Michael Ruse’s WhingeFest: atheists very, very bad for evolution

As the the season of atheist-bashing proceeds, faitheist Michael Ruse continues to whine about us on — of all places — the religious “Science and the Sacred” website, a venue for “leaders of the BioLogos Foundation.”  Ruse’s article is called “Why I think the new atheists are a disaster,” and you could write it with your eyes closed.  It’s full of the usual accusations, including Ruse’s speciality: the claim that atheists are as big a disaster for the pro-evolution movement as are fundamentalist creationists:

. . Secondly, I think that the new atheists are doing terrible political damage to the cause of Creationism fighting. Americans are religious people. You may not like this fact. But they are. Not all are fanatics. Survey after survey shows that most American Christians (and Jews and others) fall in the middle on social issues like abortion and gay marriage as well as on science. They want to be science-friendly, although it is certainly true that many have been seduced by the Creationists. We evolutionists have got to speak to these people. We have got to show them that Darwinism is their friend not their enemy. We have got to get them onside when it comes to science in the classroom. And criticizing good men like Francis Collins, accusing them of fanaticism, is just not going to do the job. Nor is criticizing everyone, like me, who wants to build a bridge to believers – not accepting the beliefs, but willing to respect someone who does have them. For myself, I would like America to have a healthcare system like Canada – government run, compulsory, universal. It is cheaper and better. But I engage with those who want free enterprise to be involved in the business. Likewise I engage with believers – I don’t accept their beliefs but I respect their right to have them.

Most importantly, the new atheists are doing terrible damage to the fight to keep Creationism out of the schools. The First Amendment does not ban the teaching of bad science in publicly funded schools. It bans the teaching of religion. That is why it is crucial to argue that Creationism, including its side kick IDT, is religion and not just bad science. But sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If teaching “God exists” is teaching religion – and it is – then why is teaching “God does not exist” not teaching religion? Obviously it is teaching religion. But if science generally and Darwinism specifically imply that God does not exist, then teaching science generally and Darwinism specifically runs smack up against the First Amendment. Perhaps indeed teaching Darwinism is implicitly teaching atheism. This is the claim of the new atheists. If this is so, then we shall have to live with it and rethink our strategy about Creationism and the schools. The point is however that the new atheists have lamentably failed to prove their point, and excoriating people like me who show the failure is (again) not very helpful.

I think that P. Z. Myers and his crew are as disastrous to the evolution side – and people like me need to say this – as Ben Stein is disastrous to the Creationism side – and the Creationists should have had the guts to say so. I have written elsewhere that The God Delusion makes me ashamed to be an atheist. Let me say that again. Let me say also that I am proud to be the focus of the invective of the new atheists. They are a disaster and I want to be on the front line of those who say so.

In the immortal words of Clara Peller, “Where’s the beef?” Where is the evidence that vocal atheists are setting back the cause of evolution? This is only an opinion, and no better than the opinion that by pushing back the influence of religion, the new atheists are actually promoting the acceptance of evolution. I agree with P.Z. Myers that we should “let a thousand critics blossom,” with each of us supporting evolution in the way we know best.

And Ruse, who seems to pride himself on his sophisticated knowledge of theology, runs completely aground when he equates teaching Darwinism with teaching atheism.  I don’t know of a single evolutionist who teaches atheism in their classrooms, or who even says in the classroom that Darwinism is tantamount to atheism. Show me, Dr. Ruse, one atheist who violates freedom of religion by saying, “God does not exist” in the public school (or even the university) classroom.   Yes, teaching evolution may have the side result of eroding some peoples’ faith, but, as I’ve pointed out before, the erosion of faith can occur in the geology classroom, the astronomy classroom, the ethics classroom, and even in the theology classroom! (How many believers have lost their faith when learning about how the Bible was actually put together?) As the respect for rational discourse increases, as it should with a good education, the respect for religion will erode.  But that doesn’t mean that a good education violates the First Amendment.

Behind all this, I think, is Ruse’s anger at having been attacked by atheists, something he makes pretty clear in the article:

I am not a devout Christian, yet if anything, the things said against me are worse. Richard Dawkins, in his best selling The God Delusion, likens me to Neville Chamberlain, the pusillanimous appeaser of Hitler at Munich. Jerry Coyne reviewed one of my books (Can a Darwinian be a Christian?) using the Orwellian quote that only an intellectual could believe the nonsense I believe in. And non-stop blogger P. Z. Myers has referred to be as a “clueless gobshite.” This invective is all because, although I am not a believer, I do not think that all believers are evil or stupid, and because I do not think that science and religion have to clash. (Of course some science and religion clashes. That is the whole point of the Darwinism-Creationism debate. The matter is whether all science and religion clash, something I deny strongly.)

Ruse also goes after Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and other new atheists for their lame and unsophisticated arguments against religion.  This is again standard fare, but if there’s a better theological argument for the existence of God than has been criticized by these people, I don’t know it.  For someone who touts his sophistication in theology and philosophy, Ruse shows himself appallingly dense about the relationship between teaching evolution, teaching atheism, and the First Amendment.  And it’s sad that a philosopher with any pretension to intellectual rigor must consort with the mushbrained BioLogos Foundation.

NOTE:  As the evisceration of Ruse proceeds at the Science and the Sacred website as well as at RichardDawkins.net, I want to highlight one comment made by “Mr. Forrest” (comment 45 on the Dawkins.net thread), especially the part in bold (my emphasis).  As Mr. Forrest notes, the ontological argument, which Ruse sees as badly treated by Dawkins, is just plain stupid.

Holy crap… the ontological argument is the one that goes approximately:

1. I can imagine a perfect God
2. One of the attributes of perfection is existence

Therefore:
God exists.

I just vaguely remeber this one from religious studies. Apart from being WILDLY idiosyncratic AND a logical and empirical train-wreck, I would like to challenge the theists to come up with a specific morally perfect god and have them answer a couple of moral dillemas. Then we’ll see how “perfect” their god is.

Oh and the article was fucking awful. I think its insulting in the extreme to presume that people are incapable of having a discussion in frank terms.
Calling the new atheists violent or strident serves EXACTLY the same function as calling an african-american “uppity”. We’re standing up for our views and being really insanely polite about it considering the effects of religion.

Do we really need million man marches, riots, decades of civil rights activism etc. to be granted the right to speak our minds?

96 Comments

  1. Tim H
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Ruse doesn’t seem to understand what science is about. –“We have got to show them that Darwinism is their friend not their enemy.”– Science isn’t about whether you like or dislike an idea. It is irrelevant, and probably nonsensical, to refer to a theory as your friend or enemy. The only criterion science cares about is whether the theory is supported by the evidence.
    Ruse apparently wants to apply the Golden Mean to the idea of truth. If truth is one extreme and fallacy is the other, it is best to tell half-truths. He isn’t doing science. He is doing Public Relations, and wants scientists to abandon science and join him.

    • Posted August 15, 2009 at 2:48 am | Permalink

      I do feel that ‘ivory tower’ thinking such as this does not help the popular image of science. Science obviously does not have emotions- 2+2=4 can’t care if you like that fact or not, it will always be true. However if the public perception is of ‘unfreindly science’ they are going to be recoiled by it. People will always ‘anthomophise’ stuff. We assign personalities to machines- we know cars are mechanical but still say things like “She’s a good girl” or “it’s an evil bastard”.

      Telling people “you’re wrong” isn’t going to win many converts. We really do have to convince them science is their ‘freind’.

      • Posted August 16, 2009 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

        Pointing out to people that they are wrong when they are wrong may not win converts, but it’s still necessary. Science is not their friend. Science is science. Science is not religion. They’re just going to have to deal with the facts.

  2. tomh
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    It’s interesting that almost every comment about that article on that site is negative. Maybe the believers don’t really read that crap.

  3. GM
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I have the feeling that somewhere in the decades-long battle over evolution and God, the real nature of the dispute and what really matters as an outcome of it has been lost. Or it has never been clear to anyone.

    But anyway, a lot of people think that if we get the religious to accept evolution we have done our job and everything will be fine. They couldn’t be more wrong. It actually doesn’t matter at all whether the religious think the world is 6000 years old or whether they are theistic evolutionists. It’s equally bad.

    Because what really matters is how people view the world they live in here and now and how that affects humanity as a whole. And the belief that you have an immortal soul is a much more relevant problem to the here and now then whether you accept the truth about the past or not. That belief is shared among all religious people. What we should be aiming for is getting people to understand the world around them and their actual place in it, and even the most benign looking version of religion is enough to prevent that from happening.

    For the aforementioned reasons, destroying religion and replacing with rational thinking should be the goal.

    • AlexY
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      They’re not equally as bad, but it’s true that a sizeable minority of the population having mistaken views on natural history isn’t going to break the country.

      What will break a country, however, is having the intellectual climate that fosters such absurdities. That’s what the ‘new atheists’ are fighting against.

      • GM
        Posted August 14, 2009 at 10:42 am | Permalink

        I am not talking about politics

    • Posted August 16, 2009 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

      “And the belief that you have an immortal soul is a much more relevant problem to the here and now then whether you accept the truth about the past or not. That belief is shared among all religious people.”

      I’m a religious person and I don’t believe in an immortal soul.

  4. H.H.
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Ruse wrote:

    Americans are religious people. You may not like this fact. But they are. Not all are fanatics….They want to be science-friendly, although it is certainly true that many have been seduced by the Creationists.

    So he’s admitting that the Creationist’s rhetoric has been successful in swaying many people in the middle toward their views. Now what is Creationist rhetoric like? Is it conciliatory or polemic? If polemic, then why would Ruse discourage a tactic he admits works?

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      It is neither rhetoric nor polemic.
      It is 101% pure fraud.

  5. Notorious P.A.T.
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    “If teaching “God exists” is teaching religion – and it is – then why is teaching “God does not exist” not teaching religion? ”

    Wow, that is brilliant.

    • Posted August 16, 2009 at 12:51 am | Permalink

      From the POV of the establishment clause of the american (or australian) constitution, they are somewhat different. The establishment clause is directed at the setting up of a state religion – paying church taxes and so on. Atheism doesn’t have paid churches and clergy in the way that religions do.

      With respect to freedom of conscience, perhaps they are more similar. But it’s a straw man – no-one is proposing the eaching of atheism, specifically.

  6. Notorious P.A.T.
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    “using the Orwellian quote that only an intellectual could believe the nonsense I believe in”

    Oooh, good one! Using a quote from Orwell: how Orwellian!

  7. Notorious P.A.T.
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    “Where is the evidence that vocal atheists are setting back the cause of evolution? ”

    Don’t you see??? He’s hip to a different Way of Knowing. He doesn’t need evidence.

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      He has turned to the Endarkenment.

  8. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Survey after survey shows that most American Christians (and Jews and others) fall in the middle on social issues like abortion and gay marriage as well as on science.

    I thought that survey after survey showed that acceptance of Creationism was around 50%? How is that “in the middle”?

  9. Peter Beattie
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Michael Ruse says:
    And criticizing good men like Francis Collins, accusing them of fanaticism, is just not going to do the job.

    And yet:

    the “new atheists” – people who are aggressively pro-science … and violently anti-religion of all kinds

    nothing incurs their wrath

    incurring their hatred

    In a word: fuckwit!

    • MadScientist
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

      Oh, I missed that one. We’re violently anti-religion? I guess I must have been sleep-walking and bombed a few mosques in Iraq last week. Oh no, that was another religious sect that did that. Let’s see – maybe I ran into a church while people were having their Sunday rituals and murdered some religious folk. Nope, wrong again. Goddamn it, why can’t I find any violent atheists like the ones Ruse claims to exist? I guess I just don’t share his “special way of knowing” which not only does not require evidence but contradicts evidence.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted August 15, 2009 at 3:57 am | Permalink

        Well, we do assassinate reputations of numb-nuts like Ruse by turning their words back on them. Does that make us violent?

  10. H.H.
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Ruse continues:

    But if science generally and Darwinism specifically imply that God does not exist, then teaching science generally and Darwinism specifically runs smack up against the First Amendment. Perhaps indeed teaching Darwinism is implicitly teaching atheism. This is the claim of the new atheists.

    Oh, bloody hell. That is not what the “new atheists” claim. The claim is that faith is incompatible with the scientific method. Nothing about “Darwinism” promotes an atheistic worldview, any more than the theory of gravity or the germ theory of disease. But atheism is the only worldview entirely compatible with science. And teaching science can’t be unconstitutional because it passes the Lemon Test with flying colors. Specifically, there exists a “secular legislative purpose” to teaching students science, and furthermore “its principal or primary effect” is not to “advance nor inhibit religion.” If the secondary effect of teaching science is that it undermines the religious principle of faith, then so be it. That’s not prohibited by the Constitution in any manner.

    The point is however that the new atheists have lamentably failed to prove their point, and excoriating people like me who show the failure is (again) not very helpful.

    If the unconstitutionality of evolution was just a red herring, then why did Ruse even bring it up? His real point is that he’s proven us new atheists wrong elsewhere, presumably, because proof of his assertions sure aren’t to be found anywhere in this screed. However, since he’s unable to demonstrate even an elementary understanding of the new atheist position, I somehow doubt that he’s managed to do anything of the sort.

    • Chayanov
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      “Perhaps indeed teaching Darwinism is implicitly teaching atheism.”

      Or perhaps Ruse has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about. Way to poison the well, there.

      “Perhaps indeed Michael Ruse wets his bed.” I don’t know, that’s just a claim I think I heard somewhere.

    • MadScientist
      Posted August 15, 2009 at 12:02 am | Permalink

      For someone who poo-poos Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennet etc as not knowing anything about the bullshit they criticize, Ruse is remarkably thick and ignorant, isn’t he?

  11. JefFlyingV
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Ruse starts with a red flag in my book when he says Darwinism. Too much accomidationism has created problems of the Bush administration and the “Family” running politics in Washington D.C. behind the scenes. Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Myers and you are needed to shine a light on the ridiculous propositions that the creationists put out in the public forum in attempts to control all our lives. I doubt that the so called “neo” atheists are different from the atheists, only that there is a larger community of us finally being vocal.

  12. Jim Sheppeck
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Great retort Dan and Ruse should just lick his wounds and go away. His article sounds as if he’s about to cry, like the New Atheists stole his lunch money and beat him up.

    Newsflash Ruse, they did–philosophically. So take your ill-conceived erroneous philosophy and trembly lower lip back to BioLogos where they will apply some faith salve. I hear it works miracles for bruised egos and public humiliation.

  13. Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Okay, Dr. Ruse, whatever. Whenever I read that the “New Atheists have shallow theological arguments,” I just want to scream “So the fuck what?”

    When Dawkins was on some roundtable on atheism, some ThD said “Well, God is Love!” That’s deep.

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      As Richard has highlighted: no-one can have deep arguments about a area of study of something that does not exist.
      The self-proclaimed theologians are fooling themselves if they think that they can say anything even vaguely intelligent about a non-existed sky-daddy.

      Theology needs no more serious in-depth discussion than say:- Moon Hoax garbage, nor Garden Fairyism.

      • MadScientist
        Posted August 15, 2009 at 12:03 am | Permalink

        Hey! Don’t dis’ the fairies in the garden or you might be waddling about with a garden gnome protruding from the rear.

  14. Screechy Monkey
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    And criticizing good men like Francis Collins, accusing them of fanaticism, is just not going to do the job. Nor is criticizing everyone, like me, who wants to build a bridge to believers – not accepting the beliefs, but willing to respect someone who does have them. . . .I engage with believers – I don’t accept their beliefs but I respect their right to have them.

    Who doesn’t? Who among the “New Atheists” is saying that believers don’t have the right to their beliefs? This is a vile filthy lie. Ruse ought to be ashamed of himself.

    • GM
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      Do you have the right to fabricate data in your papers?

      You have just as much right to believe in God

    • Screechy Monkey
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Argh– screwed up the tags. That first paragraph was a quote from Ruse.

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        Screechy Monkey–

        I added the tags I think you left out. If this is not what you intended, please reply here.

        GCM

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      I say that everyone has the a natural right to believe whatever they wish.

      It when said belief translates into behaviour that I become interested, if it impinges, (even indirectly), on another sentient creature without informed consent.

      Ruse commits the all-too-common basic logical error of conflating belief and behaviour.

      His ‘arguments’ remind me very much of a whiny creotard’s deliberate lies.

  15. Baby Jesus
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Dr Coyne,

    Why is it that Ruse can call people names left and right, yet when you and Dawkins and PZ voice your opinions, you are being “shrill and strident”?

    I think you are completely justified in giving Ruse et al. a taste of their own medicine, calling them “faitheist fundamentalists,” “militant muzzle-em’s,” etc.

  16. Eric MacDonald
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Thanks for bringing Ruse’s latest to our attention. I don’t hang around beliefnet, so miss out on all these good things!

    Ruse is the one person in this whole discussion that I simply do not understand. I can understand the shallowness of M&K. They seem as flaky as their pictures, but I can’t understand Ruse’s game. Nor, to be frank, do I understand his sidekick in the UK, Andrew Brown. Ruse strikes me, on first reading some of his stuff, as capable, clear, and sane. But when it comes to the so-called ‘new atheism’ he simply seems to lose all perspective. He even misses the point, that the newness of the ‘new atheism’, is that the so-called ‘new atheists’ – The Horror! The Horror! – actually write as though they think its a reasonable position to adopt, which, of course, it is, as even Ruse acknowledges.

    It’s not their arguments, though, which are fairly standard, though it is strange that Ruse doesn’t notice that evolution is really a fairly strong and fairly recent addition to the atheist armamentarium. Darwin recognised it, and backtracked, largely for the sake of his family. Others have noticed, but it has not been widely recognised. What Dawkins, PZ, Russell Blackford, Jason Rosenhouse and you, Jerry (and of course I could go on adding names) have done is to bring this argument forward in very forceful ways. This should have been done long ago.

    So what is Ruse’s point? Well, there’s the silly confusion about First Amendment rights. Biologists are not teaching atheism, though, to be frank, it’s hard to believe in God and believe in evolution too. I’m a good example of someone whose religious faith began to founder when it struck Darwin. I hadn’t read the Origin until I was nearly sixty, and it was like a light being switched on.

    How come this was never required reading in high school or university? It should be read for its literary value, for the clarity of its treatment of scientific method, for its historical value, for its evident relationship to religious belief, and for its transparent integrity. No one should be able to consider themselves educated who has not read this book.

    I suspect it’s gathering dust had practically everything to do with conciliating religion. I think it conciliated me right into the priesthood! In order for choice to be available, these are things that must be discussed. Religion doesn’t want it discussed, because it threatens moderate religion as well as fundamentalist religion. Sympathise as much as you like with the predicament of the religious – and, like it or not, it is a predicament – but it is important to note that, for many of us, science gives us plenty of reasons not to believe; there are very few who can say that science led them to belief. Even Francis Collins needed revelation in a waterfall!

    This is where the compatibilist argument fails. If you start with science, but are afraid of the dark, you may take on the extra burden of religious belief, but you need a sky hook to hold it up. Science itself cannot lead you there. Of course, a lot of Christians think that science took off in the west because of Christianity, but the truth is that it was the breakdown of Christianity that led to the development of science – and freedom too. Christianity itself, as the Index shows, was happy in the dark. There are still a lot of Christians (and adherents of other religions, too, of course) who would like to keep it that way. Sympathise with the religious all you like, Michael Ruse, but don’t let them hold on to the power of ignorance.

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Well said!
      Religion is bollocks.
      Science is anti-bollocks.

  17. Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    “Why is it that Ruse can call people names left and right, yet when you and Dawkins and PZ voice your opinions, you are being “shrill and strident”?”

    Because Madeleine Bunting, that’s why.

  18. Peter Beattie
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    What an execrable article. When Ruse isn’t bandying about distortions, outright lies, and completely unsubstantiated assertions, he’s either smugly patting himself on the head or whining about how mean the Grown-Up Atheists have been to him. What a disgrace for anyone involved in philosophy.

    A sampling of Ruse’s dishonesty:

    the extremes of both creationism and “new atheism”
    To imply that those two things are as far from a perceived middle ground or even argumentatively comparable is at best disingenuous. Creationists are trying to push an agenda into classrooms; the “New Atheists” (a philosopher really should have no truck with such an ill-defined term) are doing the exact opposite, i.e. trying to prevent others from pushing such an agenda. They have never, repeat: never, called for atheism to be introduced into classrooms.

    Actually the arguments are not that “new,”
    Dawkins’s and Dennett’s arguments about the origins of design and complexity are, as far as I can tell. Ruse either dissembles about them or doesn’t understand them.

    Distinctive of this group … is the fact that … nothing incurs their wrath than those who are pro-science but who refuse to agree that all and every kind of religious belief is wrong, pernicious, and socially and personally dangerous.
    Which is quite simply a shameless lie. No member of “this group” has ever demanded that anyone agree to anything of that sort. The only thing they object to in a pro-science person—to use the word “wrath” here is imbecilic—is the mixing of science with religion.

    Francis Collins … has been incurring their hatred
    That, I suppose, is libellous. It is also, of course, false. All Harris, Coyne, PZ Myers et al. have expressed were their reservations. Ruse rather tellingly doesn’t present a single piece of evidence for his frankly outrageous claim. As far as I can tell, not a one of that group has said anything other than, ‘He’ll be a competent administrator, but I’d be glad if the job went to somebody who didn’t mix his science with his religion.’

    Richard Dawkins … likens me to Neville Chamberlain
    Completely false. Dawkins refers to a school of thought, not individuals. Look it up on page 67 of The God Delusion.

    Jerry Coyne [used] the Orwellian quote that only an intellectual could believe the nonsense I believe in
    Again, libellous. The implication of a totalitarian motive on the part of Coyne is as false as it is preposterous.

    This invective is all because, although I am not a believer, I do not think that all believers are evil or stupid
    Another stupid lie. Nobody has said any such thing, and if Ruse had bothered to back his claim up with evidence, he might even have noticed.

    I believe the new atheists do the side of science a grave disservice.
    And that’s all he offers: his belief. Sorry, but that’s just pathetic.

    I am indignant at the poor quality of the argumentation in Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and all of the others in that group.
    Really? All of the others? Well, first, generalisations are always wrong. Second, again no evidence whatsoever. And in the light of Ruse’s own record, his indictment here is laughable. At least on this topic, apparently he couldn’t form a coherent argument if his life depended on it.

    If teaching “God exists” is teaching religion – and it is – then why is teaching “God does not exist” not teaching religion? Obviously it is teaching religion.
    This is so idiotic—as well as an argument by rhetorical question and an equally daft appeal to obviousness—that a rhetorical question must suffice, lest my brain hurt even more. If you have two hobbies, hunting and fishing, say, and you also do not collect stamps: do you now have three hobbies?

    • Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      It really is striking how heavily the fashionable “New Faitheists” rely on loaded language in place of argument. Striking, telling, and disgusting.

      • Michael K Gray
        Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

        They must have been given a ‘Guide to Tactics’ by the Creation Institute.

    • Peter Beattie
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      What a surprise. Beliefnet immediately deleted this comment that I had also left at their place. Talk about Orwellian.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Peter, you summed that article of pure lies and nonsense well:

      What an execrable article. When Ruse isn’t bandying about distortions, outright lies, and completely unsubstantiated assertions, he’s either smugly patting himself on the head or whining about how mean the Grown-Up Atheists have been to him. What a disgrace for anyone involved in philosophy.

  19. Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Oh good grief – his next book is

    “Science and Spirituality: Making Room for Faith in the Age of Science”

    What more is there to say?!

    • Chayanov
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      That there’s no room at the inn?

    • windy
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      We’re told that Ruse and Collins make such great ambassadors for science among religious people, so why are their books subtitled “Making Room for Faith in the Age of Science” and “A Scientists Presents Evidence for Belief”? Shouldn’t it be the other way around: “Making Room for Science” and “A Believer Presents Evidence for Science”?

  20. Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I am still holding my breathe waiting for that groovy sophisticated theological argument for god. Seriously.

    *turning blue*

  21. Hansen
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    “The First Amendment does not ban the teaching of bad science in publicly funded schools.”

    To paraphrase Neil DeGrasse Tyson: The real issue is the teaching of bad science – NOT the teaching of religion.

    In the long run this issue is not going to be solved in court. It can only be solved by properly educating people.

  22. Jason Baur
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    This…

    “For myself, I would like America to have a healthcare system like Canada – government run, compulsory, universal. It is cheaper and better. But I engage with those who want free enterprise to be involved in the business. Likewise I engage with believers – I don’t accept their beliefs but I respect their right to have them.”

    …is incredibly inane. How can you possible engage with those people on the other side of the health care debate without criticizing their ideas, reasons and beliefs? Respecting the right to have a belief is not the same as respecting the belief itself. Ruse is completely incoherent here.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      Ruse is completely incoherent here.

      Ruse is completely incoherent.

      I fixed your last sentence, Jason Baur.

    • Tulse
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      Jason, his comment is not only inane, but counter to the point he is making. He says he engages free marketeers, yet says publicly that single-payer is “cheaper and better” — how is that “accommodating” the free enterprise folks? How is any different from saying that scientific accounts of the world are “more accurate and better”?

      Surely if one were an accommodationist on healthcare, one would say things like “well, it’s important that we respect the beliefs of some people that Obama’s bill will have death panels determining whose grandma dies, and killing off the disabled. And we have to understand that, for some economists, the notion that single-payer systems are inherently evil and will lead to communism is an important way of understanding this issue.”

      No one engages in political debate in this way — why should debates about SCIENCE, where actual TRUTH is involved, be more restrained?

    • windy
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      Even his analogy is screwed up on the facts. Free enterprise IS involved in the Canadian system. Only the insurance is government-run.

  23. Wes
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    And criticizing good men like Francis Collins, accusing them of fanaticism, is just not going to do the job. Nor is criticizing everyone, like me, who wants to build a bridge to believers – not accepting the beliefs, but willing to respect someone who does have them.

    So Ruse does not want to be criticized. Well, too bad. A free intellectual atmosphere means that everyone can be criticized. Grow thicker skin.

    Also, I hope everyone will forgive me for passing around academic gossip, but Ruse has a habit of pissing people off wherever he goes. I’ve heard other philosophers describe him as a “fucking jerk” and a “misogynistic asshole”. He apparently gets a kick out of telling people in Women’s Studies that Women’s Studies is not a legitimate field of study, and when introduced to female faculty he’ll ask things like, “Are you married? Where’s your husband?”

    In other words, he’s exactly the kind of abrasive, offensive person he accuses Dawkins of being. Having met both of them in person I can attest that Dawkins is much, much more polite and civil than Ruse. If the issue here is just over being nice and civil, then Dawkins wins.

    But, of course, that’s not the real issue. The real issue is picking out a minority to be a scapegoat for society’s problems. 45% of Americans are young Earth Creationists? Well, it must be because the 5% of Americans who are atheists are being uncivil!!!

    • GM
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Women’s Studies can hardly qualify as a legitimate field of study, I think we can all agree with that. The very existence guarantees that there will always be separation between men and women, and the fact that those “in the field” don’t realize it speaks volumes about the legitimacy of it.

      • Chayanov
        Posted August 14, 2009 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        Since men and women both enjoy perfect equality and share equal access to resources and opportunities, and there’s no history of gender inequality, I suppose we could agree.

    • Posted August 14, 2009 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      ‘and when introduced to female faculty he’ll ask things like, “Are you married? Where’s your husband?”’

      Are you serious?! Do they throw their drinks in his face? I hope?

      • Posted August 14, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        Throwing a drink in his face would probably be the most polite thing I’d do in that situation. Everyone in the room would quickly know what I thought of him and his comment.

        There are good reasons I work for myself.

      • Wes
        Posted August 14, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

        That’s what I was told he said. I won’t name the school, in the interest of privacy, but in a department which I visited last year, pretty much every female there–faculty and grad student–looked positively disgusted when I mentioned Ruse’s name. When I asked why, they told me about his behavior when he’d visited there a few months before. Their description fits with my own impression of meeting him (briefly), and several others from people at various universities, so I don’t know of any reason to doubt them.

        But, like I said, this is gossip. It doesn’t make Ruse right or wrong, and it’s possible that I and the people I’ve spoken to are all mistaken. It’s just my own impression. I don’t think Ruse is genuinely interested in promoting civility. I think he likes making people angry.

    • Posted August 14, 2009 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      “Ruse has a habit of pissing people off wherever he goes.”

      Well, as you may know, a few years ago he picked a fight with Dan Dennett via email and then handed the whole exchange over to William Dembski, without asking Dennett’s permission; Dembski then published it on his website. Andrew Brown (yes, that Andrew Brown) wrote a snotty, sneery (sneery at Dennett, not Ruse) article on this interesting bit of etiquette in the Guardian. Ruse and Brown both came off as complete jerks. Very edifying.

      • Posted August 14, 2009 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        “I think he likes making people angry.”

        He does; he’s up front about that.

        But then – what’s he doing shouting at atheists for being non-bashful?!

        Horrible man. Bully.

  24. H.H.
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Anytime a faitheist like Ruse argues that the new atheists are damaging the “cause” of fighting creationism, we should all just point them to this Sam Harris quote:

    The goal is not to get more Americans to merely accept the truth of evolution (or any other scientific theory); the goal is to get them to value the principles of reasoning and educated discourse that now make a belief in evolution obligatory. Doubt about evolution is merely a symptom of an underlying problem; the problem is faith itself—conviction without sufficient reason, hope mistaken for knowledge, bad ideas protected from good ones, good ideas occluded by bad ones, wishful thinking elevated to a principle of salvation, etc.

    Get it, Ruse? This isn’t just about fighting creationism or the “fanatics.” It’s about fighting the conditions that allow creationism and other anti-scientific ideas to flourish. And the largest contributing factor to the present situation is this idea that faith and magical beliefs should not be open to criticism. And “most people are religious” is not a sufficient argument to avoid this criticism. In fact, it illustrates how desperately more criticism is needed.

    • Posted August 16, 2009 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      Exactly! It’s like I keep telling people, “We don’t want to change the way Christians think about science; We want to change the world!”

  25. Richard
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    “Survey after survey shows that most American Christians (and Jews and others) fall in the middle on social issues like abortion and gay marriage as well as on science.”

    How could this possibly be true? These issues are binary. There is no middle for ‘most American Christians’ to occupy.

    This is either stupid or dishonest.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      Funny, Richard.

      Of course one can be stupid AND dishonest. I think that makes it ternary. Or a triceratops.

    • Screechy Monkey
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      Gay marriage may be a binary issue, but I don’t think abortion is. Most Americans (and I don’t think Americans are unique in this regard) fall somewhere in between “no abortion should ever be allowed, ever” and “abortion any time a woman wants one for any reason.”

      A lot of people draw the line somewhere else, e.g. by trimester, viability, “rape or incest,” or danger to the mother, a lot of people.

      • Posted August 16, 2009 at 6:07 am | Permalink

        It’s still a binary issue. Either you think the state should be able to dictate what a woman does with her own body, or you don’t. Disagreeing over exactly when the government takes over control doesn’t change that.

      • Screechy Monkey
        Posted August 16, 2009 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        In a sense that’s true, but I don’t think it’s a terribly meaningful statement.

        A libertarian would say that taxation is a binary issue: “either you think the state should be able to take your property, or you don’t. Disagreeing over exactly how much of your property the state should take doesn’t change that.”

        You could turn any issue into a binary issue by saying “either you accept position X or you don’t, the rest is details.”

        At a minimum, I think Richard was overstating things in claiming that “There is no middle for ‘most American Christians’ to occupy” and that to suggest otherwise is “stupid and dishonest.” It is factually correct that most Americans do not agree with either the “no abortions ever” or the “abortions for any woman who wants one” position. (I don’t happen to be one of them — I’m 100% pro-choice.)

  26. Posted August 14, 2009 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    The ontological argument was not nearly as stupid as it sounds today, at least when good ol’ Anselm wrote it.

    Even then people sort of intuitively recognized that “existence” wasn’t part of “perfection,” however there was a very long line of philosophy (back to Plato at least0 that said that it was, that more perfect beings “had more existence,” as evil was the lack of “existence.”

    So Anselm’s argument was that you can imagine that the most perfect being exists, but if you imagined it as “most perfect being existing,” it had to exist. Now surely one question, even using his unwritten premise that perfect=exists, whether one’s mind really had the power to decide that something exists solely on that basis, but in idealistic philosophy it should be able to do so.

    Anyhow, even today it’s taught as an interesting poser in philosophy classes. There’s no point in just throwing it to the dogs, as if it isn’t an interesting chain of logic, even though virtually everyone now agrees that imagining perfection can hardly entail the existence of said perfection.

    On other matters, it makes absolutely no sense to say that teaching “Darwinism” is tantamount to teaching atheism, as a thousand (billions, probably) potential ways of demonstrating god’s existence would exist even if “Darwinism” indicated that god could never have directly affected life at all (not possible, of course). It is legitimate to say that science altogether points away from god, but evolution is by itself silent on the issue.

    I would think that at least on the college level it would be considered legitimate to say that science indicates a lack of gods, when using appropriate epistemology. At lower levels, although it seems unfair to preclude such a reasonable judgment, likely it would run afoul of the Constitution as typically interpreted. And I know of no one who suggests that science classes include the conclusion that there is at least no meaningful god, based on science and its methods. Fundamentalists already know that it does, hence ID and creationism.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

    • Screechy Monkey
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      I like to respond with the Ontological Counter-Argument:

      1. I can imagine a perfect argument for atheism.

      2. To be perfect, an argument must be valid, sound, and irrebutable.

      3. An argument that does not exist cannot be perfect.

      Therefore, there exists a valid, sound, irrebutable argument for atheism. Therefore, God does not exist.

      I’m told that theists are busy working on the Ontological Counter-Counter Argument, but I’m ready to go with an Ontological Counter-counter-counter Argument!

  27. bilb0
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    I don’t agree with every word Ruse says, and he’s a little too strident. But I do agree that new atheists are off in deciding that, to best conquer creationism, they’ll project its views onto all theists and attack religion wholly.

    This might work if we lived in a world where we didn’t try to apply our science. But fundamentalists will do as fundamentalists do (new atheists, I mean).

  28. se-rat-o-SAWR-us
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Ruse philosophy FAIL

    Ruse: “Their treatment of the religious viewpoint is pathetic to the point of non-being. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course.”

    O RLY?

    Voltaire: “[Christianity] is assuredly the most ridiculous, the most absurd and the most bloody religion which has ever infected this world. Your Majesty will do the human race an eternal service by extirpating this infamous superstition, I do not say among the rabble, who are not worthy of being enlightened and who are apt for every yoke; I say among honest people, among men who think, among those who wish to think. … My one regret in dying is that I cannot aid you in this noble enterprise, the finest and most respectable which the human mind can point out.”
    Letters of Voltaire and Frederick the Great (New York: Brentano’s, 1927), transl. Richard Aldington, letter 156 from Voltaire to Frederick, 5 January 1767.

    Epicurus: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is God both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?

    Seneca: “Religion is considered by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.”

    Einstein: “The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses”

    Machiavelli: “Whoever becomes Prince … as [Jesus’ ancestor] David did when he became
    King, who piled good upon the needy, and dismissed the wealthy
    empty-handed
    [Mary’s description of Jesus from the Magnificat] … [uses methods that] are most cruel and hostile to every system of living, not only Christian, but human, and should be avoided by every man; and he should want rather to live as a private individual than as a King at the (expense of the) ruin of men.”

  29. articulett
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s valid to say that science can no more support a belief in god than it can support a belief in demons, and we should not coddle belief in the former any more than we should enable belief in the latter.

    Faitheists always start hearing things the atheist isn’t saying whenever scientists treat religious claims as they would treat other pseudoscientific claims. Treating religious beliefs similarly to other unsupported claims is honest and consistent–it’s not “teaching atheism” any more than it’s teaching non-belief in Scientology!

    It is not the fault of scientists that reality might conflict with the stories people have been indoctrinated to “believe in”, and I prefer the honest teachers of science over the enablers of delusion.

    I think a lot of people do, and I think this makes people like Ruse seethe with jealousy. Faithiests so desperately want to see themselves as diplomatss in the “culture war”– but reality doesn’t need moderators. Their fights all involve straw men viewpoints that no one actually holds.

    If only Galileo’s suffering at the hands of the faitheists could keep current scientists from having to suffer the same fate. But I guess that only works in those fairy tales that people feel “saved” for “believing in”.

  30. Joshua Slocum
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Drumming my fingers, waiting for Santi Tafarella to show up. No thread like this is complete without watching him bow and scrape before the deluded and hostile in an attempt out-brown-nose Ruse.

    • newenglandbob
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

      Most of his comments tend to come very late at night. You can read into that whatever you wish 🙂

  31. Leigh Jackson
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Time Ruse retired from the public arena to an attic of his philosophy department. He’s an embarrassment to himself – or should be. Antony Flew over mark II.

    The type of Christian he despises is the type who doesn’t believe any of it – like him, but who still call themselves Christians – unlike him. He respects those who do believe it even when they are hell bent on destroying science – with the exception of Ben Stein, who doesn’t play the game the way he thinks it should be played, i.e. doesn’t flatter his vanity. Sheeesh. (I am now curious to see “Expelled”.)

    Ruse doesn’t understand anything. He doesn’t understand that he is criticised not because he refuses to oppose all and every form of religion; he is criticised for not opposing all religions which are epistemologically incompatible with science, e.g. the Roman Catholic Church and evangelical Protestant churches. The addition of an unseen intelligent cause of the mechanical causes of evolution is a scientifically unwarranted cause.

    These churches may state that their beliefs are founded on faith and faith alone with complete impunity; they can even express the opinion that these beliefs are compatible with science.

    Scientific institutions should not express an opinion on the matter. What matter is it to science whether or not it is compatible with religious faith? Politics matters says Ruse. Very well, then let us have honest politics. Whether science is compatible with beliefs founded on pure faith is debateable. That is both honest and restrained. What currently emanates from esteemed instituitions is not so estimable because it is not so honest or restrained.

    And if any church or religious group claims that mainstream science – as opposed to a small number of religiously minded scientists – provides empirical evidence for their religious beliefs when it does not, then mainstream science must point that out. (Anthropic and Quantum theology please note.)

    Individual scientists are free to express whatever opinion they like, be they whomsoever – as long as they do not hold positions of great public power, when they should speak and act with regard to the body of science as a whole.

    Ruse has written nothing approaching the power of “The God Delusion” to engage with the public consciousness and consequently the body politic. His new book, “Science and Spirituality – Making Room for Faith in the Age of Science” sounds like 20 year old New Age redux – itself 20 year old redux of Zen and the Art etc. That made an impact. Redux number umteen won’t.

    Ruse likes flattery. And the Creationists appear to know this. No need for anti-creationists to be so obliging.

  32. Wes
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Do any of you guys ever click on the trackback links at the bottom of the posts? I do from time to time, because every now and then a real goofball links to a reasonable article. Those who enjoy babbling craziness should check out “Darwiniana” Some choice selections:

    I have been criticizing the New Atheists for three years here, ever since Dennett’s Breaking the Spell, on the grounds that scientists are unable to study the history of religion, have misapplied false Darwinian theories to its evolution, and generally given atheism a bad name to the point that prior & outstanding atheists (sometimes not so-called) have had to change their story and label.
    In the end the problem is not so much atheism as the false Darwinism that claims to foundationalize a godless universe, a highly dubious metaphysical view.

    http://darwiniana.com/2009/08/14/ruse-on-the-new-atheists/

    “Foundationalize” is a highly dubious word.

    The issue of history and evolution is a confusing one, and it seems as if we are making a category error. But consider the following question: when did evolution stop and history begin? This tricky question will trip up the Darwinian approach and leave it to collapse in a contradiction. The answer of course is that there couldn’t be an instantaneous switch. We can see that to set a specific date is contradictory. So we must specify a transition between evolution and history. What form would this hybrid take, passing from evolution to history? Either it is all evolution or all history?? Or maybe a series of mini-transitions with evolution dominant then history dominant. In alternation. Now look at the eonic effect: it speaks not just of evolution, but of history and evolution, the two braided together, with history emerging from evolution. And this eonic effect takes the form of a sequence of alternating periods, with evolution (in our sense) dominant during eras of transition, and co-related periods with history (in our sense) dominant. Thus we actually see in history the data matching the deduction about transitions, passing from evolution to history.

    http://darwiniana.com/2009/08/12/janus-faced-evolution-and-history/

    It’s not a tricky question. It’s a stupid question, like “When did plate tectonics stop and ethnomusicology begin?”

    We should note in passing that religions tend to share a similar prejudice here, a clear sign that their normative mindset (normal=abnormal) is not so different from that of science, so-called.
    Much of this debate is either false, or irrelevant: the field is cluttered with secondary claims (like spoon-bending) that distract from the intangibly subtle reality of the occult psyche of man, present in all iterations of the species since the Paleolithic, but threatened with extinction by scientism and its propaganda by its adherents, and other reductionist idiots.

    http://darwiniana.com/2009/08/14/mission-impossible-declaring-parapsychology-baseless-fiction/

    I don’t have the foggiest clue what that’s supposed to say…

    • Wes
      Posted August 14, 2009 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

      D’oh! Fucked up the blockquotes!

  33. Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    1. I can imagine a perfect God
    2. One of the attributes of perfection is efficiency.
    3. The ultimate expression of efficiency is being able to do everything without actually existing.
    4. Therefore God does not exist.

    What now?

    • Screechy Monkey
      Posted August 15, 2009 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Now you just sit back and relax. Atheists all over the world will simply respond to any theist apologetics with, “ah, but you haven’t refuted Skegg’s argument.” When the theist points out the obvious flaws in the argument, we will simply make snide remarks about how the theist would fail Philosophy 101 and clearly isn’t qualified to deal with such a complicated, sophisticated, and well-respected argument.

  34. MadScientist
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    “I don’t accept their beliefs but I respect their right to have them.”

    How does that fit into anything? Some people (like myself) say religious beliefs are just plain stupid but I don’t know of anyone telling religious people that they’re not allowed to believe in Teh Stoopid. The religious people, on the other hand, want us to RESPECT their bullshit. Hey, they can believe their bullshit as long as it harms no one else, but I’m damned if I’m going to respect their bullshit. Oh hell, I’m damned anyway.

    Of course when the religious say “respect” they mean we should nod in accordance when they spout crap like “god created the universe 6000 years ago” – in other words, respect means believing the same shit or sitting quietly and allowing them to spread the crap around unchallenged. How we’re meant to progress with such an inane attitude is beyond comprehension. I’ll put in another vote for the person who suggested “asstheist” because of the frequently used phrase “I’m an atheist but …”

  35. Posted August 15, 2009 at 2:32 am | Permalink

    I wonder if part of the problem is the fact that English spent hundreds of years as a way to describe non-scientific stuff. The problem for some of us is the word ‘respect’.

    The phrase “Respect my belief” can be read two ways:
    “Respect MY belief” or
    “Respect my BELIEF”
    i.e. the diffenrence between someones right to believe what they want, and paying deference to that belief.

    Personally, if someone wants to spend Sundays talking to someone non-existent, that’s fine by me, as long as they don’t harm me or others.

  36. melior
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 3:13 am | Permalink

    Bragging about “expertise in theology” is like bragging about expertise in nosepicking: if you’re referring to your own no one honestly cares; if you mean some one else’s you’ll find it impossible to convince them.

  37. Dave Wisker
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    Ruse has been sleeping with the creationists for so long he has picked up all of their fleas.

  38. Matti K
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    I think this sarcstic comment illustrates the way faitheists equate critical response with intolerance:

    http://thedivineconspiracy.org/blog/?p=598

    “Of course, the mentioned by Ruse Jerry Coyne is quick to respond. I guess Ruse doesn’t yet realize that NO deviation from Darwinian orthodoxy (fundamentalism) will be tolerated. Just ask Mooney and Kirshenbaum.”

    • Baby Jesus
      Posted August 15, 2009 at 6:26 am | Permalink

      [quote]UPDATE: I found this somewhat ironic. The very first comment on the above Ruse piece on RichardDawkins.net was the following:

      “some doctrines like original sin seem to me to be accurate psychologically”

      I have no idea what this means – anyone else got an idea, because it sounds like tosh to me!

      An example of exactly why several years ago I stopped debating atheists . . . we speak different languages, and understand the world in completely different ways. [/quote]

      (Quote from the same blog)

      What is “psychologically accurate” about the doctrine that we are all born guilty of some imaginary sin because some imaginary rib-woman in an allegorical story ate the fruit of an allegorical tree because an invisible snake told her to do it? Is it still “psychologically accurate” when stripped of the weight of the interpretation of Christian theology and viewed, for example, as the Jews view this and other Genesis story?

      If only Ruse had substantiated his claim, no one would be calling “tosh” on it.

  39. Donovan
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    If Darwinian evolution implied a god DID exist, it would still be valid science and would belong in the science classroom. Unfortunately, reality has a bias toward atheism.

    I am screaming the same thing as Coyne, Myers, Dawkins, Harris, Dennet, Maher, Smith, Sagan, Thunderf00t, etc…:
    If there is such a fount of evidence I am ignoring or missing, what is it?!?! I think I can speak for 90% of us when I say that strong evidence would sway us at least to the point of serious and respectful dialogue and acceptance of theism when the evidence mounted the way it has for the opposite.

  40. Whomever1
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Not only that, but Ruse is uninformed about the Canadian health system. It’s a universal insurance program, not
    “a healthcare system like Canada – government run, compulsory, universal”. It is cheaper and better.

  41. Astos
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    About the ontological argument… it goes both ways.
    I can imagine a perfect world without any god.
    This perfect world isn’t perfect if it doesn’t exist
    Therefore this perfect world with no gods exists.

    You can prove pretty much anything that way.

    • Screechy Monkey
      Posted August 15, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      The ontological argument is startlingly similar to Douglas Adams’ “Babel Fish Argument.” Except that the Babel Fish Argument was intended to be funny. And it was based on a factual premise (the existence of the babel fish in that fictional universe).

    • Posted August 15, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      That’s my main problem with theology; it’s just wordgames that can be used to prove anything in the end. I mean, say you don’t know what a rock is and I endeavor to demonstrate their existence. Shouldn’t I just show you the rock instead of just arguing the necessity of rocks, the perfection of rocks, etc?

      Further on the Onto argument:

      This site illustrates Kant’s objection to it. Now, I’m no philosophy expert nor am I one of those “X said this, Y said that” arguer, but this objection has beef.

      • Posted August 15, 2009 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        Hm, what a choppy reply.

  42. J. J. Ramsey
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    As Mr. Forrest notes, the ontological argument, which Ruse sees as badly treated by Dawkins, is just plain stupid.

    I gather that you are referring to this bit by Ruse: “As I have said elsewhere, for the first time in my life, I felt sorry for the ontological argument.. If we criticized gene theory with as little knowledge as Dawkins has of religion and philosophy, he would be rightly indignant.” Both Mr. Forrest and you miss Ruse’s point, which is not that the ontological argument is any good, but that Dawkins handles it poorly. And, really, he does.

    It looks like Dawkins didn’t really understand the problems with the ontological argument, and instead of, oh, going to the Oxford library to find good arguments that he could translate into plain English for his audience, he started off with a bunch of filler anecdotes and then apparently strung together bits that he found on the Internet without understanding how they fit. Dawkins alludes to Kant’s landmark argument that existence is not a predicate, but never explains what it means. He muddies the waters further by talking about existence not being a perfection, which gets into unnecessarily messy value judgments, and on that matter, he offers only a weak partial quote from Norman Malcolm as a sort of proof text. Dawkins’ quote of Gasking’s parody of the ontological argument is amusing but not very useful, since the incoherence that makes Gasking’s argument fail, namely the idea of God creating the universe without actually existing, is not present in the original argument that he parodies.

    There’s no good reason for Dawkins to have been this sloppy. It’s a disservice to his readers and sets a poor example.

  43. Posted August 15, 2009 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Just posted over beliefnet.com on Ruse’s article and awaiting moderation:

    Why was my earlier comment censored? It was polite, not offensive and to the point.

    In my experience replies on faith-based blogs are heavily moderated and censored, while those on atheist blogs lightly or not at all.

    This attitude is another example of the dishonesty associated with the faith-based position.

  44. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    Ruse is a faitheist by name only, as he is anti-scientist on the ground that evolution science is problematic for religion. Therefore he refers to it as the philosophic “Darwinism” while design creationism gets the erroneous characterization of “ID Theory”.

    As Donovan already remarked, Ruse is wrong on the 1st amendment on the face of it: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”. Finding evidence for or against gods would naively neither be founding an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting free exercise thereof.

  45. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    @ JJ Ramsey:

    Well, it seems you either really doesn’t understand Dawkins’ criticism, or is mischaracterizing it.

    Dawkins do discuss the ontological argument, but as an example of a priori arguments, i.e. those that doesn’t care for checking with reality. This is declared at the beginning of the short chapter (pp 103-110 in my paperback).

    What you call “a bunch of filler anecdotes” is one spoof (“anecdote”) of the argument that shows exactly why it is an a priori argument.

    Btw, not that it matters after that short refutation, but he also goes on to explain Kant’s argument – but never alludes to the technicalities (i.e. “predicate”). It is also in that part that Dawkins specifically mention how stupid it is to characterize existence or non-existence in terms of ‘perfection’, as the ontological argument does. (Not Dawkins, as you claim.)

    Further, there is no need for “proof text”. (Invalid a priori argument, remember?) It is references to philosophers analysis. Finally, if you read Gasking’s analysis it uses the same argument that Astos noted, showing that the ontological argument goes both ways.

    [This means btw that it must be invalid. (If you can show both A and not-A from the same argument, logic implodes.) Dawkins prefer to simply point out that by way of Gasking it obviously can’t show that it purports to show.]

  46. J. J. Ramsey
    Posted August 16, 2009 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    What you call ‘a bunch of filler anecdotes’ is one spoof (‘anecdote’) of the argument that shows exactly why it is an a priori argument.

    Um, no. The filler is a long snarky introduction to what the ontological argument is, followed by a discussion of Bertrand Russell’s opinions on it, followed by Dawkins’ suspicions about it. There isn’t much meat to it.

    Btw, not that it matters after that short refutation, but he also goes on to explain Kant’s argument

    There’s no refutation at all in the paragraphs before the one where he discusses Kant.

    Further, there is no need for ‘proof text’. (Invalid a priori argument, remember?) It is references to philosophers analysis

    What Dawkins quotes consists of Norman Malcolm’s opinion followed by a somewhat weak rhetorical question: “what could it mean to say that it will be a better house if it exists than if it does not?” I call this a proof text of sorts because Dawkins is citing Malcolm’s conclusion, as if the fact that the conclusion came from a philosopher were reason enough to accept it, without any analysis provided either from Dawkins or the quote from Malcolm.

    Finally, if you read Gasking’s analysis it uses the same argument that Astos noted

    Maybe the parts of Gasking’s analysis not quoted by Dawkins do that, but as I pointed out, Gasking’s parody argument has an incoherence not present in Astos’ parody argument, that is, the idea of a non-existent being created the universe. To be fair, according to Wikipedia, Gasking was attempting “to highlight problems when existence is taken as [a] property.” However, this isn’t even pointed out by Dawkins.

    Indeed, the core problem with the ontological argument is that it treats existence as if it were the property of an object (i.e. a “predicate”), yet Dawkins never explains this. He alludes to this when he speaks of existence not being a ‘perfection,’ but substitutes a quote from Malcolm for actually expanding upon the point. As a result, he fails to inform the reader of the flaws in the argument that he purports to criticize. Considering that there is a wealth of literature that Dawkins could have used to help him actually explain the problems with the onto argument, this is inexcusable.

  47. Haymaker
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    “even in the theology classroom!(How many believers have lost their faith when learning about how the Bible was actually put together?)”

    Funny you mentioned this! I went to a Catholic university and was required to take religion course on this topic, which is exactly what got me to question and led me down the path to becoming an atheist!

  48. Aaron Baker
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    You wrote:

    “Ruse also goes after Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and other new atheists for their lame and unsophisticated arguments against religion.”

    I think that there’s something to this: Dawkins, for example, treats the traditional arguments for theism pretty carelessly and superficially in his most recent book. That said, all these arguments are adequately rebutted, I think, by such atheist philosophers as Antony Flew, John Mackie, and Colin McGinn.

    I wish that Dawkins, who can dissect a subject with wonderful clarity when he cares enough about it, had done more of it in THE GOD DELUSION; but it doesn’t make much practical difference.


10 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. […] course, the mentioned by Ruse Jerry Coyne is quick to respond. I guess Ruse doesn’t yet realize that NO deviation from Darwinism orthodoxy (fundamentalism) […]

  3. […] sometimes hear people whine about atheists hurting the cause of educating the public on evolution. Here is some pushback against that “meme”. But the huge irony here is that atheists (in general) are leading the way for research into […]

  4. […] quite deliberately or in error of thought missing the points of the public, popular atheists. Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers treat this essay with far more depth than I can muster, so I will lead you to their […]

  5. […] Michael Ruse’s WhingeFest: atheists very, very bad for evolution As the the season of atheist-bashing proceeds, faitheist Michael Ruse continues to whine about us on — of all […] […]

  6. […] passport and “get out of jail free” card for bad behaviour? Anyway, Jerry Coyne replied, removing all doubt about the atheist […]

  7. What’s Wrong With Religious Scientists?…

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  8. […] For a long time Ruse has been making the ridiculous argument that if you feel that evolution promotes atheism, then teaching evolution is the same thing as denigrating religion in the pubic schools.  Apparently the man is serious.  Although Ruse loudly and constantly praises himself for his perspicacity and deep understanding of philosophy and politics, he seems unable to comprehend this simple fact: the erosion of one’s faith by the facts of biology, astronomy, geology, biblical scholarship and the like does not mean that these fields are equivalent to atheism.  Is that so hard to understand? […]

  9. […] For a long time Ruse has been making the ridiculous argument that if you feel that evolution promotes atheism, then teaching evolution is the same thing as denigrating religion in the pubic schools.  Apparently the man is serious.  Although Ruse loudly and constantly praises himself for his perspicacity and deep understanding of philosophy and politics, he seems unable to comprehend this simple fact: the erosion of one’s faith by the facts of biology, astronomy, geology, biblical scholarship and the like does not mean that these fields are equivalent to atheism.  Is that so hard to understand? […]

  10. […] article was posted on “the religious ‘Science and the Sacred’ website.” Coyne’s blog mocks Ruse’s association, temporary as it was, with the mock-sympathetic lament that […]

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