Sam Harris: the strange case of Francis Collins

Over at The Reason Project, Sam Harris has continued his engagement with the Francis Collins NIH appointment by producing a sizeable critique of Collins’s views and an explanation of why some of us are worried about them.

NOTE:  There was some problem with the article’s website, but it appears to be fixed.

51 Comments

  1. Posted August 5, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    The trouble is, there’s every incentive to mischaracterize any oppostion to Collins as head of NIH as confirming the bias that it’s about “persecution of Xians,” with nothing to do with the fact that Collins denies the implications of evolutionary evidence and theory in order to make room for his a priori beliefs.

    This is certainly one of the downsides of accommodation of religion, because ignoring the very real problems for science caused by Collins’ position are incentivized by the desire to make nice with people like Collins. But Collins himself does not accommodate religion to science, he insists that religion take precedence over the implications of the whole of science (neuroscience even more than evolution), that there is no free will and no absolute “moral code.”

    Nevertheless, it might actually be easier to object to Collins if one faulted his lack of accommodation of science, rather than to claim that religion simply cannot accommodate science. True, when it does it has to shed virtually all traditional Western religious claims about humans, however I certainly have no problem with it doing so.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  2. Grant N
    Posted August 5, 2009 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    The URL attached to “a sizeable critique” for the article is incorrect. It should be:
    http://www.reasonproject.org/archive/item/the_strange_case_of_francis_collins/

  3. Posted August 5, 2009 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Is it just me or is Sam Harris the about the mos powerful writer the New Atheists/New Rationalist/New Anti-Dogmatists/whatever have?

    It should be note that that article incorporated material not just from Sam’s previous pieces on Collins, but also from his excellent Aspen Ideas Festival lecture of a few years back. That lecture in particular is worth digging up on youtube – particularly for its perspicacious taxonomy of mainstream responses to the “New Atheism”.

  4. NewEnglandBob
    Posted August 5, 2009 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Now THIS is the Sam Harris I expect. This article is written masterfully. He eviscerates Collins beliefs and on the way he takes down Mooney and Kirshenbaum.

    A nationwide protest is what is needed. Maybe if Harris, Coyne, Myers, Dennett, Dawkins, Rosenhouse, Bensen, Plait, et al. organize something then it will be noticed and acted upon by Obama. We could all send emails to whitehouse.gov or something equivalent.

  5. Posted August 5, 2009 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Collins got smoked.

  6. articulett
    Posted August 5, 2009 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    Neither of the above links worked for me… I finally found it here: http://www.reasonproject.org/archive/item/the_strange_case_of_francis_collins2/

    • Grant N
      Posted August 5, 2009 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

      Yeh, it seems to have moved back and forth. Wierd…

  7. Andrew
    Posted August 5, 2009 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    Wow, what a long article. If I get a chance to read it, I will let you guys know what I think. Don’t wait up…

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted August 5, 2009 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      Once again, you troll around with meaningless drivel – so typical, so pathetic.

    • Havok
      Posted August 5, 2009 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

      I haven’t yet read the article, but I’m pretty sure I don’t care what you think 🙂

      • articulett
        Posted August 6, 2009 at 12:30 am | Permalink

        I can one up you on the skepticism… I’m not even sure that Andrew CAN think. (I have yet to see the evidence.)

        I also gather that Andrew’s reading and comprehension skills make him poorly suited for being able to make it through the article.

    • Veronica Abbass
      Posted August 6, 2009 at 5:43 am | Permalink

      Andrew

      For reasons other than the topic of this post, I am getting increasing annoyed with people claim that an article or a book is too long to read or that these same people are too busy to read. Why don’t you and these people described above admit that they can’t read. Claims that something is too long or takes too much time mask the real reason: you can’t read. You are not illiterate, however, you can’t read for meaning or appreciate good writing or a solid argument.

      Reading and listening are skills that you should work on.

    • Stephen
      Posted August 6, 2009 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      “I will let you guys know what I think”

      Please don’t!

    • Josh Caleb
      Posted August 7, 2009 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      Andrew…
      so much for open and civil dialogue!

      You’re such an idiot, we don’t want your comments because, a priori, we know you’re dumb!

      …doesn’t get much better than that!

  8. H.H.
    Posted August 5, 2009 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    This made me smile because it’s so true:

    Dr. Collins is regularly praised by his fellow scientists for what he is not: he is not a “young earth creationist,” nor is he a proponent of “intelligent design.” Given the state of the evidence for evolution, these are both very good things for a scientist not to be.

  9. Grant N
    Posted August 5, 2009 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    “The fact that Collins, as both a scientist and as an influential apologist for religion, repeatedly emphasizes the silly fiction of Jesus’ singular self-appraisal is one of many embarrassing signs that he has lived too long in the echo chamber of Evangelical Christianity.”

    Bingo…

    “Miller and Brown seem to think that bad ideas and disordered thinking should not be challenged as long as they are associated with a mainstream religion and that to do so is synonymous with bigotry.”

    Bongo…

    “Mooney and Kirshenbaum seem to imagine that we can get people to value intellectual honesty by lying to them.”

    Bango…

    You’ve really got to appreciate it when Sam Harris uses his contemplative abilities to pull the deluded, the disingenuous and the liars out of their hats.

  10. articulett
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    I thought the article was superb.

    I noticed Sam Harris’ site has a forum, do any of you post there?

  11. Jackybird
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    Every time I see Mooney and Kirschenbaum quoted I become less and less inclined to read their book.

    “The New Atheists, like the fundamentalists they so despise, are setting up a false dichotomy that can only damage the cause of scientific literacy for generations to come. It threatens to leave science itself caught in the middle between extremes, unable to find cover in a destructive, seemingly unending, culture war.”

    Actually, the far right is fairly frank about wanting to engage in a culture war. What are you supposed to do when someone has declared war on you? Well, apparently Mooney and Kirschenbaum think running for cover is the best idea.

    • articulett
      Posted August 6, 2009 at 1:49 am | Permalink

      I’d be glad not to mention the dichotomy… it would be easy if all “woo” stayed in the “woo” magisteria and stayed as private as they want other superstitious folks to be.

      But some believers want privileges for themselves that they have no intention of offering others with conflicting beliefs. FC and Miller both want Jesus-belief privileged in a way they would not extent to Scientology or Muslims or conflicting faiths. They want the freedom to scrutinize the latter faiths through the lens of reason– they just don’t want anyone to do it to their own.

      Frankly, I’d prefer not to know about people’s magical beliefs, and then I wouldn’t have to worry that something I say might be making them feel compelled to choose between fact and faith.

      We are caught in this culture war whether we like it or not since the far right as equated belief in evolution with atheism–not the atheists.

      It’s being called a liar by actual liars that force us to speak up for the truth. I’d be glad never to mention religion if people never inflicted it upon me nor expected me to respect their delusions. If only religious people would treat others the way they want those other wacky religionists (Jehovah Witnesses for example) to treat them.

      I’m tired of religionists and faitheists asking us to be complicit in the friggin lie I never asked to be a part of in the first place Don’t ask me to pretend that the emperor is wearing clothes… I think self delusion is harmful.

      This atheist is willing to play exactly as nicely as religionists are willing to play with those who have conflicting faiths. It would be so easy to do if people kept their beliefs private.

      • Posted August 6, 2009 at 2:43 am | Permalink

        To be fair to Miller, Collins and their like (scientifically inclined christian apologists), they do not directly seek to attack other religious beliefs using scientific reasoning. What they do is simply ignore other religious beliefs (apart from Creationism which is a little too in-your-face in its brand of illogicality).

      • articulett
        Posted August 6, 2009 at 3:14 am | Permalink

        True, but I think if a Scientologist was being considered for the NIH they’d suddenly be raising concerns similar to ours instead of defending Scientology from attack by claiming the criticism was hatred or prejudice against religion.

    • Observer
      Posted August 6, 2009 at 7:40 am | Permalink

      I felt the same way you did, but eventually I did buckle under and read it. It’s actually not that bad a book, apart from chapter eight. I wouldn’t recommend buying it, but an hour and a half at the coffee shop of your local Borders should be enough.

      What’s really sad about the book is that its quite impossible to have a discussion about the atheism chapter on their blog. M & K are either too busy promoting the book to participate in a dialog, or simply not interested in responding to criticism. That leaves Kwock and McCarthy to do the heavy lifting, which means that reasoned debate never gets started.

  12. articulett
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 2:16 am | Permalink

    Uggh… I’m ‘still bristling over M&K’s hubris filled comment:

    “The New Atheists, like the fundamentalists they so despise, are setting up a false dichotomy that can only damage the cause of scientific literacy for generations to come.”

    It disgusts me more every time I read it.

    There is ONE reality… reality isn’t a dichotomy. And Atheists don’t force people to choose. People are free to believe what they want and no one even has to KNOW what another believes. It’s not like belief changes reality one iota anyhow. Atheists ACCEPT reality. They are not the people claiming to “know” added “mystical truths” or things “outside the natural world”.

    And how does this damage scientific literacy again? Scientific literacy does not require a belief in god and it is often hampered by faith–especially when people feel SAVED for what they BELIEVE. As far as I can tell, the “new atheists” are far more scientifically literate than their faitheist peers and probably promote more scientific literacy than those who cover for faith as well–

    How can M&K feel good about themselves for bullshit like that quote? And where is the evidence? They are denigrating the truth tellers while covering for liars and confirming their biases in the process. They are spreading the lie they want to make into the truth.

    I don’t know of any atheist that forces anyone to choose anything–even those “new atheists” such as PZ Myers. When has he forced people to “choose”? Science doesn’t get to vote on the truth. Reality doesn’t care whether people “believe in it” And empirical evidence is the only way to understand it. That’s not the fault of scientists nor new atheists. If peoples precious beliefs can’t stand up to scrutiny, then maybe it’s the beliefs they need to discard.

    Grrrr… *spitting fury* — M&K does not speak for this atheist nor this scientist. I prefer the likes of PZ, Coyne, Dawkins, and Harris. (The toothpaste twins leave a bad taste in my mouth. blechh!)

    • articulett
      Posted August 6, 2009 at 2:29 am | Permalink

      And do the fundamentalists that we supposedly despise actually set up false dichotomies? Or is that just another stupid inference by M&K. What false dichotomies exactly are they referring to when comparing new atheists to fundamentalists and this enforced choice we are supposedly inflicting?

      I don’t like fundamentalists because they proffer lies disguised as higher truths and denigrate truth tellers in the process. I don’t DESPISE them and my feelings about them have nothing to do with forced choice or false dichotomies– I feel the same way about all religions that religionists feel about opposing religions and cults– they all promote delusion… and they infect members with the mind viruses making them sound self-important and loony.

      Brainwashed people say stupid things just like M&K –stuff that doesn’t really mean anything like the blither about choosing between false dichotomies…

      Religionists may despise people with conflicting faiths or faiths they find ludicrous or harmful.. but they are projecting if they think this “new atheist” confuses believers for the beliefs they were indoctrinated to “believe in”. I don’t despise anyone (though I may be starting to loathe M&K…)

  13. Posted August 6, 2009 at 3:17 am | Permalink

    One point I would take issue with is the analogies that many on our side have been using to compare the issue of science/religion compatibility. Harris uses the analogy of marriage and infidelity while others have used things like murder and christianity (PZ Myers recently used the example of the BTK serial killer who was a pastor).
    I think these analogies are mistaken.
    It should be obvious to all that neither the unfaithful spouse nor the murderer claim their actions are compatible with marriage or christianity respectively.
    That is not the case with the religious and science. It is not even a point of principle that one can argue with certainty – even most ardent anti-accomodationists admit that religion and science can, in certain circumstances, be compatible. Those circumstances being the religion in question should involve a non intervening deistic or pantheistic ‘God’.
    I would suggest the following sort of analogy as a possible solution:
    ‘Roman Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity are entirely compatible with abortion and gay marriage.’
    There are certainly those who call themselves catholic or evangelical christian who do hold these beliefs (and who are not mad). To the average catholic or evangelical hearing this analogy it should, however, be obvious that the beliefs are not compatible with the mainstream accepted teachings of these religions. The important point about the question of the compatibility of science and religion in regards Collins/Miller is not that science and religion are never compatible – it is that science and THEIR religion are incompatible (and which is pretty much the exact thing they say against creationism).

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted August 6, 2009 at 5:08 am | Permalink

      It should be obvious to all that neither the unfaithful spouse nor the murderer claim their actions are compatible with marriage or christianity respectively.

      On the contrary, millions of people are married and cheat and sneak around. They therefore claim it is compatible for them. If they didn’t they would get divorced. That is exactly the compartmentalization they use that makes this a perfect analogy.

      • Posted August 6, 2009 at 5:19 am | Permalink

        With respect I have to disagree.
        If it was compatible then they, like the BTK serial killer, wouldn’t have to sneak around.

      • Havok
        Posted August 6, 2009 at 6:32 am | Permalink

        Sigmund, the point is, the person can comparmentalise things – the serial killer still killed, and cheating spouses still cheat. The activities are compatible with their own beliefs.
        They sneak around because they’re likely aware that their actions are not compatible with others.

    • H.H.
      Posted August 6, 2009 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      Sigmund wrote:

      That is not the case with the religious and science. It is not even a point of principle that one can argue with certainty – even most ardent anti-accomodationists admit that religion and science can, in certain circumstances, be compatible. Those circumstances being the religion in question should involve a non intervening deistic or pantheistic ‘God’.

      I don’t think even a non-interventionist god is compatible with science, since one is still making an unwarranted assumption not supported by the evidence. A lot of people have this idea that the only conflict religion has with science are claims of miracles breaking physical laws. But it’s much more basic than that. It’s that faith in anything not evidenced to be in existence is incompatible with science, and that includes a deistic god. So I reject your assertion that any “type” of religious faith is ever compatible with scientific thinking. It can’t be, by definition.

      • Posted August 6, 2009 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        A pantheistic ‘God’ is certainly evidenced since pantheism defines ‘God’ as being part of everything in the universe (and everything in the universe as being part of ‘God’.) I tend to think of this ‘religion’ as being a hippy tree-hugging version of atheism and as such is certainly compatible with science.
        As for deistic religions (do such things exist?) I have no problem with the idea that these are compatible with science in the sense that they do not affect the day to day process of the scientific method. There’s certainly no positive evidence for the existence of this sort of God but on the other hand the ‘religion’ hasn’t made predictions that have been falsified by science or contains numerous stories that defy all known physical laws of the universe (in contrast to the likes of the three monotheisms).
        Science doesn’t prove anything, it merely disproves the bad ideas. I regard the deistic god as a currently unfalsified hypothesis (albeit one that I don’t personally support).

      • H.H.
        Posted August 6, 2009 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        Sigmund wrote:

        A pantheistic ‘God’ is certainly evidenced since pantheism defines ‘God’ as being part of everything in the universe (and everything in the universe as being part of ‘God’.) I tend to think of this ‘religion’ as being a hippy tree-hugging version of atheism and as such is certainly compatible with science.

        I don’t see how a belief which is functionally equivalent to atheism supports the contention that science and theism are compatible. In fact, I think it rather illustrates the reverse.

        As for deistic religions (do such things exist?) I have no problem with the idea that these are compatible with science in the sense that they do not affect the day to day process of the scientific method. There’s certainly no positive evidence for the existence of this sort of God but on the other hand the ‘religion’ hasn’t made predictions that have been falsified by science or contains numerous stories that defy all known physical laws of the universe (in contrast to the likes of the three monotheisms)

        Well, you seem making a pragmatic distinction about application, not a philosophical one on fundamental compatibility. As you rightly point out, no positive evidence for a deistic god exists, but that’s precisely what makes a belief in one incompatible with science. As you say, science doesn’t prove anything absolutely, but it can’t disprove anything absolutely either. Even literal 6-day creationism can avoid complete falsification if enough ad hoc excuses are accepted (god only created the Universe with “apparent” age, etc.) That’s why the principle of parsimony is so invaluable. It allows us to cut out explanations with unnecessary assumptions. Deism doesn’t survive the cut. If a belief about reality cannot be arrived at through science, then it doesn’t belong in a worldview informed by science.

  14. mk
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    This is my favorite bit:

    “We merely assume that our fellow Homo sapiens possess the requisite intelligence and emotional maturity to respond to rational argument, satire, and ridicule on the subject of religion—just as they respond to these discursive pressures on all other subjects. Of course, we could be wrong. But let’s admit which side in this debate currently views our neighbors as dangerous children and which views them as adults who might prefer not to be utterly mistaken about the nature of reality.”

  15. Andrew
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    A few notes:

    1. Mr. Harris main argument against science and religion is to ask us to imagine if Collins was a different religion than he is and imagine the uproar. I do not understand how this is an actual argument. Francis Collins believes X and people are okay with it. Then Sam Harris says, “yes, but imagine if he believed Y”.

    2. He mocks Collins conversion to Christianity as emotional. Maybe the initial conversion was emotional, but surely he can not say that the emotion of seeing that waterfall still persists to this day. Emotions follow the law of undulation, and I am sure that Mr. Collins has experience times of distress since becoming a Christian and he has not shed God at those times.

    3. Mr. Harris doubts the story of Jesus, as far as I can tell for two reasons. Alot of people wrote about Jesus, and the accounts were not written shortly after Jesus’ death. Well, as you have read me say, having alot of people telling the same basic story is strong evidence to believe in something, and most stories were passed around orally in that day, so it makes sense that they were not put onto paper until much later. Oh yeah, he also says that miracles are performed by other people, which I agree with. However, an ability to alter the material world is a sign that you have supernatural powers, but it is not a reason for worship. After all, Satan has supernatural powers(hecklers will love this line).

    4. He also marvels at how many scientific laws would be broken if God existed and the tenants of Christianity are true. What a ridiculous argument. God is playing a different game than we are. Why would you be confused that he has different rules?

    Two more quick points.

    1. Doesn’t Sam Harris have pretty weak academic credentials?

    2. There were a few comments saying that I should not complain about how long something is. Well, I am sorry, but their are alot of long-winded people in this world, and if I am going to hear all of their ideas, they need to work on getting their message across in the least amount of words possible. Being concise is a good trait, people.

    • Havok
      Posted August 6, 2009 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      What do you know. I said I didn’t care, yet here I am commenting. Go figure 🙂

      Harris’ argument is that Collins beliefs are incompatible with science/rationalism. How did you miss that? As something of an aside, Harris points out that people are defending Collins and his beliefs, something they probably wouldn’t do for some other “faith” system which isn’t so accepted (yet is just as “rational”).

      The gospels are not 4 independant accounts of Jesus life. Oral history is not nearly as reliable as written. Who is to say when the oral traditions began. Perhaps the author of Mark simply placed the oral tradition into an historical setting to illustrate his theological message, something which was not uncommon then (or now, for that matter).

      Investigation into modern day “miracles” shows them to be tricks and not supernatural. Why should we think differently of ancient miracles?

      Satan isn’t real.

      Where is your evidence that there is a god, and that he’s able to play outside the rules?
      What reason and/or evidence to you have to show that something which is not “natural” can interact with things that are “natural”?

      I don’t see what Harris’ academic credentials have to do with his argument

      I thought the compliants were more along the lines that you shouldn’t comment just to say the article is long, that you might read it and you’d let us know what you think.

      Still dying to be convinced of “macro” evolution or have you come to accept it due to the research you’ve done and the information you’ve been presented with? 😛

      • Andrew
        Posted August 6, 2009 at 8:29 am | Permalink

        I know that Sam Harris is making the argument that science and religion are incompatible. However, it is an impossible argument to make. Religion’s purpose is to explain the world around us. Science’s purpose is to describe the world around us.

        Sam Harris is almost a caricature to me. He has almost no sense of proportion.

        As far as my “rules” argument for God, I was not presenting that as evidence for God, I was just showing that if you believe in God, it would make no sense to be astonished that he would not be bound by the laws of gravity.

        This is a trick that I have seen many times on this forum. The first argument is that a part of religion does not make sense. When that part of the dogma is shown to make sense, the atheist immediately flips to the “their is no evidence for God” argument.

        You must realize that their is two levels of argument. The first is the argument for the existence of a supernatural being. Getting over this hump does not concern itself with theology. Getting over this hump requires thinking about the merits of materialism, the existence of a Moral Law, history, and probably a understanding of Pascal’s Wager.

        I think that Sam Harris does not portray himself as a common man, but as a learned man of science, so I think that academic credential do have some bearing. A comparison of Mr. Collins credentials with Mr. Harris’s in the area of science would not seem to portray Mr. Harris as the authority on the subject.

        I am reading a number of books currently, but Why Evolution is True is among them. I am on Chapter 8. The only thing that I have been moved by so far is the existence of the fossil record, which is the strongest evidence for evolution. Many of the other arguments Coyne makes are theological and tenuous.

      • Havok
        Posted August 6, 2009 at 9:00 am | Permalink

        Andrew: The first is the argument for the existence of a supernatural being. Getting over this hump does not concern itself with theology. Getting over this hump requires thinking about the merits of materialism, the existence of a Moral Law, history, and probably a understanding of Pascal’s Wager.

        And yet as far as I can tell, no one gets over that hump without something akin to Collin’s emotional experience (or childhood/cultural indoctrination, or at the point of a sword). I find that strange.

      • Havok
        Posted August 6, 2009 at 9:03 am | Permalink

        Nearly forgot your other points:

        Andrew: Religion’s purpose is to explain the world around us. Science’s purpose is to describe the world around us.

        And the explanations they come up with are not not compatible – (evolution vs special creation etc). That,/i> would be why religion and science aren’t compatible (At least religions which posit supernatural effects in the real world which aren’t/can’t be supported by evidence) 🙂

        Andrew: I was just showing that if you believe in God, it would make no sense to be astonished that he would not be bound by the laws of gravity.

        So you have no evidence that your deity exists and is not bound by gravity, it’s simply your belief that this is the case. In future please word your assertions in this fashion, instead of presenting your them as “fact”, thanks 🙂

        Andrew: The first argument is that a part of religion does not make sense. When that part of the dogma is shown to make sense, the atheist immediately flips to the “their is no evidence for God” argument.

        Christianity in general (and yourself specifically) believe in a deity who has does and wil intervene. I doubt this, and so far no one has provided anything more than their belief to support this case. Where is the trick exactly?

    • Tim
      Posted August 6, 2009 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      His credentials are irrelevant. What he says is reasoned, penetrative and insightful and would carry no more import were he a tenured professor and no less were he a high school freshman. Ideas should be respected or not on the basis of their own merits, not on the credentials of those who espouse them.

    • Posted August 6, 2009 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      Andrew

      Some answers for you

      1. Sam is making the comparrison between Collins claiming God made the universe and another of the 330, 002,849 or so other deities called into existence by humans down the ages. Each one as proposterous and improbable as the other, made worse still by Collins making this a scientific claim.

      2. Sam is questioning Collins and his ability to do one thing as a scientist which involves rigorous testing and research and then to fall on the dew after seeing three waterfalls and claim Jesus is real just like that. Again, very unscientific for a scientist don’t you think?

      3. I doubt Jesus ever existed, but that is because of the overwhelming evidence that supports it – Sam is right to make his claims. Tell me, what makes Jesus any different from the likes of Attis or Mithras? Seriously, people of the first century were able to believe that Attis and co all did things in the “spiritual” dimension of existence in accordance to various philosophies and teachings of the times – why is Jesus to be treated any differently?

      4. Please tell me how you obtained this knowledge, how could you possibly know what God thinks or what the rules are?

      Next lot

      1. You don’t have to have a Phd to be able to criticise religion, I fail to see what Sam’s credentials have to do with anything.

      2. I’ll remember that when I read one of your articles. Sam has received a lot of stick for saying what he has, I think his response is perfectly reasonable in length, it allows him to fully expresss his views on the matter.

  16. George
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Related note – Bob Wright has responded to Jerry’s review of his book, The Evolution of God.
    http://evolutionofgod.net/coyne

    When will Jerry be back to eviscerate Wright again?

  17. KCS
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Early Christers were pagan converts, hence all the Easter and Christmas traditions. Collins is a 21st century version by co-opting modern biology and cosmology into his religious beliefs. If one day we find the sci-fi plot of alien intervention of human evolution to be true, then I’m sure people will say Jesus was really an alien. I guess my question to Collins is “If DNA and the cosmic constants “prove” the existence of God, why didn’t Jesus preach about them instead of this falling sparrows and hairs-on-your head crap?”

  18. hempenstein
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Well, gee, what other group has an axe to grind vs. evolution, and has been grinding it since 1859, than the fundamentally religious?

    Acceptance of evolution comes from understanding the evidence and coming to a conclusion. With that conclusion for most of us, absent construction of artificial contrivances such as Collins builds, comes dismissal of the notion of any supernatural involvement in the universe, ie dismissal of religious postulates of all stripes.

    So is your observation of an anti-religion sentiment here any great surprise?

    • articulett
      Posted August 6, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      *Applause*

      Some people sure do need to bend over backwards to see the atheist as the bad guys so as to keep from questioning the crazy things their indoctrinators have told them.

      • Hempenstein
        Posted August 6, 2009 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

        Thanx, Art 🙂

        Just a note – my comment above seems to come out of nowhere. It was a reply to a post that seems to have disappeared. This may be a case of one of those disappearing and then reappearing posts, but if anyone thinks my post above seems a bit spontaneous right now, I don’t blame you.

      • articulett
        Posted August 6, 2009 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

        (I saw it… it was some whining comment from Bilbo about mean ol’ atheists here and at pharyngula.)

      • articulett
        Posted August 6, 2009 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

        Look! I can resurrect the Bilbo quote:

        Author: bilbo
        Comment:
        Somehow this has morphed from Sam Harris to a good old M and K bashing. So I’ll chip in.

        I don’t agree with everything M and K say, but I think they’re completely right in the sentiment that the New Atheist attacks on religion have less to do with science and are more of an example of a culture war spilling out into science. My evidence? Compare the hard, pure science talked about on this or PZs blog with the frequency that religion is talked about in a negative light. Science is mentioned only sporadically in the midst of a sea of personal criticism against theists and calls for theist-scientists to step down. I’m not say this is wrong, but don’t frame it around “this is solely about science” when it’s not – it’s purely a crusade AGAINST religion, not for science or atheism.

        Typical faitheist… whenever you illustrate how faith is not a means of knowledge they imagine that you are going on a “crusade” against religion! Lying with language is still lying, but one must never underestimate the power of religion to allow people to feel humble while lying to themselves.

        Ha!–It’s “free speech” when believers are inflicting their beliefs in science but “hate speech” when we point out that faith is not a scientifically valid method of knowing anything. Oh, the irony!

      • articulett
        Posted August 6, 2009 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

        And has anyone actually asked that Francis Collins step down? I think that’s another lie by the faitheist crowd.

        Besides,Francis Collins got a warm feeling from god indicating to him that he’s SUPPOSED to be the head of the NIH. I’m not sure any suggestion from a mere mortal is likely to influence his decisions.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted August 6, 2009 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

        It is funny that I had that exact same warm feeling this morning and I wondered if it was from some god, but then I used the bathroom and it went away. It was miraculous!

      • articulett
        Posted August 6, 2009 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

        Even Sam Harris’ footnote on FC’s warm feelings are pointed:

        3. I should say that I see nothing irrational in seeking the “spiritual” experiences and personal insights that lie at the core of many religions. What is irrational, and irresponsible in a scientist and educator, is to make unjustified and unjustifiable claims about the structure of the universe, about the divine origin of certain books, and about the future of humanity on the basis of such experiences. I can also say that by the standards of any experienced contemplative, the phenomena that Collins puts forward in support of his religious beliefs scarcely merit discussion. A beautiful waterfall? An unexpected church service? A feeling of peace? The fact that these are the most salient landmarks on Collins’ journey out of bondage may be the most troubling detail in this positive sea of troubles.

  19. Posted November 27, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    here is a working link: http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/the-strange-case-of-francis-collins


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