The science/faith wars are over!—or so says Michael Zimmerman

No matter how much conflict we see between science and faith, there are some people and organizations all too ready to assure us that all is well. This is especially true for those so desperate to get evolution accepted by Americans—and taught in the public schools—that they cozy up to religion, ignoring the fact that faith creates harms far worse than simple creationist intrusions into the science classrooms.  At least those don’t kill anyone.

Such accommodationist outfits and people include BioLogos, The National Center for Science Education, and, of course, Michael Zimmerman, a biologist and administrator at Evergreen State College who’s known for his “Clergy Letter Project,” in which he gets various churches to sign statements that all is well between faith and evolution. (I’ve written about this project before, and characterized it as “harmless at worst.”)

Zimmerman’s still at it.  In a new piece at PuffHo, “Peace breaks out in the war between religion and science,” he argues that the so-called “war” between religion and science is really a “manufactured conflict,” ginned up by both religious fundamentalists and atheists for unspecified ulterior motives. Moreover, he says that the war is over—peace has “broken out”.

What’s the evidence for the peace? He cites several organizations devoted to reconciling science and faith. One is the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which, to its shame, has an 18-year, $5.3 million dollar grant from the Templeton Foundation to “promote a public conversation” between science and faith).  What has this Templeton-Funded AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion done this year? Have a look:

On November 18-19, 2011 the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) are presenting three events at this year’s American Academy of Religion & Society of Biblical Literature (AAR/SBL) Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The two workshop sessions are entitled, “Seminaries and Science: Challenges and Opportunities” and “Seminaries and Science: From Principles to Practice.” During these workshops we will present the benefits of incorporating forefront science into theological education. On Friday night we will be hosting a reception as well. For more information click here.

The program lists six theologians and two scientists.

Zimmerman also cites the National Academy of Sciences which, also to its shame, hosted the award of the Templeton Prize two years ago, and has published an accommodationist pamphlet. Other signs of peace breaking out are Zimmerman’s own Clergy Letter Project, and organizations like BioLogos and the humorously named “Not Mutually Exclusive initiative“of the United Church of Christ.

I question whether the creation of a bunch of initiatives to convince the faithful that they can have both science and Jesus is a sign of “peace breaking out.”  Instead, it’s a sign that the war continues, and that a lot of people are invested in pretending that science and faith don’t conflict.  It’s as if the failed 2000 Camp David summit was a sign that “peace broke out” between Israel and Palestine. If there was already peace, why do we need all this investment of time and money by accommodationists?  It won’t work, because it doesn’t attack the root of the problem: the persistence of faith and superstition in America.

But here’s a scary announcement from Zimmerman:

. . . let me point to an exciting new initiative that is just getting started. Funded by the Templeton Foundation, this project will bring scientists into congregations with the goal of creating meaningful conversations about faith and science. The Templeton Foundation put up $1 million for this initiative, providing up to $30,000 to each of 37 congregations. You can read more about how some of these projects are playing out within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in a good article written by Susan Barreto. In summary, though, it is fair to say that the individuals involved will explore how it is possible to retain faith while appreciating science — without compromising either.

Note the part about  making sure that people “retain their faith”!  Why can’t science organizations concentrate on science instead of theology? It’s not our job to show people what kind of religion they should have. And, if what the Pew Forum says is true, it won’t work anyway:

When asked what they would do if scientists were to disprove a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they would continue to hold to what their religion teaches rather than accept the contrary scientific finding, according to the results of an October 2006 Time magazine poll. Indeed, in a May 2007 Gallup poll, only 14% of those who say they do not believe in evolution cite lack of evidence as the main reason underpinning their views; more people cite their belief in Jesus (19%), God (16%) or religion generally (16%) as their reason for rejecting Darwin’s theory.

Further, Zimmerman doesn’t seem to realize that many faiths don’t just deal with ethereal questions of spirituality, but with facts on the ground. He says this, for instance:

Thousands upon thousands of religious leaders recognize that scientific principles need not be compromised for faith to be honored. These deeply religious individuals know that they turn to religion for questions of spirituality that science neither asks nor answers.

Yes, but those people don’t need to be convinced.  And what about the millions of other followers—including all those Catholics who oppose abortion on the grounds of a nonexistent soul—whose faith not only requires that they compromise scientific principles, but compels them to force their belief on others (viz. Mississippi, tomorrow)?  Insofar as religions are theistic, they intersect, and conflict, with science.

So why do the “science/faith wars” persist? According to Zimmerman, both scientists and religious fundamentalists have an interest in prolonging the war:

And, yes, there are some scientists, who do exactly this [conflate religious fundamentalists with the "vast majority of religious individuals" who, presumably, are willing to acccept science]. They characterize anyone who holds any religious belief in the same fashion as they describe those who are dogmatic in their misunderstanding of science. Some of these scientists believe that science must lead to atheism and, while such a path may have made sense for them, it is demonstrably not the case for large numbers of other scientists and millions of citizens interested in both religion and science.

For those on both ends of the spectrum, the religious fundamentalists who mischaracterize science and the scientists who misconstrue the motives of any who believe in religion, there is value in keeping the war between religion and science alive.

I don’t know of anyone—and that includes the Four Horsemen—who think that “science must lead to atheism.”  Even the most atheistic of us think that science comports better with atheism than with religion, but there are plenty of religious scientists.  So what? They’re still fooling themselves when they do double-blind studies during the week and recite the Nicene Creed on Sunday.

And I don’t think many of us “misconstrue the motives” of those who believe in religion.  There are plenty of motives: fear of death, longing for answers, belonging to a community of like-minded people, and so on.  The motives aren’t the problem; it’s the results of faith.

Zimmerman invokes Ronald Numbers (who always exaggerates, I think, the comity between faith and science) to support his idea that the conflict is a manufactured one:

In fact, however, the “war” may never have been more than a manufactured controversy in the first place. As historian Ronald Numbers so evocatively pointed out in his wonderful book “Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion,” the view that there was longstanding and deep conflict between religion and science was “more propaganda than history.”

It’s not propaganda, for crying out loud.  We see it every day: in the constant fights against religiously-based creationism that spurred the creation of the National Center for Science education, in the political incursions of faith that is palpably anti-science, in the lies about condoms that the Catholic Church tells Africans, and so on. And there are these statistics from a Pew Forum Survey in 2009 (click to enlarge):

The controversy is of course “manufactured” in the sense that it’s a result of human thought and faith.  But it’s not “manufactured” in the sense that scientists and some religious people have decided for other reasons to pretend that there’s a conflict when there isn’t one. Let me tell you what is manufactured:  the idea that there’s no conflict at all, and the pretense that if religious people are told that they just have to tweak their beliefs into some “correct” faith, it would all go away.  That’s an illusion, and I think Zimmerman knows it. But he “manufactures” a false peace because he thinks that’s the way to get the faithful to accept evolution and the rest of science.

h/t: Sigmund

57 Comments

  1. Occam
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Zimmerman’s ‘peace outbreak’ reminds me of a Soviet-era Cold War quip:
    There shall be no war. But, in the struggle for peace, no stone shall be left standing.

    Perhaps I’m slightly jaundiced, because I’ve been sitting up till 4AM watching Angels & Demons, the Dan Brown blockbuster. Now the book was already impossibly silly. The film adaptation is extravagantly rotten. A fitting title would have been “Scientists and Catholics united in congress, but with the Catholics always on top”, most pleasantly so when Cardinal Strauss, the new papal camerlengo, admonishes Robert Langdon to ‘be gentle’.
    However, Dan Brown’s apologetic Vatican cluster kamasutra is outright heretical, compared to what Zimmerman is advocating.

    • Kharamatha
      Posted November 8, 2011 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      Silly? And here I always took the mad bomber pope so seriously.

  2. Frank
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    The last paragraph hits the nail on the head; this is a phony peace. Many years ago, I used to begin the evolution section of a large introductory biology class by noting that, while there are many religious ideas that do conflict with what science has learned, there is no BUILT-IN conflict between religion and science – sort of along the NOMA axis: what are the questions are typically addressed by science, by religion, etc. Eventually of course, I realized that, in trying to get students more prone to listen and learn about evolution, I was LYING to them. I don’t make that NOMA-style aside in lecture anymore, and I certainly don’t soft-pedal or avoid the obvious facts about human evolution, facts that at least the bright students will see absolutely conflict with Christianity (if Adam and Eve are a metaphor, wherefore Jesus?). Zimmerman is still lying to himself.

  3. Posted November 7, 2011 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    One system of thought says “pursue the truth, no matter where it lies”

    Another system of thought says “pursue the truth, as long as it confirms what you already believe”

    There will always be a conflict between these two systems of thought.

  4. coconnor1017
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I does seem that accomodationist hopes are a product of wishful thinking. They seem to keep alive the conflict they deny.

  5. Sigmund
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    The linked piece by Susan Barreto lists some of the things the Templeton cash is to be spent on:
    “The $30,000 grant will be spent in three main pieces — God’s Evolving Work in Creation for adults; in the Children’s Ministry; and for fall retreats for Junior High and Senior High youth. The Children’s Ministry at Trinity will be developing a new unit on “New Life and Creation”, one of six units during the year. Several retreats (fall retreat for high schoolers, 6th grade Masterpiece Retreat and 9th Grade Sexuality Retreat) will be enriched with input of science educators and resources.”
    That ’9th Grad Sexuality Retreat’ reminds me of one that was organized by the religious studies section of my secondary school – the school was secular but our religious studies teacher was a Catholic priest (Yes, I grew up in Ireland!)
    Anyway the event consisted of a lot of praying, discussion of the value of abstinence and chastity and various word association games that the instructors (who were all nuns!) decided to include for some unknown reason. Anyway, to cut a long story short, they placed all the boys in bedrooms at one end of a long corridor and all the girls (our school was mixed) in rooms at the other end. I can distincly remember creeping along the pitch dark corridor at about two at night only to bump into a sleeping body, prostrate on the corridor floor. At first I thought it was a pupil – only to realize in terror that it was in fact the priest – who was doing his duty, guarding the corridor, keeping the two groups seperate!

    • Sastra
      Posted November 8, 2011 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      Funny how the Templeton grant money is all going directly towards making the religious more scientific while implying that the scientific ought to be more religious.

  6. FaithInDialogue
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    I would argue that the point of the article was not to say that tension and conflict between science and faith don’t exist tangibly in the US, but instead to say that such conflict is unnecessary and not inherent to the two subjects.

    I find the PEW Forum Survey particularly interesting because it clearly shows that in every category more people perceive a conflict between science and religion than experience one. There are of course multiple possible interpretations of this, but a simple one would be that whatever conflict and tension does indeed exist has been exaggerated and propagated to religious people who otherwise would not experience it.

    Do you think that the religious scientists who are “fooling themselves when they do double-blind studies during the week and recite the Nicene Creed on Sunday” have compromised the value of their scientific work with their religious beliefs? Is their research necessarily tainted? If an honest and intellectually credible examination of science can validly lead to both theistic and atheistic worldviews, then some of the ‘accommodationist’ individuals and groups would be justified. And if not, then it would seem that the assertion is in fact that [quality, empirical, evidence-based] science must lead to atheism.

    If I’m off base here, help me to understand your position on science and faith.

    • Sigmund
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      “an honest and intellectually credible examination of science” is what ‘Answers in Genesis’ claim they do – leading them to conclude that the bible is literally true.
      “Do you think that the religious scientists who are “fooling themselves when they do double-blind studies during the week and recite the Nicene Creed on Sunday” have compromised the value of their scientific work with their religious beliefs? Is their research necessarily tainted?”
      Working scientists accept that scientists with different religious beliefs can do good science, however it is only because they are able to compartmentalize the science from the religion that this is possible. If someone actually tried to incorporate aspects of what is claimed in the Nicene creed into modern biology or physics they would get laughed out of the department.

      • FaithInDialogue
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink

        Yes, of course Answers in Genesis claim to be doing good science, but clearly by the standards of the scientific community they are not. They’re not the groups I’m thinking about.

        I didn’t quite get a clear answer to my question though. The question is not whether a religious scientist could start with their beliefs and end with valid science (incorporating aspects of the Nicene creed into modern biology or physics), but rather the other way around, whether they could begin with valid science and end with at least the intellectually plausible possibility of theism.

        • Sigmund
          Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:12 am | Permalink

          “whether they could begin with valid science and end with at least the intellectually plausible possibility of theism.”
          I can give you a clear answer to that:
          NO!
          The best a religious person can hope for is a sort of vague deism – which science (currently!) cannot contradict.
          Theism, which inevitably involves a deity intervening in the natural world, has no evidence to support it and is quite superfluous to the physical processes that explain the workings of nature.
          What “intellectually plausible” reasons does Francis Collins give for his theism?
          He saw a frozen waterfall and everything made sense in his head?
          How about Ken Millers reasons for believing in the immaculate conception and the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus?
          ‘Faith’ – which is the real reason any religious scientist really believes in their own religion – is not intellectually plausible (if it was, it would be called by a different name – evidence!)

          • FaithInDialogue
            Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

            So would you say then that “science must lead to atheism”?

            [And to be fair, Francis Collins does reference his frozen waterfall experience, but it's hardly the only reason he gives for his theistic beliefs.]

            • Sigmund
              Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

              Not necessarily, it could lead to deism.
              The sort of ‘sophisticated’ theism that is closest to compatibility with science is basically a form of deism or pantheism anyway (for instance that promoted by the likes of Michael Dowd.)
              The basic problem that religious people have is that their faith is backed up by the same amount of evidence as multiple mutually contradictory faiths. Indeed it is backed up by the same amount of evidence as a religion you or I could make up on the spot. Most religious people don’t realize this. They think that it is a verified historical fact that Jesus rose from the dead or that Mohammed flew on a winged horse, or that Moses parted the red sea. They get insulted when someone compares the evidence basis of these religions to a belief in Santa, the flying spaghetti monster or leprechauns, without realizing that this is a valid comparison!

              • Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

                Science can no more lead to deism than it can lead to invisible teapots circling Uranus that magically control the weather patterns here on Earth without leaving any evidence of their doing so.

                Science could have led to all sorts of theologies, if any of them had merit. But none of them did.

                For example, if there was credible evidence that Jesus enjoyed having his intestines fondled after he was tortured and left for dead, science would lead to the conclusion that maybe there’s something to Christianity after all. Instead, such evidence is perfectly lacking where it must needs exist, and so an honest scientist concludes that Christianity is no more real than any of the other indistinguishable religious fantasies of that time.

                All religious claims of any significance have been most thoroughly investigated. They’ve not only been found without merit, but either fundamentally incoherent or childishly foolish.

                Pretending that one particularly bland religious claim is less implausible than stories of leprechauns is disingenuous at best.

                Cheers,

                b&

            • H.H.
              Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

              So would you say then that “science must lead to atheism”?

              I would, yes. I don’t think there is any intellectually credible manner to arrive at theism of any stripe.

            • J.J.E.
              Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

              “science must lead to atheism”

              This is a pernicious rephrasing of the question. It is the wrong question.

              The right question is: “what does science lead to?”

              The answer is: “a provisional model describing an aspect of reality based on evidence and logic”

              As of right now, none of those provisional models include god. Indeed, whenever a god model is proposed it is either rejected due to being a model with poorer explanatory power (such models are called “fundamentalist” by so-called sophisticated theologians) or an equivalent but bigger model (these are often proposed by “sophisticated” theologians). We call the former type of model “wrong” and the latter type “over-fitted”. It is entirely possible (I agree with Jerry here) that a model containing some super intelligent being could have led to a different result (the best model requires the super being). But they don’t. So, while there is no a priori requirement that science lead to atheism, our observations so far lead us to prefer only models that possess sufficient explanatory power to justify their parameters. No data justify adding a god parameter, therefore no models containing god are preferred.

              • Tulse
                Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

                It is entirely possible (I agree with Jerry here) that a model containing some super intelligent being could have led to a different result

                The issue isn’t whether there could be evidence for “super intelligent beings”, but for an omnimax god with supernatural powers. Many folks, such as Myers (and I) would argue that the concept of this kind of being is so incoherent that no evidence is possible. (And, more specifically, one can never have definitive finite evidence for infinite power.)

              • J.J.E.
                Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

                So you see what I did there then? ;-)

              • Microraptor
                Posted November 7, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

                “And, more specifically, one can never have definitive finite evidence for infinite power.”

                What if an object with mass was accelerated to the speed of light?

              • Kharamatha
                Posted November 8, 2011 at 7:19 am | Permalink

                “What if an object with mass was accelerated to the speed of light?”
                Mathematical proof, I guess. I don’t think it could be measured.

              • Microraptor
                Posted November 9, 2011 at 12:31 am | Permalink

                Assuming that humanity’s understanding of the laws of physics are correct, it would also be catastrophic, as an object’s mass increases in an exponential manner as it accelerates toward light speed such that if an object actually did reach the speed of light it would have an infinite mass and require an infinite amount of energy to actually reach that point.

              • Kharamatha
                Posted November 8, 2011 at 7:22 am | Permalink

                I’ll note there that the equivalent of “mathematical proof” God is backed by amounts to, “urrr mrra, IS BIG and and big is BIG big!”, i.e. ontological arguments.

            • Tulse
              Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

              So would you say then that “science must lead to atheism”?

              Science leads to the provisional conclusion that the supernatural is not necessary to explain the world. I don’t know any religion that doesn’t presume some sort of supernatural intervention, but that’s the problem of religion, not science.

            • Sastra
              Posted November 8, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink

              Faith in Dialogue wrote:

              So would you say then that “science must lead to atheism”?

              Yes — but only if the existence of God is considered as if it were a hypothesis about what is real, and not treated as if it were either an expression of meaning, an ethical imperative, or a matter of taste.

              The fundamental debate between theists and non-theists comes down I think to whether there’s good reason to assume there’s a region of existence which contains empirical facts which need to be held exempt from the usual rules we apply to similar empirical facts. Minds which create through ‘acts of will’ fall into the same category as dualism and PK, not “it’s nice to be nice.”

              So where does one draw the line on which supernatural elements are ok and which are not, given that none of them can or ought to be considered likely in the first place? When believers reassure me upfront that their views are perfectly consistent with science, I’ve no idea what the Hell they’re going to present me with. You ALL think your views are consistent with science.

    • Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      Do you think that the religious scientists who are “fooling themselves when they do double-blind studies during the week and recite the Nicene Creed on Sunday” have compromised the value of their scientific work with their religious beliefs? Is their research necessarily tainted?

      Not necessarily, no. It’s entirely possible that they can compartmentalize the two approaches sufficiently, smoothly switching between “beliefs require empirical evidence” mode and “beliefs require faith” mode, and not getting them mixed up.

      Note that it’s also possible that scientists may end up compromising their religious beliefs for science. If you truly believe prayer works, why not pray for the answers to your scientific questions? Or for your experiments to work out? Why not take all your church’s doctrine and or scripture seriously?

      On the other hand, even if they have beliefs that compromise science on some topics – like inventing a role for God in evolution – it may not impact their science on a completely different topic. People can have all sorts of crazy, unsupported beliefs, not just religious ones, and still be perfectly reasonable in their own field of work.

      It’s just that we think religious scientists would be more consistent if they applied the same standards of evidence to the claims of their religion as they do to their science. This is not something that is dictated by science, but by philosophy and moral values.

      • FaithInDialogue
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        “It’s just that we think religious scientists would be more consistent if they applied the same standards of evidence to the claims of their religion as they do to their science. This is not something that is dictated by science, but by philosophy and moral values.”

        I completely agree that consistency is vital and its importance falls under philosophy and moral values and not science. Consistent application of values is something I think many groups in our society fail at. If abortion is killing a person and therefore wrong, what justification is there for capital punishment?

        I think the best summary of the difference between positions of faith and those of scientific fact is that faith positions put the burden of proof on those seeking to disprove the object of faith while science rests the burden of proof on the assertion itself.

        The validity of a position held because it has not been disproven is a subject that I expect scientists and religious individuals would disagree about…

        • Sigmund
          Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

          That is partially true.
          What you forget is that many positions of faith exist despite there being ample evidence against them and zero evidence in favor (for example the question of whether Adam and Eve were a historical couple or whether Noah’s ark was historical.)
          The whole evolution controversy exists despite the existence of overwhelming scientific evidence that contradicts the faith based position of evangelicals.

          • FaithInDialogue
            Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink

            And those positions, I agree, are on a very slippery slope for those exact reasons.

            My position is generally in support of those religious worldviews that value and seriously consider scientific findings. After all, if God did create the Universe and the minds with which we explore it, than it seems odd that his revealed truth would run contrary to his creation.

            • Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

              Unless he/she/it is malevolent or capricious or incompetent or an absentee cosmic landlord or there are multiple gods in conflict or…none of which has any more real evidence in its favor than the other options.

            • Tulse
              Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

              if God did create the Universe and the minds with which we explore it, than it seems odd that his revealed truth would run contrary to his creation

              Exactly, which is precisely why many fundamentalists argue that it is our interpretation of his creation which is incorrect. Clearly we are not using our minds the way the Christian god intended, which is to heed his actual words, and not be confused by our senses, which are prone to error in a Fallen world.

              In other words, your own dimestore theology has long been countered by those with radically different views, and there is no way theologically to resolve the issue.

              Don’t try to use theology as a justification for accepting science — it doesn’t work.

    • Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      Some scientists only follow the scientific method because they know that that is how you publish papers, not because they think it is actually effective at discovering knowledge.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      Is their research necessarily tainted? If an honest and intellectually credible examination of science can validly lead to both theistic and atheistic worldviews, then some of the ‘accommodationist’ individuals and groups would be justified. And if not, then it would seem that the assertion is in fact that [quality, empirical, evidence-based] science must lead to atheism.

      Now you are trying to cold read Zimmerman’s claim that “science must lead to atheism” out of the thread. The article however points out that “science comports better with atheism than with religion, but there are plenty of religious scientists. So what?”

      Do you think you move the pertinent point by returning to the strawman? The question we should ask is:

      “Is their religious practice necessarily tainted? If an honest and intellectually credible examination of how you can fool yourself validly to combine both theistic and atheistic worldviews, then some of the ‘accommodationist’ individuals and groups would be disqualified. And if not, then it would seem that the assertion is in fact that absence of cognitive dissonance, according to [quality, empirical, evidence-based] statistics, lead to atheism.”

  7. Posted November 7, 2011 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    If peace has really finally broken out, I’m sure Zimmerman will be able to tell us the outcome of the war. Who surrendered? What are the terms?

    • TJR
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Maybe it was just an Armistice.

      I think we should demand reparations and demilitarise the Rhineland.

  8. Mary
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    This recent desperate religious initiative of hijacking Evolution is deeply disturbing and shows how blatantly low they’re willing to stoop to maintain a strong hold on the thoughts of their flocks and protect their monetary gains!

  9. CJ
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    I’m sorry, but at this point, it’s not good enough to just say someone is wrong for calling the conflict between science and religion a “manufactured controversy”. The evidence is clear; that person is an Asshole!

    “The taming and domestication of religion is one of the unceasing chores of civilization”
    Christopher Hitchens

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      “That which can be an asshole without evidence, can be dissed without evidence.”

  10. sailor1031
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    There are no terms. It is just staus quo – and always will be. Religionists can agree with non-religioninsts on every aspect of science and yet will still add that one unscientific item – of course the whole thing has been created by doG and is just his will unfolding. Religionists can do exemplary science and still believe that what they are doing is unravelling doG’s ‘creation’.

  11. Jonathan Smith
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    I cancelled my membership to both the NCSE and the AAAS for the accommodationists position they take.

  12. Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    If you declare that you believe in Evolution because your pastor told you that Evolution really happened and Jesus won’t send you to Hell for saying so, you’re practicing religion.

    If you examine the morphological, genetic, lab-derived, geographic, fossil, biochemical, and other lines of evidence concerning the development of life on Earth and conclude that the Theory of Evolution by Random Mutation and Natural Selection is a reasonable explanation, you’re practicing science.

    Zimmerman is advocating the former; he’s a preacher, not a scientist. So are all the other accommodationists.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • CJ
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      exactly!

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      He is touched by His noodly appendix.

  13. dunstar
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    The problem likely is everyone’s general propensity for wishful thinking.

    Religion also has somehow commandeered the general good feeling of hope and they have mixed it in with their made-up mysteries.

    So when you combine wishful thinking and the notion of hope that is peddled by religion, it’ll be hard for the majority of people to realize that not knowing the answer to something is much better than just completely making something up so that one can have an answer.

  14. Stonyground
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I don’t think that having scientific knowledge necessarily leads to atheism, I do however think that it tends to. Richard Dawkins in TGD cited various statistics that showed that the more eminent someone is as a scientist, the less likely they are to believe in God. He notes that there are exceptions and that these outliers are usually regarded with bemusement by their colleages. All this certainly is a problem for those who would like religious folk to accept science, but I don’t think that it is helpful to pretend that it isn’t true.

    @FaithInDiologue
    “After all, if God did create the Universe and the minds with which we explore it, than it seems odd that his revealed truth would run contrary to his creation.”

    By ‘revealed truth’ I am assuming that you are referring to a book of scripture such as the Bible. There is no evidence that such books are either revealed or true. The fact that they are often in direct conflict with reality strongly suggests that they were not dictated by god(s) but are simply the products of a largely ignorant and superstitious culture. If you look at it that way it does not seem odd at all.

    • FaithInDialogue
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that’s what I was referring to and yes, I realize that. The comment was meant as a rhetorical question posed to religious communities that choose their interpretations of a religious text over sound, well-supported science.

  15. Hempenstein
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Perhaps, just perhaps, Zimmerman has grown weary of this and wants to declare victory just so he can move on. Probably unlikely, but not implausible.

  16. Steersman
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    One might suggest that the AAAS is clasping a viper to its bosom with that initiative, particularly as it seems rather heavily weighted to a Christian perspective. I really wonder how all of the other religions and faiths and non-faiths will feel about an international organization that promotes the explicitly literal cosmology and ethics and eschatology of the Catholic Church as indicated by this article by John Haught on the AAAS site under the Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion program.

  17. Jackie
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    “I don’t know of anyone – and that includes the Four Horsemen – who thinks that ‘science must lead to atheism’”.

    Maybe it’s time for gnu atheism to evolve.

    A couple of points from Alex Rosenberg’s “The Atheist’s Guide to Reality”:

    1)In light of modern physics, logically science DOES lead to atheism.

    2)We should expropriate the (formerly pejorative)term “scientism” as a label, to replace “atheist”, which connotes only what we don’t believe.

    • Jackie
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      Well, “scientism” won’t replace “atheist” as a label, but it’s good as a description of the worldview that atheists all share.

      • Posted November 7, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

        Having been “brought up” in the Catholic Church, I am very sensitive to being told what I believe or what worldview (whatever that is supposed to mean) I do or do not share with others. When I say I am an atheist I mean precisely that, namely that I do not subscribe to the belief that there is some sort of supernatural being that created and rules over the world. This does not mean that I am part of a “we” that is labeled “atheist” but may or may not be better labeled in some other way nor does it mean that I share something called a “worldview” with anyone else.

        I had enough of that sort of crap as a child, neither you nor Alex Rosenberg nor anyone else is going to impose it on me again. So don’t even try – it insults my intelligence.

        • Jackie
          Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

          I’m only on chapter three but worldview = big bang, 2nd law of thermodynamics, no god of the gaps… I really like his style. I certainly should not have used “should” in #2.

          • Jackie
            Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

            And Rosenberg’s arguments are much better than that last comment of mine would suggest.

        • Mary
          Posted November 8, 2011 at 6:44 am | Permalink

          I fully agree.

      • Posted November 9, 2011 at 3:09 am | Permalink

        Well, “scientism” won’t replace “atheist” as a label, but it’s good as a description of the worldview that atheists all share.

        No, it’s not. There are many atheists that aren’t “scientistic” or rational and so still swallow all kinds of woo… (other than the god kind).

        /@ / Barcelona

  18. Microraptor
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Ah, of course the religious advocate would think that they could simply declare the conflict to be over by fiat.

  19. Leigh Jackson
    Posted November 8, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Why not a DoSERP? A dialogue on science, ethics, religion and politics? To facilitate communication between scientific, religious and political communities. Seems to me that there are plenty of politicians who don’t get science at all. Politicians who think human caused climate change either doesn’t exist or doesn’t need to be taken seriously. Politicians who think intelligent design and evolution are equally valid scientific theories.

    Why isn’t a DoSERP needed? Isn’t the war between politics and science a phoney war too? After all, many politicians accept that anthropogenic climate change and evolution are both facts and theories. There are a host of political organisations who recognise that science and politics need not be in conflict. In fact, virtually all political parties do. All the more reason that the AAAS should be working explicitly to broadcast this fact too.

    The reality is that science does engage with politics because all scientists exist within societies and are necessarily a part of the body politic. Not all scientists are religious, however. Many are not. The decision of the AAAS and NAS to ally themselves with religious organisations who are opposed to the teaching of intelligent design in schools is a purely political decision.

    This decision leads to the apparent scientific endorsement of a religious version of evolution: theistic evolution. It allows some religious organisations to believe that their religious version of evolution is scientically sanctioned as well as being theologically sound.

    The Roman Catholic Church proclaims that unguided evolution cannot be true; a dogmatic contradiction of the scientific facts. Science finds no evidence that evolution is guided and that means that as far as science is concerned there is no guide.

    Einstein said that the absence of evidence for the existence of the ether together with his theory of relativity to explain the facts of electro-dynamics rendered the concept of the ether superfluous.

    That is what evolution does for the concept of the intentional creation of different species. There is no need to suppose the existence of God order to explain the existence of different species. As far as science is concerned, God (an absolutely indiscernible and intentional being) did not create human or any other distinct kind of life on earth.

    So why does DoSER exist? The compatibility of science and religion is a philosophical question. Individuals can legitimately reach different answers. Science cannot solve the problem. Philosophers of science have not reached a consensus understanding on the question AFAIAA. And if they had it would not be right for the scientific organisations to endorse them on scientific grounds. Science justifies scientific claims on scientific grounds, not philosophical claims on political grounds. DoSER exists for political reasons and AAAS and NAS justify the claim of the harmony of science and religion on political grounds.

    The elision of the antagonism between scientific evolution and theistic evolution by the philosophical and political positions which the AAAS and NAS have adopted for political reasons, undermines their scientific integrity. It does so by encouraging some religious groups to believe that their religious form of evolution is compatible with science when it isn’t.

    Thousands upon thousands of religious and scientific leaders have compromised their religious and scientific principles to create a bastard child: the pseudo-religious/scientific monstrosity called theistic evolution.

  20. Sastra
    Posted November 8, 2011 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Thousands upon thousands of religious leaders recognize that scientific principles need not be compromised for faith to be honored. These deeply religious individuals know that they turn to religion for questions of spirituality that science neither asks nor answers.

    The “questions of spirituality” still require that there be a realm of “spirituality” that needs to be checked for consistency with truth. Eliminate the scientific approach towards facts and you’ve substituted all the errors of subjectivity for the only method we have which forces us to check our certainties against those who dissent. The common ground is gone. Now it’s just the elite enlightened above the unenlightened hoard below.

    So what is encompassed within “spirituality?” Ethics? Aesthetics? Hope? Angels? Miracles? Any and all of these in any amount or order one feels like? Yup. Divide where God tells you to.

    Religious believers can only make room for their faith by chipping away at the areas they can share with those who have no faith. This is a problem. Not just a problem for the nonbelievers, but a problem for anyone who seeks to “reconcile” one part of humanity with the rest. That form of reconciliation ought to take place in favor of the science-religion one, because after all we all believe in the existence of each other.


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