Double accomodationist fail

Ceiling Cat help me, I’ve spent most of today rereading Francis Collins’s The Language of God and Ken Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God, both popular accommodationist books. (I reviewed Miller’s book, along with one by Karl Giberson, here).

Miller’s is far superior, largely because he spends a lot of the book dismantling intelligent design (ID).  (He also doesn’t mention C. S. Lewis, which Collins does repeatedly.) But what is distressing is that after decrying ID for relying on God-of-the-gaps arguments, Miller goes ahead and uses exactly that device when raising the “fine tuning” argument for God (“science can’t explain the laws of physics that make our existence possible—ergo God”), and speculating that quantum mechanics may be the way that God produces both mutations and free will.  It’s also distressing that Miller blames American creationism largely on atheists, without so much as a nod to religion.

“I believe much of the problem [Americans' rejection of evolution] lies with atheists in the scientific community who routinely enlist the material findings of evolutionary biology in support [sic] their own philosophical pronouncements. Sometimes, as we have seen, these take the form of stern, seemingly dispassionate pronouncements about the meaninglessness of life. Other times, we are lectured that the contingency of our presence on this planet invalidates any sense of human purpose. And very often we are told that the raw reality of nature strips the trapping of authority from any human system of morality.”  (Miller, p. 277).

Miller seems unaware that creationism long antedates public scientific atheism, and that creationism has held pretty steady despite the growth in the number of nonbelievers.  I don’t get his statement about nature toppling human morality.

Collins falls into the same rhetorical trap: both decrying and employing God-of-the-gaps arguments. His most annoying one is the invocation of God as the only explanation for “innate’ human morality, which he calls “the Moral Law.” At any rate, I’ve written about the flawed logic of these books before.

But this post, which has gotten longer than the few lines I envisioned, is merely an excuse to put up this kitten fail:

catfail_zpsb1a25dcb

And it’s such a spectacular fail!

72 Comments

  1. Barry Lyons
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Forget about Collins! We already know he’s a dingbat. Let’s talk about the kitten!

    That IS a spectacular fail. I expected to see the kitten at least make it to the edge of the sink. How strange that it totally misjudged the leap. Very odd.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 15, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • jesperbothpedersen1
      Posted August 15, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      In the words of the immortal yellow Homer: ” Aw, c’mon gravity! You used to be cool”.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted August 15, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      What it misjudged was its purchase on the slippery toilet lid. Watch the way its back feet go flying out from under it.

      • Reginald Selkirk
        Posted August 15, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

        +1

      • qbsmd
        Posted August 16, 2013 at 5:42 am | Permalink

        I’ve seen cats start to slip on a material like cardboard or metal, and respond instinctivly by extending their claws. And then because the claws don’t dig into the material but only reduce contact surface area, they slip faster. I would bet that this kitten tried to use its rear claws to increase traction just before the jump and experienced the opposite.

    • Posted August 15, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      I think the problem here is one of traction. The kitten doesn’t realize, and can’t compensate for, the fact that the toilet lid is slippery!

    • Posted August 15, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      The kitten didn’t misjudge the leap at all. It misjudged the traction (or lack thereof) that it would get from the seat.

      Good thing kittens bounce, or else they’d never grow up to be cats. Still quite distressing, though…even if it can also be funny…but only because they do bounce….

      b&

    • Notagod
      Posted August 15, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      It wasn’t a real kitten, that’s where the flaws are. You can know it isn’t a real kitten by carefully observing the landing. It’s cute like a kitten but so are a few of the christian babies and look what they turn out to be.

      It’s an almost fact (much more reliable than christian speculala-theory). Cats land on their feet.

  2. Martin
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Cute kitten fail is still cute, and the kitten will recognize its mistake and learn from it.

    What this? Science can’t explain the laws of physics? It certainly can describe them and give insight into them if not explain them. Religion, and god belief is powerless to do any of that.

    • Posted August 15, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      Besides, think about it. A few millennia ago, the gods were walking in the gardens beside us, personally smiting with their own hands those who displeased them. Then the gods moved to the mountains and the skies, we never saw them, and they did all their smiting remotely with thunder and volcanoes. Then they didn’t even do that, but they still had sovereignty over the distant past and indefinite future. Today they’re reduced to nothing more than fine-tuning the initial conditions, and they’re so far distant that they’re even beyond space and time.

      One might almost suggest that the total essence of the gods has remained constant over time, but that divine inflation has dispersed it so dramatically that it’s been diluted to less-than-homeopathic concentrations.

      b&

      • gbjames
        Posted August 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        Oh, yeah? Then what about tornados? God smites us with them all the time. Because of the gays, you know.

        • Posted August 15, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

          Oh, well, nobody really believes that sort of thing any more. Everybody knows Jesus is just a metaphor.</armstrong>

          b&

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted August 15, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

          Actually it’s well documented that tornadoes smite Baptists far more often than they smite gays.

          • zendruid1
            Posted August 15, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

            Tornadoes are Jesus’ Rapture Express Elevators. How else do they expect to waft themselves up in the sky and lose their clothes at the same time?

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 16, 2013 at 6:09 am | Permalink

          Down in this neck of the woods it’s earthquakes. Wellington had another fair-sized one today. First Christchurch, then Wellington, they’re getting closer. I really must stop browsing NSFW websites before G*d gets his aim sorted out…

      • Reginald Selkirk
        Posted August 15, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

        Today they’re reduced to nothing more than fine-tuning the initial conditions…

        You forgot about burning their image into tortillas.

        • Posted August 15, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

          Today’s more sophisticated gods prefer a different medium.

          b&

          • gbjames
            Posted August 15, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

            That dog’s butt looks like a piece of toast!

            • Posted August 15, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

              The LAST thing I think of when I look at a d*g — and especially its hindquarters — is, “Gee, that looks like something I might put in my mouth and find tasty!”

              b&

              • Grania Spingies
                Posted August 15, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

                And we’re all hoping that you kind of feel the same way about your Cat’s derriere too.
                :-o

              • Posted August 15, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

                <blinks /&gt

                <blinks />

                Eat? BAIHU!?

                Good lord, dear, how could such a thought even cross your mind?

                b&

            • Notagod
              Posted August 15, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

              I like that! Hoping I get the opportunity to present it to a christian. “Now when you look at this image do you see a piece of toast?”

          • Richard Olson
            Posted August 15, 2013 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

            Fer crissakes, I’m tryin’ to eat my dinner, here.

            • Posted August 15, 2013 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

              Sorry! Next time I’ll try to include a warning.

              For example, this link is perfectly fine and dandy will cause no indigestion whatsoever.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted August 16, 2013 at 6:13 am | Permalink

                Not indigestion exactly, but you owe me a new keyboard…

              • Posted August 16, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

                Add it to my tab….

                b&

            • Posted August 16, 2013 at 6:21 am | Permalink

              As you’ve likely finished dinner by now, I feel it’s safe for me to offer this image of our lord and savior.

              (“Holy shit!” is an appropriate response.)

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 15, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

        Sometimes they came down from the mountains in the guise of humans/animals and messed with us that way too.

      • Timothy Hughbanks
        Posted August 15, 2013 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

        … it’s been diluted to less-than-homeopathic concentrations.

        Shows what you know! Since homeopathic remedies only increase in potency with every dilution, the Gods must therefore grow stronger the more insignificant their role seems to be! QED

        • Posted August 15, 2013 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

          If that’s the case, then distilled water has to be the most potent imaginable source of…well…the urine of every animal that ever lived, for starters….

          b&

  3. Don
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Yo, dude, if you totally KNOW God is out there, he just GOT to be doin something, don’t he?

  4. Kevin Alexander
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    It wasn’t god who made that toilet seat so slippery.

    • Posted August 15, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      Good point. The d*g probably slobbered on it….

      b&

      • Kevin Alexander
        Posted August 15, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        Also, a baby polar bear would have made the leap. They evolved compensation for slipperiness.

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    So, according to Miller the Debbie Downer atheists are taking everyone’s happy away by speaking the truth and not providing an alternative fun universe that cares about you and provides a purpose.

    To this I say….so?

    I guess some humans can’t deal with the red pill….stay in the Matrix then but don’t bug the rest of us out here in the actual world who don’t see the necessity to lie about reality to get converts. That’s what religion does.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      I think I should get points for all the cultural references in that rant….also I feel sorry for slippery kitty.

      • Posted August 15, 2013 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

        There is no rant.

        /@

      • Dawn Oz
        Posted August 15, 2013 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

        Diana, you hadn’t even warmed up to a rave, let alone a rant! Matrix is a perfect analogy.

        • Timothy Hughbanks
          Posted August 15, 2013 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

          For a Canadian, that was a rant. 😀

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 15, 2013 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

            :)

  6. Kevin Henderson
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    “Ergo…God.” This always ends with “And God did it.”, but no further explanation. Nothing to proceed on. Never. But theists always pull up their own religious agenda to justification.

  7. Chris Slaby
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    I tried to read Francis Collins’s book a few years ago and couldn’t make it past the first few pages. It was just too painful, and pathetic. I was expecting/hoping for something more from him, and was just completely disappointed.

  8. jh
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Miller is really a puzzle to me. He is one of the best I’ve ever read or seen at picking apart and totally demolishing ID arguments, yet he can’t apply the same critical tools toward the God argument.

    Collins, despite his great contributions to science, is an embarrassment in so many ways.

  9. Dawn Oz
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Morality in well underway (how we live in groups), by the primates, even before. I think I’ll go for a scream now! Jerry, I’m always amazed at your dedication to reading, so the rest of us are spared the worst.

  10. Marella
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    If you’re feeling like a bit of “deepityness”: I heard about a “famous” medieval text called “The Cloud of Unknowing” which is a treatise on the virtues of ignorance. “The godliest knowledge of god is that which is known through ignorance.” I kid you not!

    There is a Youtube video of a translation of it.http://goo.gl/Qi55Ww

  11. pacopicopiedra
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Oh, man! I want to give that kitten a hug and kiss so bad right now.

  12. Ken Pidcock
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    (I reviewed Miller’s book, along with one by Karl Giberson, here).

    You damned sure did! This is the piece that launched the whole accommodationist blowback. No Seeing and Believing, no Tom Johnson. The host of this weblog website has, occasionally, pointed to articles that must be read. Seeing and Believing is must-read #1.

  13. Lyndon
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Okay . . . I watched that GIF at least 10 times . . .

  14. Robert Secatore
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Forget the text here>>>>>>> Take a look at VIDEO at BOTTOM……………………..

    Sent from my iPhone

  15. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted August 16, 2013 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    Friction fail feline.

    In other news, Miller’s attempts to open up a nowadays non-existent gap for gods are always laughable.

    - “fine tuning” … “science can’t explain the laws of physics that make our existence possible—ergo God”.

    Those are possibly two different arguments, both theological instead of empirical.

    - – Today’s standard cosmology has an inflation period, where Planck has virtually eliminated potentials that doesn’t lead up to eternal inflation. Unless other physics interfere, a multiverse with varying physics would be the generic result.

    Then there is no physical fine tuning for observed parameters and no religious finetuning for observed life. Famously then life appears where the parameters allow it.

    - – As for existence of us it may then depend merely on the existence of universes. I have briefly looked at how theoretical physicists propose universes spontaneously appears out of the quentum void, and there are no specific requirements.

    Instead of having particle fields and being based on action principles of those as the quantum vacuum, the quantum field (in the incarnation I found) is based on simply the action principle itself. And that in turn is derived in Noether’s theorems based simply on symmetries and how dynamical systems with symmetries evolve.

    So you have two very unconstrained physical dynamics.

    Quantum mechanics, which when looking at its unique features is likely the result of having a complete physics (no hidden variables, just a wavefunction over probable outcomes) and a minimal, so most likely, physics (minimizes the number of variables and parameters both).

    And symmetries, which can be the result of selection bias on randomness (an infinite random space will have infinite volumes of ordes, AFAIU) or universes as per above.

    And that is it. Universes will appear as pair “particles” akin to similar pair production, with the difference being that as they are zero energy systems they need no incoming particle for becoming real. The quantum fluctuations of the void suffice.

    “speculating that quantum mechanics may be the way that God produces both mutations and free will.”

    Free will is indeed a speculation here. But the overall idea fails on that quantum mechanics is complete, as already mentioned. No hidden variables so states evolves without information (probability) loss and fluctuations are genuinely random. There is no gap for agency.

    Too bad that creationists doesn’t laugh at their own antics, but believe their inanities are acceptable. But as Feynman said, or could have said, facts trump flimflam cargo cults. It isn’t enough to wave the paraphernalia of physics around to arrive at physics.

  16. Sastra
    Posted August 16, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    “Sometimes, as we have seen, these take the form of stern, seemingly dispassionate pronouncements about the meaninglessness of life. Other times, we are lectured that the contingency of our presence on this planet invalidates any sense of human purpose. And very often we are told that the raw reality of nature strips the trapping of authority from any human system of morality.”

    Translation: boo hoo hoo!

    Miller is pressing a lot of emotional buttons and avoiding the actual topic. This has actually been called the Argument from Boo Hoo.

    1.) If there is no God, then (sad consequence.)

    2.) Boo hoo: we don’t want that (sad consequence)

    3.) Therefore, we must believe in God.

  17. Marvol
    Posted August 16, 2013 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Of course blaming support for creationism on atheism is daft for the reason Jerry mentions; it also fails to account for two other observations:
    1) atheism is widespread and quite vocal in Europe – yet creationism is only propped up weakly by fringe religious groups.
    2) atheism is de facto nonexistent in the islamic world, yet creationism is pervasive.

    As these arguments come from outside of the USA they can safely be ignored by writers who write for a domestic audience that is by and large completely unaware of any world outside of the USA.

  18. lizard6849
    Posted August 16, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Ken makes it pretty clear that his religious beliefs are only his personal beliefs. He is completely on-board with evolution being the way species have developed through deep time.

  19. David Rosenman
    Posted August 16, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I pretty much agree with everything Jerry says about Miller’s book… Even though much of the book annoyed me, I believe that I have given away about 5 copies of the book to evangelical Christians. His arguments against intelligent design are devastating. He also does an excellent job explaining evolutionary theory. Sure most evangelicals are totally close minded about evolution, but if anyone can get through to some of them, I think it would have to be someone like Miller who isn’t hostile towards religion. It is obvious that those are the kinds of people he wrote this book for. He basically lays out the facts and then shows that you would have to believe in a god who was an idiot and/or a god that deliberately was trying to trick us.

    I don’t consider myself to be an accomodationist… my parents are evangelical Christians and I went to an evangelical high school (and was a Christian until about age 15), so I know many evangelical Christians. If I ever discuss evolution with evangelical Christians I usually mention that many Christians accept the fact of evolution, but I don’t go so far as to lie and say that I think that evolution is perfectly compatible with Christianity.

    • lizard6849
      Posted August 16, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      I would say that evolution is compatible with a metaphysical interpretation of the Bible (not a literal one). If you take the Bible as ancient people’s attempt to explain things they really couldn’t understand (Science wasn’t invented until centuries later), it’s very poetic and historically instructive in some parts. It’s Biblical literalists who have problems with evolution, not evangelicals in general. They are not all Biblical literalists.

      • Posted August 16, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        The Bible opens with a faery tale about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard. Where’s the metaphysical analogy of descent with modification and differential survival in that?

        And what historical instruction? As Penn has observed, there’s as much pizza in the Bible as history.

        b&

        • lizard6849
          Posted August 16, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

          At the time(s) the books of the Bible were written, they were written as much for political reasons, or to make sure prophecies were fulfilled, as to relate true happenings. But some stories, particularly about warfare, are basically accurate, according to historians. What I meant is, don’t take the Bible literally. It’s early people’s attempt to explain what they could not explain, through “faery tales,” and so on.

          • Posted August 16, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

            First, no, the history of warfare in the Bible isn’t at all accurate. It portrays the Judeans as the biggest badasses of the region, and we know quite emphatically that they were never more than an insignificant blip on anybody’s radar.

            But even that’s quite the retreat from your original proclamations.

            Of what relevance, save for sociologists and anthropologists, could the substance of these ancient superstitions have to modernity?

            Besides, if it’s just ancient storytelling you’re interested in, the Bible pales in comparison to its contemporaries, especially Greek and Egyptian. The Bible isn’t just cover-to-cover faery tales, it’s cover-to-cover fourth-rate horrifically repulsive faery tales.

            b&

            • lizard6849
              Posted August 16, 2013 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

              Hey, I never said the entire Bible is factual. Nor did I say all battle accounts were accurate. I was quoting a historian I heard who had investigated and found that some tales of battles were reasonably accurate, setting aside the ancients’ tendency to exaggerate numbers. Talk to them, not me. And have a nice day.

              • Posted August 16, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

                Erm…you’re the one posting here, not this historian you now claim to be quoting, and you’ve not indicated just who this historian is. So how am I supposed to take it up with…whom, exactly?

                b&

              • lizard6849
                Posted August 16, 2013 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

                Read books by Karen Armstrong, if you like. Do your own research.

              • Posted August 16, 2013 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

                Karen Armstrong is a notoriously bad scholar, a fool who writes fluffy nonsense disconnected from reality. And I have done my own research — research that has obviously reached much different conclusions from whatever research it is that you’ve done.

                b&

              • lizard6849
                Posted August 16, 2013 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

                Whatever. But I wonder if she’s such a poor scholar, why she’s received so many honors. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Armstrong

                Believe whatever you want. It’s your privilege.

              • Posted August 16, 2013 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

                Look at who’s been granting her those honors….

                b&

              • gbjames
                Posted August 17, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

                But I wonder if she’s such a poor scholar, why she’s received so many honors.

                There are two possible answers. One is that there are many religious folk in the world who find Armstrong’s blithering comforting.

                The other is that god works in mysterious ways.

                One of these explanations is more probable than the other. But neither require respectable scholarship on Armstrong’s part.

  20. dave souza
    Posted August 17, 2013 at 3:33 am | Permalink

    “Miller seems unaware that creationism long antedates public scientific atheism, and that creationism has held pretty steady despite the growth in the number of nonbelievers.”

    While creationism in a broad sense goes back to ancient times, some ancient Greek philosophers were accused at the time of atheism, though not necessarily in its modern sense.

    Accusations of scientific atheism appeared in response to the evolutionary ideas of the surgeon William Lawrence’s “Lectures on physiology, zoology, and the natural history of man”, published in London in 1819 and suppressed. (Charles Darwin refers to a pirated copy of this in his 1838 “C” transmutation notebook.) In 1821 Richard Carlile published “An Address to Men of Science calling upon them to stand forward and vindicate the truth from the foul grasp and persecution of superstition,” promoting ideas of chemistry vs. religion.

    In its more modern sense of anti-evolution creationism, this was pretty much a minority view by the late 19th century, at the time of the prominent atheist scientists Edward Aveling and Ludwig Büchner, to name the two who visited Darwin in September 1881. Of course there was a resurgence of anti-evolution in the U.S. in the 1920s, when the term creationist was co-opted for these views, and of young earth creationism in the 1960s. Perhaps you’re thinking of the more recent growth in the number of nonbelievers?

  21. dave souza
    Posted August 17, 2013 at 3:42 am | Permalink

    p.s. forgot to mention that Richard Carlile appears to have been an avowed atheist by 1821. It’s not clear if his colleague, the Reverend Robert Taylor, was an atheist or merely an outspoken blasphemer nicknamed “the Devil’s Chaplain”.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 17, 2013 at 7:05 am | Permalink

      Wait… those are not mutually exclusive. Many of us god-dammed atheists blaspheme all the time.

      • dave souza
        Posted August 17, 2013 at 8:22 am | Permalink

        Yes, but he was repeatedly jailed for it, getting one or two years imprisonment at a time, and he seems to have been more of an Infidel missionary than an atheist.

  22. Diane G.
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    Cutest guh-jif ever!!


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