Accommodationists vs. creationists: we all lose.

I have no truck with the accommodationist, Templeton-funded website BioLogos, but at least they have the decency to point out the errors in Stephen Meyer’s new creationist book, Signature in the Cell (see Darryl Falk’s review here), which maintains that cells must have been designed by God because they’re too complex to have evolved.   Falk, who is president of BioLogos, also solicited comments from biologists Francisco Ayala (critical), Gerald Joyce (critical but doesn’t want to waste his time on a creationist), and Nobel Laureate Jack Szostak. Szostak is also critical but, in response to Falk (a professor at the religious Point Loma Nazarene University), also takes a swipe at Falks’s accommodationism:

However, I suspect I must part company with you in that I believe that science and religion actually are irreconcilable. In my view a scientific world view is one based on continuous questioning and therefore a search for more and better evidence and theories; faith in the unknowable plays no role. I think that belief systems based on faith are inherently dangerous, as they leave the believer susceptible to manipulation when skepticism and inquiry are discouraged.

Falk is “saddened” by Szostak’s faith-bashing:

I am especially interested in Dr. Szostak’s final paragraph. He is correct that we part company at this point, which saddens me deeply. I have written before, and I will write again: there are very sound reasons for entering the life of faith. I embarked upon a search for a source of ultimate reality and my personal search was based on evidence, too. The journey of faith is by no means blind, and there many fine scientists who—guided by faith, evidence, and reason—choose to follow the same journey I am on. Scientific pathways and faith journeys need not lead to different locations in life. In fact, I am convinced they point in the very same direction and lead to the very same place.

Falk doesn’t tell us what “evidence” shows that faith and science both point in the same direction (presumably toward Jesus).  And of course Falk was “convinced” a priori:  virtually all religious accommodationists start with the premise that science and faith produce the same conclusions (indeed, that’s the mission of BioLogos), and then seek support for this notion.  This shows, more than anything, why there is a disconnect between science and faith: good scientists don’t start with conclusions and then discard any data that don’t support those conclusions.  (What “evidence,” by the way, would show that “scientific pathways” and “faith journeys” actually do lead to different conclusions?)  In responding to Szostak, Falk unwittingly demonstrates why science and faith aren’t compatible.

Meyer published his tedious response here; it’s more of the same ID pap clothed in science language. Note that although Falk offered Meyer “an opportunity to post a 1000 word response to all of this on our site,” he actually published Meyer’s entire 2700-word response.  Maybe that’s because Falk is kindly disposed toward Meyer:  as Falk noted offering Meyer his rebuttal, “He is a Christian brother. I know he means well.”

No, Dr. Falk, Meyer does not mean well.  He is spreading lies and confusing people by distorting real science.  Is that the unfortunate result of “meaning well”?  Do you think that because somebody is a “Christian brother,” he’s incapable of lying for Jesus?

I swear, I do appreciate people like Falk, who are religious, coming out against the lies of the Discovery Institute.  But BioLogos, in its shameful pandering to religion, is simply an embarrassment to the community of biologists.  In their insistence that faith and science are mutually reinforcing, and their unwillingness to entertain any evidence to the contrary, people like Falk are impediments to the advance of rationality.  As Szostak says, “belief systems based on faith are inherently dangerous, as they leave the believer susceptible to manipulation when skepticism and inquiry are discouraged.”



  1. Posted January 28, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Science is also compatible with the reptilian, shape-shifting, alien humanoids that are influencing the administrative department at BioBogus.

  2. Posted January 28, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Yes, but it gives us more opportunity to demonstrate what tedious nonsense Meyer’s apologetics really is.

    Falk is not going by the evidence when he says things like ‘Meyer means well,’ certainly. If Meyer did, he’d cease from repeating the false claims upon which his entire “case” rests.

    Yet Falk’s approach does reach people who would not otherwise listen (though I wonder how many), and let’s us gingerly point out Meyer’s ignorance and apparent dishonesty.

    Glen Davidson

  3. SmilingAtheist
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Jerry I’ve read the last few posts you have written on religion and I must say you’re starting to sound like PZ. All you need now is some irrational affection to squid and you’d be there. Keep it up!

    • MadScientist
      Posted January 28, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      Heathen! No squid here – it’s kittehs, don’t you know?

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted January 28, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      Start your own blog, and show the world how it is done.

      • SmilingAtheist
        Posted January 29, 2010 at 9:17 am | Permalink

        Madscientist thanks for the compliment, how did you know? I like kittehs too by the way. If I actually was good at science and writing I would have my own blog unfortunately that’s not case. :(

  4. MadScientist
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m having arguments on Greg Laden’s blog due to differing notions of what constitutes “skepticism”. For me that would be not accepting claims based on mere pronouncements (including by figures of authority) but instead demanding the evidence for these claims. Henry Gee posted a truly bizarre piece in which he supports NOMA, makes numerous untrue claims about skepticism and Judaism, and happily misrepresents Dawkins (I get the distinct impression that Gee gets his information about Dawkins from the DI site). Anyway, discussions on Gee’s piece seems to have revealed that mere debate on religious topics is considered by the faithful to be skepticism, even if the end goal of all that debate is to reaffirm beliefs. (Anyone for Aquinas?) Gee makes the additional mistake of blatant confirmation bias by pointing out that some people occasionally make insignificant changes to their behavior based on such debate (or introspection, since individuals can do this on their own) while considering such changes to be a big deal.

    So, getting back to Szostak’s “… leave the believer susceptible to manipulation when skepticism and inquiry are discouraged.” I think one of the weapons of religion is to make people believe they are being skeptical when they really are not. In Gee’s piece, any talking was considered skepticism. There was no demand for evidence for or against a position – the mere act of thinking about something or talking about it was skepticism. I think about buying a house – am I being skeptical of buying a house?

  5. Jordan
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    How do you join up/get employed at BioLogos anyways? Is there a religious litmus test as part of the interview process?

    Is your worth to them determined by how well you can muddle science with faith and still make it appear plausible? Could I, as an atheist, get a job by knowing my biology and just saying “God did it!” whenever anyone gets suspicious? I have to wonder.

    • MadScientist
      Posted January 29, 2010 at 1:46 am | Permalink

      I’m sure they love people who have a biology degree and who will say “goddidit”. In fact some jesus cult loons go through all the trouble and expense of going to a real university to get a biology degree (and some even a PhD in biology) just so they can say “look, there are some doctors of biology who say evilution is a lie and goddidit”.

  6. Michael K Gray
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    I am convinced that deep down both the faitheists and the Kristian Kooks *know* that they are wrong in claiming compatibility between voodoo and reality.

    • MadScientist
      Posted January 29, 2010 at 1:50 am | Permalink

      I wouldn’t bet on that; they do have serious delusions and actually believe much (if not all) of the nonsense they spout. For example their ardent belief (mentioned in my post above) that they are engaging in “skepticism” when they make extremely superficial changes to what they do and believe.

  7. oldfuzz
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    To call BioLogos accomodationist is to demean the term. They are so timid w.r.t. the real issue that they hedge their definitions; e.g., “Theism is the belief in a God who cares for and interacts with the creation.”

    The variety of theisms I have examined include god and gods and may or may not address whether the creation.

    I wonder whether they believe God is the Creator or just responsible for the creation?

    At least their accomodation is partial otherwise they might lose their Templeton funding.

  8. Posted January 28, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    What turns me off accommodationism is the vacuity of those arguing for it. It’s a nothing concept, and the arguments mostly are little more than arguing from indignation.

    Though personally I take the stance that it’s not for me to say how others reconcile particular beliefs. If they can believe in an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, personal deity that has bestowed upon us free will and the ability to transcend death, then whether they can fit that into the scientific framework is the least of their worries ;)

  9. steve
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Falk is “saddened” by Szostak’s faith-bashing:

    Faithhead speak for I disagree with what you are saying but I can’t think of anything to refute it.

  10. articulett
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    So what are Falk’s “very sound reasons for entering the life of faith”?

    The Templeton prize?

  11. mk
    Posted January 29, 2010 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Mad Scientist hit the proverbial nail on the head. Faitheists and “moderate” religious folks really don’t understand what skepticism is.

    My discussions with others in real life often start when I suggest people need to be more skeptical. “I am skeptical! Just like you!” But they never actually reveal any form of skepticism I’m familiar with. They’re just talking.

  12. Insightful Ape
    Posted January 29, 2010 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    The “many scientists have chosen faith” argument of accomodationists is a bald faced lie. Do they care about stats? How about the fact the scientists are less likely to believe than average individuals? Or that among members of NSA it is less than 10%? Or that Einstein didn’t believe?
    A little bit of honesty would be appreciated.
    But I’m not holding my breath.

    • Paul
      Posted January 29, 2010 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      It’s actually a very carefully worded deceptive implication. It’s not a lie to say many scientists have chosen faith, depending on how you define many. There are quite a few. They could come up with a pretty long list of names. The fact that it would be dwarfed by the number of scientists that do not “choose faith” is carefully avoided. It’s a lie by omission, but I don’t think that qualifies as a “bald faced lie”.

      On the other hand, I’d be curious as to how many scientists that were not raised in a religious environment “choose faith” after enough study to become a scientist. If one takes “many scientists have chosen faith” to imply they are non-religious, become scientists, and then convert to religion, that statement might in fact be a bald faced lie. I’d be really curious to see numbers for how many scientists decide to go theist in the absence of cultural baggage regarding other people’s religious beliefs. It’s pretty straightforward to say that a scientist would never postulate Yahweh without exposure to the Bible or Christians, that much is for sure.

      • Insightful Ape
        Posted January 29, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        OK, that is an overall accurate comment.
        The only example of a scientist I can think of, converting in later life, is St Francis of Collins. But his conversion story is really questionable, leaving me with all doubts about his true motives. The fact that he is in politics is telling.

      • Paul
        Posted January 29, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        The only example of a scientist I can think of, converting in later life, is St Francis of Collins

        For my stricter, tentative definition, “converting in later life” would be necessary but not sufficient. There is no reason for a scientist to see a waterfall split into 3 and think “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” unless he was already socialized through Christianity.

        I’ll also add that Collins describes his parents as having been Christian. Additionally, here’s a Collins interview excerpt:

        I became an atheist because as a graduate student studying quantum physics, life seemed to be reducible to second-order differential equations. Mathematics, chemistry and physics had it all. And I didn’t see any need to go beyond that. Frankly, I was at a point in my young life where it was convenient for me to not have to deal with a God.

        He was a Christian before college. He is not a scientist that found religion, he is a religious person who found science, lapsed, and subsequently reverted. I mean, by his own account he became the Christian atheist strawman who calls himself an atheist so he don’t need to answer to God (sound like any atheists you know? It’s not a logically tenable position — we don’t become stop believing in our parents when we don’t want to obey them — we simply ignore them.). He wasn’t reasoned into the position, and it obviously didn’t take reason to get him out of it (which is why he was apparently convinced by C.S. Lewis’s horrible attempt at apologetics in Mere Christianity).

        The only reason you think of Collins as a “scientist turned religious” is because he and the religious right have worked very hard to spin it that way. It could not be further from the truth. He was religious well before he became a scientist, and does not even claim to have been reasoned into religion (otherwise being a scientist might have played a role, but by his own admission it is not something done via reason) — it’s a matter of ‘faith’. He didn’t convert as a scientist, he reverted to his old comforting religion.

      • Tulse
        Posted January 29, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        “I was at a point in my young life where it was convenient for me to not have to deal with a God.”

        No shit — who wants to be a Christian in college, dude? It seriously interferes with the partying and chasing sweet co-ed tail.

        But it’s good to know Collins is so principled, and was an atheist for such a considered reason.

      • Insightful Ape
        Posted January 29, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the info. I didn’t know much of it.
        Just that Collins is not only a darling of the religious right, but the “religious left” too. After all he became the head of the NIH under the current administration.
        But it’s good to know he is talented enough to turn religious when it is politically convenient. The waterfall had an impeccable sense of time, I guess.

    • Posted January 29, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      “The “many scientists have chosen faith” argument of accomodationists is a bald faced lie.”

      Well there are a lot of scientists – so even a small proportion of scientists is still ‘many’ people. And for this purpose ‘scientist’ is defined pretty broadly.

  13. Posted January 29, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    I’m skeptical that there is a definition of skeptical that will satisfy everyone. And when I say “skeptical” I mean …. suspiciously unbelieving, not rationally questioning.

  14. articulett
    Posted January 29, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    I think of Francis Collins’ conversion experience as more of a “convulsion” experience since temporal lobe seizures are known to precipitate a number of such conversions as well as religious ecstasy.

  15. IanW
    Posted January 30, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    The accommodationist claims seem to be seriously undermined by this article:

  16. Jonathan McLatchie
    Posted January 30, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I do not believe that Coyne has even taken the time to read Meyer’s book. If he has, perhaps he could provide a reference for the claim that Meyer’s book espouses the argument that the cell must have been designed by God because it is too complex?

    Unlike Dr. Coyne, I have actually taken the time to read his most recent book, “Why Evolution is True”. Alas, I found nothing in it to be at all convincing.

  17. Tulse
    Posted January 30, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    I have actually taken the time to read his most recent book, “Why Evolution is True”. Alas, I found nothing in it to be at all convincing.

    Is there anything that would convince you of the truth of evolution? Can you specify any possible evidence that would change your mind?

    • Posted January 30, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I’d like to know that, too.

    • Jonathan McLatchie
      Posted January 31, 2010 at 3:42 am | Permalink

      There are a number of things which would convince me of the truth of Darwinism. To name just three:

      1) The production of a detailed Darwinian account of the evolutionary origin of any system of biochemical significance which is deemed to be irreducibly complex.

      2) The evolutionary synthesis of a biochemical system of comparable complexity to the bacterial flagellum under laboratory conditions.

      3) The demonstration of the plausibility of materialistic theories for the origin of life.

      I have intuitive suspicions about certain aspects of the phylogenetic tree of life, although I think that common descent is plausible at least at some level. I think, however, that universal common descent becomes very difficult to defend above the level of phylum, and there is even some evidence which militates against it – especially with respect to the Archaea, Eubacteria and Eukaryota.

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted January 31, 2010 at 4:10 am | Permalink

        Umm. . . you think that common descent is “plausible at some level”? So you’re not quite sure about the evolution of birds from early reptiles, mammals from early reptiles, and humans from apelike ancestors? And while you MAY accept that, you don’t buy that phyla can have the same common descent? What about the evidence of the universality of the genetic code, or did God just happen to create different phyla using exactly the same genetic code?

        So you deny evolutionary changes in lineages, and MAYBE, just MAYBE will accept common descent and speciation. Tell us all, what evidence would convince you that your beloved theory of intelligent design is true as opposed to merely being a hail-mary theory that answers things that we don’t understand by saying, “God did it.”

      • Jonathan McLatchie
        Posted January 31, 2010 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        The universality of the genetic code is only convincing if you first rule out the possibility of common design.

        So, let me turn the question around and ask, what kind of evidence would convince you that intelligent design is true and that your beloved Darwinism is false?

      • articulett
        Posted January 31, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        If you actually wanted to understand the facts, you can’t believe you have to have faith in a certain unbelievable story to be “saved”.

        This meme infection of yours makes it it unlikely that you would even be able to begin to grasp what humans have come to understand about how we got here.

      • Tulse
        Posted January 31, 2010 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

        The universality of the genetic code is only convincing if you first rule out the possibility of common design.

        But why would a truly intelligent designer re-use the same damned code for everything from Archaea to antelopes? Are you saying that all the particulars of the genetic system (such as what sequence of nucleotides code for what amino acids, how many nucleotides are used per gene, even the use of DNA rather than RNA) is somehow optimal for all situations?

        what kind of evidence would convince you that intelligent design is true and that your beloved Darwinism is false?

        A lack of ridiculous kludginess in the “design” of so many organisms, kludginess that often arises from an adaptation of a design not optimized to solve the particular problem it tries to solve. A lack of phenomenal inefficiency in the biological world. A section of nucleotides in the DNA of every organisms that can be decoded into ASCII reading “I MADE THIS. SIGNED, GOD”.

        Honestly, it is not that hard to come up with possible evidence for intelligent design, as that was the default assumption of most scientists prior to Darwin.

    • Insightful Ape
      Posted January 31, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      How about fossilized rabbits in te pre-Cambrian? That challenge has been opeen for decades now. But I can think of others: land vertebrates not goin through the pharyngula phase during their embriogenesis; vertebrates not having blind spots in their eyes, or squids that have them; a vertebrates without paeudogenes in it’s genome; the list is very long indeed.
      What is amazing about Charles Darwin is that he knew none of it when he wrote his epic work.

      • articulett
        Posted January 31, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

        I’d believe in intelligent design if men only made one sperm for each child god wanted to be born– not skadzillions.

  18. Posted January 31, 2010 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    1- Intelligent Design is not anti-evolution

    2- Intelligent Design does not say “that cells must have been designed by God because they’re too complex to have evolved”. I am not relogious and ID doesn’t have anything to do with “God”.

    Also it is more than mere complexity that leads to the design inference.

    Meyer talks about this in the book “Signature in the Cell”.

    IOW it appears that people are attacking the book and theye didn’t even read it.

    That said what would convince me that evolution via an accumulation of genetic accidents is “true”?

    Well first you have to propose a testable hypothesis based on accumulating genetic accidents, and then you would have to test it.

    And if you think I have created a strawman well think about this-

    In your scenario of evolution all mutations are genetic accidents- ie mistakes. And they accumulate via various selection processes as well as chance- Dawkins calls it “cumulative selection” (“The Blind Watchmaker”).

    Now as for evidence for Intelligent Design no need to look any further than transcription and translation with its proof-reading and error-correction- both of which require knowledge that blind molecules just do not have.

    And that is not even the tip of the iceberg.

  19. Jonathan McLatchie
    Posted January 31, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Incidentally, I would be very happy if somebody could point me to the “lie” which everyone has been telling me Meyer has made.

    • Insightful Ape
      Posted January 31, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      Can you give me a reason I shouldn’t think the “signature” (if it exists) was not left there by the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
      After all, the introns, the paeudogenes, the viral corpses, and the repeating segments tell me that whoever did the “signing” was not such an expert in creating cells. Which fits the Flying Spaghetti Monster hypothesis very well: His Noodliness tells us when he created us he was drunk.

    • Insightful Ape
      Posted January 31, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      Incidentally, are you OK if I use “limited imagination” or “narrow mindedness” instead of “common design”? After all if a creator existed, I can’t see why it shouldn’t
      have left its options open.

  20. articulett
    Posted January 31, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Christian creationism is as much a lie as Scientology creationism… and all the other mythical stories humans have made up over the eons to explain that which they don’t understand.

    Science is the only known method for correcting such misperceptions (lies).

  21. Mathew
    Posted February 1, 2010 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    You make the assertion that faith and belief in God are not compatible on various occasions, yet you do not provide any reasons why. You discredit the Biologos Foundation, and your only reason is that they are accomodationists. You do not say why they are wrong. There website has a wealth of information on it, and you could easily refute any of the questions they have, or provide proper reasons. By merely ranting you are with the greatest respect showing your ignorance on theological issues, and the philosophy of science. You predisposition actually prevent you from reason, but most importantly respect and tolerance.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted February 1, 2010 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      Sorry, Matthew, but before you go saying that I do not give any reasons why, you should go back and see that I have in fact written extensively on this question, as well as having analyzed BioLogos in more detail. The one who is “ranting” here is you, and you simply read one post and respond to that without having investigated this website further. I am always curious why people like you visit this site, read one post, and then make rude remarks without knowing anything about my history of discussing this problem.

      • Mathew
        Posted February 1, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

        My sincere apologies if my remarks came across as either a rant or rude.

        I did infact note Dr. Coyne that you did write most than post on BioLogos, so maybe I should have mentioned that in my previous post. I did not try (although I may have done so inadvertently) to imply that that was your only post on the subject.

        Having said that I do not feel that and I am being honest Dr. Coyne that you provide me with any reasons to not agree with anything the BioLogos people have said. I myself am a non practicing Christian, but I suppose you could call it an agnostic Christian, I don’t really believe in the divinity of Christ one way or another.

        However I am a mere science student whilst you are a professor. I could be missing something but you are yet to point that you. With respect you have, and now you should be honest here, been very forceful on your criticism of BioLogos because (1) They promote faith in God (2) Because they say evolution and belief in God do not conflict (3) Becuase they say science at large and belief in God do no overlap. But my question Dr. Coyne is Why? Like one person also mentioned,if it is so obvious why not take up the challenge and write to the BioLogos telling them why they are wrong, requestion a reply and showing them how they are wrong. From what I can see they would be more then willing to oblidge since they have posted things from Francisco Ayala and that Nobel dude who agrees with you.

        My point Dr. Coyne is that you fail to provide any reasons why faith and science cannot coexist.

        Again I apologise if I may have come across as “rude” in my previus post, it was certainly not my intention to be rude or rant.

      • articulett
        Posted February 1, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

        do you think any reason Professor Coyne would be good enough for someone who truly believed that their Salvation in the after life depended on what they believed and how strongly they believed it in this life?

        Also, if there were no god and no such things as souls, would you want to know?

        How do you imagine you’d come to know this. Why do you believe in some invisible entities and not in other invisible entities that other people believe in (Scientologists believe in Body Thetans, for example)?

        Isn’t it fair that science treat all such non-scientific beliefs equally? Isn’t part of the job of scientists to teach people to recognize pseudoscience and the various ways humans are known to fool themselves.

        Theists know that humans can be fooled– they believe all those other humans who believe other myths have been fooled; why are you guys so arrogant to think that you have not been similarly fooled. I know you think faith is humble, but from this nonbeliever’s perspective you are as arrogant and misguided as Tom Cruise with his Scientology beliefs.

        You both think the other is deluded while you both believe that you are in on some secret of the universe that science can’t access!

        What do you think you could say to Tom Cruise to cause him to be more rational? And if the answer is “nothing”, then why do you imagine Coyne would have any say on the the people at Biologos or any other believer in magical things? What’s the point– people are free to believe what they want… but that doesn’t mean their beliefs warrant respect or should be free from criticism or derision.

    • Jonathan McLatchie
      Posted February 1, 2010 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      My own opinion is that Genesis 1 is simply not intended to provide a scientific account of the development of life, and I see no real theological conflict between evolution and Christian theism.

      Where I differ fundamentally with BioLogos is with regard to the necessity of such a harmonisation. After all, evolution is in such bad shape that there is really no need at present to adopt such a position.

      I have also read Coyne’s book. I thought that it was very well written, but I already knew most of the arguments presented and was disappointed with the lack of response to critics. And I think more than a single chapter was required to document the purported causal powers being ascribed to the neo-Darwinian synthesis.

      • Insightful Ape
        Posted February 1, 2010 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        I’m disappointed at your failure to address my critiques of you as well.

      • Jonathan McLatchie
        Posted February 1, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

        “Insightful Ape” -

        What, specifically, would you have me address?

      • Insightful Ape
        Posted February 1, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        Ehm…why is it that there hasn’t been a single bird fossil before the earliest dinosaur fossils?
        What have there been no mammalian fossils before the first fish fossils?
        Why aren’t there any vertebrates without blind spots?
        Why aren’t there any squids with blind spots?
        Why are there corpses of retroviruses in human and chimp DNA tracing back to the same virus?
        Why are genes of color vision on the same chromosome for humans, chimps and monkeys?
        Why aren’t there any land vetebrates that DO NOT have gills during their embriogenesis?
        Is god playing a joke on us, intending for us to believe that evolution did happen? Doesn’t he have anything better to do with his time?

      • Jonathan McLatchie
        Posted February 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

        You had not raised those points on this blog before, and so I am somewhat curious as to how you expected me to respond to them directly. Your list of questions is primarily concerned with the proposition of common descent, which I think is a fairly plausible deduction anyway, yet not beyond dispute. My primary interests concern the causal efficacy of the mechanism.

        Nonetheless, here goes…

        Why is it that there hasn’t been a single bird fossil before the earliest dinosaur fossils? Because birds did not chronologically precede the existence of dinosaurs.

        On the inverted retina as an example of bad design, the example has now been overturned. Retinal cells need a lot of oxygen and thus a large blood supply. But it the retinal cells were to face the incoming light, they would have to be covered by blood vessels, which would absorb the incoming light. If that was the case, then your charge of ‘bad design’ might be legitimate. There is no evidence that the retina of squids is any better at resolving objects in its visual field.

        Concerning endogenous retroviruses, the ERV’s are taxon-specific and all have non-random chromosomal distributions. The mouse and rat have different ERV families and yet many of them occupy similar genomic sites. This is explained by the insertion machineries having preferences for specific DNA targets or chromatin profiles. In yeast, the ERV Ty repeatedly inserts into the promoters of tRNA genes. Human and mouse ‘jumping genes’ such as Alu and B1/B2 are not homologous and yet have the same linear pattern of placement. It also turns out that the Syncytin proteins (which are encoded by ERV’s) are essential for placenta development in humans, mice and rabbits. In each case, the ERVs and the proteins are species-specific – they are not related by common descent.

        Why are the genes of colour vision on the same chromosome for humans, chimps and monkeys? This is only a convincing argument if one rules out the possibility of common design.

        You asked why there are not any land vertebrates which do not possess gills during embryogenesis. The only problem with this argument is that they are not gills. Midway through development, all vertebrate embryos possess a series of folds in the pharynx. In a reptile, mammal or bird, these structures only resemble the instructures in the embryonic fish which will later give rise to gills. In reptiles, mammals and birds, they develop into other systems such as the inner ear and the parathyroid gland.

    • Posted February 1, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      Matthew, perhaps you should have read before spouting off like this?

    • Insightful Ape
      Posted February 1, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      The one aspect of christian/Islamic faith that is unquestionably inconsistent with science is belief in spirits/souls/”free” will. It contradicts neuroscience.
      And I’m not sure what will be left of the faith without that.

    • articulett
      Posted February 1, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

      The problem comes when the facts conflict with the faith.

      This is even more problematic when a person has come to believe that their SALVATION depends upon that faith.


  22. John M
    Posted February 1, 2010 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    I agree with Mathew. Although I myself am an ethical humanist or ethical agnostic, whichever you prefer, merely preaching intolerance and bashing the otherside destroys your own credibility. I have been reading these posts for a while now, and and all I see are attacks on BioLogos, and claims that faith and science are incompatible. Your book on Why Evolution Is True was quite brilliant in my opinion, mainly becuase it was very easily understood by the layman and doesnt not make things overly complex. As Mathew states if you want to say why Christianity and Science are in conflict, why don’t you put an essay together and send it to Dr. Falk @ BioLogos, and request that they post it on their website and challenge then to provide a response. That way you will actually be addressing the issue properly rather then attempting to polarise the issue simply by calling the other side names. My guess is that you will not put such an essay together becuase you know well and full belief in God and science are compatible.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted February 1, 2010 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      Sorry, but I have written EXTENSIVELY about this issue not only on my website, but also in essays like one about two years ago in the New Republic. I have had my say, and I have, I think, addressed the issue properly. At least the New Republic thought so, as they considered my piece thoughtful and not at all “name calling”. It’s amazing to me how someone like you (and Matthew) claims that I’ve been “ranting” and “name calling” without apparently have read my other essays on this book. As for BioLogos, the site is so dreadful and embarrassing that I don’t want my work appearing there when I’ve published it elsewhere.
      And I don’t know full well that belief in God and science are compatible. REad the New Republic essay to see what I do think, which is the opposite.

      • Jonathan McLatchie
        Posted February 1, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Permalink


        Please give me a straight forward answer – have you, or have you not, read “Signature in the Cell” from front to back?

      • Insightful Ape
        Posted February 1, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

        McLatchie please give me a straight answer.
        How do you know the “signature” doesn’t belong to the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

      • Jonathan McLatchie
        Posted February 1, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

        The theory of I.D. asserts that certain features of living systems exhibits signatures indicative of conscious, deliberative activity. It says nothing about the identity or nature of that intelligent agent.

        I personally believe that the designer is the God of the Old and New Testaments, but I have to consult independent fields of inquiries to come to that conclusion – such as historical scholarship.

      • John M
        Posted February 1, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

        Dr. Professor Coyne,

        I did read the information on this website and I truly did feel they were more articles about why you did not like BioLogos on a personal level as opposed to where they err.

        However I take your point that I have not read the New Republic essay, and since you placed a lot of weight on that I tried to find it. I may have found the wrong article but what I reas was entitled: ‘ The Faith That Dare Not Speak Its Name’ and let me say right of the bat, its an excellent article. I do think its a little disrespectful and rude at times, but in terms of substance its a great article. The problem here is that I agree with mostly everything in that article, although I think the tone or the way it was addressed could have been a lot more civil.

        But the major and real problem is that no where in your article Dr. Coyne do you talk about BioLogos or give us proper reasons why the ‘accomodationists’ as you call them are wrong. After reading your excellent article (and from a science students point of view it was excellent) all I can say is that I have a better understanding of why evolution is true and why intelligent design is not science.

        If you are to maintain your sustained attacks on BioLogos, I agree with previous posters, you should put together an essay like New Republic one based on why you feel (and not at the personal level) that the BioLogos people are wrong. You need to say why you cannot be a serious scientist and believe in God, or why evolution and God cannot coexist.

        Best Regards

        John M

    • Insightful Ape
      Posted February 1, 2010 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Science and belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster are fully compatible.

    • Insightful Ape
      Posted February 1, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

      See McLatchie-this is why your argument doesn’t hold up.
      Inheritance of anatomical features, biochemistry (including the genetic code), emobriogenesis etc. is seen all around us and it is INHERITED. That is why the shared code between bacteria and archae can be attributed to common ancestry.
      On the other hand, your “designer” hypothesis requires adding something to the system that has never been observed.
      Rejecting a simpler explanation in favor of a more complicated one may be how theology works. But it is not how science works. That is why you will never be able to publish a peer review article postulating “common design”. Because creationism doesn’t play by the book. Not because there is a conspiracy in action against you.
      But that is not all. Even if a designer existed, he/she/it could assign different patterns randomly to different species. Why didn’t the creator give some vertebrates eyes without blind spots and to some, eyes with blind spots? (Same for squids and octapuses). Of course some godless scientist might say it is because all vertebrate are descendants of fish. But people of faith (not including Collins and Miller) know better.
      And why should all vertebrate have “structures that look like gills and in the fish actually make the gills” during their embryogensis? Either because they had ancestors that had gills in their adulthood, or a god that has only one map to work off of.
      You said birds were came after the dinosaurs. Fine, but you know there are many lines of evidence that they actually arose from the dinosaurs (no pun intended). If they simply popped into existence, why could there be a single bird in the Permian or before? That would put the plug on evolutionary theory.
      Which bring me to my next point. Out of the thousands of fossils that have been examined since the time of Darwin there hasn’t been even a single confirmed instance of anything in the “wrong” strata-anything proving Darwin wrong. We all know what this would be called in a religious context.
      As for the mechanism, again, you are entitled to have whatever hypothesis you want to. The issue is, speciation as a result of natural selection and sexual selection has been observed in the nature as well as in the lab. A species “magically” becoming something else (like growing bacilli and ending up with cocci) has not. If you want to sound convincing, at least you have to make a suggestion that is plausible. Again, the species having evolved as a result of forces of nature is the simpler explanation. (And we know, depending on generation time and relative advantage for survival and reproduction, how long it takes for a new trait to become dominant-we knew that as far back as the 1920s). “Miraculous” appearance of new species is the more complex one. And in science, simple explanations are not abandoned in favor of more complicated ones.
      Can I exclude some species having come into existence as a result of miracles? Sure I can’t. Similarly, I can’t exclude the possibility that tuberculosis is some times caused some times by evil spirits rather than bacteria-just that there is no evidence of the latter.

    • articulett
      Posted February 1, 2010 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      Well, try reading for information then.

      If Biologos was trying to tie together Scientology and Science rather than Christianity and Science, then perhaps you’d get a better understanding of what is being said and wouldn’t imagine people saying things they aren’t saying.

      You’ve committed a logical fallacy called a straw man. You are arguing a position that no one holds because you can feel superior knocking it down– but since you missed the actual boat about what is said no cares about your straw man. If you want to discuss the issue, you would first have to understand it.

      Would you be supportive of an organization called Biologos II that was doing what Biologos does only for Scientology?

      Why or why not?

      • articulett
        Posted February 1, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

        (oops… this was a reply to John and his claim that we are “attacking biologos”–and not Insightful Ape, whom I agree with.)

  23. articulett
    Posted February 1, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    When people believe that they must have “faith” in a particular religious story (in order to be saved), they seem to be unable to be competent in regards to any science that conflicts with that story.

    Do you think Tom Cruise could become competent in areas that conflict with his Scientology beliefs? I suspect you (theists posting here) would have as much trouble educating him, as evolutionists would have educating you.

    Of course, reality doesn’t care what humans believe.

    • Daniel
      Posted February 1, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      Ok here we actually have someone proposing an actual reason why faith and belief in God cannot coexist, which is good.

      So your argument is as follows:

      When people believe that they must have “faith” in a particular religious story (in order to be saved), they seem to be unable to be competent in regards to any science that conflicts with that story.

      Very simply you are incorrect insofar that many people like myself and those at BioLogos (and you can see the following commen on their website) believe that “both faith and science” lead to truth. As Ken Miller says truth cannot trup truth and one truth cannot be right and the other wrong. There is no science which conflicts with BioLogos or my beliefs, I accept every scientific theory that you would or Dr. Coyne would.

      What scientific fact then would destroy my faith? If you brought me evidence that Christ did not rise from the dead then I would right away agree that he is not God. I certainly would not then say that science cannot trump faith in that case.

      I hope this answers your question.

      • Noel
        Posted February 1, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

        Daniels response is correct. I would like to add though that the reason science and faith to do, and will never conflict is that they ask and address two different questions. Here I am not proposing a SJG NOMA, but rather highlighting what Daniel calls the two truths of reality. Faith addresses a realm of reality which does science cannot reach.

        Secondly the God of the bible, is not a naturalistic interventionalist God that makes his presence known,nor is the bible itself a scientific document.

        I guess the main thing Daniel is trying to highlight is what breathes fire into those equations and the laws of nature, what is this blood of the universe that keeps it going. But be careful becuase we are asking it from the point of view of meaning, not mechanism which would be scientific, we are asking why, in terms of meaning.

      • articulett
        Posted February 1, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

        Look at Noel… is that the crowd you want to be associated with? Do you think religion hasn’t made him or her particularly daft and arrogant in areas of science that conflict with his/her indoctrination?? Is that the kind of people Biologos is trying to reach and impress?

        If there is no such thing as a soul– nor any sort of invisible form of consciousness(not gods, angels, demons, ghosts, devils, Thetans, gremlins, etc)– if they were all equally imaginary-would you want to know. Certainly you understand that there is no more evidence for the invisible entities you do believe in over the invisible entities you reject (Xenu, for example.)

        That is problematic in science. You hold a strong belief that lacks evidence in the same manner as the superstitions you don’t follow. If nothing else, it’s very inconsistent and shows a strong bias for a particular faith over the facts. Plus it makes you defensive and dishonest.

        Are we scientists supposed tip toe around the issue so you can believe in your chosen invisible friends? If you wouldn’t want a Scientologist Scientist wearing their supernatural beliefs on their sleeves, then you ought to keep your own unevidenced beliefs to yourself. But you can’t– belief needs YOU and your verbiage and the deference of others to prop it up.

        You feel proud of your faith, but faith is just a different word for incredulity. It’s noting to be proud of. Surely you know that reality does not care what you believe.

        During all those years that humans believed the earth to be the center of the universe, it never was. As creation story after creation story was invented, the truth of the actual history of our universe never changed.

        I think people like you become very defensive and/or daft when the facts threaten their faith. Moreover, studies show that people usually choose their faith over the facts when they believe that some invisible guy watching over them wants them to!

        Believers HAVE to convince themselves that faith and fact are not in conflict lest they lose their faith– but the rest of us don’t have to play along. It feels dishonest to do so. And if your fairy story is true, then why the hell would it matter if scientists or anyone thought they were ridiculous. Don’t you think Scientology is ridiculous? How about the Hare Krishnas? Well, I feel the same way about your magical beliefs– and for the SAME reasons. If you are sensitive, you ought to keep your beliefs as private as you’d like believers in those things to keep theirs.

  24. articulett
    Posted February 1, 2010 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Ugh– were you home-schooled? Your spelling and grammar are atrocious. Why are Christians particularly prone to confusing “your” and “you’re”? It’s hard to take you fools seriously when you communicate so poorly (and believe in such silly things.)

    Oh, and Jerry is not afraid to say he’s an atheist, you dumbshit– anymore than you are afraid to say you don’t believe in fairies. You don’t believe in fairies, do you? — save for that big invisible sky fairy you call god.

    Your “intelligent designer” seems to have been out of sorts when he created you. In fact, you seem oddly indistinguishable from the accidental product of horny humans. With millions of sperm competing to fertilize the egg, it’s really a shame that something better wasn’t conceived. Your intelligent designer is downright incompetent, not to mention wasteful.

  25. articulett
    Posted February 1, 2010 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    And I’d no more read something from the Discovery Institute than I would take a “free personality test” from a Scientologist or do a book report on the Jehovah Witness’s Awake pamplhet(which, ironically always puts me to sleep.)

    I prefer more honest and scholarly literature– written by people who can spell. Creotards deserve the companionship of other creotards.

    • Wilson
      Posted February 2, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      I beg to differ. I am doing my graduate studies in New Testament historicity at the University of Notre Dame. You list no sources in your claim. Mohammed was indeed a historical figure and you would need to be historically bias to deny that either Jesus or Mohammed existed. However the historicity of Mohammed is only based on double sources. The New Testament historicity and the historical proof of the resurrection is much much much much more solid than that.

      Before you open your mouth why don’t you actually do some research. I turn your attention to

      (1 ) The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T Wright;

      (2 ) The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable? By F.F Bruce; and finally

      (3 ) On the reliability of the old Testament by Kitchen

      All three are historical, scholarly and authoritative. The first two have had no responses since they are considered to be 100% correct and true by mainstream historical scholarship. The last is still contentious (bc the Old Testament is far too old to properly verify), but nevertheless persuasive.

      Mate, don’t try to argue points you do not understand or have not researched.

      • Insightful Ape
        Posted February 3, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink

        Oh come on buddy. You can’t be serious.
        Good thing to know you formally studied the bible. How much time have you spent studying the Koran? Don’t you think you may be a little biased?
        The miracles of prophet Mohammad were written down in the Hadith, all quoted from eyewitnesses several decades after the “fact”. (Much like the New Testament).
        You want sources? OK, check out these ones and get back to me: The End of Biblical Studies by Hector Avalos, Misquoting Jesus and Jesus Interrupted by Bart Ehrman, and Deconstructing Jesus by Robert Pryce. (All of them biblical scholars).
        So which is more convincing? I guess it depends on how many times you repeat the word “much”.

      • Paul
        Posted February 3, 2010 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        and you would need to be historically bias to deny that either Jesus or Mohammed existed.

        I’d love for you to support your claim on the former. Where is the evidence of a historical Jesus? I’m not talking about the convenient assumption that he existed that some biblical scholars allow because otherwise the Christians will flail their arms about and squawk keeping any actual work from getting done. I’m talking about actual, positive, extra-biblical evidence that Jesus of Nazareth existed. If you mention the Josephus forgery you will be laughed out of the room.

        There’s far more evidence of Mohammed than there is of Jesus. Praise Allah?

        • articulett
          Posted February 3, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

          Given the recordings we have of the 9-11 flights, it seems the almighty was only answering prayers addressed to Allah that day.

          As for Mr. bible scholar, even if the bible stories were based on a real person (or an amalgam of people), it doesn’t mean the “magic parts” are true. Not for Jesus… not for Mohummed… and not for Xenu.

          And, I’m pretty sure it’s Robert PrIce (with an I, not a Y)–he’s excellent bible scholar and former true believer who has become increasingly skeptical of a historical Jesus. It seems like a lot of details of this Jesus character came from people who could not have been eyewitnesses as they lived many years after the supposed Messiahs death.

          Of course this is all off topic. I personally don’t give Jesus any more credence than any other self-proclaimed prophet (of which there have been many.) You’d be surprised how many “sons-of-gods”, “saviors”, “gods”, and “Messiahs” reside in mental institutions or prison (see: Manson)

  26. articulett
    Posted February 1, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    I see no difference it what Biologos is doing than if they’d chosen to show how Scientology and Science are “two truths” of reality. I’m guessing the theists here would feel differently about Biologos if it involved a fairytale different from the myth they were indoctrinated to “believe in”.

    But bullshit wrapped up in a pretty package is still bullshit–it still smells.

    There is ONE objective truth. So far, Science is the only successful method for revealing that truth– the truth that’s the same for everybody no matter what they believe. It has a built-in error correcting mechanism so no faith is required. No religion has that. Religions tells you you must just take it all on faith or suffer some horrific consequences in the supposed afterlife. It’s part of the “mystery” and you “mustn’t question god”.

    There’s an infinity of proposed supernatural beings and supernatural occurrences– but, so far, there is no evidence to conclude that ANY supernatural event has EVER occurred. There is no evidence that any kind of conscious CAN exist absent a material (measurable!) brain. There is no evidence than any invisible, undetectable beings exist. And even if there was such beings, it seems science would detect evidence of them long before some self appointed prophet hearing voiced in his head would.

    Theists want to be able to call all those OTHER beliefs silly or note how unlikely they are to be true– but they have a little hissy fit should someone treat their own magic stories the same way. In this way, all theists, are hypocrites. They know other people can be fooled. Their arrogance shows in the sureness in which they believe themselves above such confirmation bias in regards to their own myth.

    No matter how much evidence there is for evolution, if it conflicts with a faith (or an intelligent designer) then the theist can’t learn it or accept it. And no matter how scant the evidence for a magical sky designer, the theist brain will imagines evidence galore and “signs” aplenty in the scantest of natural events–

    Creotards don’t change. And the truth is, they don’t want to. They don’t want the truth– they’d rather invest in the lie that leads to the imagined jackpot in the next life. They focus on picking apart the problems in others so they never have to present their own beliefs and the non-existent evidence on which those beliefs are founded.

    I like Ken Miller and Francis Collins, but I have no more respect for their supernatural beliefs than they have for the supernatural beliefs of Scientologists. It’s all goofy, stupefying, and potentially dangerous from my perspective. And it’s all false. Sure they make people happy… and if any of their magical beliefs were true, they should not care that I find them ridiculous. I’m sure Tom Cruise is not losing sleep over all those who giggle at his belief in Xenu and a universe that is over 70 trillion years old. He’s too busy feeling special and chosen, I guess, to deal in boring things like facts.

  27. Insightful Ape
    Posted February 1, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Noel do you drive a car?
    Here is something you should know, if you haven’t heard from your creationist masters: theory of evolution has been the backbone of geology for over 100 years.
    It’s true. The theories and techniques used by geologists as they study rocks are precisely the same as those used by paleontologists, who tell us the story of evolution in fossils.
    None of which would be relevant to your life, if you didn’t drive (or ride the bus for that matter). But every time you do that, you are using the work if geologists, whether you realize it or not. And geologist use the theory of evolution as they explore for oil and gas. They have to know in what layers of rocks to look for any particular type of fossils. (Oil and gas are called fossil fuels for a reason). Ever wonder why the oil and gas industry hire those godless geologists rather than the “scholars” of the disco institute? Because geology works.
    And here is the bottom line: if it weren’t for our understanding of evolution you wouldn’t have a car.
    Chew on that the next time you’re filling the gas tank.

  28. Posted February 1, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Hi Articulett,

    Your arguments are as follows:

    (i) There is no scientific proof that God exists
    (ii) Therefore the proper course of action would be to disbelieve in such a being; and

    (i) There are many religions
    (ii) So how do you know your faith is the one truth about reality?
    (iii) Therefore any belief in God at all is unwarranted OR this justifies why God does not exist

    The first premise is flawed on two levels. First I would agree that whilst there is no proof like scientific laboratory evidence, there is strong historical evidence in favour of the Christian view of reality. Secondly you pre-suppose that if such a being like the God of the Bible did in fact exist He would be able to be subjected to the human scientific method. How could you possibly know this? Moreover how do you know that science is the best way to examine every facet of the human experience (minus all naturalistic experiences)?

    The second premise is flawed on the basis of your pluralistic inclination. Alvin Plantinga when told, ‘you would probably not have been a Christian if you were born in Morocco’ said ‘Well if you were born in Morocco you probably would not have been a pluralist’. Moreover, Jesus made an exclusive claim. This means either he was God, or he was not. One cannot accept Christianity without rejecting other faiths. So by its nature you can only have one truth of reality according to Christianity. Now in terms of the historicity for the testimony of Jesus and his resurrection I would turn your attention to two sources: (1) The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T Wright, and The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? By F. F Bruce. There are many more but these two sources are considered to be the scholarly authoritative positions.

    Finally I would like to say that atheism itself cannot be subjected to the scientific method nor can the scientific method be tested using the scientific method. That would be arguing in a circle. You are adopting a double standard bias by presupposing atheism when this disbelief itself cannot be subjected to the scientific method. If you are going to say that only things which science can test should be accepted as truths, this is flawed because there are many things in life we take on faith (See the work of Alvin Plantinga on this) so to say we need scientific evidence for everything would set a standard so impossibly high that you yourself would need to constantly violate it. Remarkably your arguments itself cannot be subjected to the scientific method. Science can no more disprove God (thereby proving atheism) then it can prove God (thereby proving theism)

    The only way I can see you justifying your premise hereon in would be to establish a straw God, then claim that God can be subjected to the scientific method and dismantle the straw God. The problem here quite obviously being that God (if He exists) would be the creator of the realm of science itself and the material world and how could the creation (if that’s what we are) subject such a possible being to the scientific method? We cannot.

    I do like the fact that unlike professor Coyne however you do attempt to provide direct reasons why you see that faith in God and use of science cannot be compatible. I have however shown how your arguments are deeply flawed, but would welcome any further arguments. With respect though I would like to ask that (a) you be civil and respectful so we can keep the discussion fruitful and meaningful and (b) put aside any other predispositions you may have (e.g. that a good God would not allow suffering etc. for now) so we can address the issue specifically of whether science and faith do conflict.

    I cannot see any reason for such an assertion but I anxiously await any response.



    • articulett
      Posted February 1, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Permalink


      your paraphrase of my argument is incorrect and a bit self-serving on your part.

      Faitheists want some “brands” of pseudoscience (namely theirs) coddled, while they want us to treat other superstitions like normal scientists. They are asking for preferential treatment of their own supernatural beliefs– a preference they have no intention of giving others with equally unsupportable beliefs.

      Shall we scientists say that demon possession could be real too? Or just tiptoe around the subject and let the exorcisms and witch burnings happen as they will? Can’t we teach people the truth as best we know it– the facts that we humans have come to learn and the facts about confirmation bias and the funny ways humans fool themselves.

      Or must we play the Galileo game–
      and please the sensibilities of the self proclaimed experts on theology?

      Aren’t we allowed to point out that supernatural beliefs always hinder scientific progress when it conflicts with supposed “higher truths”?

      We used to think disease was caused by evil spirits. I don’t see attributing “good stuff” to an invisible sky guy as being any more valid or scientific than this.

      I think we should encourage believers to keep their beliefs as private as they want all those other believers in kooky supernatural things to be.

      Many people including Dr. Coyne have stated very clearly why faith is not compatible with science… it’s just that the faitheists brain cannot hear it. But I believe you guys WOULD here it if it was Scientologists or Muslims trying to garner the same respect and deference for their nutty beliefs.

      That makes you purposefully ignorant in the name of religion in my book. You prove the point that when someone has a vested interest in not understanding something, you can be sure he won’t.

      And I think most believers believe that what they “believe in” affects their ETERNITY because some trusted religious person told them as much when they were a trusting little kid. Religions create people who want to defend the belief more than they want to understand the facts.

      And faitheists may not believe in god, but they still buy into this idea that “faith” itself is good. I don’t. I think it’s a way of brainwashing people so that they all shout down those who dare to point out that the emperor is naked–there’s no such thing as magical invisible robes.

  29. Mary
    Posted February 1, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    I was searching is evolution true and came to this site.

    I am not a science student and really do not understand anything about evolution and I have watched some clips on youtube which make intelligent design sound just as believable.

    The problem here is that I need some resources that a non-science student can comprehend, but at the same time not sacrifice any important information.

    Any recommended books or materials will be much appreciated but they need to be at my level.

    • Posted February 2, 2010 at 1:11 am | Permalink

      This might be a good place to start:
      Understanding Evolution: Your one-stop source for information about evolution. (Including “Evolution 101″)

      Good luck!

    • Posted February 2, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      The book by the author of this blog (that shares the same title) is a good account of how evolution works and what evidence there is to support it.

  30. articulett
    Posted February 1, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Why the straw men?

    My point is much simpler than your straw man, and you may want to examine your biases because it’s really incredible the way you faitheists keep missing the point.

    I want the freedom to treat all religions and supernatural beliefs the way you treat the ones you don’t believe in. I want all scientists to have that right. You don’t believe in fairies or reincarnation or Xenu– and I don’t believe in ANY invisible entities including your gods and ghosts. The truth has nothing to fear from inquiry or scientists, right?

    From a scientific perspective, your god and the gods you don’t believe in are equal. Jesus as god has no more evidence going for him than Thor as god. Really. Satan has no more evidence in his favor than Scientology’s body Thetans. There is no more evidence for one invisible being than there is for any other. Repeat this over and over until it erases your silly straw men. It’s so simple.

    Invisible beings doing supposed mysterious things have no place in science. We humans are known to make up such entities and really truly believe in them– only to find out science nullifies them with a better explanation again and again and again.

    You spent so much time arguing against something I never said.

    You should not ask for special favors or deference or respect regarding your supernatural beliefs that you wouldn’t give someone with a conflicting natural belief. You shouldn’t ask for more respect than you’d give a Scientologist because you’ve given us no reason why we should treat your supernatural beliefs as more scientifically compatible.

    If you get touchy when your magical beliefs are criticized and start hearing things people aren’t saying, then maybe it’s time you took a close look at those beliefs instead of inventing character flaws and false arguments against the people who deride them.

  31. Posted February 1, 2010 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    @ articulett

    I note that you did not respond directly to any of my points. You did not show why my reasoning was wrong, or why my arguments are flawed. Further you make the following accusations:

    (1) I was self serving in paraphrasing your arguments

    (2) We scientists who are also Christians want preferential treatment

    (3) You disregard my response to your argument about Christianity being the one truth about reality; instead you restate your premise with fever

    (4) You accuse me of creating a straw man; and

    (5) You accuse Christians at large of creating pseudoscience

    Quite bold and severe claims, so before I present a full response, I want to give you the opportunity to go back and re-read my previous post but also clarify certain parts of your premises (which I have listed below).

    (1) I was self serving in paraphrasing your argument

    I was merely articulating your argument so I could respond. You say I was self serving, making the accusation yet you do not specify how by listing your arguments it was serving my purpose in my answer. It was actually purely an administrative action on my part, for the purposes of clarity, but if you feel that I was self serving I now give you the opportunity to specify clearly how this was helping my purposes.

    (2) We scientists who are also Christians want preferential treatment

    Here you state again that we should not believe things science cannot prove, and only accept scientific truths, or naturalistic truths. Again I already responded to this, and you merely re-state your premise, not addressing my arguments.
    But more importantly are you suggesting that we band all systems which cannot be subjected to the scientific method including philosophy, metaphysics, atheistic philosophy, theology etc ?

    I do not really understand what you are trying to state here so any clarification will be appreciated.

    (3) You disregard my response to your argument about Christianity being the one truth about reality, instead you restate your premise with fever.

    I actually took quite a bit of time in my previous post to respond to this, quite adequately, with sources as well, and you merely restated your premise.

    For me to provide any further responses you would need to show how my premise is flawed or why the resources I mentioned are flawed.

    So I would refer you to my previous response.

    (4) You accuse me of creating a straw man

    Again you make the accusation (like Dawkins constantly does) yet you do not say what this false God is I have created, or any other straw man.

    I on the other hand clearly pointed out that you created a Straw God when you implied that God should be subjected to the scientific method or should be visible in nature, which does not accurately depict the God of the bible.

    Please identify my straw men so I can respond.

    (5) You accuse Christians at large of creating pseudoscience

    I am a geneticist, both in clinical and research practice. Please inform me or any scientific methods or theories you adopt, that I may not have been thought during my education.

    Please note that there are preliminary responses. With respect I found your post so weak that I wanted to give you the opportunity to first re-read mine then re-read yours and to be clear on your arguments. So in this post I am not attacking your premises or arguments (let me make this clear). Rather I am giving you an opportunity to clearly identify your accusations or clarify points I myself may have misunderstood that you made. Then I shall give you my response.

    For you to provide any sort of proper response you should not waffle on or talk randomly or constantly, rather you should (a) clearly highlight an argument of mine, (b) say what I was trying to argue and (c) show why I am flawed in my reasoning without creating any straw men (and I am not implying that you will). Finally you should offer an alternate rational response to my argument.

    Then you should then proceed to ask me certain questions which I can respond to. Merely making wild accusations only implies that one either has a great disdain for the other, that one is trying to be evasive on account of their ignorance or that one merely lacks an understanding on how to clearly articulate oneself, and I trust that you fall into none of those categories.



    • articulett
      Posted February 3, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      I have an M.S. in genetics and have worked in the field for a number of years. I have no need to see who has the bigger degree. You never asked my experience… you just assumed you knew more. However, I strongly doubt this is the case. But it’s a moot point. This isn’t about genetics.

      Frankly, I don’t think you’ve made a coherent point to address, and like you, I’m glad to let the reading audience decide for themselves who is more coherent.

      I have not seen you demonstrate a capability for dialogue, and from what I see, you seem far more enamored with your conversational skills than anyone else here is(ala Dunning-Kruger).

      I think all religions and all invisible beings should get the same treatment by scientists– the same treatment we give to all superstitions, supernatural beliefs, cults, and pseudosciences. Period.

      All “woo” agree– except when it comes to the woo THEY think is true– just like you! You’ve made no case as to why your brand of Christianity (or whatever supernatural beliefs you have)should be exempt. Instead, you do what all the “woo” do, you pretend the conversation is about something else so you can win points in your head game. I agree with Jerry, Szostak, and most of the people here. I can’t make sense of you, however, but it’s not worrisome since I would not choose you as a conversation partner nor role model. I have no problem conversing with those I admire.

      • articulett
        Posted February 3, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

        If this is Greg Laden, you can ignore this post.

        I subscribe to Greg Laden’s blog and I enjoy it.

        I didn’t know you were a Christian.

        I don’t think any religion has a rational basis, and, from an evolutionary perspective, I can only see consciousness as evolving… from the bottom up… over a long period of time… because it benefited those who carried the genes for increasing consciousness.

        I am much more in line with PZ, Coyne, and those other “strident” new atheists on this point. They sound much more coherent to me.

        So, if there were no gods… and souls were as much an illusion as Scientology’s Body Thetans…. would you want to know? Or would you prefer to believe? Do you think that belief is necessary for “salvation” (whatever you imagine that to be)?

  32. articulett
    Posted February 1, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    Are belief-in-magic and science compatible?

    Most would say no.

    And is there really any difference between “magic” and “supernatural”? What religion doesn’t entail something supernatural–gods, souls, invisible realms, miracles, evil, reincarnation, talking animals, etc.?

    Most honest people would admit that one has to really engage in major cognitive dissonance to see these two opposite ways of thinking compatible.

    • Posted February 1, 2010 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

      Is that really your full response to my posts?

      • Posted February 1, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

        Becuase if it is, then im certainly happy to leave it up to the viewers to judge (whether they agree with my views or not) who was not responding rationally to the questions raised.

        Woah. LOL

      • Insightful Ape
        Posted February 2, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

        Greg, I have one word for you: Islam.
        The stories of the miracles of prophet Mohammad are as well (if not better) documented than the stories of Jesus. Incidentally Mohammad didn’t mince words either: he claimed that he was in touch with god directly and was his messenger. (He also claimed that the idea that god had a son was heresey and anyone who believed that would burn in hell).
        Now you can’t both be right can you? But you can both be wrong.

  33. articulett
    Posted February 2, 2010 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Nothing puts a spring in my step like pissing off creationists. :)

    … this “conversation” serves as yet another fine example why accommodationism won’t work. Believers are perfectly happy to use science to dismiss conflicting superstitions, but they have tantrums when the same skepticism is used on their own on their own supernatural beliefs.

    Believers are perfectly willing to judge others (and, really, what else can they do when there is such a paucity of evidence for their beliefs?), but they cry “persecution” when that judgment is returned.

    “Do unto others” apparently only applies to others that share your magical beliefs.

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