Moar NOMA

The assertions you’re about to read aren’t new.  I hesitate to publish accommodationist arguments with which we’re all familiar, but on the other hand they give us insight into the minds of the faithful.  And isn’t that what accommodationists are always urging us to obtain?  I submit for your approval some excerpts from a new BioLogos essay, “The science and religion relationship” by geologist Peter Doumit.

Divine revelation comes in two forms: the Word of God (including both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition) and the Work of God (including the natural, physical world and the laws that govern it). Both are equally valid forms of truth, as they stem from the same Source. And since truth can never contradict truth, a truth revealed in one cannot ever be in conflict with a truth revealed in the other.

Tell that to creationists!  The idea that the Bible and science simply can’t conflict has spawned two centuries of desperate and inconclusive Biblical exegesis.

The same holds true, of course [i.e., this is what God wants], to that which shines its light and reveals the Word of God: His Church. It is the Church that provides important guidance as to the meaning of Scripture, objective truths unknowable by reason alone (like the mystery of the Trinity, for example), and moral certitude despite winds of change in cultural attitude and behavior.

Note that interpretation of Scripture is to be left to the Church, which will reveal not just truths, but objective truths.

In my online Merriam-Webster, “objective” means “of, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers:  having reality independent of the mind.”  Alternatively, it means “perceptible to persons other than the affected individual.”  Objective truths would then seem to be truths that aren’t subjective, experiential ones, but truths grasped by all observers.  Clearly, no religious “truth” can be objective.

By using the word “objective,” Doumit tries to put religious truths on the same plane as scientific truths.  Of course anybody with a modicum of neurons knows that this is bogus: only one form of truth is “perceptible to all observers.” But Doumit hopes we won’t notice.

Putting this all together, then, we can see that science and religion are never really completely divorced from one another, but rather serve complementary roles. Science, guided in the moral spirit of the Church, provides us with answers to “how?” questions: How does gravity work? How does a baby progress from a zygote to a fetus? How can we better improve the quality of human life? As noted in one of the Spiderman movies, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Such is the case especially with science. Science is an incredibly powerful tool, but if that power is left to its own devices without a moral compass, it is an evil, fatal, and disastrous weapon that advances the most horrific violations to human dignity and worth (see modern China, eugenics, Nazi Germany, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse-Tung for a few examples).

Note that he imputes the horrors of these regimes not to the dictators themselves, or to their minions, but to science itself. And how on earth did the horrors of Mao or Stalin reflect the “power of science left to its own devices”?

Religion, on the other hand, aided by scientific and historical evidence, is able to provide us with the answers to our existential “why?” questions: Why am I here? Why is there something rather than nothing? Like science, religion without a rational basis can also be an extremely dangerous weapon primed for atrocities (see 9/11, David Koresh, and the Heaven’s Gate cult, for example).

Used in their appropriate roles, science and religion give us the complete set of tools for understanding and interpreting the Work and Word of God.

I invite Dr. Doumit, then, to give me the objective answers to those “why” questions, since, according to him, the answers are already in hand.  I’d also like to know why those answers are the right ones, while answers held by people of other faiths are not.  I’m dying to know whether Jesus really was the son of God, born of a virgin, and really came back to life after three days. And tell me why the Jews and Muslims are wrong on these points.

Doumit won’t answer, of course, but if he did we’d see some spectacular theological waffling.  I suspect it would involve Clintonian redefinitions of the words “know,” “truth,” and “objective.”

How do these people live with themselves? Religion poisons everything—including reason.

________

UPDATE:  Over at EvolutionBlog, Jason Rosenhouse has his own take on Doumit’s piece, including this gem:

When atheists suggest that we should stick with what works (science and reason) and eschew what has consistently failed (faith), it is thought to be an occasion for scolding and condescension. But when people like Doumit arrogantly and baselessly declare the findings of their religion (and only their religion) to be a valid form of truth, they are not similarly lectured. In fact, it is considered poor form to criticize them, since they are at least on the right side of the evolution issue.

127 Comments

  1. Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Religion, on the other hand, aided by scientific and historical evidence, is able to provide us with the answers to our existential “why?” questions: Why am I here? Why is there something rather than nothing?

    No, actually, it doesn’t.

    Thank you, that is all.

    • Tacroy
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      I’ve always wondered about that; when science definitively answers a “how” question, there’s only ever one answer. When religion answers a “why” question, there’s always a multitude of answers – indeed, there usually ends up being about one answer per religious person.

      Why is it that religious answers are more like opinions, and scientific answers are more like facts? So weird.

      • Posted September 22, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        And, as everybody who has ever annoyed their parents knows, there’s no end to the ‘why’ questions.

  2. Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    “And since truth can never contradict truth, a truth revealed in one cannot ever be in conflict with a truth revealed in the other.”

    But they are – all over the place. What an absolutely inane assertion.

    • MadScientist
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

      Obviously you’re interpreting the bible incorrectly. For example, the two different genealogies of Jesus do not oppose eachother – they demonstrate how truly awesome Jesus is – I mean, who else can have two very different family trees except a god for whom nothing is impossible?

  3. Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Look at all those irritating pious capital letters – Tradition, Source, Work, Church, Sacred.

    It’s very throw-uppy.

    • Kevin
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      You beat me to the exact same sentiment by several hours.

      That was my very first impression…Vomitricious use of Capitalization to Emphasize the Really Important Words.

      • YourName's NotBruce?
        Posted September 22, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        It’s funny how Capitalizing Words makes Them more Important, YET ALL CAPS IS JUST ANGRY OR CRAZY.

        Why is that?

      • Tyro
        Posted September 22, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        Whenever I see these things capitalized, I always suspect that it’s code for “this word means something totally different.”

        For instance: “God is Love.” They don’t mean that God is the emotion “love”, nor that God is loving or that God acts lovingly and are quite willing to accept a God that acts in very unloving ways. So what the hell does it mean?

        This is not the writing of one who cares about communicating with an audience, nor is it of one who has an argument which can withstand scrutiny.

        • Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

          When I was bombarded by religious kids at school who insisted I must believe in God, my wise mother said “Well they say God is love, and I believe in love, so in that sense I believe in God.” (And by implication, so might I.) Which I now realise doesn’t make a lot of sense in itself, but does mean you can ditch all other meanings of both “God” and “believe in God” and be at peace with your fellow 9-year olds.

  4. Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    One must learn the basic meanings of Tarot cards through explanations of the Major Arcana, Minor Arcana, and Court cards. Then, and only then, can the “non-conflicting truth” be revealed.

  5. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    It just lends itself to parody (only a word or two away):

    ‘…the Word of God (including Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Sacred Iced Bun…)

    • Marella
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      Oooooh, ‘Sacred Iced Bun’, this sounds more like my sort of religion. Is it a companion of the FSM? Yumm.

  6. Sigmund
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    There was a paper from another ‘theistic evolutionist’ in Plos-one today that’s been getting a lot of coverage. It’s a rather pained attempt to give an naturalistic explanation for the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea from the Exodus story.
    The paper contains a link to the lead authors website that might be best described as a version of the biologos site without the obscurantist language.
    http://www.theistic-evolution.com/
    Unfortunately you therefore get to see exactly what he believes in – Satan, Adam and Eve, the flood, virgin birth, resurrection of Jesus etc and his various mental contortions trying to justify this in his mind.

    • sasqwatch
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      ….and as featured on the BBC early this morning. The interviewer was pulling his punches — he seemed to be playing the game of letting the religion-soaked nutjob hang himself.

      I kept wondering why, why, why… is the Exodus story being presented as if it had any historical merit whatsoever… on a news program?

      Answer: it was a tongue-in-cheek piece for showcasing American “science” to the British public. American ears won’t hear the sarcasm.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      It’s a travesty that it was let through (non-existent?) peer review, since it tries to predict a model for a myth as if it were, contextual here, objective fact.

      PLoS ONE is trying for irrelevance. Maybe we should constitute an IgNO(MA)ble prize to skewer besides the Ig Nobel prize?

      • Badger3k
        Posted September 22, 2010 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        Will they handle Mohammed flying to the moon next, or will it be Buddha crossing the river by growing to giant size and standing on both sides (IIRC). Maybe Paul Bunyan carving the Grand Canyon?

        I hope commenters are tearing this ahistorical moron a new one. Is he aiming for a History Channel special?

    • Badger3k
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      Ack – I tried to comment, but the “site is undergoing maintenance” and I couldn’t. The site was so slow I didn’t download it, but I wonder if the author figured out how the wind could dry out the bottom so much that people could cross it, and how the wind could erase any mention of Moses and millions of Israelites from Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula, and even from Israel itself since there is no evidence for an invasion. Mighty strong winds.

      It might be an interesting hypothesis, but if it explains how spider-man sticks to walls, it’s of little use except to story tellers, if you know what I mean.

    • MosesZD
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      He’s wasting his time. Exodus never happened. The Egyptians controlled the Sinai desert during that time. Had the damn place studded with forts all within a days walk of each other. Which makes sense since the Egyptians were at war with the Hittites during that time.

      Something the confabulators of King Josiah’s time didn’t know.

    • Launcher
      Posted September 23, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      Well done, Sigmund. The blogger-that-be has given us an entry on the Red Sea article today:

      http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/parting-the-red-sea/

  7. Tim Harris
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    The man is clearly a Roman Catholic, and the trouble with Roman Catholicism is that it still wants to pretend that it’s in charge… It’s pitiful, really. You find exactly the same near-unconscious arrogance in the work of John Henry Newman (whose ‘Apologia’ was published within a few years of Darwin’s ‘Origin’ – little John Henry desperately trying to stuff everything back into his little mediaeval box even as Darwin was finishing off the destruction of Christian pretensions and laying a wholly new foundation) and, to come down a notch or two, or three or four, Chesterton, whom I have come to cordially loathe – that grinning semblance of certainty, the grin of something that is in fact long dead and should have been buried long ago. Dr Doumit reproduces this mere grin, but there’s not even a Cheshire Cat behind it. Doesn’t Biologos, Bilgeos, Buggeralloff, or whatever its name is, have editors who can explain to a high-school teacher of geology that, no, his little pensees are of small value and don’t convince.

    • Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      It’s funny how just a few key words clearly revealed him as a Catholic. The capitalized “The Church” pretty much indicated it right there, though he could have been Mormon. But then the “mystery of the Trinity” sealed it.

      Incidentally, you can spot Mormons by certain code words too if you know the lingo. I totally remember on a video game forum somebody just mentioning something about violent video games, and I’m like, “Hey, you’re a Mormon!” I was right of course. heh…

  8. Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    “Tell that to creationists!”

    I am pretty sure that the creationists would agree with Doumit on that point. They simply conclude that therefore science is not getting at the truth of nature.

    To say that truths from your sacred book cannot conflict with truths from nature, is to say that you have no sacred book. For it implies that you cannot rely on what is written in the sacred book. Instead, you have to come up with weird and fanciful interpretations of what is written, so that you can continue to deceive yourself that there is no conflict. As a consequence, the sacred book becomes no more than a receptacle into which you can read made up theology.

  9. Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    objective truths unknowable by reason alone

    No surer way to indicate you aren’t engaged in honest inquiry than to define your own opinions as “objective truths.”

    • Rob
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      That statement, IMHO, is absolutely true.

      It needs reason and observation. Reason without observation leads you to crap like what Anslem spouts.

  10. Tyro
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    And since truth can never contradict truth, a truth revealed in one cannot ever be in conflict with a truth revealed in the other.

    Unless you declare them a miracle in which case anything goes. Of course that’s what all religious people do, from TEs to YECs.

    Resurrection? Miracle.

    Appearance of age? Miracle.

    Transsubstantiation? Problem of Suffering? Virgin birth? Miracle, miracle, miracle.

    Heliocentrism? Metaphor!

    Which is the second great cop-out.

  11. Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Well, if nothing else, this item is yet one more that gives the lie to the “your literal version of God hasn’t been believed by anyone but a few Southern Baptists since sometime in the Truman administration” accusation. This is very literalist, absolutist stuff. The bible is divinely revealed truth, period.

    It’s also morally terrifying.

    It is the Church that provides important guidance as to the meaning of Scripture, objective truths unknowable by reason alone (like the mystery of the Trinity, for example), and moral certitude despite winds of change in cultural attitude and behavior.

    Right – moral certitude about the inferiority of women, the evil of homosexuality, the horror of unbelief, the acceptability of slavery, and so on. The winds of change in cultural attitude and behavior are things like gender equality, considering slavery unacceptable, gay rights, universal human rights, freedom of thought, and so on. This guy commends religious “moral certitude” in opposition to changes of that kind.

    This is not liberal in any sense of the word – yet we’re supposed to think BioLogos is at the liberal end of the religious spectrum.

  12. Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    (This of course is the evil new atheist horde of bullies all agreeing with Dr Coyne. The horror, the horror!)

    (Sorry; I’ve been reading gnu atheistophobes lately.)

    • Marella
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      Oh you poor thing, can you take something for that? A stiff drink maybe, that should help.

  13. Dominic
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    What is truth?

    And quoting ‘Spiderman’? Surely Luke – “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required”!

    And if I hear one more person talking about ‘evil’ today, I swear I shall scream like a Munch painting!

  14. Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    @Tryo

    Or the Catholic Church’s favorite word – Mystery.

    “Wait, that doesn’t make any sense. How can 1 God be 3 persons?”

    “It’s a Mystery!”

    “How can a cracker become flesh, but still look, feel and taste like a cracker?”

    “It’s a Mystery!”

    etc.

    • Tyro
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      LOL, yup that’s a biggie! I think it’s probably bigger than “miracle” or “metaphor” combined. Whenever you see “mystery” in apologetics, you can be sure you’re getting at another religious-scientific conflict.

    • What a maroon
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      This cracker is flesh. No mystery there.

      • Tacroy
        Posted September 22, 2010 at 9:54 am | Permalink

        Hehe, so do religious bulimics barf up Jesus? I’ve always wondered about that.

        • Posted September 22, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

          I’ve also wondered what vegetarian Catholics were supposed to do.

          • Tacroy
            Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

            It’s a Mystery!

    • Neil
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      To Catholics, a “mystery” is a goofy sacrament, not a phenomenon not yet understood. Darwin took “that mystery of mysteries” and found an answer, making it a non-mystery.

      • Posted September 22, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

        It’s one of the clearest differences between science and religion. Science loves mysteries so they can figure them out and they will no longer be mysteries. Religion loves mysteries so people will stop asking questions and they will always remain mysteries.

  15. Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Sorry, Tyro. Spelling fail.

  16. steve oberski
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    The same holds true, of course [i.e., this is what God wants], to that which shines its light and reveals the Word of God: His Church

    And which of the approximately 38,000 Christian denominations is “His Church” ?

    • Kevin
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Why, the Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, of course.

      Everyone else is heretic scum!

      • steve oberski
        Posted September 22, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        Die heretic!

  17. Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    He sounds exactly like my mother. Which leads me to believe that, in fact, he spends very little of his time actually praying, or reading the Bible, or thinking about god. Just the occasional attempt to tie up all those mental loose ends into a neat little bow.

    How come, whenever anybody starts in on “science answers ‘how’ questions, religion answers ‘why’ questions”–answers to the “why” questions are never forthcoming? I would actually like to know why there is something instead of nothing.

    • Tyro
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      Of course the answers to these “why” questions are “Because God wanted humans to arise” or when this is too laughable, it’s merely “because it’s God’s plan.” Ridiculous non-answers made all the more absurd when science has started answering questions like “why is there matter in our universe” without using even a smidgeon of divine intervention.

      It wasn’t that long ago when “why is it flooding” was a religious question and we know how that turned out. He must think we’re fools if we’ve forgotten how they’ve tricked us in the past and if we will let them get away with unsupported assertions again.

    • Dominic
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      Why? Some thing has to fill the vacuum – the vacuum between their ears that is – & it is god.

      • Posted September 22, 2010 at 9:45 am | Permalink

        You guys give good answers:))

        • Posted September 23, 2010 at 4:06 am | Permalink

          Had I but looked at the title of the chapter I’m on (“Why does E=mc2? by Cox and Forshaw)–

          “The Origin of Mass”.

          D’oh! (facepalm) Jibun ga baka.

          “This then is the Higgs mechanism, the currently most widely accepted theory for the origin of mass in the universe. If all goes well at the LHC…”

          Taking note of the wording: “currently”, since it could of course be supplanted by a better theory. “If all goes well”, but it might not, and that would be *just* as exciting. No raping and pillaging just because a theory goes one way or the other. Very different from the way creationist “theories” are worded, no?

  18. Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Jerry:

    “Religion poisons everything—including reason.”

    Not religion, since empirically-driven naturalists can be religious, see for instance http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_naturalism Rather, as you advert to, it’s the claim that non-empirical justifications for beliefs have the same epistemic virtue (reliability, coherence, predictive power) as science and other empirical pursuits. Objectivity, as Merriam-Webster rightly says, requires objects “perceptible by all observers” to back up knowledge claims. It’s the public object requirement that supernatural worldviews routinely violate in their claims about what exists. If we can engage supernaturalists in an open debate about epistemology (which I guess is what you’re trying to do, but they decline the offer) we might just get somewhere, http://www.naturalism.org/secularism.htm#objectivity

    • Eric MacDonald
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      Tom, while I salute the attempt to naturalise religion, it seems to me that this is an unfortunate confusion. Why take a word that is so deeply compromised, and is likely to remain so, to identify a form of humanism? It simply does not make sense to me.

      Spinoza in his day might have been forced by circumstances to continue to use religious language for his sense of the universe as in some sense numinous. But it is now unnecessary to use such language. What does the deeply confused notion of religion have to contribute to what is effectively a form of humanism? Jerry’s borrowed point that religion poisons everything is well chosen. I am afraid that the use of religious language for what is otherwise simply a naturalistic form of humanism, or humanistic ‘spirituality’ (even that word is hopelessly compromised), will inevitably, I fear, poison the attempt to offer an alternative to religion.

      • Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        Hi Eric,

        I get your concerns and lots of folks agree with you, but it isn’t as if the existential questions at the heart of religion and spirituality are necessarily tied to the supernatural. If you want to find and promote other descriptors besides “religious” and “spirituality” to replace talk about religious naturalism and naturalistic spirituality, that’s fine with me. But there are increasing numbers of naturalists who are perfectly comfortable with naturalized understanding of these terms, http://www.naturalism.org/spiritua.htm Quoted in Discover magazine, Dawkins says “Einsteinian religion is a kind of spirituality which is nonsupernatural….And that doesn’t mean that it’s somehow less than supernatural religion. Quite the contrary. . . It is something bigger, something grander, something that I believe any scientist can subscribe to, including those scientists whom I would call atheists.” From Stephen S. Hall, “Darwin’s Rottweiler,” Discover, Vol. 26 No. 09, September 2005.

    • Posted September 22, 2010 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      Religion is a subset of Ideology. And it is ideology that poisons everything. Hitler had an ideology, Stalin had an ideology. Doumit espouse Catholic ideaolgy.

      • Kevin
        Posted September 22, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        I think, perhaps, that religion is a subset of mythology.

        Those myths currently believed by a percentage of the population.

        When those particular myths are no longer believed, they are converted into “true” myths instead of religion.

        • Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

          That’s a reasonable timeline – conversion to myth. But for the problems associated with religion, thinking of it as a subset of ideology allows one to answer the theist association of atheism with Hitler. Hitler was an ideologue. He had a fixed answer to the world’s problems. Whereas, atheism is not a religion, its a personal relationship with reality.

  19. Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    And since truth can never contradict truth, a truth revealed in one cannot ever be in conflict with a truth revealed in the other.

    Actually, it only means that whenever science and religion give conflicting answers, they can’t both be right. Every time that happens, there will still be a conflict. The question is just whether the conflict can be resolved or not.

    Where fundamentalists and moderates disagree, is how the conflict is resolved. Fundamentalists will just conclude that science must be wrong, whatever it says. Religion trumps science. This is not compatibility.

    Moderates tend to conclude that they must have been interpreting their religion the wrong way. Science trumps religion. This is not compatibility either.

    Doumit is not actually advocating for NOMA, by the way:

    Science, guided in the moral spirit of the Church…

    and later:

    Religion, on the other hand, aided by scientific and historical evidence…

    How can the magisteria be non-overlapping if religion is to be inserted into science, and science is to be inserted into religion?

    • Grendels Dad
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      Maybe Doumit thinks of it as consensual overlapping? Now if we could just get him to tell us the safe word to get religion to pull out…

  20. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Gnu Atheist sez:

    Noma:

    “Gangrenous processes of the mouth or genitalia.”

    Increasing loss of face, it’s an apt term if there ever was.”

  21. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I approve of the dissemination (but not the source text obviously). Cognitive dissonance is such an endlessly fascinating study object!

    Science, guided in the moral spirit of the Church, provides us with answers to “how?” questions

    When they get over their strawman, if ever, they will have to start some fast foot shuffling on this one.

    Science have been able to answer “why” questions. Say, by analogy, “why are there species rather than no species”.

    With the nowadays exceedingly likelihood that the universe is self-contained (see Hawking, for one), science will have an open play field on all meaningful, natural, “why” questions. That doesn’t mean that there will be an answer, “we don’t know” is a meaningful state, but it means there will be no other meaningful way of answering them.

    “Scientism” FTW, as it were.

    • Sy
      Posted September 23, 2010 at 6:00 am | Permalink

      I agree that “We dont know” is a meaningful state. In fact it is a common phrase used by scientists, often with the implied “yet”. But then there are a few cases, (growing in number as we learn more in physics and biology) where it is possible we might never know. Sort of like the religious concept of mystery.

      I think to deny the existence of mystery is not a very scientific concept.

  22. Bryan
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    (Originally posted on TFA)
    “a truth revealed in one cannot ever be in conflict with a truth revealed in the other”

    That’s kind of naive, isn’t it? If you have two claims originating from separate sources that directly conflict with one another (e.g., “Adam and eve, the first two humans, were formed from mud and dust” vs. “Humans evolved gradually from lower primates, and ultimately, from the same unicellular stock as everything else”), then it becomes clear that one or the other “truth” can no longer be considered thus. If, then, the loser insists on maintaining their position as “truth”, the two “truths” are in conflict.

    It’s not just creationism that has this issue. Even the idea of a monolithic soul separate from the mechanism of the brain is demonstrably false, if you pay any attention whatsoever to neuroscience or stroke victims. Christianity – at least, the lore that gives impetus to follow Christian practices – is demonstrably false. The same is true of Islam. In fact, there is no religion presently adhered to with any kind of alignment with what we know about reality.

    So you could be right; as long as we’re going with a definition of “truth” that includes verifiability, there is no conflict – becuase religion reveals no truth.

  23. pjmad
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    I’ve been thinking about Giberson’s assertion the other day that science disrespects the humanities. We see here again that, while religion works rather more sneakily to usurp the role of science, they’ve muscled out moral philosophy by simple fiat.

    If you ask a religious person to justify some part of the “moral law” they’ll likely attempt to explain it in terms of personal or societal benefit. Deep down, they know that “Jebus said so.” isn’t an acceptable answer but they’ll never say that out loud.

  24. Hempenstein
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Wow, a Master’s in Earth Science. They really get all the heavy hitters there, don’t they?

  25. JBlilie
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Shorter Doumit:

    Hey, gang, I’m having a very hard day in the lab. I’m going out to sacrifice a goat and figure our where my experiment went wrong.

    What an ignoramus.

    • Badger3k
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      Don’t sacrifice it! I need it for my goat-breeding experiment. I’m trying to breed polka-dotted goats, but they refuse to stay near the dotted sticks. How can I get that to work?

      • Tulse
        Posted September 22, 2010 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        You need to do a burnt offering of animals from the class Aves, such as robins, sparrows, or bats. Be sure they’re in a bowl ten cubits in diameter and thirty cubics in circumference.

        • Badger3k
          Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

          Think I could get Templeton to fund a grant for my research? It’s pure Religioscience!

  26. Ken Pidcock
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    One thing about the science/religion reconciliation movement: It’s amazing how many people are still willing to step up to the plate and try to do what can’t be done! It’s a celebration of human tenacity.

    • Marella
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      I think ‘stupidity’ is what you mean!

    • Wowbagger
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      Or an indictment of human stubbornness…

  27. NewEnglandBob
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Reading what Doumit wrote makes me want to vomit. There is not one correct sentence in what was quoted. Everyone is wrong, and quite offensive.

    He is a shrill, arrogant, ignorant, militant theist who cant handle the truth and does not begin to understand science.

    • Tulse
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      Reading what Doumit wrote makes me want to vomit.

      “Voumit”?

      (And yes, resorting to schoolyard taunts regarding a person’s name is hugely immature. That doesn’t make it less fun.)

  28. Pete DeSanto
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Doumit suggests the Shroud of Turin as evidence for Jesus’s resurrection. Perhaps he’s not the best candidate to write essay with “Science” in the title.

  29. Bob Carlson
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I invite Dr. Doumit,…

    I think you are mistaken in your generosity. According to the linked page, he has a BS and MA, neither expressly in geology but both with an emphasis on geology.

    • Kevin
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      While I agree that his writing is nothing but word salad and his arguments are pathetically naive at best, let’s not fall into the trap of rejecting them on the basis of his degree.

      To do so is falling into the Gibberson Fallacy. “You’re not qualified to speak on this topic because you don’t have high enough of a degree in this specific discipline.”

      I think not. The best scientist I ever met (aside from Linus Pauling) had only a master’s degree in chemistry. Didn’t stop Trudy Elion from winning the Nobel Prize.

      Let the arguments stand or fall on their own merits, not on the alleged “authority” of the arguer.

      • Tulse
        Posted September 22, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        let’s not fall into the trap of rejecting them on the basis of his degree.

        But let’s also be accurate as to what degrees he has, and not misapply an honorific.

        • Kevin
          Posted September 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

          The issue only came up in the context of argument from ridicule.

          I think we can do better.

          • Tulse
            Posted September 22, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

            It’s not “better” to refer to someone as having professional certifications they don’t have. That’s not about arguing from authority, but simply using honorifics appropriately. Doumit does not have a doctorate degree, or MD, or DD, so it is simply misleading to call him “Dr.” Doumit. That’s no more a matter of ridicule than not calling him “Bishop” Doumit — the title is simply factually inappropriate (which the original linked article recognizes when it refers to him as “Mr.” Doumit).

            • Kevin
              Posted September 22, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

              My point is that we shouldn’t reject his arguments merely because he lacks certain letters after his name.

              If someone mis-attributes an honorific to him, that’s certainly an error that should be noted.

              However, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s not his degrees that are in question, only his arguments. And to reject his arguments based on his level and specificity of educational attainment is the Gibberson Fallacy (which I just coined and which you may now use moving forward to describe such a thing.)

            • Tulse
              Posted September 22, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

              My point is that we shouldn’t reject his arguments merely because he lacks certain letters after his name.

              I completely agree — the important thing is the content of the argument. (I don’t think that Bob’s original comment was disputing that, however, just disputing the accuracy of calling Doumit “Dr.”.)

            • Badger3k
              Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

              I agree. We need to be specific and call him “Mr” (unless he is a professor and bears that title honorably), and we can demolish his lame arguments on their lack of merit. We can do both.

  30. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Science is an incredibly powerful tool, but if that power is left to its own devices without a moral compass, it is an evil, fatal, and disastrous weapon that advances the most horrific violations to human dignity and worth (see modern China, eugenics, Nazi Germany, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse-Tung for a few examples).

    It always dumbfound me when someone makes this argument. Stalin, who embraced and enforced Lysenkoism, is somehow linked to science?

    • Posted September 22, 2010 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      Well it’s the “somehow” that’s key. You see, Stalin was an atheist, and the Soviet Union was atheist, so Soviet science and pseudoscience alike were in an atheist environment, so they were left to their own devices without a moral compass, so each was an evil, fatal, and disastrous weapon that advances the most horrific violations to human dignity and worth. See?

      There are only two choices. God and moral compass, or no god and no moral compass. You may not mix and match. Forbidden 403.

      • Kevin
        Posted September 22, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        Of course, from the perspective of evolutionary biology, Soviet science was a dismal failure.

        Because they were fixated on Lysenkoism, a form of Lamarckism that expressly rejected many of the tenets of the neo-Darwinian synthesis.

        To them, natural selection was anti-Soviet and therefore not allowed. Animals evolved because they “strove” for something better. What they made of parasites or blind cave newts, I do not know.

        Soviet ideology actively interfered with good science.

      • YourName's NotBruce?
        Posted September 22, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        Hasn’t the moral compass been replaced with spiritual GPS?

        • Posted September 22, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

          I prefer a godless gyroscope myself.

    • Tim Martin
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Seriously. As if we needed science to tell us not to engage in genocide. As if religion prevented its adherents from engaging in genocide. Let’s discuss with Doumit how good the Catholic moral compass has been over the years, eh?

  31. Kirth Gersen
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    From BioLogos: “He holds a B.S. in Natural Science with a Geology emphasis from the University of Puget Sound, and an M.A. in Earth Science with a Geology emphasis from the University of Northern Colorado.”

    In other words, the guy doesn’t actually have a geology degree? (“Natural Science” and “Environmental Science” and the like tend to be “take all the science 101 classes” majors, with little depth to them.)

    I’m quick to point that out because I’m a geologist — and I’d hoped, as a discipline, that we’d mostly outgrown Doumit’s kind of nonsense back in the 1800′s.

  32. Kirth Gersen
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    EDIT: Ninja’d by Hempenstein. I’m not the only one who spotted that!

  33. Kevin
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Ack: Again with the “why am I here” baloney.

    That’s not a religion question. It’s a science question.

    The answer is: to perpetuate the species.

    As to “why is there something rather than nothing,” I defer to the physicists, but my understanding is that the complete and total answer to that question is, “because ‘nothing’ is unstable.”

    Both science questions. Neither religion questions.

    Unless, of course, you’re not really asking those questions. The first, when used by theists is always a code for “what kind of apartment will I get in the afterlife?”

    Death cultists obsessed with their post-corporeal state.

    Blech.

    • What a maroon
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      You’re really here to host all those trillions of gut bacteria.

      Antibiotics=genocide.

      • Kevin
        Posted September 22, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        Ah yes, an e coli-ist…

        I’ve met your kind before. ;-)

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted September 22, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

          It’s a crap argument.

          [It _is_ - antibiotics helps the host, the bacteria will migrate back.]

          • What a maroon
            Posted September 23, 2010 at 7:29 am | Permalink

            Or at least an argument about crap.

  34. Anonym
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    The quoted reference to the Spiderman movies is like the cherry on top the sundae — delicious.

    • steve oberski
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      You mean those cherries pickled in a brine containing sulphur dioxide and alcohol then soaked in red food dye FD&C Red 40 and corn syrup emerging from the process with absolutely no food value and most likely carcinogenic if ingested in quantity ?

      An apt analogy indeed.

      • Tim Martin
        Posted September 22, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        Dude, I was totally happier not knowing that. :-/

        • steve oberski
          Posted September 22, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

          Don’t get me started on processed foods.

          You will no doubt be relieved to hear that maraschino cherries are one of the safer ones.

          • Grendels Dad
            Posted September 22, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

            Somehow, knowing that the process described above is one of the safer ones is not as big a relief as you might think.

            • steve oberski
              Posted September 22, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

              I think it was Bismark who said “Those who like sausages and law should watch the manufacture of neither”.

              I think after unifying the disparate German city states he then moved into fast food industry.

              (I’m making that last bit up).

  35. John D Stackpole
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Loks like Goodwin’s Law kicked in rather early on this one…

  36. John D Stackpole
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Actually Godwin’s Law — sorry.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      Actually “God wins law” – if you ask Doumit.

  37. MadScientist
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    I see Doumit establishes his authority via magic in his first paragraph. The old “ipse dixit ergo veritatum est”. (did I conjugate that properly? my latin gets worse every month)

  38. MadScientist
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    The funny thing about the “both are gifts” excuse is that it was the NOMA excuse used by religious folks who wanted to do science hundreds of years ago (it seems to have been offered as a reason not to be murdered for studying things). I thought it was something dating back to Galileo’s era, but the same excuse seems to have been popular in the islamic kingdoms ~900CE. It’s nice to know that these days it’s being offered as a lame argument for science to be “nice” to superstition.

  39. Xenithrys
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t find any geological papers published by this guy (Google Scholar). Are you sure he’s a geologist? He sure doesn’t think like one.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      The HuffPo link says, as I recall, that he’s a consulting geologist. I don’t know what that is, but it doesn’t sound like a research position.

      • Tim Harris
        Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps people consult him about odd stones they find in their backyards…

      • MadScientist
        Posted September 22, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps that means “geotechnical engineer”? It could also be a geologist who provides advice on where to look for oil, etc, but they tend to call themselves exploration geologists. Oh, I know! He’s the sort who provides information on where to look for Noah’s Ark! They tend not to be very good geologists – they look at banded deposits of sand with some rust-like intrusions and proclaim that those natural rock formations are timber from the ark.

      • Kirth Gersen
        Posted September 27, 2010 at 10:28 am | Permalink

        “Consulting geologists” like myself are typically involved, one way or another, in the business of cleaning up other people’s messes (not to put too fine a point on it). The fields of environmental assessment and remediation employ any number of geologists — some legitimate, some goofballs like this guy — who are forbidden to publish because ultimately they’re being funded by private clients.

        • Kirth Gersen
          Posted September 27, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink

          Again, looking at his degrees, Doumit is wilfully misrepresenting himself by calling himself a “geologist.” His license makes him a “professional geoscientist,” and that’s all he can legitimately claim.

  40. salon_1928
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    The questions I usually end up asking believers are something along the lines of “how do you know your version of the ‘truth’ is the right one? What makes you think that you have a special antenna tuned into the frequency of god? Others with different beliefs claim to have that same antenna – how can you be sure yours works and their’s doesn’t?”

    I’ve never gotten an answer that was remotely satisfying…

    • Sy
      Posted September 23, 2010 at 6:12 am | Permalink

      You are asking the wrong question. If you asked me as a scientist “how do you know that your theory is the right one” I would say, “I dont know it is the right one, but I think it might be based on the results of my experiments, and those of others.”

      If you asked me as Christian “How do you know that the teachings of Christianity are the true and right ones?” I would answer again “I dont know that. I believe it because of the evidence I myself have received from my interactions with God. Someone else might have different evidence, or none at all.”

      The difference is that faith is subjective and individual based, whereas scientific truths must hold for all circumstances and all individuals. So while the language of the question seems to be the same, the language of the answers implies a very different context.

      • salon_1928
        Posted September 23, 2010 at 8:29 am | Permalink

        The type of christian that I’m talking about is usually the kind that is certain in their beliefs….

  41. Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Is there any reason why science may not eventually (or even soon) answer the Why questions, for example why there is something rather than nothing? We seem to assume that the existence of nothing is not logically impossible, but perhaps there is something about something that makes it logically inevitable. Of course if there was nothing then by definition there would be no logic, but I find that a bit hard to think about. (EG, that was itself a logical statement…)

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

      The most common hypothesis that comes out of observing natural systems is what Kevin says in comment #33: “nothing” is unstable.

      For example Stenger and Hawking come to that prediction from different pathways. For Stenger it follows from that you observe increasing symmetry when going back in time, so eventually the initial chaos of his “nothing” is packed with as much symmetries as possible; conversely we observe that symmetry states always spontaneously break symmetry when we follow time forwards. For Hawking it essentially follows from superposition of states including “nothing”, and quantum mechanics tendency to explore all pathways over states.

      Similarly you can arrive at “something” by environmental principles on multiverses. And note that these all are predictive hypotheses, so if we are lucky we can eventually test them. In fact, environmental principles already have successfully passed a packet of tests on the 6 predictions you typically gets out of them. (From cosmological constant up to the “cosmic coincidence” of living in the era when the cosmological expansion accelerates again.)

      Here is a corker though: combining environmental principles on multiverses with inflation bypass “nothing” by the possibility that inflationary pathways can be backwards eternal (as per Linde). Then the unlikely state that we would live in a system close to its fixed eternal phase space point is mooted by environmental selection over the exponentially exploding volumes of inflationary pathways, combined with the tendency of semiclassical inflationary pathways to forget their history in such volumes (for the same reasons as in chaos in such volumes).

      If that is so, and if the seemingly fundamental problems of finding a useful statistic over inflationary multiverses continues, we couldn’t predict whether we live in a Hawking/Stenger backwards finite universe or a backwards eternal one.

      The simpler and symmetrical (on boundary constraints, mind) theory would then be the eternal, so it would have to be chosen. (No doubt grudgingly so.) But in any case it would still shoot down “something from nothing, ergo gods” creationism.

    • MadScientist
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

      The consensus is that there needn’t be a “why” question for everything. At some point, as in mathematics, we may end up with things which help make sense of many other things but are themselves beyond scrutiny. Also, in science the “why” is of little or no importance – the important thing is that we observe something and in a repeatable fashion (determinacy).

      • MadScientist
        Posted September 22, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

        oops – the “why” is *frequently* of little or no importance. Obviously it is extremely important in many cases: why do some people get some form of cancer and others don’t, etc.

        • ritebrother
          Posted September 23, 2010 at 5:56 am | Permalink

          Defining strings of mechanistic causality (the teleonomic “why”) is a significant component of experimental science in many fields (such as biochemistry/metabolism), as an extension of answering proximate “how” questions.

    • Posted September 23, 2010 at 12:32 am | Permalink

      Another answer is that since there IS something, questioning ends there. There just is, and asking “why?” is like asking “What is the difference between a duck?”

      • Posted September 23, 2010 at 12:34 am | Permalink

        This is madscientist’s answer, reworded.

        • Tuco
          Posted September 23, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

          Still funny, tho’. Reminds me of the quote usually attributed to Santayana: “There is no God, and Mary is his mother.”

      • DuckPhup
        Posted September 25, 2010 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        “What is the difference between a duck?”

        A: His one leg is both the same.

        OK… my turn. “How high is ‘up’?”

        • Tuco
          Posted September 25, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

          “What is the sound of one duck quacking?”
          Oh, wait. That actually makes sense.
          How’s ’bout: “Could a duck make a quack so big it couldn’t quack it?”
          No, that’s pretty lame.

          I got nothin’.

  42. Steven Carr
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Religion does come up with a method of discovering new truths.

    The Church recently discovered that the Hitler Youth had been a totally benign organisation.

    This was discovered only moments after a former member of the Hitler Youth became Pope.

    Can science work as quickly to discover new facts?

  43. Posted September 23, 2010 at 4:17 am | Permalink

    Divine revelation comes in two forms: the Word of Zeus (including both Sacred Scripture of the Illiad and Sacred Tradition of the Vestales) and the Work of Zeus (including throwing lightnings and fathering halfgods). Both are equally valid forms of truth, as they stem from the same Source. And since truth can never contradict truth, a truth revealed in one cannot ever be in conflict with a truth revealed in the other.

  44. Michael Kingsford Gray
    Posted September 23, 2010 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    The very first paragraph of Peter’s would be enough to have this lunatic involuntarily committed to an asylum, at least in Australia.

  45. Tuco
    Posted September 23, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    The references in this thread regarding Tarot cards and the divinity of Zeus are funny and clever, but are also, sadly, wrong. Teh Truth is that Divine revelation comes in two forms: the Word of The Flying Spaghetti Monster (including The Gospel of The Flying Spaghetti Monster and…, well, I guess that’s about it) and the Work of The Flying Spaghetti Monster (including Beer Volcano and Stripper Heaven, His Noodly Appendage, and indisputable quantitative scientific proof of the relationship between pirates and global average temperature. Oh, and ramen). Both are equally valid forms of truth, as they stem from the same Source. And, as it happens, are orders of magnitude valider than other false truths.
    I don’t know anything about one truth never contradicting another truth, let alone one truth contradicting a whole bunch of other truths, one truth supporting another truth, one truth kind of supporting another truth but still having a few weakness, or of one falsehood contradicting or supporting one or more other falsehoods, or even one falsehood contradicting or supporting a truth. I also don’t know what the statement “a truth revealed in one cannot ever be in conflict with a truth revealed in the other” even means. However, I do know that Teh Church only has that one cracker thing, but The Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster has spaghetti, fusilli, rigatoni, penne, and cavatappi (the Flying Spaghetti Monsterest pasta of them all), just to name a few, plus pan mee, rice vermicelli, tung hoon, udon, macaroni (with or without cheese), and so on, not to mention the whole ramen family. Thus, clearly The Gospel of The Flying Spaghetti Monster is truthier simply by virtue of the sheer volume of spiritually-imbued starchy food items. Now that is an objective truth.
    Science without the (admittedly twisty) moral compass of noodles is an evil, dangerous weapon that leads inevitably to a world of cracker-only meals. I’m not sure what noodles without science is, but a doughnut without a hole is a danish.
    May you be touched by His Noodly Appendage.
    RAmen!
    - Your humble servant, Mr. Dr. Rev. Tuco, Esq., Ordained Dudeist Priest (The Church of The Latter-Day Dude http://dudeism.com/), D.A. (Doctorate of Awesome), PhD (Honorary, University of Eastern North Kansas College)


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  1. [...] Coyne has an important post up responding to this awful essay by Peter Doumit, posted at the BioLogos website. Doumit's essay has [...]

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