Fund, pray, love

The scenario is dreary, and familiar.  The Templeton Foundation gives a prominent science organization money for a conference, or a program, devoted to the “dialogue” between science and faith.  An accommodationist is chosen to dispense assignments and cash.  With Templeton standing by beaming, the conference turns out to be a one-sided lovefest, with both scientists and the faithful assuring everyone not only that there’s no conflict, but that science and faith can actually contribute to each other. There is no dialogue, for everyone thinks alike.  Theology is promoted, and everyone goes home with a smile.

And so it is with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), whose Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion (DoSER) program is funded by Templeton. I reported on this conference in June, and now the video is up.  It’s exactly what you’d expect: pabulum for the ears.

One thing that I didn’t realize is that the newly appointed director of DoSER, astronomer Jennifer Wiseman, is also on the executive council president of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), an organization of Christian scientists (note the small “s”).  (The AAAS reports that she’s president of the ASA, but I can’t verify that.) The organization seems pretty dubious, as you can see immediately by their announcement, on their home page, of a talk on intelligent design by Casey Luskin (today, in Chicago!), and a conference by the creationist outfit Reasons to Believe.

It’s even worse. According to Wikipedia, new members of the ASA were (and, I believe, still are) required to agree with this “creedal statement”:

I believe in the whole Bible as originally given, to be the inspired word of God, the only unerring guide to faith and conduct. Since God is the Author of this Book, as well as the Creator and sustainer of the physical world about us, I cannot conceive of discrepancies between statements in the Bible and the real facts of science.

(The organization has a similar “platform of faith”.)

Nowhere do you see the discrepancy between science and faith more clearly than in such statements.  Imagine if I required people working in my lab to swear to this:

I believe in the entire book Speciation, as originally written, to be the inspired word of Jerry A. Coyne and H. Allen Orr, the only unerring guide to the truth about the origin of species.   Since Coyne is senior author of the book, and sustains the laboratory about us, I cannot conceive of discrepancies between statements in Speciation and the real facts of science.

Real scientists don’t sign on to such statements.

With these milquetoast conferences, and their insistence on the compatibility between science and faith, the AAAS is engaging in Templeton-funded theology.  It’s pretty dire, I tell you what.

And it’s nothing new for this body.  In his essay “A designer universe,” Steven Weinberg wrote this about a AAAS conference in 1999:

In an e-mail message from the American Association for the Advancement of Science I learned that the aim of this conference is to have a constructive dialogue between science and religion. I am all in favor of a dialogue between science and religion, but not a constructive dialogue. One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment.

h/t:  Larry Moran at Sandwalk

111 Comments

  1. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    I cannot conceive of discrepancies between statements in the Bible and the real facts of science.

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
    - Wild Bill Shakespeare

    • Posted August 17, 2010 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      That is, Hamlet, via W.B. Shxpr. It’s a line of dialogue, not a creedal statement by Shxpr.

      • Posted August 17, 2010 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        Plus, Hamlet is admonishing Horatio’s atheism.

        • Reginald Selkirk
          Posted August 17, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

          Ironic, isn’t it?

          • Ichthyic
            Posted August 17, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

            I agree. Your use of it there was appropriately ironic.
            :P to your detractors.

            • GrueBleen
              Posted August 17, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

              Yeah, but who’s the only one of the original cast left alive at the end ? Why it’s good old “There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave
              To tell us this.” Horatio, that’s who.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 17, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

              totally OT, but this brief digression suddenly reminded me of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 17, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

              OT, but suddenly this little digression reminded me of
              “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead”

              http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100519/

            • What a maroon
              Posted August 18, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

              “Yeah, but who’s the only one of the original cast left alive at the end ? Why it’s good old “There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave
              To tell us this.” Horatio, that’s who.”

              Also, with all the royals dead, the kingdom is left to be absorbed by Fortinbras of Norway.

              Oops. Not a good argument for listening to ghosts.

  2. Posted August 17, 2010 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    “I cannot conceive of discrepancies between statements in ‘Speciation’ and the real facts of science.”

    Fair enough. The difference being that you have written a *useful* book.

  3. Posted August 17, 2010 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    (The AAAS reports that she’s president of the ASA, but I can’t verify that.)

    ASA’s blog presented JW as “president of the ASA Executive Council” [May 2010]. I think we can trust them on that.

  4. Hempenstein
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    It’s telling that one of ASA’s local chapters is Oral Roberts.

  5. Tulse
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Imagine the accommodationist kerfluffle if science organizations required members to swear that gods don’t exist. Of course, most science organization have confidence that they uncover truths rather than just assert them. An organization that requires an avowal of a certain claim must be very uncertain of the obviousness of that claim.

    • Notagod
      Posted August 17, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      Why are they so ashamed of jesus that they won’t even put the obvious stipulation of christian in the organizations name?

  6. Posted August 17, 2010 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    That statement is a variation on the “statement of faith” for the National Association of Evangelicals:

    http://www.wcg.org/lit/booklets/truth/nae.htm

    Members have to sign that, too — every year, IIRC.

    • Posted August 17, 2010 at 7:49 am | Permalink

      That statement is a variation on the “statement of faith” for the National Association of Evangelicals

      The NAE statement only requires that one assert the Bible as inerrant in matters of faith. The ASA statement goes further and declares it inerrant in matters of science. I agree that no real scientist could sign that.

  7. Dominic
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    This is such a depressing story. Templeton’s invidious propaganda machine swings into action – & it seems dupes too many people into thinking that religion is more than just cultural baggage.

  8. Sigmund
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    It’s just the wedge strategy – with a rather larger ‘wedge’ behind it.

  9. Reed A. Cartwright
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I’ve worked with some ASA members in support of evolution. From what I remember, it was started long ago in part to defend creationism, but now has a mix of creationists and evolutionists. Their long running email list has lots of ec debates.

    • Posted August 17, 2010 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      My recollection is that the ASA, while affirming Biblical inerrancy, carefully makes no commitment as to *how* you’re supposed to reconcile the Bible with scientific results. Thus old-earth and even theistic evolution hermeneutics are acceptable within the organization (which seems to be sort of a debating club for evangelical scientists). As such, they’re not popular with hard-line YECs (I believe Morris and Gish broke with the ASA to found the CRS over that).

      • Tulse
        Posted August 17, 2010 at 9:02 am | Permalink

        So their only real point of agreement is “Yes God.” I suppose in some circles that’s sufficient.

  10. Sigmund
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    “I am all in favor of a dialogue between science and religion, but not a constructive dialogue.”
    I suppose it depends what you mean by “constructive”.
    One can argue that the type of evidence based approach to religious texts, taken by the likes of Bob Price, Hector Avalos and Bart Ehrman, can be very constructive in determining the actual historical events underlying Christianity. That uncovering the real history of the church tends to be destructive for faith is not our problem.
    It’s is amazing to me that all the scientists that suggest religion and science are compatible never seem to advocate the sort of ‘scientific’ approach to religion that these aforementioned biblical scholars apply.

    • What a maroon
      Posted August 17, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      Here’s how I imagine the dialogue:

      Science: Hey, religion, I’ve got most of it figured out. I’ll leave you the gaps for now; I’ll let you know when I fill them.

      Religion: Um… okay…. Can I get you a glass of wine?

      Of course, I’m neither a scientist nor a philosopher, so what do I know?

  11. Sam
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    The only recourse is to force those who write for Templeton or who are otherwise associated with it to own their 30 shekels of silver before they can launder them away.

    Mr. Gary Grow, TW
    Ms. Sue Sew, TW
    Dr. Joe Blow, TW, PhD
    Ms. Jane Roe, TW, MA

    TW = Temple(ton) Whore

    If every time someone referred to any of these types they added those initials to their names, the people who earned that association would either have to embrace it or live with the shame of it, but the one thing they couldn’t continue to do would be to have their cake and eat it, too.

    Deepak Chopra, TW

    (Which only means “Too Willing” for those who may be pre-intimidated by any backlash.)

    Truth in advertising.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 17, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Hear, hear. Great idea.

      It could come to be seen like the asterisk in baseball (sorry for the US-centric reference).

  12. Posted August 17, 2010 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Real scientists don’t sign on to such statements.”

    You can’t say that! Yer doin phillosifee if you say that, and yer doin it rong, becawz yer a scientist, not a phillosifer. That’s a phillosofical mettafizicul klaim and yer not allowed to make it unless you haz a phillosifee union kard.

    But seriously. It’s not just real scientists who don’t sign on to such statements, it’s any people who are using their faculties. Reasonable people just don’t make a habit of swearing solemn oaths to believe X Y and Z in advance! People who do have something badly wrong with their thinking. People who consider themselves scientists who do that…well really.

    In other words I find this fairly shocking.

    • Kevin
      Posted August 17, 2010 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      The next episode of the Massimo and Julia show is entitled “Deferring to Experts”.

      Should be — um — interesting.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted August 17, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      You need a statement like that to keep out the rational riff raff.

    • Posted August 18, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Are phillosifee union kards invisibly pinky?

  13. Posted August 17, 2010 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Here’s how they do it at ASA:

    “Science is now recognized as (1) at least partially embedded in a wider conceptual context and (2) unavoidable drawing resources from that wider context. ‘Science’ can thus be locked into place within a number of different worldviews, with advocates of each claiming that it confirms their particular view. There are many who insist on some version of methodological naturalism–that whatever the ultimate metaphysical reality, genuine science as science must (either definitional or practical) be completely detached from everything other than the purely natural. But rigid cases for such prohibitions are increasingly difficult to construct, and even some secular thinkers now admit that there are no compelling reasons why Christian thought cannot contribute to a legitimate conceptual context for science. Thus, it seems that empirical data and science is pretty much an imaginary idea. What we are really dealing with is interpretations of data and science within philosophical foundations. These can include Ontological Naturalism, Methodological Naturalism, and even Creationism (typically Young Earth Creationism). Old Earth Creationism apparently finds its foundation in Methodological Naturalism.”

    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/AboutScience/index.html#About%20Science

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 17, 2010 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Thank you. Frankly I can’t stomach to read pages with goobledygook quotations from religious texts interspersed in the argument, myself. So this is interesting.

      But rigid cases for such prohibitions are increasingly difficult to construct,

      This is from the part where a declared scientist has pasted a failed philosophical theory (defeated by, say, quantum mechanics) as an illustration of “the current situation” in science, and another religionist appends a theological argument that undermines the illustration.

      The illustration claimed at most that science can get to theoretical truth and a “tempered” (perceptually constrained) realism. The final apology inverts that cut to a gap and wedges “resources from … wider context” into it!

      And it is a lie. I have shown a rigid construct which is increasingly eased by data. And in general we know that as time goes by without exceptions found, supernaturalism will become less likely and naturalism more. Hahn will have to show where any of this is wrong before making rejectable claims.

      Thus, it seems that empirical data and science is pretty much an imaginary idea. What we are really dealing with is interpretations of data and science within philosophical foundations.

      Instead of “theoretical truth” and a “tempered realism” Hahn inverts to “an imaginary idea”.

      [Yes, I do wonder which scientists are willing to underwrite ASA beliefs.]

      And apparently imaginary ideas is what philosophical foundations deals with. I couldn’t agree more! d(>w<)b

    • Tulse
      Posted August 17, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Or, to put the ASA statement more succinctly, “Hooray for relativism!”

      I am flabbergasted that the religious have become post-modern.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted August 17, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      Some have charged that biblical criticism originated with anti-Christian writers who valued reason and logic over faith and revelation

      Yes, that would make them anti-Christian, wouldn’t it?

  14. Jacobus van Beverningk
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    “Fund, pray, love”

    Fund. AH! I’ve never made THAT connection to the expression ‘fundies’ before.

  15. Posted August 17, 2010 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    The Templeton Foundation gives a prominent science organization money for a conference, or a program, devoted to the “dialogue” between science and faith. An accommodationist is chosen to dispense assignments and cash. With Templeton standing by beaming, the conference turns out to be a one-sided lovefest, with both scientists and the faithful assuring everyone not only that there’s no conflict, but that science and faith can actually contribute to each other.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Coyen turn down an invitation to be in one of these dialogs? If the scientists who see a conflict between science and religion are basically unwilling to take part in Templeton funded programs, I don’t see how that view would be represented in a Templeton program.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted August 17, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Coyen turn down an invitation to be in one of these dialogs?

      you aren’t. what you appear to be ignorant about is WHY.

      • Posted August 18, 2010 at 8:29 am | Permalink

        I am perfectly aware why Coyen would wish to avoid tainting himself via taking part in a TF-sponsored event. However, it seems a bit inconsistent to complain about their panels consistently being one-sided without at least admitting that they had tried to involve people with his views.

        • MadScientist
          Posted August 18, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

          You seem to miss the point. The sensible people don’t buy into the Templeton shtick because it’s a load of crap; hence typically only the fuzzy-minded feature in those events. Occasionally you will find intelligent people conned into appearing. Even R. Dawkins was had by the Templetons: http://richarddawkins.net/articles/3973

          • Diane G.
            Posted August 18, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

            Great link, MadScientist. The Dennett letter at that site is particularly relevant. I love the way he asks his correspondent if he really can’t see the ulterior motives of the Templetonians…

  16. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    ASA is douche. The rest is the usual framing, now with larger grassroots.

    Nitpick: It is Weinberg, so it is “A designer universe?

    Even a universe that is completely chaotic, without any laws or regularities at all, could be supposed to have been designed by an idiot.

    ["A Designer Universe?", Weinberg]

    Refreshing.

    The basic creationist universe, anything goes, is designed by an Idiot. I guess that makes the evolutionist creationist worlds (I wouldn’t deign to call those inventions “universes”) with laws as fronting, designed by a Liar.

    [They are also Evil. But that goes all the way back to deist gods.]

    • Posted August 26, 2010 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      If you want to find a universe in which “anything goes,” Torbjörn, you should be looking more closely at someone like Max Tegmark. If every mathematically possible universe must exist (precisely what Tegmark postulates), then I’d say you found your best example.

      I don’t know whether or not that is idiocy, but it’s certainly not creationism.

  17. Posted August 17, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Jennifer Wiseman is crazy:

    This longer edition of the “Young Scientists’ Corner” is primarily intended for those who would like to know how to encourage the younger generation of Christians entering scientific vocations. These are exciting times for those of us entering careers in science as Christians. With relativism governing many philosophies in the humanities these days, the sciences remain (ideally) devoted to the pursuit of Truth, and consequently many young Christians are attracted to the sciences and are pursuing productive and creative careers. There is a level of openness and curiosity about Christian faith among young non-Christians in the sciences that stands in contrast to the antipathy between religion and science often assumed in decades past. We feel the excitement of opportunity to reach out to our scientific colleagues with the Light of the Gospel, to serve in science as our Christian calling, and to share the discoveries of God’s creation with our fellow Church members. But we need encouragement and support.

    • Posted August 17, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      And one more quote from that same link:

      It is during these formative years that young scientists are faced with some weighty decisions. For example: What kind of thesis research should I pursue? My advisor has asked me to do fetal tissue experiments; should I refuse and risk my position in graduate school? (This really happened to one student.) How do I explain my faith to my advisor and my fellow graduate students? Wouldn’t it be more valuable to God for me to join some of my Christian friends who are planning careers as evangelists or in direct ministry to the poor rather than to spend my life, for example, evaluating molecular spectra? Traditional Christian churches and circles do not always recognize the unique environment that the young Christian scientist faces. Science is sometimes viewed with misunderstanding and suspicion or ignored as unspiritual. These reactions are discouraging to young people who want to choose a career path that glorifies God. Hearing encouraging talks from older Christian scientists can be a great encouragement to younger people seeking guidance.

      • Kevin
        Posted August 17, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        How would doing “fetal tissue” experiments be against Christianity? Any more than any other experiments with any other kind of human tissue? Surely, any experiments with any form of human tissue has been presented to and been approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Which would include a bioethics review. If you’re unable to reconcile your personal faith with the IRB findings, then perhaps you *should* seek a different discipline.

        Christian “science”: Ur doeng it rong.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted August 17, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        These reactions are discouraging to young people who want to choose a career path that glorifies God.

        these people shouldn’t choose a career in science.

        they should RIGHTLY be discouraged.

    • Tulse
      Posted August 17, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      Right, because “relativism” isn’t governing the approach of the ASA:

      “it seems that empirical data and science is pretty much an imaginary idea. What we are really dealing with is interpretations of data and science within philosophical foundations. These can include Ontological Naturalism, Methodological Naturalism, and even Creationism (typically Young Earth Creationism).”

      No, no relativism there at all.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted August 17, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      These are exciting times for those of us entering careers in science as Christians.

      indeed. Xians are FINALLY being faced with the ultimate logical problems of claiming both theology and science, and honestly.

      Now, the only question remains, how much longer will xians lie to themselves?

      exciting times indeed!

  18. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Gnu Atheist sez:

    “Oh those bones, oh those bones,
    oh those skeleton bones.
    Oh those bones, oh those bones,
    oh those skeleton bones.
    Oh those bones, oh those bones,
    oh those skeleton bones.
    Oh mercy how they whore!

    With the AAAS bone connected
    to the Templeton bone,
    and the Templeton bone connected
    to the ASA bone,
    and the ASA bone connected
    to the creo bone.
    Oh mercy how they whore!

    The Templeton bone con-nected to the (‘) creo-bone,
    The creo bone connected to the (‘) ID bone,
    The ID bone connected to the (‘) YEC bone,
    The YEC bone connected to the (‘) fundie bone,
    The fundie bone connected to the (‘) theist bone
    The theist bone connected to the (‘) magic bone
    Oh hear the word of the Lord!

    Dem bones, dem bones gon-na walk a-roun’
    Dem bones, dem bones gon-na walk a-roun’
    Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk aroun’
    Oh hear the word of the Lord”

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 17, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      Gnu Atheist sez:

      “NSFW version is fuck aroun’.

      But you knew that.”

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 17, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Oops, mea culpa. Thanks for “whore” (Templeton Whore) goes to Sam.

  19. Nick (Matzke)
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    ASA is an organization of scientists who are evangelicals. It never took a formal position on YEC vs. OEC vs. theistic evolution, although it tended to not publish YEC stuff, and the YECs tried (and failed) to get into the leadership, leading Henry Morris et al. to start the YEC groups in the 1960s.

    In the 1980s, a lot of the OECs who were unhappy with YEC were in the ASA. A great many proto-ID-movement items were published by OECs in the ASA at that time, and the ASA newsletters etc. are a great way to trace the origins of the ID movement.

    However, they and the ID movement also received many critiques from theistic evolutionist ASA members in the 1990s and later. My sense of it is that the ASA has ever so slowly drifted towards the theistic evolutionist position being dominant in the leadership & publications.

    So, anyway, being the ASA only indicates for sure that someone is an evangelical. They might fully accept mainstream evolution, or they might be a creationist of some sort.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 17, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      Interesting story, and it explains so much: ID rode on the impetus of earlier efforts.

      But this:

      They might fully accept mainstream evolution, or they might be a creationist of some sort.

      That is in need of qualification, since evolutionary theory being science is fully natural. Evolutionary creationists may accept the fact of evolution, but not its theory.

      That theory is the most tested theory in science, so rejecting it is flabbergasting.

      [Which is the adjective that always comes to my mind when I see Miller's handwaving on the subject. It must be the odious flapping about, supporting supernatural woo with quantum woo - flubber casting.]

  20. Deepak Shetty
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Im curious what accomodationists think about the “creedal statement”. Surely some of them are troubled by it?

    • Posted August 17, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

      I doubt they’d object to the substance, just claim that it’s framed wrong.
      I can’t stand to revisit the intersection to find out. Maybe one with a stronger stomach will.

    • MadScientist
      Posted August 18, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      What – people who advocate lying to those poor religious folk to trick them into accepting evolution would have some issue with the “creedal statement”? We’re talking Irving Kristol wannabes here, not honest folk.

  21. Diane G.
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    The Templeton Foundation gives a prominent science organization money …

    I.e., money = speech.

    Also, per the SCOTUS, corporation = individual.

    Where are the philosophers (& Orwellians) when you need ‘em?

  22. bill lipe
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    The current ASA membership application asks applicants to sign on to the following statement. It is somewhat different from the “creedal statement” that Wikipedia reports was adopted at the organization’s initiation and that was reported on this blog, above.

    ========
    From the ASA membership application:

    What does the ASA believe?

    As an organization, the ASA does not take a position when there is honest disagreement between Christians on an issue. We are committed to providing an open forum where controversies can be discussed without fear of unjust condemnation. Legitimate differences of opinion among Christians who have studied both the Bible and science are freely expressed within the Affiliation in a context of Christian love and concern for truth.

    Our platform of faith has four important planks:

    We accept the divine inspiration, trustworthiness and authority of the Bible in matters of faith and conduct.

    We confess the Triune God affirmed in the Nicene and Apostles’ creeds which we accept as brief, faithful statements of Christian doctrine based upon Scripture.

    We believe that in creating and preserving the universe God has endowed it with contingent order and intelligibility, the basis of scientific investigation.

    We recognize our responsibility, as stewards of God’s creation, to use science and technology for the good of humanity and the whole world.

    • MadScientist
      Posted August 18, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      I believe they have four very large planks in their eyes. I guess the planks acts as blinkers and prevent them from seeing too much of that godless science and straying from where their driver wants them to go.

  23. Ichthyic
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Real scientists don’t sign on to such statements.

    I want to stress this is NOT a fallacy.

    frankly, I blame this whole mess at the AAAS on Matt Nisbet, and predicted something like this would happen when AAAS first started reaching out to Nisbet and offering him forums.

    The history seems to be that there were a bunch of scared people at AAAS who swallowed Nisbet’s thesis about science communications and religion hook, line, and sinker.

    I KNEW this is where it would lead eventually.

    *shakes fist*

    It just goes to show that just because one IS a scientist, doesn’t mean one can’t be gullible.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 17, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      So you mean “Who Framed AAAS” is not a fiction? TempleTOon Town exist? (Oo)

      I am Dipped, I tell you! Dipped.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted August 17, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

        I hear dipping gets rid of unwanted pests.
        ;)

    • Posted August 17, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      So that’s where the rot started? AAAS started reaching out to Nisbet? I did not know this.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted August 17, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

        Oh, I’m sure it “started” long before that, but the current iteration of encouraging the accomodationist stance really does seem to have started with Nisbet and his PhD publication in Science about science communication.

        I’d bet I could track down the relevant first steps on the various blogs (Nisbets, the Panda’s Thumb, Mooney’s original blog, Pharyngula, and others), but it was pretty obvious at the time that AAAS was really taking what Nisbet had to say quite seriously, and the first of these types of accomodationist fora sponsored by AAAS had Nisbet leading it.

        Some do see the concept of accomodationism as being the only tactical strategy that will be effective in heading off the angry science-hating hordes (although in Chris Mooney’s case, I am also thinking it was a desperate career move). Moreover, they have evidence in support of that in places like Ohio (an essentially “NOMA” tactic headed off creationists overtaking an entire school district, somewhat like what happened in Kansas a few years back). I think many in AAAS see this as an easy to use band-aid style fix, and hell, it might even BE that.

        Many of us tried to show them where the formal encouragement of that tactical strategy would eventually lead (lots of that in evidence in this thread). As others have pointed out, eventually you will have to peel off the bandaid, and by then there will be a scar underneath that will require freaking cosmetic surgery to fix.

        This accomodationist strategy is inherently dishonest, and in the end I think will cause far more problems than it will fix.

        • Ichthyic
          Posted August 17, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

          here’s a good place to start:

          http://scienceblogs.com/framing-science/2007/09/aaas_panel_communicating_scien.php

          look at the blog reaction to that, and work backwards and forwards from there. It will give a good idea of what was happening at the time.

          • Posted August 17, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

            Thanks. Was that panel (god it sounds deadly) when AAAS first reached out to Nisbet? I date my awareness of him from an article in Skeptical Inquirer (unless it was Free Inquiry in I think 2003. I think he was still a grad student then. “In communication.”)

          • Posted August 17, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

            Ugh, I read it and some of the comments. Ugh.

            This is the piece I meant. June 2003.

            http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/whos_getting_it_right_and_whos_getting_it_wrong_in_the_debate_about_science

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 17, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

              Was that panel (god it sounds deadly) when AAAS first reached out to Nisbet?

              no, they reached out to him around late 2005 IIRC, then give him free reign to form that panel you see from 2007.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 17, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

              heh, note that Nisbet revisits this very article in 2009:

              http://scienceblogs.com/framing-science/2009/06/science_literacy_and_the_new_a.php

              he’s learned nothing since 2003, and continues to be part of the problem.

          • Diane G.
            Posted August 17, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

            Thank you, Ichthyic. I’m also appreciating your detailed overview of the history here.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 17, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

              I only wish I could be MORE detailed.

              I had no time to actually attend the meetings back then, I’m only relaying the impressions of those that did, and the discussions we and other had on the various blogs around that time.

          • Diane G.
            Posted August 18, 2010 at 12:51 am | Permalink

            Just finished reading the Framing Science post & comments. Good thing, or I’d never had known about “Don Imus Atheism”…(but does this mean that PZ’s not telling enough dirty jokes?).

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 19, 2010 at 12:19 am | Permalink

              why yes, yes it does.

  24. Ichthyic
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    So, anyway, being the ASA only indicates for sure that someone is an evangelical. They might fully accept mainstream evolution, or they might be a creationist of some sort.

    It simply doesn’t matter, Nick.

    being an evangelical requires a tremendous amount of compartmentalization, and it INEVITABLY results in some rather poor logic being spewed forth.

    To encourage this formally within AAAS is a bloody travesty.

  25. Posted August 17, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Oh those signed statements. From #22, it isn’t nearly as odious as the “I totally promise that I really really believe the bible to be like totally truthfullness”. However, it does have “We accept the divine inspiration, trustworthiness and authority of the Bible in matters of faith and conduct.” That doesn’t explicitly demand biblical inerrancy, but sure seems to leave the window open for it, or at least the common “literal interpretations” of many evangelical churches.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted August 17, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      Well, members have to sign on to some Biblical inerrancy. They must endorse:

      1) The Nicene creed:

      I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

      And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

      Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

      And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

      And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

      and, 2) The Apostles’ creed:

      1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

      2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:

      3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:

      4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:

      5. The third day he rose again from the dead:

      6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:

      7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:

      8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:

      9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:

      10. The forgiveness of sins:

      1l. The resurrection of the body:

      12. And the life everlasting. Amen.

      • Posted August 17, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        Totally sciencey.

        • Ichthyic
          Posted August 17, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

          In the immortal words of Sarah Palin:

          you betcha!
          :P

      • MadScientist
        Posted August 18, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        I didn’t think there was a difference between the Nicaean creed and the Apostle’s creed – one just looks like a poor recounting of the other. I wonder if the FSM has a creed – I can say ‘Ramen’ to spaghetti.

  26. MadScientist
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Casey Luskin??? WTF??? They have the gall to put “science” in their name and then invite that twerp Luskin? Goddamn, next thing you know, the NAACP will be a white supremacist group.

    • MadScientist
      Posted August 17, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      Oh, I missed it the first time around: “Wiseman” – now there’s an oxymoron for you.

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 17, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        You’re supposed to think, “as in Magi.”

        • Ichthyic
          Posted August 17, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

          meh, even the old magi had better cheap-tricks up their sleeves than Luskin.

  27. efrique
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    The results of the things Templeton funds demonstrates very clearly indeed exactly why and in what sorts of ways science and faith are incompatible.

    Science gets turned into nonsense. If that’s what you have to do to science to accomodate it with religion, then bringing religion anywhere near it clearly breaks science.

  28. Posted August 17, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Oh. I see Ichthyic did the dirty work. Thanks.
    *hands Ichthyic a wet-wipe*

    • Ichthyic
      Posted August 18, 2010 at 12:09 am | Permalink

      can’t have enough of those in this line of debate.
      :)

  29. Posted August 18, 2010 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    Evolution- Biology- Rate of Change

    There are moments throughout time where evolution pushes forward and different species are capable of evolving at a faster rate than usual. However, this accelerated rate of change takes anywhere from 10,000 years to a million years to occur. With the acceleration of technology in the past 50 years it may become impossible for human evolution to keep up with the pace of technology. What do we do when evolution can’t keep up with the rate of change in technology that humans are now forced to confront?

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 18, 2010 at 6:03 am | Permalink

      With the acceleration of technology in the past 50 years it may become impossible for human evolution to keep up with the pace of technology.

      That depends on how you define “keep up”.

      As far as social changes goes, WEIT and others have discussed gene-cultural evolution and how it has speeded up evolution rate in humans. For example John Hawks attribute it to increased population size, which makes ever smaller fitness differences able to fixate (but there are many other effects).

      So despite what you are claiming, the acceleration of evolution rate occurs continually and matches well the acceleration of environmental changes. I do not however know if anyone has measured the acceleration of acceleration of evolution rate, as you suggest (“accelerated rate of change”), to see if the jerks (second derivatives of velocity) matches.

      Looking at Hawks figure 3 (which are sweep alleles, but “fixated or near fixated” in the predicted models), they peak at ~ 40/10 generations in about 20 000 years, or with a generation time of 20 years, a jerk of 10^-5 alleles*y^-2.

      I can compare that with the jerk in GDP adjusted for population growth. The GDP growth (constant prizes) changed from ~ 20 % 1990-1998 to ~ 40 % 1990-2006 in many european nations while population growth was ~ 0 %*y^-1, a jerk of ~ 10^-2 “prize”*y^-2.

      I can also compare that with the jerk of the US patent record, which goes to ~ 200 000 patents*y^-1 @ 1998 from ~ 20 000 patents*y^-1 @ 1898, a jerk of 10^-1 patents*y^-2. This will assume the ratio of patents with market, ie environmental, impact will stay roughly constant.

      That those two figures match roughly should be no surprise.

      So the jerks differ on the order of 10^-3. I wouldn’t worry too much, since economic and patent figures are fluctuating and badly correlative with “the pace of technology”. Knock off the noise and bad correlation with a ratio; 10^-3 could well be a reasonable number here. Yes, it is that bad.

      What we really would like to see is how “the pace of technology” affects “the environment of our alleles”. Seeing the above quick-and-dirty not differing over very many magnitudes, I wouldn’t be surprised if “the pace of technology change” and “the pace of gene change” match very well!

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 18, 2010 at 6:25 am | Permalink

      Also, and this is the big stumper, comparing jerks in this manner assumes they are measured in “natural units” for the system. But neither alleles, wares, or patents have a one-one correlation to adaptation vs environment.

      So again the 3 order of magnitude is not really indicative of problems but of possible confluence (our genome is handling the change on its own terms). It could be that 6-9 orders of magnitude would say something.

      And anyway, if our genes “can’t keep up”, what would happen? Technology doesn’t change in isolation – it is humans who develop it!

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 18, 2010 at 7:07 am | Permalink

      Ah, I’ve come up with a counter observation that indicates why and how the whole “rate of change” or “rate of rate of change” is inconsequential: and it’s a MAD one!

      Consider: That one key social and technological invention (mutual assured destruction) has the capability to eradicate large animals, if nothing else because the biosphere productivity will drop over a long time. Theoretically our descendants could adapt by shrinking down to rat size (say), while dumping our brain et cetera in the process, but that won’t happen: too little time.

      So there is no one-one map between technology and environmental impact. And indeed we would be hard pressed to find one between rate of technology change and rate of environmental change even in the limit of increased technology development. Because many or most technologies will act to decrease environmental change (higher efficiencies).

      The reason for the correlation then goes back to something along Hawks’ prediction. More people may simply mean more inventions, and not much more.

      This shows that neo-luddites (nothing personal meant) is barking up the wrong tree. If MAD doesn’t do us in, the old luddite tree is the wrong one too. (And again, if anything new technology generally improves, not detracts.)

      Instead I heart the biologists who observes that society in general kills of other species faster than they can adapt. That is the one constant bummer here.

    • Sigmund
      Posted August 18, 2010 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      The times when evolution appears to speed up in the fossil record are associated with mass or local extinction events. These generally lead to population bottlenecks of the survivors of the event – and thus with a reduced genepool of genetic variation available for future descendants. Since biological evolution is the change in the frequency of alleles over time this means that a mass extinction event with the survival of a small number of individuals has the equivalent effect of rapid evolution (since it results in the rapid promotion of the alleles of the survivors over those of the non-survivors).

  30. Kirth Gersen
    Posted August 18, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    “I cannot conceive of discrepancies between statements in the Bible and the real facts of science.”

    This is starting to sound like a broken record. “I cannot conceive of a billion years; therefore the Earth is 6,000 years old.” “I cannot conceive of how the eye could gradually evolve; therefore it was intelligently designed.” “I cannot conceive of how airplanes work; therefore I will drive from L.A. to London.”

    I cannot conceive of how ANYONE thinks that an “I cannot conceive” statement constititutes anything at all meaningful.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted August 19, 2010 at 12:21 am | Permalink

      “Inconceivable!”

      “You keep using that word. I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

      yeah, the argument from incredulity is strong in the ignorant.

      Dunning Kruger explains it.

  31. Posted August 19, 2010 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    I like this bit myself:

    “I believe in the whole Bible as originally given, to be the inspired word of God”

    So, what exactly was the language of the babble as “originally given” then?

    English? I think not.
    Hebrew? Possibly.
    Greek even? Who knows.

    So, this text that they are signing up to is a load of cr4p isn’t it as, I suspect, none of them know or can read it “as originally given”.

    Unless of course “as originally given” means something totally different to what I think it does.

    Cheers.
    Norm.

    • Posted August 19, 2010 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      I am Jennifer Wiseman’s predecessor as president of the ASA. For many years, the operative statement of faith agreed to by our members is as spelled out in #22 above, not what was imported from wikipedia, a site that I have very often found to be highly unreliable on all sorts of topics.

      It’s not hard to understand why folks who post here regularly would respond with incredulity to the classical creeds (Apostles’ and Nicene) referenced in our faith statement. They are very specific to Christian faith and have nothing at all to do with science. (I could say the same thing about lots of other religious statements, including many that are made here in the name of science.)

      The third and forth parts of our statement, however, while put forth in religious language, make substantive claims or value judgments that might actually be shared by some here–if the references to “God” and “creating/creation” are removed. (Just as the declaration of independence is accepted by many atheists after similar editing.) Here is what they say:

      We believe that in creating and preserving the universe God has endowed it with contingent order and intelligibility, the basis of scientific investigation.

      We recognize our responsibility, as stewards of God’s creation, to use science and technology for the good of humanity and the whole world.

      So, my questions for the regulars here:

      (1) Do you agree that the “contingent order and intelligibility” of the universe are “the basis of scientific investigation”?

      (2) Do you agree that we humans have a moral “responsibility … to use science and technology for the good of humanity and the whole world”?

      I am interested to see what you think.

      • Posted August 21, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        It’s not hard to understand why folks who post here regularly would respond with incredulity to the classical creeds (Apostles’ and Nicene) referenced in our faith statement. They are very specific to Christian faith and have nothing at all to do with science.

        Other than in the sense that believing such silliness is epistemically contrary to what science is about.

        (I could say the same thing about lots of other religious statements, including many that are made here in the name of science.)

        Such as?

        (1) Do you agree that the “contingent order and intelligibility” of the universe are “the basis of scientific investigation”?

        I’m not even sure what this means.

        (2) Do you agree that we humans have a moral “responsibility … to use science and technology for the good of humanity and the whole world”?

        I agree with that phrase minus the ellipsis (though “the whole world” is extremely vague and certainly captures some competing interests). Some questions for you:

        Do you seriously believe that members of our species are “stewards” of the universe? The vast universe, which preceded us by many billions of years and the vast majority of which would bring about our immediate death? What could it mean to be stewards of, say, black holes? (Or for that matter, of mosquitoes or E. coli?) Does this not sound arrogant to you?

        If you came to believe your creator-god did not in fact exist, would you still consider this a moral responsibility? Why or why not?

        • Posted August 23, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

          SC,

          Let me explain what the term “contingent order” means, since you aren’t familiar with it.

          “Order” means what you would expect, namely that the universe displays an order that we can grasp at least partially. “Contingent” means that the order is not rationally necessary; it is contingent and therefore needs to be discovered by empirical investigation, not a priori demonstration (as in mathematics).

          Thus, if nature is a “contingent order,” the proper methodology for a science of nature will be some combination of reason (to grasp the order) and experience (to discover the specific kinds of order). I like to describe the “scientific method” as “rational empiricism” for this reason.

          Two aspects of contingency should be further explained. First, the universe *itself* is contingent. In other words, there need not be a universe at all–it is not rationally necessary for nature to exist. Second, the existence of order in general, and the specific kind(s) of order in the universe, are also not rationally necessary. (Contrary to someone like Leonard Euler, who regarded Newton’s laws as a priori truths, or to someone like Rene Descartes, who had a similar view of his own laws of motion.)

          I hope I have been clear enough. If so, do you agree with this?

          As for stewardship, SC, a Christian notion of it is consistent with a decision to eradicate E coli. (This might not be true across all types of religion. For example, I attended a symposium with a Buddhist professor of religion who denied that humans have the moral right to eradicate *any* biological organism. I cannot say how widely his view might be held, but I certainly do not share it and I do not believe that such a view would be consistent with a proper Christian notion of stewardship.)

          Your question about being stewards of the *universe*, not just of the earth, is actually quite interesting. I am not at all sure what it might mean. The biblical notion makes sense in terms of its limited context: a garden, into which “Adam” and “Eve” were placed and commanded “to dress it and to keep it.” What it might mean, in a much more universal context, is (I would say) an open question.

          It does not seem at all “arrogant” to me that we are to care for what we were given. Certainly, we have the power *not* to take care of it, and if there is any arrogance here it would seem to lie on that side of the matter.

          It is because of this strong biblical teaching about stewardship, incidentally, that E. O. Wilson and several of his friends initiated a conversation involving the American Scientific Affiliation and some other folks–a conversation looking toward co-operation, not confrontation, between science and religion. The executive director of the ASA, Randy Isaac, was part of the group that Wilson assembled. So was Joseph Sheldon, a former colleague of mine at Messiah College. Here is the relevant information: http://www.creationcareforpastors.com/PDF_files/creationcarestatement.pdf

          That is all I have time to say at the moment.

          • Posted August 24, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

            Thanks for your response.

            Let me explain what the term “contingent order” means, since you aren’t familiar with it….I hope I have been clear enough. If so, do you agree with this?

            Well, I wanted to know what you specifically meant by it, and now I have something of an idea. It seems to me that none of these terms as you use them has a precise or identical meaning outside of your belief system, which is of course unsupported by evidence (if it weren’t, what would be the point of an oath of belief on the subject?). I don’t see the point of the truncated statement scientifically, therefore, and can’t agree or disagree.

            As for stewardship, SC, a Christian notion of it is consistent with a decision to eradicate E coli.

            Er, as Dianne points out, you may want to rethink this. Perhaps while reading Carl Zimmer’s Microcosm.

            But it’s a fascinating comment. So for you, acting for “the good of the whole world” is consistent with the complete eradication of species. Indeed, Christianity appears to be consistent with virtually any approach to the rest of the natural world.

            http://sites.google.com/site/thechristiandelusion/Home/the-bible-and-animals

            Your question about being stewards of the *universe*, not just of the earth,

            Which is already, frankly, laughable.

            is actually quite interesting. I am not at all sure what it might mean. The biblical notion makes sense in terms of its limited context: a garden, into which “Adam” and “Eve” were placed and commanded “to dress it and to keep it.” What it might mean, in a much more universal context, is (I would say) an open question.

            It does not seem at all “arrogant” to me that we are to care for what we were given.

            We’re talking about the universe because you presented it as such. That the notion of human stewardship of the universe – that “we” were “given” the universe – doesn’t strike you as arrogant (and I’ll leave aside absurd) is quite…interesting.

            It is because of this strong biblical teaching about stewardship, incidentally, that E. O. Wilson and several of his friends initiated a conversation involving the American Scientific Affiliation and some other folks–a conversation looking toward co-operation, not confrontation, between science and religion. The executive director of the ASA, Randy Isaac, was part of the group that Wilson assembled….

            This is a bit slippery. There is the question of cooperation amongst environmental activists who come to it from numerous perspectives (Wilson IMO has some questionable things to say on the matter), but that has nothing really to do with a cooperation between “science” and “religion.”

            But you didn’t answer my last question, so I’ll repeat it: “If you came to believe your creator-god did not in fact exist, would you still consider this a moral responsibility? Why or why not?”

            • Ted Davis
              Posted August 25, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

              Salty,

              Let me try to respond to this, of yours:

              But you didn’t answer my last question, so I’ll repeat it: “If you came to believe your creator-god did not in fact exist, would you still consider this a moral responsibility? Why or why not?”

              It isn’t always easy to reply to a hypothetical, especially one that I regard as counterfactual. The one thing that I am sure of is, that my answer would depend greatly on whether or not it were still possible to say that something is actually “right” or “wrong.” I am no authority on the range of opinion among atheists; many here could probably help me with this. If I understand Dawkins correctly, however (and I have read quite a bit of his work), there is no such thing as “right” and “wrong.” He said this in “Time” magazine a few years ago:

              “Good and evil–I don’t believe that there is hanging out there, anywhere, something called good and something called evil. I think that there are good things that happen and bad things that happen.”

              I’ll say two things about his point. First, afaik there are other atheists who *do* believe in something like an idea of “good” and an idea of “evil” that transcend our biological heritage. (If I am mistaken about this, I would welcome the correction.) If so, then perhaps I would be able to agree with such folks, and on that basis affirm an idea of moral responsibility independently of my belief in a creator-god. This is not a case where one size fits all, and the details would be crucial. But, I don’t believe that Dawkins can coherently argue for the morality of rebelling against our genes (as he puts it) without something like a transcendent value system to justify himself.

              Second, Dawkins has rather nicely put his finger on what is probably the most basic difference of opinion between believers (in God) and unbelievers. Namely, whether or not the most basic value in the universe is “goodness.” A philosopher I know is finishing a book in which he boils it down to “goodness” (for the religious believer) vs “simplicity” (for the unbeliever). I’m not yet persuaded that the “simplicity” part is accurate–but, it could be accurate. I am persuaded that the “goodness” part is accurate.

              Obviously, this doesn’t mean either that an unbeliever can’t think that “goodness” is important, or that a believer can’t think that “simplicity” is important. But, I do think it speaks to the fundamental difference of opinion.

              I don’t know whether anyone here has read “On the Moral Nature of the Universe,” by George Ellis and Nancey Murphy. They come out in the same place as my friend, at least when it comes to analyzing theism: goodness is the bottom line. I say this not to try to repeat their case (which would be far too easy to dismiss if not stated at some length), but as a way of explaining to you, SC, that this is a very hard hypothetical for me to answer in a few words.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted August 25, 2010 at 2:50 am | Permalink

        Here is what they say:

        We believe that in creating and preserving the universe God has endowed it with contingent order and intelligibility, the basis of scientific investigation.

        We recognize our responsibility, as stewards of God’s creation, to use science and technology for the good of humanity and the whole world.

        So, my questions for the regulars here:

        To respond to your interest:

        (1) Do you agree that the “contingent order and intelligibility” of the universe are “the basis of scientific investigation”?

        No.

        - The basis of science is a method (in practice, a sets of methods) of observation, prediction and test. I see no hinder to this being formalized and tested as a theory of science.

        - That we use it, in severe cases are able to use it, is due to environmental causes: that the universe has order. If it had not enough order, we would not be. But “enough order” could perhaps mean one set of laws in my kitchen, another in my living room.

        The efficiency of science in the observed environment, as evidenced by its success, indeed its observed primacy in finding out how the universe works, is best formulated as scientism.

        (2) Do you agree that we humans have a moral “responsibility … to use science and technology for the good of humanity and the whole world”?

        That is a question that doesn’t follow from the quoted declaration. It is in that precise context a non sequitur, so need no response here.

        • Ted Davis
          Posted August 25, 2010 at 5:15 am | Permalink

          I don’t think you get my point about “contingent order” at all. If you did, then you would not have said this:

          “The basis of science is a method (in practice, a set of methods) of observation, prediction and test.”

          In other words, science is based on a combination of reason and experience–which is precisely what I said myself.

          Reason alone is insufficient to produce a science of nature; it can produce only a science of pure forms, as Plato held. Without experience, there is no assurance that our knowledge comports with the physical world. As Galileo said, it would be a world on paper.

          Experience alone reaches no further than collections of facts. There would be no general knowledge of nature without reasoned reflection.

          In short, both are necessary. We agree about this–entirely.

          The big question then is, why should this be so? Is this simply a brute fact about the situation, or might there be deeper reasons for it? Science itself cannot provide an answer, but it’s in keeping with the spirit of scientific inquiry to think about that.

          Why is a combination of reason and experience so effective? Because nature is a contingent order.

          The idea of having a single order throughout the universe (as vs one in the kitchen and another elsewhere) is central to post-Aristotelian science (i.e., science since Kepler and Galileo), but I would agree that it might not be essential to science itself. Theologically, the belief that the universe is a creation (as vs a chaos) of one god (as vs many gods) is closely linked with the idea of a *uni*verse (one world, governed by one set of “laws”) that can be comprehended.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted August 25, 2010 at 4:08 am | Permalink

        Maybe I’m too frugal:

        That is a question that doesn’t follow

        In more detail, this is an obnoxious equivocation between knowledge and religious claims.

        [Which is why I wanted to haste over this. I don't know how to make the analysis without raising shackles.

        As personal reflection, I don't see the meaning in these repeated deliberate obfuscating fallacious conflations as a basis for apologetics. They only serve to point out that apologists have no business in discussing morals.]

        As a knowledge claim, “stewards of God’s creation”, we know from observation that there are no gods, no creator and even less stewards. After thousands of years and thousand of proposals for gods, this must be the most investigated claim there is.

        Or if you don’t agree with empiricism, which is odd in the context, let me play philosopher and note that there is no evidential basis from which to base the claim. Here it is not rejected but empty, which is enough.

        As a religious claim, a belief in “We … as stewards of God’s creation”, it applies to these religious, not to humans in general as the second question concerns.

        In any of these meanings, the second question does not follow from the quoted declaration.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted August 25, 2010 at 4:14 am | Permalink

          “raising shackles”

          Heh, obviously I don’t know how to sail either. I meant raising hackles.

        • Ted Davis
          Posted August 25, 2010 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

          Torbjörn says, “we know from observation that there are no gods, no creator and even less stewards.”

          You might as well add quarks and other universes to your list, Torbjörn, for we can’t observe them, either. If they are real entities (and I suspect quarks are, though I have grave doubts about other universes), we aren’t go to know it by observing them; rather, we will infer their existence indirectly from other things.

          Now, Torbjörn, if there is no inference of that sort that would *ever* be sufficient to persuade you that a rational person might actually believe in “God,” well then that is your conclusion–but I hesitate to call it an objective one. If we stick with “empiricism,” however, it isn’t hard to see that many highly rational people find such inferences either convincing or at least plausible; and, that many highly rational people do not find them convincing or plausible. I’m not just talking here about people who don’t think about what they think about (to borrow the words of “Henry Drummond” from “Inherit the Wind”); I’m taking here about people who think pretty hard about what they think about.

  32. Diane G.
    Posted August 23, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    As for stewardship, SC, a Christian notion of it is consistent with a decision to eradicate E coli. (This might not be true across all types of religion. …

    Let’s hope it’ll never be true for all types of E. coli, either…

  33. Posted August 25, 2010 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    I suspect this has been linked to above but…

    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/Evolution/index.html

    Wow.

  34. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted August 25, 2010 at 4:49 am | Permalink

    Religion, as an attempt of meaningful world view, is a ship that has sailed. Its apologists have been reduced to the claim that it is helpful (or that it is a basis for morality, or “soul”; any gap they can find). Do they really expect it to work?

    To answer my own rhetorical question, “not really”. As long as it shores up avoidance of cognitive dissonance for “business as usual”, it is meaningful for them. They really don’t accept the Enlightenment, nor do they want its success. “Helpful”, indeed.

    • Ted Davis
      Posted August 25, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      Torbjörn,

      The Enlightenment was such a large historical phenomenon that I doubt anyone here would wholeheartedly “accept” all aspects of it and wish uncritically for its success. Among other things, some leading Enlightenment thinkers constructed justifications for thinking Africans inferior to Europeans; David Hume would be an obvious example. (And yes, lots of Christians during the Enlightenment did similar things.)

      Some aspects of the Enlightenment were IMO admirable, such as the desire to eliminate state churches–which I suspect most here would also applaud. That particular piece of the Enlightenment, incidentally, came from the radical Reformation, specifically from the Anabaptist view that membership in the “church” (i.e., the body of Christ’s followers) had to be something that people freely chose for themselves, and that it was not legitimate for any state power to dictate this. In this, they opposed not only the Roman church but also most other “reformers,” including the Lutherans (who wanted a state church), the Calvinists (who wanted a church state), and the Anglicans (who wanted to replace the Pope with the English monarch).

      I gather you were referring mainly to Enlightenment views (there was no single view) of the autonomy of reason? They were IMO correct to stress the great value of reason, but to do so entirely at the expense of things lying outside of their definition of “reason” was hardly a move justfiable from reason itself. This is one of the reasons why there is such a thing as post-modernism in so many academic fields. As much as I might distance myself from “post-modern” claims (I often will), they are onto something here.

      At the same time, Torbjörn, as ironic as it may seem, some leading Christian “apologists” today highly “modern” views of knowledge, i.e., they don’t like post-modernism very much and they fully accept traditional notions of reason. What they contest, is some of the conclusions drawn in the name of “reason,” such as some of the things that Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchins says about religion. An obvious example of someone like this (an apologist who holds a “modern” view of reason) is William Lane Craig.

      As I say, I don’t uncritically “accept” the Enlightenment, but I doubt that you do, either.

      • Ted Davis
        Posted August 25, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        Typo to correct: I meant to say, some leading Christian “apologists” today HOLD highly “modern” views

  35. Diane G.
    Posted August 25, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    As for stewardship, SC, a Christian notion of it is consistent with a decision to eradicate E coli. (This might not be true across all types of religion. For example, I attended a symposium with a Buddhist professor of religion who denied that humans have the moral right to eradicate *any* biological organism. I cannot say how widely his view might be held, but I certainly do not share it and I do not believe that such a view would be consistent with a proper Christian notion of stewardship.)

    This just continues to rankle. What an appallingly scientifically naïve statement. Not only does it imply that Davis is ignorant of E. coli ‘s importance to thousands of spp of chordates, it also implies extreme obtuseness about bacterial strains that “go wrong.” Science pins the blame on Big Agribusiness and Big Food (not to mention “Little Regulation”), and realizes that only changes in these methodologies will ever solve the problem of epidemic food poisoning. Meanwhile, the Christian stewards would be trapped in endless rounds of zapping one microbe after another, a sort of anti-evolution Whack-A-Mole.

    (Parenthetically, if these organisms should be eradicated, how does that fit into the perfect creationintelligent design in the first place? Just another one of God’s cunning little tests for us?)

    These are the scientists AAAS finds it worthwhile to ‘dialogue’ with?

    • Ted Davis
      Posted August 26, 2010 at 6:01 am | Permalink

      Diane’s comment about my ignorance of biology, especially the details of bacteriology, is on target. I am not a biologist. I know that some forms (one? two? several?) of E coli are very dangerous to us, and that is what I meant in my comment. I wasn’t the one who introduced E coli into this thread; I was simply responding to the example offered. The point I made–quite poorly, apparently–is about judgements we might make as humans, relative to certain biological forms. In a few rare cases, it might be appropriate for us to strive to eliminate (either for practical purposes, such as with smallpox, or entirely) a given organism. If Diane or anyone else does not agree with this view, I am interested in hearing what you think.

      Many years ago, in some humor publication (it might have been MAD magazine), I saw a bumper sticker as follows: “the cholera germ is an endangered species.” I think this gets to the moral issue pretty nicely: are we ever justified to aim at elminating something? I think we might be, in a very few cases, but certainly we would need to be very well informed about the biology before making such decisions. Insofar as I am very poorly informed about such things, I should not have picked up on the example offered to me: her point is well taken.

      I am actually not a scientist at all, though most ASA members are. I am an historian of science, with an undergraduate degree and some graduate work in physics. I also spent 18 months as a research assistant in radio astronomy (NRAO) many years ago, not long after the discoveries of quasars and pulsars. I taught high school physics, chemistry, and mathematics before returning to graduate school for HPS, and I used to teach some basic physics and physical science to non-majors at my college.

      As for your reference to intelligent design, Diane, those in the ID movement regard me as a critic of theirs. You are quite right, of course, that many aspects of biology raise very serious questions about “design,” particularly for those (like young-earth creationists) who believe that God made a “perfect” creation. Actually, that belief is the main reason (IMO) for the “young” in young-earth creationism; in their view, there could not have been any parasitism, disease, or carnivorous activity prior to the “fall” of Adam & Eve. Thus, the fossiliferous rocks (with vast records of such things) must post-date the “fall.”

      I have always found such a view wildly at odds with the facts, and so do virtually all members of the ASA. There might be a dozen people in the ASA who hold such a view (I could name about half that many myself); there must be several dozen in the AAAS who do (considering that there are hundreds of American scientists who identify as young-earth creationists).

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 28, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for the civil reply–my tone was probably not the most diplomatic.

        I see no point in burdening the decisions that science and ethics put before us with an added layer of religion. Science enabled us to remove one pathogen (smallpox) and very nearly another (polio) from the environment. Decisions to make such efforts require only knowledge and rational human debate.

        That the smallpox virus has been since maintained in labs for potential purposes of warfare should be unconscionable to a species that maintains to aspire to any betterment whatsoever. But again, no religion was required for that decision, either.

        OTOH, speculation regarding anti-Muslim conspiricies is what’s holding up the polio initiative. Demonstrating yet again that religion is at best an unnecessary complication and at worst precisely counterproductive.


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