Now. . . “Erratic Synapse” vs. Mooney

I am so glad I don’t have to do the work that others are doing for me.  Over at The Daily Kos, blogger “Erratic Synapse” takes on Chris Mooney’s accommodationism.  A sample:

. . . The whole notion that religion is a private matter is horseshit. It has always been horseshit. If religion were a private matter that didn’t enter the political arena, we wouldn’t be debating a wide variety of topics such as gay marriage, abortion, embryonic stem cell research, teaching the theory of evolution in public school science classrooms, etc. The dominant religion in the United States, Christianity, was never designed for the purpose of respecting religious freedom, which is why it incurs so much in so many areas. It is fantastic that religious moderates have respected religious freedom and church-state separation, but I see that more a consequence of their adoption of social liberalism as a political philosophy (though some will justify this position with, perhaps, the teachings of Jesus, but then claim that religious freedom is a tenet supported by the Bible in general). .

. . . we’re the ones who need an exercise in “humility?” The fact that we’re willing to have reasonable and rational discussion on the subject of God makes us arrogant? We’re the ones who are arrogant when contrasted with religious moderates such as Kenneth Miller and Karl Giberson, who declare that there are limits to what they’ll allow science to speak on when it comes to their personal faith?

7 Comments

  1. Posted June 6, 2009 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    moderates such as Kenneth Miller and Karl Giberson, who declare that there are limits to what they’ll allow science to speak on when it comes to their personal faith?

    Well, do they? I’ve read a book and some interviews by Miller, and I don’t recall anywhere that he limited science in matters that I understand to be addressable by science. In a PBS interview he had this to say:

    Q: Does science have limits to what it can tell us?

    Miller: If science is competent at anything, it’s in investigating the natural and material world around us. What science isn’t very good at is answering questions that also matter to us in a big way, such as the meaning, value, and purpose of things. Science is silent on those issues. There are a whole host of philosophical and moral questions that are important to us as human beings for which we have to make up our minds using a method outside of science.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/id/defense-ev.html

    As far as I can tell, Miller does not claim to limit science at all, saying that science does well at investigating the “natural” and “material” world (though there is great doubt that there is anything else). I’m sure one could argue whether he might limit science, or not, but I don’t think anyone can point to an instance where he does, or where he states that he would do so.

    It’s all well and good to hash these things out, but it would be best to deal with the facts, rather than what someone thinks is so. The claims that Miller and Giberson would limit science needs supporting evidence.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

    • MadScientist
      Posted June 7, 2009 at 5:45 am | Permalink

      Well, Miller can speak for himself rather than for humankind. I for one have no need of his “There are a whole host of philosophical and moral questions that are important to us as human beings for which we have to make up our minds using a method outside of science.” To that I rave and say “bunkum!”

      In fact, the assertion that morals are beyond science is a patent lie. We can arrive at moral principles by thought and those principles can be tested – the challenge is how to test such a thing in an ethical manner. However, like Mathematics, we may not need tests but only a self-consistent system. Religion offers no such thing. To avoid the purely philosophical framework proposed by some such as Plato (which, in the modern world we view as grossly unethical in some ways), we would need to take into account observed human behavior: some people are honest, some are self-aggrandizing asses, others are killers, some career thieves, some are pathological liars. Taking observed human behavior into account is nothing new; such a thing was evident in the work of the founders of the USA.

  2. Posted June 6, 2009 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    Karl Giberson in a recent debate:

    “Part of me wants to go with the…argument that it makes the world so much more interesting. I’d rather have the mysteries that come with belief in God. I’m not convinced religion can be all explained away as evidence of evolutionary psychology…[Religion] suggests a possible solution for the deepest mysteries science hasn’t been able to solve.”

    Giberson is explicit in believing science limited in what it can address. And while he didn’t say what’s in need of solving, I’d guess it to be some squishy-minded notion he’s had banged into his head since childhood that existence is in need of purpose.

    • MadScientist
      Posted June 8, 2009 at 1:28 am | Permalink

      Regardless of whether it is a squishy notion or not, he is saying that “if science doesn’t have an answer, you can always say goddidit”. He genuinely believes that “goddidit” is a perfectly suitable explanation of anything he does not understand.

  3. H.H.
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Glen D quoted Miller:

    If science is competent at anything, it’s in investigating the natural and material world around us. What science isn’t very good at is answering questions that also matter to us in a big way, such as the meaning, value, and purpose of things. Science is silent on those issues. There are a whole host of philosophical and moral questions that are important to us as human beings for which we have to make up our minds using a method outside of science.

    Bullpucky. Science is not “silent” on these subjects. It may not be able to answer them in an empirical fashion, but it can and does inform them in a very real way. People have wondered for ages who we are, where we come from, and why we are here. Science has found that we are evolved hominids on a planet nearly 6 billion years old, in a vast Universe even older still. Our morals have been shaped through millions of years of evolution and communal cooperation.

    Contrast this with Christianity that says we are a special creation endowed with souls and a morality imparted by a omniscient and eternal magical being. Can anyone really believe that any answers to “the big questions” are going to come from this bronze-age mythology and not from what we actually know about our true history? Pretending in this day and age that Yahweh played a role in forming our morality is as absurd and anti-scientific as pretending that Zeus played a role in forging lightning bolts. Miller’s desire to limit science is an artificial constraint which ultimately serves as an impediment to human understanding, and using “faith” to inform these questions can only blind us to whatever the real answers are.

  4. Posted June 8, 2009 at 1:07 am | Permalink

    Well, REASON can address this things. If science is only a sub-set of rational inquiry that uses distinctively “scientific” techniques, then not every question is open to, or even requires, “scientific” interrogation. But all these questions are open to rational investigation – that’s the real point. And no spooks are needed.

  5. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted June 8, 2009 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Interesting article. Too bad they systematically report your name as Conye.


%d bloggers like this: