Loopy accommodationist statement of the month

Accommodationists will do almost anything to avoid admitting that there’s a conflict between science and faith.  For instance, the Galileo episode, which clearly involves someone being punished for contravening religious authority and scripture, is often fobbed off as merely a political dispute, an internecine squabble between religious authorities, or the wrath of a satirized Pope.  It’s always “much more complicated than a conflict between science and faith.” And so the real conflict gets buried in sociological and political nuance.

But sometimes it’s not more complicated—as in the case of creationist opposition to evolution. Creationist attempts to teach Genesis in public school biology classes clearly represent a conflict between Christianity and science.

Or do they? Not according to accommodationist Audrey Chapman, who has found a way to pretend that this, too, isn’t really a “conflict.” As she notes (reference below):

“Nor can the twentieth-century controversy between strict creationists and evolutionists be reduced to the scenario of conservative Christians opposing science.  Instead, the creationists, some of whom are scientists themselves, specifically oppose the social, moral, and theological implications of human evolution.”*

Now there’s a distinction without a difference! (Chapman, once associated with the egregiously accommodationist Program of Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion of the American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS], is now a bioethicist at the University of Connecticut.)

Did you see this part: “The creationists, some of whom are scientists themselves”? No real scientist can be a creationist; that phrase is there to buttress the pretense that the conflict is bogus.

The book from which this quote was taken, which includes essays by theologians and reputable scientists, strongly espouses a “dialogue” between science and faith.  But what would be the purpose of that? The only thing science can contribute to faith is the overthrowing of its tenets. On the other hand, religion has nothing—I repeat, nothing—to contribute to science.  Nous n’avons pas besoin de cette hypothèse!  Calls for such dialogue are invariably meant to give unwarranted credibility to religion.  Looks good on the c.v. for faith, not so good on the c.v. for science.  What we need is not dialogue, but a monologue, one in which religion remains silent while science tells it that there’s no evidence for its claims.

Speaking at another AAAS conference (the organization always has a goddy-coddling symposium at their annual meeting), Steven Weinberg refused to endorse such a concordat:

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

_________________

*The quote comes from p. 506 of Chapman, A. R.. 2004. Evolution and the science and religion dialogue. (Pp 4-23 in Miller, J. B. [ed] 2004. The Epic of Evolution: Science and Religion in Dialogue). The book gives the proceedings of a meeting held at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago under the aegis of the AAAS, and funded largely by (who else?) the Templeton foundation.

95 Comments

  1. Posted December 8, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    There can only be monologue or aside but not dialogue.

  2. Randy
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Is Ken Miller not a real scientist?

    • Posted December 8, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      I had presumed that JAC referring to Young Earth Creationists, Time Gap Creationists, or adherents of ID. I would think that Miller is a CE/TE person a la Collins.

      • Randy
        Posted December 8, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

        I agree that a YEC “scientist” is not a real scientist. And you may be right that this is what JAC meant. But I am not going to assume anything here. I really would like to hear from Jerry on my question.

        • whyevolutionistrue
          Posted December 8, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

          Douglas E is correct: I was referring to a young-earth creationist, Biblical day-age creationist, or IDer. In my view, people like Miller, though one could consider them “creationists” if you stretched the term (because they think God intervened in evolution), can still be “real scientists.” But this is a subjective call, of course!

          But why is it so important what I think when I say something like that, unless one is interested in quote-mining me?

          • Randy
            Posted December 8, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

            No, there is another possibility. Genuine desire for clarity. I have no intention to quote-mine you. I am a fan of this blog and would never do anything to misrepresent you. But I prefer not to make assumptions. Thus I did not want to assume you were referring only to YECs. If it were my intent to misrepresent you in some way I would have taken what you said at face value and criticized the statement. Instead I asked for clarification. That is all I was seeking. I am in complete agreement with the statement that one can’t be a real scientist and a YEC. The term creationist does not automatically mean to me a person who believes in a young-earth creationism. To me a creationist is anyone who believes that the universe and earth are the product of an act by a supernatural intelligence whether it was 10,000 years ago or 14 billion years ago. So to me Miller is a creationist, just not a young-earth creationist. I fully agree that Biblical day-age creationists and IDers, along with YECs, regardless of any scientific credentials they may hold, are not real scientists.

          • WML
            Posted December 8, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

            JAC,

            I’m a devoted reader of WEIT mainly because you consistently present your arguments very persuasively. But your reference above to who cannot be considered “real scientists” seems to me to be a rare exception.

            It isn’t difficult to identify accomplished scientists (including Nobel laureates) who believe thoroughly refuted nonsense. See http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Nobel_disease

            I don’t see why belief in the nonsense of creationism should disqualify anyone from being recognized as a scientist any more than believing in the nonsense of an Abrahamic religion should disqualify anyone from being recognized as a scientist. Scientists are people who do serious (even if not fruitful) science, not necessarily people without major blindspots.

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted December 9, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

              The Nobel disease list shows the usual statistics, scientists that are supporters of nonsense outside their area of expertise.

              The problem with YECers/IDers is that the nonsense is pervasive onto so many areas of science, because you have to “redesign” (YEC) or can “design” (ID) everything.

              A classical creationist on the other hand can’t be an open minded scientist in cosmology or biology specifically. Because observations sets the constraints, not beliefs. At best they can be proficient technicians.

              • WML
                Posted December 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

                TL,

                Some scientists who have narrowly-focused areas of specialization are often quite muddle-headed about topics not too far afield. Lack of appreciation of how evolution enables understanding of the big picture does not prevent some people from functioning productively as scientists. It just limits how much they can contribute to scientific understanding.

                I’m afraid that to believe in homeopathy as Nobel Laureates Luc Montagnier and Brian Josephson do is as preposterous and problematic as a Nobel Laureate believing in creationism. Montagnier and Josephson are real scientists. Understanding that homeopathy is nonsense doesn’t take much scientific expertise. But it is well established that intellectuals often embrace utter foolishness with sophisticated, misguided rationales.

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 9, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

                Some scientists who have narrowly-focused areas of specialization are often quite muddle-headed about topics not too far afield.

                Cf., Kary Mullis.

    • Posted December 8, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      Ken Miller isn’t a creationist. He is religious, but that doesn’t fit the claim.

      That being said, Jerry’s very close to a “No True Scotsman” fallacy here. There isn’t a clear boundary of what makes somebody a scientist or not, but I don’t see how one could argue science is an all-or-nothing endeavor. For instance, one could be a very good chemistry scientists, understanding how it all works and doing research following the scientific method, and believe that such chemical laws were created by a god in recent times along with everything else.

      In context, though, I think that makes such creationist scientists irrelevant to Chapman’s point. I agree that is impossible to be a young-Earth creationist and yet perform valid science in areas related to evolution (biology), the age of the Earth (geology), or the age of the universe (cosmology).

      On the other hand, that distinction is a bit of a red herring anyway. Chapman’s statement IS a conflict between science and religion. Perhaps more to the point, the fact creationists “specifically oppose the social, moral, and theological implications of human evolution” is either (a) the problem, or (b) wrong. It’s the problem, if true, because nothing among that list addresses whether is is true or not. I think it’s more wrong though, as clearly most (all?) creationists object because they believe evolution actually isn’t true, as it contradicts their dogma.

      • aljones909
        Posted December 9, 2012 at 3:43 am | Permalink

        Is Ken Miller a creationist? I think he is unless he believes that the evolution of the human species was a chance event and we are not made in the image of god. If he thinks god tinkers with DNA he’s a creationist.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted December 9, 2012 at 9:52 am | Permalink

        If you accept the accommodationist definition of creationism, obviously Miller isn’t a creationist. The whole idea with that definition is to pry open a non-existent gap for non-existent gods, satisfying an acommodationist’s belief in belief.

        But any supposed magic that “creates a difference” through a supposedly creative act that in the end needs to incorporate physical action, can be seen as creationism.

        Miller is a creationist, as is most religious people. That is after all a common rationale behind religion, that the world needs to be made by gods in some way or other.

        As for how classical creationists can at best be considered technicians, see my previous response to WML.

  3. marycanada FCD
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Sub

    • jimroberts
      Posted December 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      ditto

  4. Posted December 8, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Most so-called “scientific” creationists and many accommodationalists like to pretend that the proportion of scientists who are anti-evolution creationists stands to the proportion of scientists who are evolutionists like six-of-one stands to half-dozen of the other, when in actual truth the number of scientists who are anti-evolution creationists stand to number of scientists who are evolutionists more like half-of-one stands to six-dozen-of-the-other…

    • Posted December 8, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      I think you’re a few orders of magnitudes out there…

      /@ (back home)

    • raven
      Posted December 9, 2012 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      A bit off on your numbers there.

      According to surveys, acceptance of evolution among scientists in revevant fields is

      99% in the USA. It is higher in Europe.

      The few scientists who don’t accept evolution freely admit they don’t for religious reasons.

  5. Posted December 8, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    No real scientist can be a creationist;

    That’s not strictly true in the broad sense of “creationist” whereby a deist would be a creationist.

    On the other hand, religion has nothing—I repeat, nothing—to contribute to science.

    This is certainly true.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted December 9, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Certainly a deist is a creationist in the natural broad empiricist sense.

      In that sense _any_ supposed magic that “creates a difference” through a supposedly creative act that in the end needs to incorporate physical action, has to be seen as creationism.

      Deism is in dire straits. Eternal inflation is the natural pathway of most inflation fields. And it likely creates physical laws by way of selection, not deist gods. If eternal inflation can’t be rejected by the Planck probe data release next year, deism is dead in the water as a rational possible idea not in conflict with what we know beyond reasonable doubt.

      So it is by the existence of such examples evident that deism is no different in nature than theism, where the pivot point was whether or not physics likely creates universes (say by way of tunneling fluctuations). That died as rational possible idea not in conflict with what we know beyond reasonable doubt with standard cosmology, which readily admits such creation.

      A deist is not a creationist only if you accept the accommodationist definition of creationism. The whole idea with that definition is to pry open a non-existent gap for non-existent gods, satisfying an acommodationist’s belief in belief.

  6. Posted December 8, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Stonyground says:

    “Instead, the creationists, some of whom are scientists themselves, specifically oppose the social, moral, and theological implications of human evolution.”

    That is one of the big issues of this debate. Creationists don’t care whether evolution is true or not, their problem is that they believe that if people realise that they are no more than animals, then they will behave like animals. The fact that the citizens of evolution believing, non-religious countries behave better, on average, than the citizens of creationism believing countries, doesn’t seem to make a dent in their synthetic reality. Maybe their problem is that, apart from humans, no animal has been stupid enough to invent organised religion.

    • John Marley
      Posted December 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      if people realise that they are no more than animals, then they will behave like animals.

      Slightly OT, but this phrase really irritates me.

      “Animals” is not a monolithic category of behavior. And, ironically, I have heard creationists make this argument with one breath, then say people should emulate some animal behavior that meets their approval (songbird monogamy, for example*) with the next.

      I realize they mean that if evolution is true, then humans are animals, and not particularly special. I just find that phrasing to be annoying.

      *Which turns out to not be true anyway.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted December 9, 2012 at 4:58 am | Permalink

        Yes, we are animals, and we behave like animals. All animals exhibit differing characteristics – we happen to exhibit the characteristics of Homo sapiens.

    • microraptor
      Posted December 8, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      The fact that the citizens of evolution believing, non-religious countries behave better, on average, than the citizens of creationism believing countries, doesn’t seem to make a dent in their synthetic reality.

      Most of them probably don’t believe that that’s true (after all, if you’re going to be selective about accepting reality based on whether or not you like it in one case, why bother accepting it in other, similar cases?), and even if they did, they’d probably attribute it to religious people stopping atheists from doing all the looting, raping, murdering, and everything elsing they’d surely do the second religion disappeared.

  7. NoAstronomer
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Well I, for one, specifically oppose the social, moral, and theological implications of the laws of thermondynamics.

    There you go … energy crisis and climate change solved in one easy sentence.

    You’re welcome.

    Mike.

    • Dawn Oz
      Posted December 8, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      Thank you!!!!!!

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 8, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      :D

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted December 8, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

      In this house…

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted December 9, 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      Nice counterpoint!

  8. wildhog
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    I think you can be creationist AND a scientist, just as you can be a Jew AND a Nazi, or be black and support the KKK.

    The human mind has an amazing ability to be, well, insane.

  9. wildhog
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Im sure most here have seen this quote before, but its one of my favorites, so I cant help posting:

    There is no harmony between religion and science. When science was a child, religion sought to strangle it in the cradle. Now that
    science has attained its youth, and superstition is in its dotage, the trembling, palsied wreck says to the athlete: “Let us be friends.” It reminds me of the bargain the cock wished to make with the horse: “Let us agree not to step on each other’s feet.
    – Robert Green Ingersoll

  10. Posted December 8, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    As I have often said, it is possible for the human brain to hold two or more contradictory views, opinions, beliefs at the same time. It is easy, but not logical, to do this when these contradictory beliefs are so cherished or pragmatic that a person is unwilling to give anything up.
    A typical example is when fundamentalists take antibiotics and have vaccinations while still claiming the young age of the universe. Of course they are illogical, and totally wrong, but they are able to enjoy both the comfort of their faith and the health benefits of science. The illogic of their thinking is a minor problem which does not bother them.
    I expect we all have done this at one time or another. An example is: I understand there is no such thing as free will but I continue to act as if I have free will. I suffer no regrets, no punishment, no persecution, and no discomforts for believing in two contradictory theories. Maybe someday I will be able to reject the false belief from my thinking, but right now I am comfortable, living in a world that is demonstrably false.

  11. Scott near Berkeley
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    In related news, Marco Rubio backpedaling in earnest:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/08/opinion/blow-dinosaurs-and-denial.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&utm_source=buffer&buffer_share=024c6

  12. Posted December 8, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Instead, the creationists … specifically oppose the social, moral, and theological implications of human evolution.

    So it’s not that religion is incompatible with science. The problem is with the theological implications of science.

    And the difference is… ?

    • Posted December 8, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Two things can be incmpatible like a metric wrench and an imperial socket and neither be ‘wrong’ on its own.

      The implication follows that neither religion or science is wrong on its own, just when you try to put them together. Without science religion seems ok. Without religion science seems ok.

      When you look at religion and science comes into view you get to see that religion actually is wrong all on its own. _There_ is the difference. When you look at either by themselves they can both look ‘not wrong’ and as such have plausible validity.

      But wait, science is just a method of looking at the world, right? So to restate that: Religion and science are not incompatible, religion and facts are.

  13. abrotherhoodofman
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Theological implications?

    What the heck are those?

    Is that like hypothesizing what a pink unicorn stallion does when its balls itch?

    • MadScientist
      Posted December 8, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

      Make your simile or analog a metaphor and you’ve got it nailed: the theological implication is a pink unicorn stallion with itching balls. :)

  14. arizonajones
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Doing science does not make one a scientist.
    Having a degree from prestigious “Science U.” does not make one a scientist.
    Having accolades from Cern, Brookhaven or the Max Planck Institute does not make one a scientist.

    There is one indispensable attribute that is
    mandatory to be a legitimate scientist; intellectual integrity; the willingness to
    walk away from ones most sacredly held position when the evidence is to the contrary.

    Intellectual integrity is not something one hangs up at the sanctuary door when they walk into church.

    Intellectual integrity is not something a scientist clings to until some scientific idea comes along that threatens their personal supernatural beliefs.

    And intellectual integrity is not something one compromises to meet religious people half way.

    It shocks me that there are Phd.s on staff
    at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, including
    Dr. David Menton (Phd., biology, Brown University) and Dr. Georgia Purdom (Phd., molecular genetics, Ohio State University).

    In my opinion, if one has a science degree and has faith in invisible supernatural beings, they are not a scientist.

    Science does not endorse part time skepticism.

    • Gary W
      Posted December 8, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

      Doing science does not make one a scientist.

      On the contrary, “doing science” is precisely what makes one a scientist.

      I understand the desire to exclude from the ranks of “real” scientists anyone who believes something as preposterous as Young Earth Creationism, but it simply doesn’t make sense. It’s clear that many scientists, who do legitimate scientific work in their area of expertise and contribute to our body of scientific knowledge, hold various nutty religious beliefs on other matters, like the age of the earth or the resurrection of dead bodies. Isaac Newton was perhaps the greatest scientist of all time, but he was also a firm believer various forms of woo, including occultism and biblical prophecy.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted December 9, 2012 at 12:05 am | Permalink

        On the contrary, “doing science” is precisely what makes one a scientist.

        yes, exactly

        I understand the desire to exclude from the ranks of “real” scientists anyone who believes something as preposterous as Young Earth Creationism, but it simply doesn’t make sense

        …but then you fail to realize that creationists don’t do “creation” science.

        so, defacto by your own first statement, they AREN’T scientists wrt to ANYTHING relating to creationism.

        you don’t get to use your job from one field to make it seem like this authority applies to all fields.

        this is what creationists do.

        so, if they publish legitimate work in microbiology or geology, great, they can speak of themselves as scientists IN THOSE FIELDS.

        but they can’t label themselves as scientists when speak of their religious fantasies.

        unfortunately, not only do they claim to speak for science when talking religious claptrap, but if you look, they VERY RARELY ever even contribute anything to the fields they have their degrees in once they go down the road of claiming to BE creation scientists.

        the two, in fact and in practice, are not compatible.

        • Posted December 9, 2012 at 12:34 am | Permalink

          Thank you, fishy one, for summarizing the essence of this point. Behe would be a contemporary example: being trained as a scientist does not legitimize all of your work as being credible science. Unfortunately most lay people are mistakenly impressed by credentialed individuals affiliated with creationist organizations with names like The Institute for Creation Research and the Discovery Insitute, or the online Encyclopedia of Creation Science.

        • Gary W
          Posted December 9, 2012 at 1:01 am | Permalink

          …but then you fail to realize that creationists don’t do “creation” science.

          No, I realize that perfectly well. You fail to realize that the fact that a scientist believes in “creation science,” or some other kind of woo, does not necessarily prevent him from doing legitimate scientific work in some other area.

          useless and dishonest comparison, seriously.

          Worthless comment, seriously. If Newton was a “real” scientist despite believing in occultism and biblical prophecy, why can’t other people be real scientists despite believing in Young Earth Creationism?

          • Ichthyic
            Posted December 9, 2012 at 2:20 am | Permalink

            you’re really trying to compare Newton to anyone within the era of modern science?

            Tell, me, oh wise one… what were the influences available to newton at the time?

            It would make just as much sense to call Darwin a racist.

            if you don’t get this, you have a LOT more thinking to do to understand what “context” means.

          • Ichthyic
            Posted December 9, 2012 at 2:21 am | Permalink

            so… yes, worthless and dishonest it was.

            ….

            You fail to realize that the fact that a scientist believes in “creation science,” or some other kind of woo, does not necessarily prevent him from doing legitimate scientific work in some other area.

            right, because that isn’t exactly what I said in response, you dishonest git.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted December 9, 2012 at 2:22 am | Permalink

              here, let me quote myself:

              so, if they publish legitimate work in microbiology or geology, great, they can speak of themselves as scientists IN THOSE FIELDS.

              you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

              seriously.

              • Gary W
                Posted December 9, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

                so, if they publish legitimate work in microbiology or geology, great, they can speak of themselves as scientists IN THOSE FIELDS.

                The claim I am disputing is that believers in Young Earth Creationism are not “scientists” (or “real scientists”), period. If you think that such believers can still qualify as scientists in their field of expertise then you’re agreeing with me that the claim is false.

            • Posted December 9, 2012 at 5:03 am | Permalink

              Maybe not dishonest, maybe just sloppy. So… maybe not contemptible…

              /@

          • Posted December 9, 2012 at 5:11 am | Permalink

            Re Newton, this article by Thony Christie is insightful:

            For all those at the back who haven’t been paying attention Newton cannot have been a scientist because the term was first coined by William Whewell in 1833 and did not come into common usage until around 1870. …Put very simply Newton did not think like a modern scientist, …

            It is important to understand that for Newton and his fellow alchemists, which included Robert Boyle and John Locke, alchemy was an epistemic discipline that is a branch of knowledge like optics or mechanics.

            Christie deals with the Galileo question elsewhere.

            /@

            • Posted December 9, 2012 at 5:13 am | Permalink

              * oops… blockquote close fail…

            • Gary W
              Posted December 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

              Re Newton, this article by Thony Christie is insightful:

              It’s not insightful; it’s stupid. The fact that the word “scientist” was not coined until after Newton’s death does not mean he wasn’t a scientist, as we use that word today. It just means he wasn’t referred to as a scientist when he was alive. Newton is routinely referred to today as a scientist, and is frequently listed as one of the greatest scientists of all time, because of the breadth and importance of his scientific work.

              • Posted December 9, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

                Well, yes, Newton is routinely referred to today as a scientist, and is frequently listed as one of the greatest scientists of all time, but what is stupid is holding Newton up against the yardstick of a modern scientist in our present state of knowledge, and decrying him for participating in what to us are pseudoscience and supernaturalist woo but were for him and his contemporaries – pre-Lavousier, pre-Dalton, pre-Rutherford, pre-Darwin, &c., &c. – perfectly legitimate and intellectually respectable pursuits.

                /@

              • Gary W
                Posted December 9, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

                Well, yes, Newton is routinely referred to today as a scientist, and is frequently listed as one of the greatest scientists of all time, but what is stupid is holding Newton up against the yardstick of a modern scientist in our present state of knowledge, and decrying him for participating in what to us are pseudoscience and supernaturalist woo but were for him and his contemporaries

                There’s nothing stupid about it. Newton’s interest in certain aspects of alchemy may have been justified, because no one understood the atomic nature of matter and hence the impossibility of converting one element into another chemically.

                But Newton’s beliefs in things like occultism, “sacred wisdom” and biblical prophecy were pure woo. He had no rational basis for them, just as contemporary scientists have no rational basis for believing in YEC.

              • Posted December 9, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

                Hmm… I’m not sure you understand the state of (the philosophy of) “science” in Newton’s time. Again, you’re using modern criteria, given our present state of knowledge, to judge Newton. There was a good reason I included “pre-Darwin” in that list.

                Furthermore, Newton’s belief in all those things was by no means on the same footing as a contemporary scientist’s belief in YEC, which is not simply without rational basis, but which is vehemently falsified by mountains of evidence (some literal!) and consilience between different scientific disciplines.

                /@

              • Gary W
                Posted December 9, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

                Again, you’re using modern criteria, given our present state of knowledge, to judge Newton.

                No I’m not. I’m using the criteria of his own time. Why was Newton’s belief in biblical prophecy, or his belief that he had been specially chosen by God to interpret the Bible, rational in his own time?

                Furthermore, Newton’s belief in all those things was by no means on the same footing as a contemporary scientist’s belief in YEC, which is not simply without rational basis but which is vehemently falsified by mountains of evidence (some literal!) and consilience between different scientific disciplines.

                We don’t have mountains of evidence falsifying the belief that there is a china teapot orbiting the sun in the asteroid belt, but I’m pretty sure that belief would be considered rather crazy by most scientists, just like YEC.

              • Posted December 9, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

                So, which criteria were they?

                Your allusion to Russell is noted, but that’s not on the same footing as YEC either.

                /@

              • Gary W
                Posted December 9, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

                So, which criteria were they?

                Reason and empirical evidence.

                Your allusion to Russell is noted, but that’s not on the same footing as YEC either.

                By the criteria of science and reason, both YEC and orbiting china teapots are wildly implausible. Belief in either of them is highly irrational. So why may someone who believes in the latter still be considered a “real scientist,” but not someone who believes in the former?

              • Posted December 13, 2012 at 3:48 am | Permalink

                Again, you’ve got your modern thinking head on. Reason and empirical evidence did not yet have the pre-emininence they now have.

                Well, no-one does! But I think you’ve got the point exactly backwards. YEC is far less plausible than Russell’s teapot, because we don’t have mountains of evidence that contradict the existence of such a teapot. (What if Russell had said “camera” rather than “teapot”?!)

                /@

      • Ichthyic
        Posted December 9, 2012 at 12:06 am | Permalink

        Isaac Newton was perhaps the greatest scientist of all time, but he was also a firm believer various forms of woo, including occultism and biblical prophecy.

        useless and dishonest comparison, seriously.

  15. guilherme21msa
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    If you do research you will see that there are more scientists who believe in alien abductions than scientists who believe in creationism.

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Alien_abduction

    • MadScientist
      Posted December 8, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

      The creationists are already attempting to rectify the situation by collecting science degrees. Perhaps in another 4 years or so the scientists who believe in creationism will outnumber the scientists who believe in alien abductions.

      • guilherme21msa
        Posted December 9, 2012 at 5:30 am | Permalink

        Erm… the same thing goes for people who believe in alien abductions.

        PZ Myers had a great idea for dealing with creationists who just want to get degrees in biology to make their position seem justified. Make the creationist do work that deals specifically with evolution in his thesis. When he starts to prattle that evolution is a lie, print a copy of his thesis and ask him “if there is no evolution, then how come you wrote an entire thesis about molecular evolution?”

        Or something like that.

      • raven
        Posted December 9, 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        That is going to be a tough one.

        US alien abductees are common. There are 15 million, 5% of the population.

  16. Derek
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Chapman – “Nor can the twentieth-century controversy between strict creationists and evolutionists be reduced to the scenario of conservative Christians opposing science.”
    She would do well to read Kitzmiller v. Dover (or Marco Rubio) before repeating that statement.

  17. kelskye
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    It reminds me of something Hector Avalos said about creationism:
    “One understands nothing about creationism unless one understands that it is meant to be a system of ethics. That is why the assault on evolution has always included a lengthy history of moral judgments against evolution.”

  18. MadScientist
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    See – the nice creationists don’t oppose science – they only oppose that nasty evilution stuff! I wonder if that sort of stupid statement is a form of Stockholm Syndrome. Well, whether it’s a form of Stockholm Syndrome or not isn’t really relevant – the fact is accommodationists tend to say the dumbest things. face .. palm .. desk ..

  19. stephanie
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    It’s interesting to me that the word “Genesis” is very similar to “Genetics”.

    • Posted December 9, 2012 at 4:58 am | Permalink

      Maybe not surprising… 

      genesis : ORIGIN late Old English , via Latin from Greek, ‘generation, creation, nativity, horoscope,’ from the base of gignesthai ‘be born or produced.’ The name was given to the first book of the Old Testament in the Greek translation (the Septuagint), hence in the Latin translation (the Vulgate).

      genetic : ORIGIN mid 19th cent. (sense 2 [of or relating to origin; arising from a common origin]) : from genesis , on the pattern of pairs such as antithesis, antithetic.

      — NOAD

      However, “genetics” in biology is really from “gene” which has a different origin:

      gene : ORIGIN early 20th cent.: from German Gen, from Pangen, a supposed ultimate unit of heredity (from Greek pan- ‘all’ + genos ‘race, kind, offspring’ ).

      Nevertheless, the Greek roots are undoubtedly related.

      /@

  20. Ichthyic
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    “Nor can the twentieth-century controversy between strict creationists and evolutionists be reduced to the scenario of conservative Christians opposing science. Instead, the creationists, some of whom are scientists themselves, specifically oppose the social, moral, and theological implications of human evolution.

    *thinks about Bobby Jindal’s attempts to use the voucher system in his state to teach creationism*

    oh yeah, this is SOOOO accurate… not.

    chapman is dangerously delusional.

  21. pilgrimpater
    Posted December 9, 2012 at 3:03 am | Permalink

    The bottom line is that you can be a true scientist while also being a YEC.
    However, for me, they fall under only two categories:-
    1) The scientific qualification is totally unrelated to anything pertaining to the age of the Earth and/or The Earth’s Biodoversity e.g. Hensy Morris whose expertise was in Hydraulic Engineering. If your degree is in an unrelated subject then somebody with no degree is as equally qualified.
    2) The scientific qualification IS relevant but any peer reviewed papers have not actually proved an instant creation and/or young earth nor disproved evolution and/or an old Earth. A good example would be Stephen Myers (& i’m sorry Stephen but books don’t count).

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted December 9, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      Claiming something doesn’t make it so.

      C&P my previous analysis:

      The problem with YECers/IDers is that the nonsense is pervasive onto so many areas of science, because you have to “redesign” (YEC) or can “design” (ID) everything.

      In a lot of sciences the biblical history of the Earth creeps in _somewhere_.

      For “Hydraulic Engineering” it is when making a flood geology, you can’t do that and keep the science. In other cases it is the light speed that has to be revamped, so everything relativistic goes out the window. I.e. you can keep some classical approximations (but not fluid physics, apparently).

      And so on.

      As for 2), as the usual saying goes: “creationists may make good technicians”. But that ain’t science, the open quest for knowledge solely based on observational constraint.

      • Gary W
        Posted December 9, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

        In a lot of sciences the biblical history of the Earth creeps in _somewhere_.

        Yes, but in a lot of sciences, it doesn’t. I don’t see why YEC necessarily conflicts with computer science or child psychology, for example. And even for sciences that are in conflict with YEC *somewhere*, that doesn’t preclude legitimate scientific work by a YECist in some non-conflicting area of their science.

        If someone has valid scientific credentials and does scientific work that is published and reviewed and accepted in accordance with the usual standards and practises for his field, I don’t see what reasonable basis there is for denying that he is, in fact, a scientist, regardless of what irrational beliefs he may hold about other things.

        • Posted December 9, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

          Haldane: “My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course… I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world.”

          I imagine that Jerry considers such intellectual honesty a defining characteristic of a (true) scientist.

          YEC cannot be disassociated from other theistic beliefs, and those could certainly compromise a child psychologist’s work.

          /@

          • Gary W
            Posted December 9, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

            See below for response.

          • Gary W
            Posted December 9, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

            YEC cannot be disassociated from other theistic beliefs, and those could certainly compromise a child psychologist’s work.

            This paragraph needs a separate reply.

            Many types of belief “could” compromise a child psychologist’s work. Political beliefs, social beliefs, religious beliefs, economic beliefs, philosophical beliefs. We evaluate the quality of scientific work by the standards and practises of science, not by whatever other beliefs a scientist holds that “could” affect his scientific work.

            • Posted December 13, 2012 at 3:40 am | Permalink

              Well, of course. My point was that YEC is inseparable from a raft of other beliefs, including the privileging of faith, so that conflicts can arise beyond evolutionary biology, geology, cosmology, &c.

              /@

  22. Posted December 9, 2012 at 3:20 am | Permalink

    I think there is a sense in which many people don’t really believe what they purport to believe. The acid test is perhaps whether they are prepared to do something costly to their health or livelihood, such as crashing into tall buildings, on the basis of their beliefs, and maybe even that has more to do with inter tribal aggression than it does with belief.

    Some of my friends have some weird beliefs. But, since they belong to my tribe would never act on those beliefs in a peer interaction. Probably, that would apply to scientists too.

    Of course, if you are a YEC in a YEC peer group and your “science” is based on those shared beliefs, then that’s a different issue entirely.

  23. Posted December 9, 2012 at 3:39 am | Permalink

    Well, the Accommodationists have a point re Galileo. In that instance atheists often tend to selectively edit a very complicated situation to suit their own narrative (although there’s no doubt that on any reading of it the Catholic Church doesn’t emerge with much honour).

    But, as you say, the Creationists and Young Earthers are an altogether different matter. They explicitly disagree with science (particularly evolution) as being factually incorrect. As such, they cannot legitimately dodge the requirement to back up their claims with firm empirical evidence. And, of course, they have no such evidence.

    They must know this themselves (at least, the more intelligent of them must), so what’s really going on here? It seems to me to be a simple case of muddying the waters sufficiently to allow them to continue preaching what they preach. In other words it’s a tactical manoeuvre analogous to the one used by the tobacco industry and climate change deniers. Such manoeuvres can be effective for a while (sometimes several decades) but in the long run they seem to me to be doomed to failure.

  24. arizonajones
    Posted December 9, 2012 at 4:07 am | Permalink

    If a person claims to be a scientist, but also accepts the supernatural on faith, they don’t understand the philosophy of science.

    People like Galileo, Kepler and Newton can be forgiven for mixing science and superstition because they simply didn’t know
    any better. And many lived in societies, and at times in which non-belief meant persecution, prosecution, incarceration or death.

    • Gary W
      Posted December 9, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      If a person claims to be a scientist, but also accepts the supernatural on faith, they don’t understand the philosophy of science.

      I don’t think that’s true, and the philosophy of science, like most areas of philosophy, is contentious and unsettled anyway. We don’t require scientists to subscribe to some particular philosophy of science. We just require them to do work that is accepted as legitimate science by their peers in accordance with the standards of their field.

      • Posted December 9, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

        Haldane, again.

        /@

        • Gary W
          Posted December 9, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

          So you think it’s impossible for a scientist to honestly believe in God?

          And why should “intellectual honesty” in matters that are not relevant to his scientific work be considered a required characteristic of a “real scientist” anyway? If someone does great scientific work but is “intellectually dishonest” in, say, his political views, why does that mean he shouldn’t be considered a “real scientist?”

          • Posted December 13, 2012 at 3:33 am | Permalink

            Gary,

            I think they are referring to the ideal of the “true” scientist, rather than the messy reality of people who merely apply the scientific method to produce reliable knowledge.

            Just like the “true” Scotsman, as has been pointed out already.

            Clearly, your definition has more relevance to the real world, but they seem to be aiming for a Higher Truth. Though I’m not sure that I can discern what that might be.

            Yet.

          • Posted December 13, 2012 at 3:52 am | Permalink

            No, I don’t think that’s impossible.

            But if they privilege faith in non-scientific matters then they are not being intellectually honest. (I don’t think politics provides the same parallel.)

            /@

  25. Nick260682
    Posted December 9, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Social and m

  26. Posted December 9, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    If it’s not possible to be a Creationist and a scientist, it is, equally, not possible to be a baseball fan and a scientist, nor to be a stamp-collector and a scientist. In all such cases (Creationist, baseball fan, stamp-collector, etc), we’re talking about something which is orthogonal to science. Of course, Creationism is something of a special case, unlike many other things orthogonal to science, in that Creationist beliefs can easily obstruct a would-be scientist from doing science, whereas it’s difficult even to imagine how being a baseball fan might get in the way of doing science. This doesn’t mean it’s absolutely impossible for a Creationist to do science; rather, it means that a Creationist can’t do science in any field which the Creationist conceives to be in conflict with their Creationist beliefs. Show me a Creationist who works in a field of science that he doesn’t regard as being in conflict with his Creationist beliefs, and I’ll show you a Creationist who is also a scientist.
    So yes, Ken Miller is a Creationist. He just doesn’t happen to regard his Creationist beliefs as being in conflict with biology, so he can do good science in the field of biology. Steven Austin, he of at least one premeditatedly-designed-to-fail ‘test’ of radiometric dating, is a Creationist who does regard geology as being in conflict with his Creationist beliefs, and therefore cannot do good science in the field of geology.
    Basically, it’s a matter of compartmentalization. Those Creationists who can keep their Creationism locked away in a box, so that it doesn’t impinge on their scientific work, can easily be scientists; those Creationists who cannot or do not keep their Creationism locked away in a box, cannot be scientists.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted December 9, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      It is at the accommodationist point that creationism is “orthogonal to science” that your analysis goes balls up.

      The whole point with atheism sans accommodationism is that religion makes empirical claims. They somehow tries to forget that.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted December 9, 2012 at 10:29 am | Permalink

        Oops. “They somehow tries to forget that.” Accommodationists somehow tries to forget that.

  27. raven
    Posted December 9, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    “Nor can the twentieth-century controversy between strict creationists and evolutionists be reduced to the scenario of conservative Christians opposing science.

    Yes, it can. Don’t forget the Islamics who also deeply hate evolution.

    Instead, the creationists, some of whom are scientists themselves,

    They aren’t. They have science degrees, which they got as a credibility booster so they can attack science.

    specifically oppose the social, moral, and theological implications of human evolution.”*

    Flat out lie by Audrey Chapman.

    Evolution is a scientific, biological theory. It has no social, moral, or theological implications. No more than the theory of gravity does.

    And BTW, even if evolution did have moral and theological implications, it wouldn’t matter. Reality is what it is whether you like its implications or not. We don’t decide facts on the basis of their “implications”. That is just wishful and magical thinking.

  28. bernardhurley
    Posted December 9, 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    It’s always “much more complicated than a conflict between science and faith.”

    In the Galileo case there were complications such as a power struggle between the inquisition and the papacy. But in a sense this is irrelevant. Those who were on “Galileos side” supported him for theological not scientific reasons. The general attitude at the time was that theology can overrule science. It is only very recently that theologians have claimed there is no conflict between science and religion and that theology offers a “different way of knowing.” But I suspect that if they were in charge they would be singing a different tune.

  29. Ougaseon
    Posted December 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Creationists not opposing science? What hell else does being worried about the ‘theological implications’ of evolution mean than ‘I don’t like what science has to say about the likelihood that my beliefs are true’?

    • Rik Smith
      Posted December 9, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

      Exactly!

  30. Dominic
    Posted December 10, 2012 at 3:49 am | Permalink

    They “oppose the social, moral, and theological implications of” facts & evidence then.

  31. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 10, 2012 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    The quote from Audrey Chapman fails to understand that
    a) if you have problems with the moral implications of a theory that isn’t a problem for scientists- lots of different moral (and religious) conclusions have been drawn from evolution- science simply presents evolution as a fact without evaluating its ethical implications- as is also the case with science showing you how to build an atom bomb. If these things trouble you, it isn’t the fault of science, so yes by gum this a conflict between religion and scientists.
    b) If any creationists are also scientists, they must be astronomers or chemists- I doubt they are doing serious biology.

    The only possible dialogue between religion and science is one that fully acknowledges the !*autonomy*! of science allowing that science is never beholden to any outside authority (theological or otherwise).

    Past that I suppose religion and science can have a discussion about “method” (and hopefully get religion -construed in some broad Einsteinian sense- to radically reform its antiquated methodology).

  32. Shaun R
    Posted December 12, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    “No real scientist can be a creationist.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman


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