NCSE to think politically and to recognize that its base includes atheists and theists, and not to piss either off. Which is fine. But don’t turn around and insist that it’s illegitimate to apply such political analysis then. This is why I write that neutrality “seems” to be the issue, but more also seems to be at play.

        Joshua Slocum: “There [sic] claims about the supernatural are untestable? Really? Really? There’s no way to test the claim that, say, dancing around under the moonlight has an effect on whether someone wins the lottery?

        You don’t suppose that would be covered by “they don’t seem to be able to work any empirical change in the world through any means inaccessible to me,” do you? I know reading is hard, but it’s really worth giving it a shot. Replying at length to you, however, is not.

      • Tyro
        Posted October 6, 2009 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

        Josh,

        Her statement is nearly identical to Dawkins’s, but no one is calling him a dissembler.

        Yes, your post does show some superficial similarities but it has the feel of a quote mine as you neglect the part where Eugenie goes on to clarify her statement and digs the hole even deeper. One or two lines deserve clarifications and we may give the benefit of the doubt as we gave to Dawkins, yet when taken in conjunction with the rest of her statements, it’s clear that Scott is proposing something very different than Dawkins.

        Not only was she dissembling but your sophistry in her defence is just as bad.

      • Matti K
        Posted October 7, 2009 at 2:53 am | Permalink

        Peter: “Either you have to include this last group in your analysis, or you have to completely leave the issue to one side—which is incidentally what Coyne, Blackford, Rosenhouse, and Myers have been arguing for ad nauseam.”

        Josh: “But have declined to take up with Dawkins now. This inconsistency was my major point in the blog post which started this particular row.”

        Are you saying that CBRM should argue with Dawkins about the policy of NCSE? Why on earth?

        There is no “Faith Project” on Dawkins.net. There are only a couple sentences in Newsweek that a couple hopeful accommodationists have interpreted as Dawkins moving towards their camp. And these interpretations were wrong, as it turned out.

      • Matt Penfold
        Posted October 7, 2009 at 2:59 am | Permalink

        And yet: “My intent was not to misuse his words, nor to bring ridicule or ridiculousness to him, and I’ve written Dawkins a note apologizing and asking for additional clarification, so that the needed correction is … correct.”

        I’m not holding my breath on your apology to me.

        Ah, Journalism ethics at work again. When newspapers make a mistake in a front page story they normally issue a correction. However they never do so on the front page.

        Likewise you have a blog post accusing Dawkins of changing his stance on accomodationism. When you finally realise that you were not correct rather than write another blog entry admitting your mistake you quietly say you have written to Dawkins.

        If you had any sense of civility or manners you would have a post on your blog admitting your mistake and apologising in public for wilfully misrepresenting what he said. You should also apologise to all those people who pointed out your “error” and to whom you were so dismissive.

      • Peter Beattie
        Posted October 7, 2009 at 9:57 am | Permalink

        » Josh Rosenau:
        I’m going to cut in here, because saying that [she could just point to empirical compatibility] got her labeled a dissembler, dishonest, etc. in the very post you point to. Her statement is nearly identical to Dawkins’s, but no one is calling him a dissembler.

        Bullshit, Josh. From Dawkins’s clarification in this very post you know that Dawkins’s statement is in no way compatible with Genie’s. He used the same word—so fucking what? Genie went on to clarify what she meant, and that part was dissembling. Dawkins also clarified—something you didn’t even think of asking him about before you wrote your silly blog post trying to claim him for your camp, based on a sound bite whose interpretation you had to know even then was dubious at best. And even in the interview, he made perfectly clear what exactly he meant by ‘compatible’—something you have refused to do or equivocated about when trying. So don’t you get all puffed-up and indignant at us.

        Two more things. Your insistence that people got labelled things is irritating and of course flat-out wrong. Genie did not get called anything, her actions did. I’ve commented to you on this before, when you made the remark about being on Jerry’s “shitlist”: it’s not about you, the NCSE as such, or anybody else as a person. It is about specific actions that are objectionable. Who do you think you’re helping in trying to make it personal?

        Lastly:

        But [Coyne et al.] declined to take up [neutrality] with Dawkins now. This inconsistency was my major point in the blog post which started this particular row.

        And it was perverse then, as it is now, only more so. Dawkins is his own man and doesn’t speak for anybody else, so if he wants to take a particular side in this, he’s perfectly free to do so. The NCSE and its officers, on the other hand, very much do speak for others, and part of their mission statement is neutrality. That’s what “started this particular row”.

        The NCSE could just say, ‘Any connection to religion is everybody’s personal matter alone, and we won’t discuss it.’ Or they could say, ‘Some think evolution has no bearing on religion, others do; make up your own mind.’ But that’s not what the NCSE is actually doing, which is one-sidedly commenting on some never-quite-defined compatibility between the two. And you have repeatedly said that that’s for political reasons. Ergo: you violate neutrality for political reasons.

        If only you had the courage of your convictions and stood by that, we could have an honest discussion about it. Your evasive actions are getting tiresome and more that a little irritating.

    • Joshua Slocum
      Posted October 6, 2009 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

      Josh Rosenau wrote:

      Joshua Slocum: “There [sic] claims about the supernatural are untestable? Really? Really? There’s no way to test the claim that, say, dancing around under the moonlight has an effect on whether someone wins the lottery?

      You don’t suppose that would be covered by “they don’t seem to be able to work any empirical change in the world through any means inaccessible to me,” do you? I know reading is hard, but it’s really worth giving it a shot. Replying at length to you, however, is not.

      Well, thank providence for small favors, because you do go on so without ever stating anything clearly. And no, your justification doesn’t entirely cover my objection. Why? Because you also wrote:

      “their claims about the supernatural are untestable so I’m agnostic about that. ”

      I’d say dancing around under the moon and expecting it to have an effect on winning the lottery is a claim about the supernatural. Wouldn’t you? Or if you don’t like that one, how about your own example of the question of whether demons are torturing souls in hell? That, too, is a supernatural claim.

      Yes, I get that you’re trying to draw an epistemological line between them. But I don’t think they’re qualitatively different. I’m trying to find out if you really, really honestly, are completely agnostic about the existence of demons in hell. Are you really 50/50? Do you really mean to say you have no opinion whatsoever about that claim, since you have no evidence? You really don’t think the default position is “I doubt that’s true, in fact, I’m pretty certain it’s not true?”

      Those of us trying to pin you down, Josh R, are not philosophical rubes. We get the difference between something for which we could in principle have empirical evidence (that could bolster or disprove an empirical claim), and those numinous “supernatural” claims for which we couldn’t. Don’t think for a second think that we just don’t understand it in a nuanced way.

      To the contrary, I, at least, object to the discursive move you (and a lot of apologists) are making: pretending there’s a salient difference in actual practice, and deliberately conflating the two. I also object to your “pure agnostic” stance about claims like “demons torture souls in hell.” I can’t believe that you really think there’s no way to have an educated guess on the truth value of that. That kind of agnosticism is ridiculous when taken any further than parlor discussions. It leads people to say things like, “I have no idea whether an invisible dragon lives in your garage,” “I have no idea whether underpants gnomes are responsible for my socks that go missing on laundry day,” and “I have no idea whether there’s a Trinitarian God. . see, I just don’t have access to information on that. .how could I know?”

      Fun (for all of 2 minutes) during an undergraduate bullshit session. Boring, and rather stupid, in practice.

  26. Neil Schipper
    Posted October 5, 2009 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Since I’m here with Richard at at the Conclave of the Godless, I simply emailed him the links to..

    Ah, technology! A few decades ago, you would have had to use snail mail to communicate with someone you were at a conference with!

    More seriously, people here could have a little bit more patience and empathy for those who engage in face to face encounters with politicos. They are tacticians, interested in small victories for science funding and science ed and science acceptance in the very short run of policy making and upcoming budgets (which are in the hands of what might be called today’s alphas). It seems like an indulgence to always be holding them up to the standard of having a consistent fully-formed philosophical world view. Do imagine walking in their shoes.

    • Matt Penfold
      Posted October 5, 2009 at 7:02 am | Permalink

      More seriously, people here could have a little bit more patience and empathy for those who engage in face to face encounters with politicos. They are tacticians, interested in small victories for science funding and science ed and science acceptance in the very short run of policy making and upcoming budgets (which are in the hands of what might be called today’s alphas). It seems like an indulgence to always be holding them up to the standard of having a consistent fully-formed philosophical world view. Do imagine walking in their shoes.

      It is not the short-term attitude that annoys people. It is the fact they think people like Jerry should not go around pointing out there is a serious philosophical incompatibly between science and religion. Some deny the incompatibility exists, others acknowledge it might but do not care. What they have in common is the opinion that claims about such incompatibility should not be spoken of.

      And to be honest, if they want to talk of science and religious compatibility they had better have some understanding of the issue. It goes, as they say, with the territory if you want to talk about the relationship between science and religion.

      • Neil Schipper
        Posted October 5, 2009 at 7:11 am | Permalink

        There are a million moderately successful marriages in which “deep philosophical rifts” exist between the spouses, with one party’s view being closer to the Truth than that of the other.

      • articulett
        Posted October 5, 2009 at 7:50 am | Permalink

        But in this case, someone knowingly called Dawkins an accommodationist by changing the definition of the word “compatible” midstream to imply that Dawkin’s changed his point of view.

    • Posted October 5, 2009 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      But this isn’t marriage, it isn’t a drinks party, it isn’t a lunch table chat – this is scientific education, this is public discourse, this is a series of strong unqualified public claims – public as in published in a book and in many Major Media Outlets. This isn’t social, it’s epistemological. (It’s also in places political, and legal, which is where the neutrality that Russell talks about above, and that Jerry Coyne has repeatedly said the NCSE should stick to, comes in.)

  27. czrpb
    Posted October 5, 2009 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I can only assume everyone knows what sorts of “accommodations” M&K are planning on suggesting next, yes? Once we have the Tactful Corp (the nice and sweet public face of Science), we will need to be more accommodating VISUALLY!!

    So for example, we will need younger Ambassadors of Reasonableness such as SA Smith/ERV because they are so darn cute! We will need more Distinguished Scholars of Respectability such as AC Grayling, preferably English because that accent is so authoritative. (This by the way is why M&K have not suggested we replace Dawkins with say Michel Onfray. That and good grief, he’s French!) We will need more jolly Santa-like figures such as Dennett. I mean come on! Did you not see Massimo get his clock cleaned by Jonathan Wells? Don’t you just wanna hop up on Wells’ lap and ask for your own little piece of Intelligent Design all wrapped up and put under the Christmas tree?!! (This is why I suggest PZ gain a few more pounds.)

    Come on people! Wake up! The real battle will be on TV, like everything else. We must find the most appealing face of Science NOW!!

    (Oh! You want my evidence? Well, which blog has the head-shots, HMMMM!?! Duh!)

  28. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted October 5, 2009 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    My own “Annie Hall” moment: I am a structural biologist who slums around the Intertubes under a pseudonym. Following a post on Matt McCormick’s wonderful blog Atheism: Proving the Negative, an ID Creationist “Brigitte” started baiting me with comments like “I see Reginald does not know biochemistry, nor has stood in front of a protein molecule model either, to make up his own “reasonable mind”!

    • Raiko
      Posted October 5, 2009 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      My Annie Hall moment was produced by someone on richarddawkins.net – who couldn’t distinguish between “what I want to be taught in science class” and “science”. I was eventually accused of probably not knowing much about science – to which I replied with the fact that I’m a scientist. I love it when they shoot themselves in the foot.

  29. Posted October 5, 2009 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Hmmm. Here we are well into Monday, and M&K haven’t taken it back yet, or commented on what Richard said, or…anything. They haven’t done anything. The ambassadors for scientific literacy have ignored important new information that conflicts with their public claim.

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted October 5, 2009 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

      This non-reaction appears be habitual for them.
      I can understand their reticence, for they have 4 main options:
      1) Admit fault
      2) Lie again
      3) Plead insanity
      4) Stay quiet and hope for a distraction
      … and they appear to be steadfastly unwilling to choose option 1), for some strange reason.

      Mooney has gone from Hero to Zero in very short order.

      • Posted October 6, 2009 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        Just so, and that’s so…shocking, frankly. Refusing to choose option 1 just totally discredits them – not just as ambassadors for science, as I mentioned Sunday, but as any kind of scholars or inquirers or non-fiction writers or journalists. Surely that’s the first rule of the enterprise – if you get something wrong you have to cop to it! This thought was certainly crucial to Chris’s wonderful first book. What has happened to him…

      • Peter Beattie
        Posted October 6, 2009 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

        Whatever happened to him, he seems dead set on the course of his book and particularly its silly pronouncements on the basis of the problem. Apparently, he very much likes his photograph on the back cover (or wherever it is), and will continue in marketing overdrive until god knows when. He even has a new post up about the idiotic Pluto business. Go figure.

      • Michael K Gray
        Posted October 7, 2009 at 3:01 am | Permalink

        I *used* to respect Chris for his analyses.
        You are not alone in rightly asking “what has happened to Mooney?”
        I have my theories, and none of them are pretty.
        What a waste of a potential “knight against bullshit”.

  30. Screechy Monkey
    Posted October 5, 2009 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    This was the first time I’d read The Intersection since the height of the UA fracas. Reading the comments there, I was struck with the irony that there seem to be an awful lot of people who simultaneously (1) bash New Atheists for supposedly “worshipping” Dawkins and hanging on his every word, and (2) seem to think that saying “Carl Sagan would agree with me” is a debate-ender.

    • articulett
      Posted October 5, 2009 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

      Which is odd, since I think Demon Haunted World is responsible for my own extrapolation that gods and souls were no more likely than demons, ghosts, and alien visitors in the night. His widow, Ann Druyan is certainly not a “compatabilist” http://atheism.about.com/b/2006/04/24/ann-druyan-on-changing-attitudes-towards-science-in-america.htm and I don’t understand why people invoke the “ghost of Carl Sagan” as support for accommodation.

      Accommodation hasn’t worked. I think it’s time we listen to people like Ann Druyan and quit pretending that Dawkins has suddenly turned “accommodationist” or that Sagan was an example of how to “accommodate” religion and science. I’d be pleased if the NCSE ignored religion to the same extent Sagan did.

  31. Dan L.
    Posted October 5, 2009 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    “Because, to him and most other accommodationists, the issue of epistemic compatibility is either trivial or boring. I suspect that he thinks that Coyne overplays the importance of the fact that faith is as different from science as rugby is from chess. I agree with him – that isn’t very important. Accommodationism is better defined as an internally consistent worldview that has a place for both sets of rules. Just as someone can play rugby and chess for similar reasons with different results, one can employ faith and science for similar reasons with different results. That the two are mutually exclusive in the sense that combining them for a single purpose bastardizes both does not prevent them both being employed separately for tasks that are at least similar on a semantic level.”

    Here is the problem with argument by analogy. If I accept this analogy as apt, then I can’t possibly maintain that science and religion are incompatible — after all, one can play both chess and rugby without any interference by one with the other.

    However, this analogy is not apt. “Science is not compatible with religion” is not like “rugby is not compatible with chess.” Chess and rugby are different games with different rules. If you’re arguing that “knowledge” gained through religion is epistemologically equivalent to knowledge gained through science, then you’re not arguing that science and religion are different games with different rules. You’re arguing that they’re the same game with different rules.

    In other words, you’re claiming that rugby is compatible with American football. And that quite simply ain’t so.

    • Marilyn
      Posted October 5, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      Quote from A. Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions, pp.41 – 49. 1939. Science and Religion. Sobering?
      “For the scientific method can teach us nothing else beyond how facts are related to, and conditioned by, each other. The aspiration toward such objective knowledge belongs to the highest of which man is capabIe, and you will certainly not suspect me of wishing to belittle the achievements and the heroic efforts of man in this sphere. Yet it is equally clear that knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be. One can have the clearest and most complete knowledge of what is, and yet not be able to deduct from that what should be the goal of our human aspirations. Objective knowledge provides us with powerful instruments for the achievements of certain ends, but the ultimate goal itself and the longing to reach it must come from another source. And it is hardly necessary to argue for the view that our existence and our activity acquire meaning only by the setting up of such a goal and of corresponding values. The knowledge of truth as such is wonderful, but it is so little capable of acting as a guide that it cannot prove even the justification and the value of the aspiration toward that very knowledge of truth. Here we face, therefore, the limits of the purely rational conception of our existence.”

      “But it must not be assumed that intelligent thinking can play no part in the formation of the goal and of ethical judgments. When someone realizes that for the achievement of an end certain means would be useful, the means itself becomes thereby an end. Intelligence makes clear to us the interrelation of means and ends. But mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends. To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations, and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to perform in the social life of man. And if one asks whence derives the authority of such fundamental ends, since they cannot be stated and justified merely by reason, one can only answer: they exist in a healthy society as powerful traditions, which act upon the conduct and aspirations and judgments of the individuals; they are there, that is, as something living, without its being necessary to find justification for their existence. They come into being not through demonstration but through revelation, through the medium of powerful personalities. One must not attempt to justify them, but rather to sense their nature simply and clearly”.

      • Dan L.
        Posted October 5, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        Not particularly sobering. I’ve never taken Einstein’s philosophy too seriously — not his strong suit.

        Anyway, I think it’s already clear that science has nothing to say about value judgments, and value judgments cannot determine the facts of the world around us. The discussion is, I think, taking place at the next level of complexity:

        -Are religion’s outcomes circumscribed within the domain of moral values (as opposed to material facts)?
        -If so, does religion have any special claim to authority in questions regarding moral values?

        I think everyone in this particular dog race agrees that the answer to the first question should be “yes”, but the non-accomodationists assert that in fact religion’s outcomes include assertions about material facts while the accomodationists argue that religion is pretty much just poetry (am I getting that right?).

        On the second question, it seems like there is also a sharp contrast: non-accomodationists seem to argue mostly that religion has no special claim to authority regarding moral values, while accomodationists seem to think it does.

        So Einstein was an accomodationist. So was Darwin. And I still think both were wrong.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted October 5, 2009 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

        Dan L.: The answer to both questions is a resounding “NO”. Religion has no authority within moral questions and has never exhibited any reason for respect as far as morality is concerned. Religion, at best, has usurped pre-existing values. Any authority it might have had was clearly lost by all the immoral commandments of most religions.

    • Posted October 5, 2009 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      If you’re arguing that “knowledge” gained through religion is epistemologically equivalent to knowledge gained through science, then you’re not arguing that science and religion are different games with different rules.

      I know of no one who argues that “knowledge” gained through religion is epistemologically equivalent to knowledge gained through science. I doubt seriously even the pope would argue that.

      This is why I said that “everyone agrees” that science and religion are non-synonymous.

      In other words… Science and Religion are different games with different rules and different outcomes – just like rugby and chess. This is trivial and self-evident.

      • Dan L.
        Posted October 5, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        smijer:

        If it’s trivial and self-evident, why have philosophers been arguing about it for 2500 years? Maybe you meant to say, “I’d like it if it were trivial and self-evident,” but that’s something else entirely, don’t you think?

        The fact is, religion, if it’s of any use at all, makes statements about the natural world. However, it makes statements about the natural world that either are not checked empirically or that cannot be checked empirically.

        To be compatible with science, religion must stop making the first sort of claims. And if religion makes only claims that cannot be checked empirically, how do we know it’s better than random guessing? Warm fuzzies?

        And if “…’knowledge’ gained through religion is [not] epistemologically equivalent to knowledge gained through science,” what exactly is it good for? How seriously should I take religious belief if it’s a game completely disconnected to reality? And if this is the case, then wouldn’t we be better off saying “religion is orthogonal to science” since compatibility has a connotation of working together as opposed to simply not interfering with one another?

        Finally, should all theological discussions regarding the causal implications of the soul (through “free will” or what have you) be dismissed considering the fact that modern theology has pretty much ruled them out? Or do we switch to interpreting talk of souls as merely metaphorical and revise history so that it’s always been that way?

      • Dan L.
        Posted October 5, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        Last paragraph should say “modern neurology,” as I’m still convinced modern theology has nothing to say about anything (or perhaps more accurately, will say anything about nothing).

      • Posted October 5, 2009 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

        Hi Dan L… I guess I should have said that here in the 21st century it is trivial and self-evident. I understand that it hasn’t always been so.

        To be compatible with science, religion must stop making the first sort of claims.

        I’ve shown before that religion can restrict itself to claims that science must remain agnostic about in order to avoid direct contradiction. I have shown that there are more such claims that are important to religion as it is practiced today than is apparent at first blush to many anti-accommodationists. Maybe I could make a page with that argument and some examples so I could just link instead of rehashing each time someone new brings up this question. Let me know if you’re interested.

        How seriously should I take religious belief if it’s a game completely disconnected to reality?

        As I mentioned before – religion needn’t be completely disconnected from reality in order to avoid contradiction with science.

        wouldn’t we be better off saying “religion is orthogonal to science” since compatibility has a connotation of working together as opposed to simply not interfering with one another?

        I would be fine with ‘orthogonal’, but some believers find religion and science complementary. So, while they don’t work together as such or reach the same types of conclusions, they each flesh out complementary portions of a world view. So “compatible” in that sense works. It also works in the sense of “not incompatible”, which I think is the real controversy.

        Finally, should all theological discussions regarding the causal implications of the soul (through “free will” or what have you) be dismissed considering the fact that modern theology has pretty much ruled them out?

        Only if all theological discussions are to follow “modern” theology as you construe it. There is plenty of current theology that does not rule out free will or the work of the soul, so I wouldn’t expect theological discussions to drop the concept.

      • Posted October 5, 2009 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

        Last paragraph should say “modern neurology,”

        In that case I would say you over-state the case for modern neurology having ruled out free will. At this stage modern neurology has begun to suggest that there will be no free will in the ordinary operation of the human mind. At some point in the future, I find that it will rule out free will as part of the ordinary operation of the human mind altogether. At that point, the theist will still have recourse to extraordinary events which take place when important moral choices are made. Since it would be unethical to study the operation of the mind making real, important moral choices in the laboratory, it is unlikely that science will rule out extraordinary events taking place under those circumstances.

      • Posted October 5, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

        find=expect (that it will rule out…)

      • newenglandbob
        Posted October 5, 2009 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

        At that point, the theist will still have recourse to extraordinary events which take place when important moral choices are made.

        Yes, we all understand that they will claim dominion over bullshit and fantasy, but so what? It is still nonsense.

        Since it would be unethical to study the operation of the mind making real, important moral choices in the laboratory…

        Says who? If people are willing to be subjects then who can say they cannot? Religidiots? Nonsense.

      • Matt Penfold
        Posted October 6, 2009 at 11:09 am | Permalink

        In other words… Science and Religion are different games with different rules and different outcomes – just like rugby and chess. This is trivial and self-evident.

        Can you explain then why so many religious people do not agree with you ?

        If science and religion are different games why do so many religious people make empirical claims about their beliefs ?

        It seems the people you need to talk are those religious people who think their god intervenes in the Universe. Good luck with getting them to change their minds.

      • Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        Matt:

        If you are arguing for a philosophical incompatibility between religion and science–which is what you seem to want to argue for–then it doesn’t matter if some believers think there’s one. That’s no more an argument for the incompatibility than their belief in God is an argument for the actual existence of God.

  32. articulett
    Posted October 5, 2009 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    The accommodationists imply that science and religion are compatible in the same way as science and skepticism–as if they complement each other. But science and religion are compatible (at best) like science and opera. You can have people who are enthusiastic about both, but they are very different pursuits and they are not so much “compatible” as “not necessarily incompatible”… which is what Dawkins said.

  33. Marilyn
    Posted October 5, 2009 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    I will take Einstein views a hundred times over the fatally flawed rational of the arguments used by the teams: Another quotes mostly from the Guardian may 13 2008
    “A mostly unknown letter written by AE, January 3 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind who had sent him a copy of his book Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt leaves no doubt that AE regarded religious beliefs as “childish superstitions”. “The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this”. AE position on God has been widely misrepresented but he always resisted easy stereotyping on the subject.
    John Brooke from Oxford, that has analyzed AE view on this subject ventures: “Like other great scientists he does not fit the boxes in which popular polemicists like to pigeonhole him”, “It is clear for example that he had respect for the religious values enshrined within Judaic and Christian traditions … but what he understood by religion was something far more subtle than what is usually meant by the word in popular discussion.” Despite his categorical rejection of conventional religion, Einstein became angry when his views were appropriated by evangelists for atheism. He was offended by their lack of humility and once wrote”. “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.”

    • articulett
      Posted October 6, 2009 at 1:59 am | Permalink

      So what you’re saying is that you support Brooke’s opinion of Einstein’s opinion because it supports your opinion.

      I don’t think that Einstein quote support’s Brook’s extrapolation, but even if it did, it has little to do with this conversation and more to do with the your need to find something good in religion via finding something wrong with outspoken atheists. Einstein didn’t actually say anything about “evangelical atheists” in that quote, you realize? http://richarddawkins.net/article,2568,Childish-superstition-Einsteins-letter-makes-view-of-religion-relatively-clear,Guardian-UK

      You turned Brooke’s opinion into your own and implied that it was Einstein’s opinion via selective quoting. (Of course, that’s the smarmy thing one has come to expect from the accommodationists and that’s why they don’t get much respect around more honest crowds.)

      • articulett
        Posted October 6, 2009 at 2:07 am | Permalink

        Besides which “evangelical atheists” were appropriating Einstein back then?

        I’ve seen religious people appropriating him all the time with his “god doesn’t play dice” comment, but I can’t think of an “”evangelical atheist” from the early 50’s–much less one that was appropriating him.

  34. Marilyn
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    You guys..are funny. I read the guardian actual article in which Brooke used the term “evangelical atheists” without direct attribution to Einstein-somehow implicit though, but that it is minor- Whats the problem? Besides what is this accomodthing bs (bad science) ? Too many labels!!!I am trying to reflect sanely on a difficult question. And use the work previously done. Ala scientific, right?

    • Matt Penfold
      Posted October 6, 2009 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Besides what is this accomodthing bs

      By “accomodthing” I presume you mean accomodationism.

      It this context it is the belief that in order to be able to more effectively fight creationism one should refrain from criticising religious beliefs of potential allies.

      There are a number of problems with the idea.

      For many people creationism is not the biggest problem posed by religion. Issues such as women’s rights on reproduction, or religious objections to medical research pose more of a threat. Potential allies in fighting creationism are not always allies with regards these other issues. The Catholic Church does not support creationism, but many people have a problem with its stance of abortion, stem cell research and other issues. Why should people refrain from criticising the Church over these issues just so those fighting creationism can have an easier time ?

      There are also scientists and philosophers who think that an interventionist god is incompatible with the scientific method. The accomodationists vary in their response to this. Some deny there is any incompatibility (but never actually explain why) whilst others say it is not an issue which is of concern to them. What they have in common is the belief that claims for such incompatibility should not be voiced.

      • articulett
        Posted October 6, 2009 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

        Moreover, how do you make allowances for gods but not demons or witches or gremlins or other spirit entities? Which invisible guys are worth coddling and when can we encourage others to keep their magical thinking private? Why does religion get a pass that we’d never allow for astrology or any other pseudoscience? Isn’t coddling religion a way of granting a sense of entitlement to faith based thinking? And what for? –For being able to “believe in” magic? Why is that worthy of scientific respect? And who decides where to draw the line. Can I dismiss the idea of hell as mythological while using fuzzy language to imply heaven is real? It’s so… dishonest… to me. How has religion gotten way with this for so long?

        Why should any science teacher have to worry about what her students have been indoctrinated to “believe in”? I want no part of accommodating. I shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells to teach the facts. Why is my opinion on the subject subject to silencing while the believer is granted deference and a platform?

    • tomh
      Posted October 6, 2009 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      Marilyn wrote:
      You guys..are funny.

      Actually, you are providing the humor. Why would you revere Einstein’s views on theological matters any more than a run-of-the-mill street preacher, an atheist, or anyone else? The beauty of theology is that, since it is all based on conjecture, imagination, and myth, all opinions have equal value. There are no experts, just as there is no “good” theology, or “bad” theology, as if one were true and others false, it is all merely empty rhetoric.

      Einstein became angry when his views were appropriated by evangelists for atheism. He was offended by their lack of humility…

      This makes no sense at all, since a lack of humility says nothing about the arguments put forth. And, “his views were appropriated”? Once someone’s views are out in the public square, they can be “appropriated,” or interpreted, or dismissed, by anyone and everyone. If one is offended by this, better to keep one’s views to oneself.

      “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.”

      More empty rhetoric that has nothing to do with atheism, religion, god, or anything else. Anyone can come up with dozens, or hundreds, of eternal mysteries of the world, all equally meaningless.

      • Matt Penfold
        Posted October 6, 2009 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        There are no experts, just as there is no “good” theology, or “bad” theology, as if one were true and others false, it is all merely empty rhetoric.

        This is why Smijer’s claims about what religion really is are futile.

        Religion is simply what people do in its name.

      • Marilyn
        Posted October 6, 2009 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

        hey buddy chill..take it up with the master himself

      • Marilyn
        Posted October 6, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        Quoting J. Mcenroe. “you cannot be serious” Relax buddy, take it up with the master once you meet him up in heaven, I mean if you make it. Im sure he is there. By the way, the proof that theology is not democratic is this blog.Hilarious

      • Marilyn
        Posted October 6, 2009 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

        Oh yeah? name 2.

      • Aquaria
        Posted November 1, 2009 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

        I wouldn’t want to go to the Zombie Paradise. It’s the worst torture imaginable–eternally kissing the ass of a megalomaniacal, genocidal sadist. And worse, to be around all his ass-kissers, too?

        Ugh. Burning for eternity won’t be as bad as that.

  35. Sven DiMIlo
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Rugby and chess? Obviously compatible, in that one person can be proficient at both.

    But it’s impossible to perform well at both at the same time.

    • Posted October 6, 2009 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      This has been Deep Thoughts with Jack Handy.

  36. articulett
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:56 am | Permalink

    Did Josh and Mooney et. al. really think that Dawkins changed his mind regarding the existence of people who accept evolution AND Christianity? We all know such people exist. But it’s also clear they haven’t really thought about the conundrum involved. Jesus is connected to Genesis via “original sin”, but anyone who understands evolution must realize that “original sin” is a parable at best, right? So did Jesus die for a parable or was he a parable too? Or do they just not think about it? Or is that part of the “mystery” like a “triune god”?

    How do the “accommodationists” propose that we science teachers answer such a question?

    We understand that evolution is compatible with a deist slacker type god, but who believes in that god? Would the NCSE “accommodate” geocentrism in Galileo’s time?

    I suggest that people get their science from scientists and go to their gurus for “spiritual advice”. I think the NCSE has no more business “accomodating” religion than accomodating “The Secret” or any other form of magical thinking. Once they start, then believers feel a sense of entitlement that is not warranted! It’s hard to teach facts to people who feel special and saved for a story they’ve come to believe.

    Like Sagan, I think of science as a candle in the darkness of superstition– and religion as a particularly virulent superstition. I don’t want to be any part of the enabling. Plus, when the NCSE “accommodates” religion, it tends to entail them putting down “new atheists” to make nice with the faithful; this fosters prejudice against people such as myself that are already mistrusted due to a history of such prejudice. Why does the rational person have to be afraid to speak up? I wish the NCSE would ignore religion or suggest that it is a private matter rather than doing all the kiss-ass fuzzy talk. I want to encourage people to keep their beliefs private; I’m tired of the way believers fee entitled into goading scientists into deferring to beliefs.

    Accommodation is a strategy that has failed. It furthers prejudice against atheists, encourages magical thinking (and “unscientific Americans”), and makes an arrogant/ignorant group of people feel entitled to respect they did nothing to earn!– respect they’d never give an atheist, or Galileo, or someone who believed in some conflicting woo.

    Dawkins didn’t change his viewpoint. Some accommodationists just say what they want people to hear and hear what they wish people had said. (At least that’s the way it looks from where I sit.) What exactly do Josh et. al. changed his mind about?

  37. Anonymouse
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 3:43 am | Permalink

    Sorry if this would be a bit long and simplistic.

    A – Meta Critical Thinking / Question EVERYTHING
    B – Belief System
    C – Critical Thinking within a person’s belief system / Approach to an argument
    inconsistency – contradictory results within a belief system by an individual
    satisfy / satisfaction – when an individual’s concerns are satisfied
    STOP – An end to the Meta Critical Thinking stage and the formation of a Belief System
    ministop – a temporary acceptance of inconsistencies within B

    In general, individuals would start at A, Stop at some point and form a B (STOP).
    From then on, his C would be based on B.
    He could presumably go back to A if at some point he becomes unsatisfied with his current B.

    Necessity of a STOP. I would assume that it’s necessary to have a Stop at some point because it would be paralyzing to stay in A, even if the B they come up with would have several inconsistencies.
    Similarly, we also need a ministop to continue on believing in B.

    Caricature samples:
    1. Ken Ham, Pat Robertson type:
    Assuming they went through stage A, they have concluded that a primarily Bible-based belief system (B-bible) satisfies them. Facts, for them MUST conform with the Bible. No amount of fact bombardment and reasoning would move them away from B-bible since their C, the very basis of their arguments isn’t fact based. For them, those who believe primarily based on material evidence are “fools”. They have in essence hardened their B position.

    2. NewEnglandBob type:
    Similarly, there are several who have formed a fact-based reasoning belief system (B-fbr). For them, facts are the primary source of their beliefs. In this case, these individuals’ C are strictly within B-fbr and consider all the rest who doesn’t share B-fbr as “idiots”, etc.

    From here we can see that we would go nowhere in convincing these types of people from returning to A, much less accepting another B.

    Again, arguments from facts won’t sway the B-bible no matter what because the answers B-fbr provides do not satisfy them. Conversely, B-fbr individuals won’t be swayed by B-bible arguments, they need facts. Why?

    I would like to propose that this is a satisfaction / inconsistency (cost-benefit) analysis situation for an individual.

    For example, the B-fbr individual would very much accept the inconsistency of quantum mechanics with relativity and various other inconsistencies within science. A scientific worldview, for them, still offers the best objective explanations and predictions. The satisfaction outweighs the inconsistencies and the individual could happily form a ministop. The B-fbr person is also satisfied that even though he cannot reconcile several items, he believes that science can, sooner or later. And even if it can be shown that there are some items which cannot be reconciled, the B-fbr person would still persist in holding that belief until it becomes unsatisfying.

    Obviously, for the B-fbr people, the B-bible inconsistencies are much worse than the inconsistencies of B-fbr. However, it must be understood that B-bible individuals have different concerns. For example, should prostitution be legal? If we use a fact based approach to addressing this question, let’s say a utilitarian / consequentialist model, would we get the same answer everytime? The set of data could be different from one country to another thereby producing a different result each time we apply the same method. For the B-bible person, this is deeply unsatisfying. For them, the satisfaction of having clear and consistent moral standards outweighs their belief system’s inconsistencies with science. Two things: One, even if the Bible has contradictory moral offerings, the church resolves the inconsistencies for the individual. If the concerns on inconsistency within B-bible are satisfied, by himself or by the church, then the individual retains B-bible. If not, and if the individual is not too lazy, maybe he can go back to A. Two, I’m not saying that two B-bible individuals would always reach the same conclusion. The consistency which needs to be satisfied is the individual’s personal consistency within his B in whatever manner possible.

    To summarize:
    1. B-fbr people want B-bible people to replace B-bible with B-fbr.
    2. To do this, an individual must initially be convinced to go back to A.
    3. Convincing people to go back to A ideally shouldn’t be too difficult, since it doesn’t mean letting go of someone’s current B, but it is (see Santi v NEB comments a few months back, basically, santi was saying B-notfbr might have some value and let’s go back to A to reassess or try talking with a fundamentalist).
    4. Once the B has hardened it’s almost impossible to convince someone to go back to A and reexamine his B.
    5. The problem has to be attacked by introducing dissatisfaction with someone’s current B.
    6. Probably, the accommodationist mindset is, as it is, we cannot successfully introduce dissatisfaction with B-bible individuals even if we apply fact-bombardment, etc. So what’s wrong if we propose a belief system, B-fbrUbible (B-fbr UNION B-bible). This could probably get the B-bible individuals to at least reconsider and/or go back to A.
    7. B-fbrUbible would definitely create additonal inconsistencies for the individual holding it, but again this is a satisfaction to inconsistency ratio.
    8. An increase of the B-fbrUbible population would certainly decrease the B-bible population.
    9. I think that’s preferable compared to the status quo of 40% of the Americans not believing in evolution.

    Not so hidden assumption: All B have inconsistencies.

    • newenglandbob
      Posted October 8, 2009 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      Wow, what a crock of nonsense. There is little logic in this wordy tome here. This obviously is written by a theist.

      This is from someone who is too chicken to use his regular user name here.

      I wonder what this person is trying to hide. Probably this person has been shot down and thoroughly embarrassed here by the nonsense he/she has spouted.

      Hwy Jerry or guest posters – can you look up this person’s ID and match it to other aliases? I would appreciate knowing who is spewing this word salad of nonsense.

      • czrpb
        Posted October 8, 2009 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        Could somebody review the IP address that this “newenglandbob” comment came from and compare it to other real NEB comments? The real NEB would not just spit ad hominem, call people chicken, and talk about tossing one’s salad. I think the real NEB deserves an apology and a hug. (Unfortunately I live on the other coast and can not make over there today.)

      • newenglandbob
        Posted October 8, 2009 at 8:57 am | Permalink

        I knew this coward would do nothing but troll around. How predictable of you. Of course I know who you are. You are pathetic.

    • czrpb
      Posted October 8, 2009 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      Hey “Anonymouse”! I do not really buy this as I disagree with 6. But I bet you did not know your post had such entertainment potential!

      • Anonymouse
        Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        No I didn’t.
        Still, I would like to reply, with fewer words this time. I need six:
        I hope Western Evolution Educators fail!

        I hope they fail in keeping ID out of their science class. You might think it’s outrageous. See, here’s the point. Currently, the Western world dominates medicine, biology, etc. They come out with the latest effective cures and treatments. If they fail, surely this would let the Asians (us) catch up much faster. Soon, they would have to pay us to cure the diseases that we have discovered the treatments for.

        As it is, given that 40% of Americans deny evolution, several potential geniuses are leaking out of the scientific system.

        It’s just business folks!

      • newenglandbob
        Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        This troll says he needs 6 words then uses about 100.

        This shows that there is no common sense or logic or critical thinking behind this troll.

        The content of that comment confirms how ignorant and malicious this troll is (besides being a coward).

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted October 8, 2009 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

      No wonder this incoherent infant wishes to remain anonymous.
      If they were to honestly post using a real identity, their shrink would discover that are off their anti-psychotic medication.

  38. viverravid
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Grrr. I think Josh at this comment is a good example of what annoys me about this.

    In that comment he makes the standard NOMA argument that science can’t refute supernatural beliefs that make no testable truth claims about the real world. (Lets call these kind of beliefs Woo-A). This is trivially true.

    But no religious people, except perhaps a few deists, actually believe in Woo-A. They all hold supernatural beliefs that _do_ make testable truth claims about the real world. Lets call these beliefs Woo-B.

    The statements of the NCSE, Josh, and the Colgate twins seem to say that science is compatible with (does not invalidate the truth claims of) Woo-B.

    When called on this obvious untruth, they say they’re actually talking about Woo-A.

    And they don’t seem to think that it’s a problem that their message might be interpreted by many as if they were talking about Woo-B.

    • ritebrother
      Posted October 9, 2009 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      The issue can be put no more plainly than this. It is unbelievable how many superfluous words have orbited this point over recent months.

      • Michael K Gray
        Posted October 9, 2009 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        ritebrother:
        I guess you would have told Rosa Parks to shut-up?

      • articulett
        Posted October 9, 2009 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

        ritebrother
        Posted October 9, 2009 at 9:23 am | Permalink

        The issue can be put no more plainly than this. It is unbelievable how many superfluous words have orbited this point over recent months.

        *snicker* –and here you feel compelled to add your own superfluous verbiage.

      • articulett
        Posted October 11, 2009 at 8:45 am | Permalink

        Some parts of “we” are clever; some provide the irony for the cleverness.

        Thank you for your contribution.

    • Paul
      Posted October 9, 2009 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      The most irritating part is the beliefs he points out as being Woo-A aren’t even such.

      For instance, he’s “agnostic” about “demons who do things in the real world, or are they sitting in Hades torturing souls? The latter doesn’t touch on the empirical…”

      That belief presumes the existence of souls. We can look at the claims that have been made regarding the existence of a soul and compare them to modern knowledge. This isn’t something that is in principle unknowable, at least not for traditionally believed values of “soul”.

      He claims agnosticism of Wiccan claims of the supernatural because they are untestable, ignoring that their claims tend to consist of ways of altering physical, testable events.

      It’s just shoddy reasoning, wanting to give a feel-good message to religion that science doesn’t apply to their beliefs, even when it’s trivial to think of ways to apply it. And when trying to sell the idea to non-believers, it’s just a big game of bait and switch hoping they won’t catch the switch, and it’s really getting old.


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