Physics pwns creationism

I’m not a big fan of biologist Michel Zimmerman’s Clergy Letter Project, which involves soliciting churches to write letters supporting evolution. I’ve criticized the project for being “harmless at worst”: it smacks too much of the failed accommodationist view that religious people who oppose science (evolution in particular) will suddenly accept evolution if they see that church leaders push that comity.

And too often the brand of evolution supported by churches is “theistic evolution”, i.e., God either created or (worse) guides the evolutionary process. The project is simply dripping with the brand of accommodationism that, to me, pollutes the scientific enterprise. Here, for instance, is part of a letter from the Project signed by over 12,000 Christian clergy:

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist.  . . . .We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

We all know what’s wrong with that: unless you define Biblical “truths” in a circular fashion, so that the “timeless truths” are by definition those not disproven by science, you still run into conflict.  That includes the virgin birth, the resurrection, and all manner of divine intervention in the world. Further, there are no “timeless truths” produced by faith—at least none that haven’t also been produced by secular region.  And the last sentence smacks of NOMA-ism.

Nevertheless, when an accommodtionist does strike a blow for pure science, and against creationism, I’ll give him due credit.  In his latest post at PuffHo, “What physics teaches us about creationism,” Zimmerman points out a difference that many of us have noted (and one I emphasized in my debate with Haught): the atmosphere of doubt surrounding a “revolutionary” scientific finding differs completely from the assurance with which many of the faithful buy the tenets of their faith.  (Yes, I know some Christians and Jews are doubters, but really, how many doubt that Jesus was the son of God?).

The doubt that surfaced when researchers reported that neutrinos seems to move faster than the speed of light instantiated the pervasive doubt and criticality of scientists.  Here’s a sentence I used in my debate: it was uttered by one of those researchers, and perfectly epitomizes the character of science:

“This is quite a shake-up,” said Alvaro de Rujula, a theorist at CERN. “The correct attitude is to ask oneself what went wrong.”

Zimmerman contrasts that kind of doubt with the certainties of creationism, though the contrast holds as well for all those “timeless religious truths”:

Creationists regularly assert that science is a closed operation, that those offering opinions differing from the norm cannot get a fair hearing within the scientific community. They argue that it is impossible to publish papers in the technical literature that call the dominant paradigm into question. It is this narrow-mindedness, they continue, that keeps their “important” ideas from being shared broadly. I can’t begin to count the number of notes I’ve received from creationists who rail against the biologists who refuse to consider what they have to say. The charge is always the same: scientists are biased and unwilling to consider any ideas that contradict their opinions.

The work arising from CERN demonstrates just how absurd this argument is. The scientists responsible for the work calling special relativity into question had absolutely no trouble getting their results in front of their peers. No one closed ranks and black-listed those who challenged the prevailing paradigm. Quite the opposite occurred. The physics community is abuzz with the results, and healthy discussion, meaningful skepticism, and plans for replication abound.

Indeed.  It’s a pity that Zimmerman doesn’t indict all the superstitions held by the faithful rather than creationism alone . But then he’s an accommodationist, and we all know that while creationism is fair game, we should keep our strident atheist mitts off the other fairy tales.  But kudos anyway to Zimmerman for pointing out this difference, and for saying this:

How does one go about attempting to overthrow a scientific paradigm? Very, very carefully and as transparently as possible. Consider what Antonio Ereditato, the spokesperson for the CERN group, said about their work, “We have high confidence in our results. We have checked and rechecked for anything that could have distorted our measurements but we found nothing. We now want colleagues to check them independently.” These scientists worked for three years, found a result that might shake physics to its very core, presented their full methodology and have now asked their fellow scientists to check and replicate their work. They understand that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Creationists, on the other hand, simply make assertions. They offer no data and perform no experiments. As was pointed out by creationists themselves under oath in the Dover, PA intelligent design trial in 2005, no one is performing any scientific investigations of intelligent design. No one is publishing any empirical data on the subject. No one is doing anything at all other than saying, “wow, it seems really unlikely and counter-intuitive for evolution to work.” What the creationists want is for an alternative theory of evolution to be accepted – and taught to our children – simply because they don’t like the one that currently is supported by the data and by virtually every scientist in the field.

His ending is strong, but I’ve edited it a bit to reflect my own feelings, crossing out what Zimmerman wrote and replacing it with bolded words:

The difference between scientists and creationists the faithful is so stark that it can be summarized simply enough to be placed on two bumper stickers.

Don’t believe everything you can think!

Don’t think about anything you believe!

I bet even creationists religious folks can figure out which one is theirs.

h/t: Grania Spingies

89 Comments

  1. Posted October 22, 2011 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Once again, it is demonstrated the ultimate importance of the question, “How do you know that?”

    b&

  2. Nicolas Perrault
    Posted October 22, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    There is no substitute to intellectual integrity. This is why accommodationism must be tirelessly disputed.

  3. Steersman
    Posted October 22, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    A minor quibble or point of information: Zimmerman, at least according to Wikipedia, is a biologist.

    But more importantly I think it is somewhat counter-productive to castigate Zimmerman and company for making the first tentative steps towards a more rational world-view instead of a fulsome, and no doubt frightening, embrace of it. People like him, and the many churches subscribing to the Clergy Letter Project, and Sullivan and Giberson and the evangelicals at least somewhat receptive to the latter’s recent article in the NY Times need, I think, encouragement instead; one hardly chastises a baby for taking baby-steps instead of sprinting across the room.

    And in which regard your previously stated position or argument – more or less that the stories in the Bible, at least those relying on supernatural causation, have to be regarded by the religious as either vacuous fairy tales or as metaphors with some substantial “symbolic content” – is, I think, a far more reasonable, and defensible, “line in the sand” to draw. Particularly as it is, to some extent, echoed or supported by Eric MacDonald:

    Of course, no doubt, in context, the story [of Adam and Eve] is a mythical-allegorical account of what it means to become human, to become conscious of the choice that we can make between good and evil, and to know that we will die. Thus the story tells us about ourselves, and how, through consciousness, we became aware of our situation in the world, how awareness grew that we can make good and bad choices, and that choices have consequences.

    • Posted October 22, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      Nope; I decry accommodationism because it pollutes science with woo, just as some of those letters find “compromise” by positing that God created or even guided evolution. I won’t have it. Nor will those accommodationists eventually say, “Okay, I was just kidding: science and faith are totally incompatible!”

      More important, there’s simply no evidence that accommodationism leads the faithful toward science. I am not aware of a single person who has testified to that effect, though there are elebenty gazillion letters from people (see Converts’ Corner at Dawkins’s site) who have said that Dawkins’s insistence that religion is an unscientific superstitition has turned them AWAY from faith and toward science.

      I conclude that accommodationism doesn’t work; it’s just people sucking up to the faithful. All the evidence shows that showing religious people respect by treating them as adults, and asking them to support their beliefs with evidence, is the tactic that works.

      • Steersman
        Posted October 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        I will quite readily agree that “creation science” is attempting to “pollute science with woo” and should be extirpated, root and branch. However, acknowledging the psychological value of the “symbolic content” of various religious myths hardly seems to qualify as woo of the polluting variety, particularly as Jung and Campbell and many others have championed and utilized the resulting archetypes, primarily of Greek mythology, to some useful effect. And in addition and more specifically I fail to see how other statements by the Clergy Letter Project give any justification for thinking that they are attempting to do that at all, quite the contrary as a matter of fact:

        We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator.

        While the last part has some potentially problematic aspects and gives a Dr. Strangelove-ish flavour of “the purity of our natural bodily fluids”, it seems fairly innocuous and may provide some useful motivation; hardly much worse than a periodic, though circumscribed, indulgence in various intoxicants of one sort or another. Seems more important and appropriate to consider the aphorism which asserts that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

        • Christian
          Posted October 22, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

          But it’s woo nonetheless and no matter how innocuous or non-polluting it may be, woo is just not compatible with science, so I think it is dishonest to turn a blind eye to that just so we don’t alienate the sophisticated believers. If that turns them into creationists or sympathizers then they weren’t all that sophisticated to begin with.

          And besides, I don’t think there is such a thing as completely harmless woo. Even the more benign kinds can do harm in the long run because there will most certainly always be believers who won’t retread when science is stepping into their comfort zone.

          • Christian
            Posted October 22, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

            D’oh! retreat

          • Steersman
            Posted October 22, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

            But it’s woo nonetheless and no matter how innocuous or non-polluting it may be, woo is just not compatible with science

            Yes, I agreed that “woo” is not compatible with science. But it really seems to me that you’re tarring everyone in the religious community with an awfully wide brush. Do take a close look at that Clergy Letter Project site and show me where there is anything that could reasonably be construed as being incompatible with science or likely to hinder its adoption or prevalence in society.

            Go ahead; stomp all over creationism – figuratively speaking, even with hobnail boots, and I’ll happily join you. But to not differentiate between that and metaphors and symbolic meaning really seems very counter-productive – at best. You really might want to read what Richard Dawkins has to say on that point in his The God Delusion, the gist of it being:

            The King James Bible of 1611 … includes passages of outstanding literary merit in its own right, for example the Song of Songs, and the sublime Ecclesiastes …. But the main reason the English Bible needs to be part of our education is that it is a major source book for literary culture. The same applies to the legends of the Greek and Roman gods, and we learn about them without being asked to believe in them. Here is a quick list of biblical, or Bible-inspired phrases and sentences that occur commonly in literary or conversational English, from great poetry to hackneyed cliché, from proverb to gossip: [two pages of phrases, 384-385] …. Surely ignorance of the Bible is bound to impoverish one’s appreciation of English literature?

            … so I think it is dishonest to turn a blind eye to that just so we don’t alienate the sophisticated believers.

            Only if you entirely abandon your principles and values for the sake of expediency. Considering that people like those who subscribe to the Clergy Letter Project [CLP] might be useful allies in promoting the teaching of evolution really doesn’t seem to qualify as that. Say it comes down to a vote on a school board on a contentious issue relating to religion and you, as a dyed-in-the-wool atheist, and someone else, as a subscriber to the CLP, have the deciding votes. Would you walk out of the room in a huff, abandoning the field to the enemy, because you might be seen to be on the same “side” as that individual? That would seem to be the same as cutting off your nose to spite your face.

            And besides, I don’t think there is such a thing as completely harmless woo. Even the more benign kinds can do harm in the long run because there will most certainly always be believers who won’t retread when science is stepping into their comfort zone.

            Sure. And taking an aspirin is only the first step on the inevitable road to becoming a raving and depraved coke fiend. One needs, I think, to differentiate between those kinds that directly impact science and those that don’t and deal with them, particularly those in the gray areas, on a case-by-case basis. Or would you argue, for example, that Francis Collins should have been prevented from heading the human genome project?

            • Christian
              Posted October 22, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

              I’m only tarring them with the brush that every religion makes empirical claims, even the more “sophisticated” ones (see also Jerry’s first link). And I’m well aware that the more liberal religions treat a lot of their scriptures as symbolic or have turned problematic passages into metaphors (conveniently finding out after thousands of years that they were never really meant to be taken literally) but they all have their lines which they do not cross, i.e. that some interactions of a supernatural agent with the natural world really happened and are not just a metaphor for who knows what.
              Therefore I do not understand why you quoted that passage of Dawkins. In that passage he only argues that the Bible has cultural significance and not that you have to believe any of it, at least not any more than you have to believe the Greek myths, which are culturally just as relevant. But just considering these books as culturally relevant, doesn’t make you a theist.

              Also, neither I nor Jerry nor any other poster here is against working together with moderate theists when fighting against creationism. However this doesn’t mean that we cannot point out that their religious beliefs are not compatible with science (although not as detrimental as the wackier beliefs of the creationists). And pointing this out and defending this position is not stomping on them.

              So this doesn’t mean that liberal theists (or even creationists) cannot be good scientists. That only depends on how much their beliefs are in conflict with science and how good they can compartmentalize if such a situation arises (of course this is a lot harder for a creationist than a liberal theist believing in some apophatic god).

              And I don’t doubt that Collins is a good scientist (and neither does Jerry afaik) but if I remember correctly, Jerry criticized him for making pronouncements for instance on morality and how it can only be explained by the existence of his god.

              • Steersman
                Posted October 23, 2011 at 12:36 am | Permalink

                I’m only tarring them with the brush that every religion makes empirical claims …

                Well, I certainly agree that any religion that makes any empirical claims is fair game, if not an easy target. But those that don’t – the more sophisticated ones, the less literal and dogmatic ones – aren’t so easily, or even wisely, dismissed. Reminds me of a quote of Dr. Victor Stenger [God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist] that I ran across recently:

                It is commonly believed that science has nothing to say about God, that it can’t prove or disprove the existence of God. While that may be true for every conceivable god, it’s not the case for a god with the attributes of the God worshipped by Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

                Although I expect that that “disproof” is based more on questions of probability than not and on a conception of god that is decidedly quite anthropomorphic.

                (conveniently finding out after thousands of years that they were never really meant to be taken literally)

                Better late than never, wouldn’t you say? Rome wasn’t built in a day and it won’t be torn down – or substantially renovated or humanized – in one either.

                Therefore I do not understand why you quoted that passage of Dawkins.

                Just to illustrate my point or argument, successfully or not, that religions that rely heavily on symbolic or metaphorical interpretations are worth supporting; those that don’t aren’t – at least far less. Though I think it’s an interesting question as to how a religion makes that transition – it apparently happened with the Greeks of 2500 years ago with some substantial benefits for humanity; bit of an open question whether Christianity is able to do likewise.

                Also, neither I nor Jerry nor any other poster here is against working together with moderate theists when fighting against creationism.

                Accommodationist! [Just kidding]. But basically the point or position that I was trying to defend.

                That only depends on how much their beliefs are in conflict with science and how good they can compartmentalize if such a situation arises …

                Good point and I quite agree. I periodically wonder how people like Giberson and Behe and Zimmerman handle the “cognitive dissonance” – the stresses must be substantial. And likewise with people like Sullivan who can quite readily, even vociferously, agree that Adam and Eve is a myth, a parable, but seem unable to wrap their minds around the idea, the possibility, that original sin is quite likely of the same species. But that, thankfully, is not my problem. Although I think it is in everybody’s best interest to ensure that they have avenues to follow to get out of that cul-de-sac, that they have support (or judicious pressure) in whatever “12 step program” they wish to follow to leave that addiction behind.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted October 23, 2011 at 12:59 am | Permalink

                Although I think it is in everybody’s best interest to ensure that they have avenues to follow to get out of that cul-de-sac, that they have support (or judicious pressure) in whatever “12 step program” they wish to follow to leave that addiction behind

                Addiction is absolutely the wrong word.

                It’s their living. It’s also where their authority stems from. It’s power, money & sex. There is no way back for these people because the investment is too high.

              • TheBlackCat
                Posted October 23, 2011 at 4:50 am | Permalink

                Well, I certainly agree that any religion that makes any empirical claims is fair game, if not an easy target. But those that don’t – the more sophisticated ones, the less literal and dogmatic ones – aren’t so easily, or even wisely, dismissed.

                You keep saying this, but so far you have not actually mentioned any real-world religions that fit this criteria. Car to provide some examples so we can know exactly what you mean?

              • Steersman
                Posted October 23, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

                TheBlackCat said:

                You keep saying this, but so far you have not actually mentioned any real-world religions that fit these criteria. Care to provide some examples so we can know exactly what you mean?

                Well, there’s Buddhism (376 million adherents) and Hinduism (900 million) for starters. While I expect there’s some fundamentalism and literalism in those religions as well, about which I don’t know enough to comment, it seems that a salient and important feature running through them both is the broader concept of panentheism in which “God is viewed as the eternal animating force behind the universe”. While one might argue that that is not far removed from Weinberg’s sardonic suggestion of calling energy “God”, it does still seem to provide some additional “explanatory power”. In addition, Spinoza and Einstein were both characterized [by Wikipedia if not by themselves] as panentheists which would, in itself, seem at least to justify a second look.

                Curiously though, the Wikipedia article indicates that a great many of the world’s religions have that thread running through them – to a greater or lesser extent, but Buddhism seems absent in that list. However, this suggests it is present in that “religion” as well:

                To define more exactly the Buddhist notion of the highest being, it may be convenient to borrow the term very happily coined by a modern German scholar, ‘panentheism’, according to which God is … all and one and more than the totality of existence.

                However, I think an important distinction or difference between Christianity and Islam – at least the prevalent fundamentalist versions, on the one hand, and, on the other, Buddhism and Hinduism is that the latter pair are far less dogmatic about their beliefs – which seem to have more of the flavour of hypotheses and conjectures rather than the dogmatic, if not desperate, assertions as to the literal truth of the beliefs about god in the first case. And the latter also seem not to be making any dogmatic claims about the nature of physical reality – no indications of attempts to prevent the teaching of evolution, although there seem to be some important themes or concepts within the latter’s panentheism – Indra’s net, for example – that seem to have some echo in modern cosmology – the holographic principle, for example.

              • Steersman
                Posted October 23, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

                Michael Fisher said:

                Addiction is absolutely the wrong word.

                And the American Heritage Dictionary says: Addiction: The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or involved in something.

                Looks to me like the word covers both your description – “It’s power, money & sex. There is no way back for these people because the investment is too high” – and my usage.

                If you want to get a good flavour of that you might want to try reading William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch (not the movie), or, to a lesser extent, James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces.

        • Tulse
          Posted October 22, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

          acknowledging the psychological value of the “symbolic content” of various religious myths hardly seems to qualify as woo of the polluting variety

          Tell that to those fighting for evolution and cosmology in schools, or stem cell research, or HPV vaccines, or…

          Nobody is saying that the “symbolic content” doesn’t offer comfort and value to people. The problem is that comfort and value is largely predicated on those people seeing the content as not symbolic, but as “True”. In such cases there simply can’t be accommodation that preserves the integrity of the reality-based perspective.

          • Christian
            Posted October 22, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

            Indeed, this is often overlooked (or simply ignored) by accommodationists.
            I mean to how many people is the “symbolic content” of the ancient Greek, Mayan, Sumerian, etc. religion offering any comfort and value?

            • Steersman
              Posted October 22, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

              The Public Broadcasting Service thought there was enough “comfort and value” there to justify a six part television documentary on the Power of Myth.

              • Christian
                Posted October 22, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

                OK, granted, everyone likes a good story.
                However, this doesn’t mean the characters therein (whether supernatural or not) must really have existed as described or existed at all, in order to get something out of that story.

                But for the theist, even the more liberal one, at least some parts (at least the essential ones which usually include some supernatural agents or occurrences) must have happened, otherwise they are just stories – interesting, challenging maybe even with some deeper message, but in the end, just stories.

              • Steersman
                Posted October 23, 2011 at 12:59 am | Permalink

                Christian said,

                However, this doesn’t mean the characters therein (whether supernatural or not) must really have existed as described or existed at all, in order to get something out of that story.

                Quite agree. Though I never said or suggested that the characters were ever real. Also I think I pointed out or quoted, on this thread or others, descriptions of how the Greeks of 2500 years ago made the transition from believing their gods were literally real to seeing them as archetypes, as essences of human behavior, which have retained some value long after the literal beliefs have died.

                But for the theist, even the more liberal one, at least some parts (at least the essential ones which usually include some supernatural agents or occurrences) must have happened, otherwise they are just stories – interesting, challenging maybe even with some deeper message, but in the end, just stories.

                Likewise agree. I don’t know, though I’m curious, how theists gradually disentangle themselves from their earlier beliefs and become, maybe in stages, either atheists or agnostics, largely as I was never much of a believer myself to begin with. Some sort of evolutionary process, maybe like molting. Still seems useful to provide some support to those individuals who are part way through the process, who accept some parts of it as metaphor even if other parts are assumed to be literally true, sort like halfway houses which may still provide other benefits to the surrounding society.

          • Steersman
            Posted October 22, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

            The problem is that comfort and value is largely predicated on those people seeing the content as not symbolic, but as “True”.

            Yes, I quite agree with that and such cases definitely call for bringing out the big guns. But my point is that there are those who do see it as symbolic. You apparently, in spite of your apparent recognition of two sub-classes, two sub-species in the genus homo religious, insist on tarring them both with the same very wide brush.

            • Tulse
              Posted October 22, 2011 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

              my point is that there are those who do see it as symbolic

              Sure, just like there are those who really find symbolic meaning in Harry Potter, or Star Trek, or Dr. Seuss. As long as you agree that we should treat religion no more seriously than these other endeavours, and take their claims about the world in precisely the same way, then there’s no problem.

              But curiously, there is practically no person who claims to be religious who would agree that their beliefs are on par with the mating rituals of the Vulcans, or the location of Hogwarts, or whether star-bellied sneetches are better than those without bespangled abdomens.

              • Steersman
                Posted October 23, 2011 at 1:03 am | Permalink

                As long as you agree that we should treat religion no more seriously than these other endeavours, and take their claims about the world in precisely the same way, then there’s no problem.

                Generally agree, even if I think some of the themes in religion are likely to be more profound and have a greater impact than some of those in the other sources mentioned. Although the obverse is likely to be true as well. But no disagreement on “claims about the world” – if there isn’t any evidence then they’re only conjectures and suppositions at best.

                But curiously, there is practically no person who claims to be religious who would agree that their beliefs are on par with the mating rituals of the Vulcans, or the location of Hogwart ….

                In my experience, at least with many fundamentalists, that is definitely a bit of a blind spot for them. Bit of a major hurdle, something they shy away from in the worst way. But accepting that major features of the traditional dogmata are parables or metaphors – as, for example, Sullivan has done with Adam and Eve – even if many others are retained still seems like an important and valuable halfway house. Eric MacDonald has some interesting quotes here on that phenomenon, notably this:

                Amongst the Experimentalists [segment of the Catholic Church] … members usually endeavour to compensate for a concession in one direction by obstinate emphasis in another. One man will admit to doubt as to the Resurrection of the Flesh, but will insist on the Virgin Birth, another will be less than absolutely rigid on the Athanasian Creed, but adamantine on Episcopal ordination.

      • Posted October 22, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        Amen, brother.

        b&

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 22, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      People like him, and the many churches subscribing to the Clergy Letter Project, and Sullivan and Giberson and the evangelicals at least somewhat receptive to the latter’s recent article in the NY Times need, I think, encouragement instead; one hardly chastises a baby for taking baby-steps instead of sprinting across the room.

      Um, what?

      Atheism, and especially “new” atheism, is evidence that many different strategies works in life; atheists evolves through many pathways.

      And if any strategy needs encouragement to work in the competition of the market of ideas it is *DOOMED*. You just told us we shouldn’t waste our time engaging the idea that accommodationism will eventually contribute.

      • Steersman
        Posted October 22, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

        You just told us we shouldn’t waste our time engaging the idea that accommodationism will eventually contribute.

        One might reasonably argue, I think, that the Clergy Letter Project is in fact an accommodationist response on the part of evangelicals which seems likely to have, at least, contributed significantly to the dissemination and teaching of evolution.

        • Microraptor
          Posted October 22, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

          And the evidence for this contribution is?

          • Steersman
            Posted October 23, 2011 at 12:55 am | Permalink

            And the evidence for this contribution is?

            Apparently this doesn’t cut much ice with you:

            We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children.

            Now I haven’t personally actually done an exit poll on all of the Christian churches [12,762] nor on all of the Jewish synagogues [482] and asked everyone their opinion on the project, but it seems reasonable to assume, based on that statement, that they’re aware of it and that it will likely have influenced their daily choices and probably have led to some positive contributions towards teaching evolution. Though I suppose that might be a worthwhile study for some bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young researcher to tackle ….

            • Microraptor
              Posted October 23, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

              No it doesn’t, because you’re saying that the project is useful, then citing the project itself as evidence for its usefulness.

              I’m asking for evidence that the project is actually having any effect on the rate of people accepting evolution, but I seriously doubt that it will, because petitions are pretty well the least convincing form of argument possible. The only things petition drives are really good for is when you’re trying to get a new piece of legislation on the ballot or show a Senator that there’s enough public support for a particular action that he ought to vote on it. When it comes to convincing people that, say, evolution really is true it’s nothing but an argument ad populism.

              • Steersman
                Posted October 23, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

                No it doesn’t, because you’re saying that the project is useful, then citing the project itself as evidence for its usefulness.

                No, don’t think so. However, you’re right in that I did refer to the project and its “petition”, but I inferred some conclusions which is what I was suggesting was evidence.

                Seems to me that what we have here, in general, is an ongoing “battle for the hearts and minds” of middle-America with the ultimate – or penultimate – battle shaping up to be the 2012 elections, during the lead-up to which atheists and secularists are apparently being cast as the scapegoats – highly problematic given its echoes of Hitler having used the same mechanism on his route to power. And apropos of which is this quote of Philip Wylie from his Generation of Vipers:

                The effect is, of course, alarming. (At least I am alarmed by it. And I hold that any man, these days, who does not live every hour in a condition of alarm – however detached or icy – is either a traitor or an idiot.) [pg 14]

                And in which case as a specific example of one particular battle in that war, I would suggest that Jerry’s promotion of WEIT, and in particular his fairly recent discussion of it with some Methodists (?) in Chicago, can be inferred to have been just as useful in promoting “evolution [as] a foundational scientific truth” [though I’m a little skeptical of the apparent view of it there as a virtual absolute] as has the Clergy Letter Project for the same goal. Given the apparent commonality of that goal, at least in broad terms, I would think that similar standards of usefulness and evidence thereof might be appropriate.

              • Microraptor
                Posted October 23, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

                You missed something, Steersman.

                Look at books on evolution- we have titles like Why Evolution Is True or The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence for Evolution.

                Think about that for a moment. Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne are both asking people to accept that evolution is a real thing. But there’s a little more to it- they’re showing the evidence that supports their argument. They’re not just saying that evolution is true and you should believe in it because they say so and they’re famous scientists. They’re saying that here’s all these things that we can observe in the real world that show that evolution does, in fact, work perfectly well and you can see it for yourself.

                Contrast this to the clergy project- a bunch of people signed a letter stating that it’s okay to believe in evolution. Whoop de f-ing do. That’s every bit as compelling an argument as “I (famous sports star) say you should buy this brand of soda.” It’s no different than the Disco Institute’s 1000 “scientists” who don’t believe in evolution paper. It’s nothing but a bunch of names telling you that you should believe something just because they say so. And that is a bad argument regardless of what you’re trying to say. At best you’ll just end up with a bunch of people parroting your opinion despite not understanding it in the slightest.

                And as for your inferred effect, sorry, but that does not pass go and does not collect $200. You haven’t shown anything that actually supports your claim that it’s working, you’ve just shown that you want it to work. That is not, repeat NOT evidence.

              • Steersman
                Posted October 25, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

                Microraptor (take 2):

                Since my last post on the topic may have disappeared into the Twilight Zone, here’s a shorter version:

                But regarding that evidence for “contributing significantly to the dissemination and teaching of evolution”, and since you seem to be from Missouri, this Wikipedia article describes what I think are some positive and tangible contributions along that line:

                Zimmerman worked with local clergy in Wisconsin to get clergy to sign this letter, and within a few weeks he had collected almost 200 clergy signatures. The signed letter was delivered to the Grantsburg School Board on December 16, 2004. This effort, together with those of other concerned groups of educators, citizens and scientists, lead the Grantsburg School Board to rescind its policies [some anti-evolution policies passed in the summer of 2004].

                The Project also encourages congregations to participate Evolution Weekend by sponsoring events in which clergy and congregations are encouraged to learn about and discuss evolution.

                And relative to that “Evolution Weekend” – which I see has been held every year for the last six years so it is presumably providing some tangible benefits associated with its objectives, Panda’s Thumb argued that: “The Clergy Letter Project is terribly important because it counters the view that evolution is inherently atheistic, and the signers of the document are the natural allies of us who want to promote good science education and keep all species of creationism out of the public schools and indeed out of the public agenda.”

                In addition I see – in amongst some 33,000 Google references to Evolution Weekend – that the Texas Freedom Network [an “organization (that) has been instrumental in defeating initiatives backed by the religious right in Texas, including private school vouchers and textbook censorship at the Texas State Board of Education”] has endorsed the Clergy Letter Project and had partnered with them in promoting knowledge and understanding of evolution.

                Looks to me like some credible evidence of the CLP “contributing to the dissemination and teaching of evolution”. For further evidence I would suggest you might want to read further in the Wikipedia article, for starters, along with checking into the other Google links.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 22, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      Embed failure, follow link: *DOOMED*.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted October 22, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

        I’m guessing that’s Accommodationist Rodent & not AccommodationistCat in your pic. I’m wid de cat.

  4. Posted October 22, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Michael Zimmerman isn’t a physicist. He’s a biologist.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted October 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      Yep, you’re right: he has a Ph.D. in ecology. I’ve corrected his profession.

  5. Posted October 22, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Of course, people who believe in the supernatural have been brainwashed sometime in their lives. But, we secular humanists are in a critical battle to save the nation from religious radicals. We need all the moderate religious groups on our side to protect us, themselves, and the constitution. We don’t have to agree with everything they believe and they don’t have to agree with us. We need all the help we can get. Please lighten up on them.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Why and how is it “critical”?

      It would be much better to engage what amounts to open fascists in US, say O’Reilly, than to whine when atheists (or skeptics) goes after the anti-scientism of accommodationists.

      [Yes, we do decry O'Reilly too.]

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted October 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      You’re worried that religious liberals will suddenly start voting Republican if Jerry doesn’t stop referring to the virgin birth and the resurrection as fairy tales? I don’t see how that even remotely follows.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 22, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Shouldn’t that be “harmless at best“?

    • Steersman
      Posted October 23, 2011 at 1:04 am | Permalink

      Mostly harmless?

  7. Torbjorn Larsson, OM
    Posted October 22, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Good Caturday topic. I especially like how Creationist Cat iz engaged in “peer” review.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted October 22, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      pun?

  8. Posted October 22, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    The doubt that surfaced when researchers reported that neutrinos seems to move faster than the speed of light instantiated the pervasive doubt and criticality of scientists.

    Don’t think this example makes your point. When a result appeared that contradicted consensus opinion (the C speed limit), scientists questioned the evidence and remained firm in their opinion about the Doctrine. (Theory? What word would you like?) Which was no doubt the right thing to do.

    Christians do debate all the time about the meaning of this that and the other scripture … pointing this out is known as “The Courtier’s Reply.”

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      The difference, of course, is that in one the issue will be decided by evidence. I doubt that will be the case with, say, premillennialism vs. postmillennialism.

      The issue about superluminal neutrinos isn’t the old guard clinging to a theory, but a particular instance of an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary evidence.

      • Posted October 22, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        Au contraire, if either is true then there will be a fact of the matter.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 22, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

          That’s one heck of an IF, Marshall. Any suggestion for an experiment that might give us posterior probabilities that one or other happens to be true? Or just take either on faith until the Big Day arrives?

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 22, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

          For that matter, what do you figure are the “prior probabilities” on the premillennial/postmillennial dispute? (Just set a “morning line” like a cagey bookmaker: Maybe 6-to-5/pick ‘em?)

          Scriptural exegesis on the topic by the theologically-inclined quickly devolves into angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin sophistry — or, as it’s known around here, “just making stuff up.”

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 22, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      Also, I thought “The Courtier’ Reply” was the complaint by the pro-religious that the other side hasn’t studied theology in all its permutations, so therefore lacks the knowledge base necessary to lodge its criticisms?

      • Steersman
        Posted October 22, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        Seems to be largely the case, although some – Edward Feser for example – attempt to justify that response through a hypothetical role reversal. Which, at least in Feser’s exposition, doesn’t wash in the slightest since the subject matters under discussion in each case – Aristotelian-Thomist [A-T] metaphysics and empirical science – aren’t even apples and oranges, but more like the differences between astrology and astronomy or between Ptolemaic and Copernican cosmologies.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 22, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

          Seems to me that the key distinction is the level at which the criticism is being made. “The Courtier’s Reply,” under my understanding of it described above, is invalid because the anti-religion side rejects the entire enterprise of religion as an alternative means for obtaining knowledge.

          By the same token, if the religionists were rejecting the Scientific Method — rather than, say, natural selection or a particular interpretation of quantum mechanics — they shouldn’t be expected to have a foundational knowledge in those fields (just as, if I were challenging the concept of, say, “grace” the Courtier’s Reply that I had an insufficient foundation in theology would be valid).

          • Steersman
            Posted October 23, 2011 at 12:50 am | Permalink

            Seems to me that the key distinction is the level at which the criticism is being made.

            Not quite sure that I follow what you mean by “level”. But maybe relative to your “rejects the entire enterprise of religion”, it seems like the key difference which justifies the different responses – as in the case of the difference between astrology and astronomy – is the evidence, the predictability of events based on the hypotheses presented. In which regard Aristotelian-Thomist metaphysics is as naked as the day it was born – more or less, except for a few tattered threads, mostly from Aristotle, that may still be of some utility; on the other hand, modern day physics and science and all, or almost all, of its progeny are clothed in glory – so to speak.

      • Posted October 22, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        I believe The Courtier’s Reply was originated by PZ, who said that complaints the Richard didn’t consider “sophisticated” Christians can be equated to complaints that the kid who said the Emperor was naked hadn’t read the “discourses of Count Roderigo of Seville on the exquisite and exotic leathers of the Emperor’s boots”.

        Christians do vary in interpretation, and if you wish to dispose of Religion wholesale, I do think you need to consider more than Young Earth Creationists. Just as, if you propose a Theory of Everything, you are obliged to show that it works for Everything.

        • Posted October 22, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

          So…what, exactly? It’s okay to dismiss out-of-hand the claims of a child about the monsters under the bed because we’ve heard that one before, but we have to seriously consider the claims of his sister about a dragon in the garage because it’s a new one to us?

          I’m sorry, but it’s all pretty self-evident bullshit. If you think otherwise, please feel free to present to us a well-reasoned, well-evidenced theory to the contrary.

          Lacking repeatable evidence produced in a manner that suggests professional rigor in its production, any sort of significant claim is rightly dismissed without further thought. And, as the CERN neutrino experiment is demonstrating, even given such quality evidence, all is suppository until indepedently verified.

          Pretty much by definition, no religion comes even close to such a standard. If it did, we wouldn’t be calling it, “religion,” and the charlatains selling the scam wouldn’t be insisting that we must have “faith” in them — they’d instead be publishing their findings in peer-reviewed journals.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Microraptor
            Posted October 22, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

            Or, as Christopher Hitchens so eloquently put it, claims that are made without evidence may be dismissed without evidence.

          • Kevin
            Posted October 22, 2011 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

            Yes, if there were even a shred of a scintilla of an iota of a mote’s worth of evidence, then “faith” would be the ultimate sin.

            “How dare you have faith,” they’d say, “when we have the evidence.”

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted October 23, 2011 at 12:46 am | Permalink

            Ben Goren: ” …even given such quality evidence, all is suppository … ”

            Damned if that isn’t a new use for “suppository” (the word, I mean, not the … well, you know …)

            • Diane G.
              Posted October 23, 2011 at 1:58 am | Permalink

              Yeah, Ben knows how to keep it interesting!

              There’s that double entendre we were looking for the other day…

              Tho it sounds more like innuendo. . .

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted October 23, 2011 at 2:01 am | Permalink

                chortle :)

    • Steersman
      Posted October 22, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      Christians do debate all the time about the meaning of this that and the other scripture ….

      Not at all the same thing methinks. And which is quite clearly enunciated by Zimmerman in that article. Science clearly has a great many more facts in its discussions and tangible consequences which can be objectively corroborated by experiments done by many other scientists in other locations. Religious dogma is, at best, limited to discussions of largely subjective interpretations of various stories and the degree to which they might be analogous to various psychological motivations and principles.

      • Posted October 22, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

        Goddists: “But what does it mean?”

        Scientists: “But what does it predict? And how can we test those predictions?”

        /@

        • Steersman
          Posted October 22, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

          Quite right. But, as a random noödling [:-)], one might argue that “meaning” has some value, some meaning of its own, unless one wants to start subscribing to the apparent nihilism of John Gray. Although subscribing to the meaning that the Catholic Church, in particular, is peddling is probably just as bad, if not worse. Bit a narrow path, a razor’s edge ….

          • Posted October 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

            Well, I don’t think I’m a nihilist, but talking about meaning and purpose in our lives seems so imbued with religious ideas that it doesn’t sit comfortably with naturalism or humanism. Rather than try to find value in the meaning of things, I’d rather look for the value in the things themselves.

            /@

            • Steersman
              Posted October 23, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

              … talking about meaning and purpose in our lives seems so imbued with religious ideas that it doesn’t sit comfortably with naturalism or humanism.

              Definitely somewhat problematic, but that seems somewhat related to an artificial and unnecessary restriction on the definition of “naturalism” due, in part, to an aversion to encompassing or incorporating purpose and final causality. In which regard Edward Feser, in his The Last Superstition quotes the well-known and well-regarded biologist Richard Lewontin [Jerry’s doctoral advisor, I believe] as follows:

              It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [TLS; pg 12]

              Feser regrettably and quite problematically insists on attaching the Christian Jehovah to that foot – which tends to vitiate his entire oeuvre – though that hardly seems to follow necessarily. But it is unfortunate for any number of reasons as it tends to preclude recognizing the obvious manifestations of that purpose and final (if not ultimate) causality in daily life and its possible explanations in the processes of the universe. Which also tends to undermine any consideration of what might be some worthwhile goals of humanism.

              Rather than try to find value in the meaning of things, I’d rather look for the value in the things themselves.

              Not sure that that is anything more than, at least in this context, a case of different words for the same principle since one of the definitions for value is: “Precise meaning or import, as of a word”. Generally seems that “people, places and things” have value precisely because they have different meanings for us, because they relate to the various goals and purposes we have in our lives. Apropos of which, Feser’s book is, in many ways off-the-wall and out-to-lunch, a virtual compendium of alchemy and astrology, but in this area I think he hits the nail squarely on its head (more or less):

              Finally, a complete account of the universe and of human nature in terms that make no reference whatsoever to purpose, meaning, and design is not within our grasp and never will be, for the simple reason that such an “account” is in principle impossible and the hope for it is based on nothing more than muddle-headedness mixed with wishful thinking. We can no more eliminate purpose and meaning from nature than we can square the circle. [TLS; pg

      • Posted October 22, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

        I tend to agree that religion is largely subjective, relating more to “psychological motivations” than “objective correllations”. “What does it mean”, quite right. It matters very little to my daily life what happened in the first few milliseconds after the Big Bang, whereas, rational or not, Christianity has helped me and others reorganize our lives in times of great personal distress.

        I do think it would be a Very Good Thing if more people understood evolution better. I think this whole thing about arguing against religion is a bad red herring. At best a waste of time. Just my opinion….

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted October 22, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

          “Christianity has helped me and others reorganize our lives in times of great personal distress”

          I’m certain this statement is true Marshall. So the truth or otherwise of the Christian religion is less important than the comfort offered by a delusion**? What brand of Christian are you (or were you) Marshall?

          ** or scam or lie or Ponzi scheme depending on the intentions & mental health of the particular theist

          • Posted October 22, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

            Is it a delusion to imagine that a television is a portrayal of life, whereas it’s actually a bunch of actors speaking lines, assisted by special effects geeks? Is it a delusion to imagine that a television is a theater whereat actors are performing a play, whereas it’s actually (roughly) light from a big liquid crystal sandwich manipulated by a varying electric field?

            Facts are all very well, but since we are sapient beings, we should also be talking about meanings, as Ant Allen remarked. A given set of facts can have many interpretations, some quite abstract.

            And yes, my own existential comfort is important to me. I don’t know why it’s relevant, but personally I was raised as a wishy-washy Unitarian Liberal, and these days I practice as a non-denominational Evangelical.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted October 22, 2011 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

              If people have to ‘believe’ a lie to give a meaning to their lives then that means that they should change their lives or the way they THINK about their lives.

              Living a comfortable lie is bullshit behaviour. It comes over in the bullshit meaningless words of yours that I’m replying to.

              Shame on you Marshall ~ twisting words to make lies true!! Just another liar for Jesus.

            • Posted October 23, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink

              we should also be talking about meanings, as Ant Allen remarked.

              Well, firstly that’s not my name, and secondly that wasn’t quite what I, um, meant.

              See my reply to Steersman.

              /@

        • Steersman
          Posted October 22, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

          I do think it would be a Very Good Thing if more people understood evolution better.

          Quite agree. As apparently do many in the religious camp as suggested by the Clergy Letter Project.

          I think this whole thing about arguing against religion is a bad red herring. At best a waste of time.

          It has its good features – although one has bend over backwards rather far to justify that, particularly in this neck of the woods – and it has its bad ones which are quite a bit easier to identify and attack. And the salient feature in the latter case is, I think, the literal interpretation that far too many people (IMO)– from 50 to 70 % of Americans depending on how you read the numbers – put on the stories in their “holy” books.

          Just my opinion….

          As they say, we all have one. The question is, or should be, what facts are put on the table to back them up. Which reminds me of something that was quoted in Massimo Pigliucci’s Nonsense on Stilts [highly recommended]:

          For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert [each with their opinions]; but for every fact there is not necessarily an equal and opposite fact. Thomas Sowell, American economist.

          • Posted October 22, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

            To speaking of facts, the facts I would like to point to are the effects that religious commitment has in the lives of many humans. Gnus seem to agree that there are indeed strong effects: they say “bad”, I say “powerful” and probably inevitable in this age of the world. Often misused, so let’s learn to use it better.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted October 22, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

              No. I say tell the truth. It’s simple you wordy lummox.

            • Steersman
              Posted October 23, 2011 at 1:15 am | Permalink

              I say “powerful” and probably inevitable in this age of the world. Often misused, so let’s learn to use it better.

              You may have heard of this book written in 1890 by Sir James Frazer titled The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion which “is a wide-ranging, comparative study of mythology and religion”. I never read much more than the preface as I was pretty young when I ran across it, but a memorable statement about religion was that, paraphrasing, “good men will use mythology and religion for good ends, but bad men will use them for bad ends”. Seems to me that all literal interpretations are largely, in that fact itself, the use to bad ends. And that largely the only way they can be used to good ends, apart from just as a factual record of what mankind has believed in over the millennia, is through metaphorical and symbolical interpretations.

    • tm61
      Posted October 23, 2011 at 7:21 am | Permalink

      I think the best example of sience accepting new, radical ideas occurred in the mid-1800’s when a guy named Charles Darwin proposed an idea that shook things up pretty good…

  9. Posted October 22, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Awesome blog. :)

  10. Posted October 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    This seems like a big straw man attack. First, the CERN-OPERA paper has not overthrown any orthodoxy. Most physicists say that the paper is wrong, and that nothing goes faster than light. Second, who are the creationists who say that a paper like this cannot be published? It would help to know who is being attacked.

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted October 22, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

      You’re not understanding the point of Zimmerman’s article. He is rebutting the claim that creationists frequently make that the only reason why their “theories” of Creationism / Intelligent Design / Irreducible Complexity is rejected by the scientific community is because scientists are dogmatic about their “belief” in time-honoured theories and won’t allow any dissent.

      The fact that the CERN-OPERA paper was published, albeit cautiously and with only the most tentative of claims; shows that in fact scientists are very open to considering that certain theories might be incorrect or incomplete; provided that sufficient data and evidence can be found to support the new theory and provided it can be tested.

      The paper’s findings will be rejected only because it is shown to be incorrect, not because science refuses to consider that Einstein was wrong.

      • Posted October 22, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        So is there some creationist who claimed that a paper like the CERN-OPERA one cannot be published? If so, who?

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted October 22, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

          Um, Ben Stein? The whole thesis of Expelled is that any biologist who dares to question Darwin gets drummed out of the profession. It’s nonsense, of course. The reason ID enthusiasts get no career traction is because it’s unfalsifiable, content-free pseudoscience.

        • Microraptor
          Posted October 22, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

          The Discovery Institute.

          Ken Ham

          Kent Hovind

          Art Robinson

          Just about anyone who’s claimed that there’s a vast conspiracy in the scientific community.

          • Posted October 22, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

            The OPERA paper says, “We deliberately do not attempt any theoretical or phenomenological interpretation of the results.” Many (or all) of the authors do not believe that there is anything wrong with relativity. Are creationist papers on intelligent design supposed to be comparable to this? This seems like a far-fetched analogy to me, and it would have been better if Zimmerman were specific about what he is criticizing.

            • Microraptor
              Posted October 22, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

              Professor Coyne spelled it out pretty well in his original post. What part was unclear?

            • Grania Spingies
              Posted October 23, 2011 at 4:02 am | Permalink

              The point is authors are not being forced to say they do not think there is anything wrong with relativity. They just are proceeding cautiously because they realise they is a strong likelihood that their findings are incorrect. However, they are all quite prepared to investigate the possibility that the paper is correct. They are not being gagged or censured by the wider scientific community for saying something heretical.

              In contrast, the pro-Creationism lobby assert without any justification that the reason their theories are rejected is because scientists are all fundamentalist Darwinists who will not tolerate any dissent.

              The fact of the matter is that the exceedingly few pro-Creationism/ ID papers that have managed to reach peer review level have been rejected because they are just plain wrong.

            • TheBlackCat
              Posted October 23, 2011 at 4:55 am | Permalink

              Way to move the goalposts. Yes, those people have claimed that it is impossible to publish anything that could call into question “scientific dogma” (which is an oxymoron anyway). Whether the authors of this paper actually explicitly claimed they have overturned relativity is irrelevant, the implications of the paper are clear to everyone.

              So whether they took a firm stand behind the paper or not doesn’t change the fact that it is exactly the sort of paper that those creationists and many others have claimed cannot be published.

  11. Jack van Beverningk
    Posted October 23, 2011 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    Not adding anything to the discussion, but since ‘creationism’ was mentioned ..

    Next time a creationist starts banging on about those missing ‘transitional species’ .. you can tell ‘m they have been found:

    Give him/her this link: https://plus.google.com/photos/112838502596906088209/albums/5666281307995291057?hl=en

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 24, 2011 at 1:24 am | Permalink

      Compellingly repellent. :D

      • Posted October 24, 2011 at 8:23 am | Permalink

        Fantastic photoshop illustrations! Thanks. As you know, there is no such thing as “a” transitional animal or plant between species. Every living organism is transitional between its ancestors and its descendants if it lives long enough.

  12. tm61
    Posted October 23, 2011 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    If the Clergy Letter Project was a scientific endeavour, it would be a case of religion polluting science – but it isn`t. It`s a religious exercise, so if there`s any `polluting` going on, it`s science polluting religion – which is good – right?

  13. Posted October 23, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    The Clergy Letter Project is a small step in the right direction. Secularists need all the help they can get. If we are to convince anyone that supernatural beliefs make a good movie plot and nothing else, we need allies. Our best allies are moderate Christians and deists. Secularists have little to fear from them and everything to gain. Please cut them a little slack.

  14. Posted October 24, 2011 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    “This is quite a shake-up,” said Alvaro de Rujula, a theorist at CERN. “The correct attitude is to ask oneself what went wrong.”

    http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2406#comic


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