Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ Moses ‘n’ Templeton

Move over, Robert Wright — you’ve got some serious competition for all that dosh!

2009-08-27

One correction: the prize is a million British pounds, currently 1.6 million dollars.

h/t: Jesus and Mo artist.

44 Comments

  1. Posted August 27, 2009 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Damn. Had my hopes up – I thought there was a new prize from Templeton for doing what a number of religious people do in their sleep – something I can do even though I’m not religious and don’t need to do it. Nope – just the regular old Templeton Prize. I guess I’ll stay poor.

    I like Mohammed’s two bits worth… “Scientific Materialism is epistemically INCOMPATIBLE with religious belief!” I was waiting for the “HAW HAW HAW!”

    Seriously – did Jack Chick have a twin separated at birth? WTF does “epistemically incompatible even mean?” (Never question Bruce Dickinson!)

  2. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Shouldn’t that be Joe & Moe & Moz?

    Anyway, Templeton’s prize probably means that they accede it hasn’t been done and that it is hard, correct?

    Hmm. Maybe we should then ask for a symbolic sum from all those who can tell the irreconcilable difference between knowing things and making them up, to drive the point home. 😀

    I’ll bet the sum can beat Templeton’s prize. (And it should used for something actually good and worthwhile, of course.)

  3. Posted August 27, 2009 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    What’re you trying to do, convert us all?

    I’m already reformulating my priorities and recategorizing my mind to compatibilize my thought processes with 1 million pounds my profound belief in god.

    I know, I have faith that it’ll all work out, and if I just put the word “faith” in there as the trump card, I should get the money from people to whom “faith” wins everything.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

    • Posted August 27, 2009 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      There was supposed to be a strike-through of “1 million pounds.” I still don’t know what html tags work here. I’ll see if the “del” tag works:

      I’m already reformulating my priorities and recategorizing my mind to compatibilize my thought processes with 1 million pounds my profound belief in god.

      Glen Davidson
      http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  4. newenglandbob
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    1 million pounds – that is heavy!

    Can I create my own religion to win their prize? My very own dogma?

    Oh, the possibilities! Of course to harmonize science and religion require just the right choir. I could bring back Michael Jackson and Otis Redding.

    No funny hats or robes though.

  5. Tulse
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Scienz & relijon iz compatible.

    I can haz prize?

  6. Posted August 27, 2009 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Runner up: James Wood.

  7. madamX
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    Is this the same man who wrote The Moral Animal? Too bad, his writing was inspirational and now he is full of shit. What an amoral ape.

  8. tom
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    I’m not interested in defending everything Wright says, and I’m open to have my mind changed about the stuff I would defend. However: his critique of Coyne’s recent review was pretty humiliating, and it would be classy for Coyne to post a thorough and honest response before continuing with the cheap shots.

  9. Robocop
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    I have a few questions.

    1. Where is the best argument that “Scientific Materialism is epistemically INCOMPATIBLE with religious belief” stated? I’ve looked have haven’t seen it.

    2. How does the clause quoted in #1 even make sense?

    3. Was the use of “scientific materialism” supposed to be ironic? Either way, it was pretty funny.

    • H.H.
      Posted August 28, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      1. Where is the best argument that “Scientific Materialism is epistemically INCOMPATIBLE with religious belief” stated? I’ve looked have haven’t seen it.

      “The first principle [of science] is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” –Richard Feynman

      “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” –hebrews 11:1

      2. How does the clause quoted in #1 even make sense?

      Some people apparently labor under the delusion that faith claims do not conflict with the scientific principle of verification. More broadly, they fail to see that science is a form of applied skepticism diametrically opposed to epistemologies which consider personal revelation a form of knowledge.

      3. Was the use of “scientific materialism” supposed to be ironic? Either way, it was pretty funny.

      No, but it was perhaps redundant.

      • Posted August 28, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

        1. Where is the argument that connects these two quotes in a meaningful way?

        2. Yeah, but what does “epistemically incompatible” mean? Seriously? And why must all endeavors employ the same set of methods as science?

      • H.H.
        Posted August 28, 2009 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

        1. Where is the argument that connects these two quotes in a meaningful way?

        You really need it spelled out for you? Science is a method for eliminating personal bias, faith is a method for encouraging it. These methods, therefore, are fundamentally incompatible with one another.

        2. Yeah, but what does “epistemically incompatible” mean?

        It means that, as systems of knowledge, they are mutually exclusive.

        And why must all endeavors employ the same set of methods as science?

        All endeavors don’t necessarily need to employ the methods of science. But some methods are incompatible with the methods of science. Faith is such a method. It is intellectually dishonest to switch between contradictory epistemologies just because one produces an answer you don’t like.

      • Posted August 28, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        Just to be a little technical and picky – since I already see this going off the rails… In order for two methods to be “diametrically opposed”, they must address the same questions, and must always come to opposite conclusions about them. So, unless you think the Bible addresses photosynthesis and science is primarily geared for evaluating claims that are outside or beyond the regularity of nature, then now would be a good time to adopt a different position on whether the two methods are “diametrically opposed”.

      • H.H.
        Posted August 28, 2009 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

        “Diametrically opposed” simply means exactly opposite. It can be applied either answers or methods. Diametrically opposed answers would be opposite answers to the same question. Diametrically opposed epistemological methods would be methods which take opposite approaches to answering all questions. It is not implied that the conclusions reached must necessarily be opposite, however. It is possible to arrive at the same answer using opposing epistemologies through sheer chance.

  10. Posted August 28, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    You really need it spelled out for you?

    Certainly it needs to be spelled out.

    Science is a method for eliminating personal bias

    That’s it? So you can use it to turn rabid political partisans into absolutely neutral centrists? Or is there maybe a little more to it than just “eliminating personal bias”? Maybe it doesn’t even methodically eliminate personal bias – maybe it simply insulates conclusions about certain processes from being influenced by personal bias?

    On the other hand, faith isn’t just a method for encouraging personal bias.

    And finally, none of that matters unless they are applied to exactly the same type of problem. A hammer drives nails, a claw pulls them out – but nobody sophomorically claims that they are “carpentrically incompatible”.

    It means that, as systems of knowledge, they are mutually exclusive.

    And what does that mean? Does that mean they will always reach different conclusions about the same questions? Does it mean that once you have committed to answer one class of questions using one of those methods, you cannot answer another set of questions using the other method?

    All endeavors don’t necessarily need to employ the methods of science. But some methods are incompatible with the methods of science. Faith is such a method. It is intellectually dishonest to switch between contradictory epistemologies just because one produces an answer you don’t like.

    You’re assuming facts not in evidence… In fact, creationism is almost exactly that: switching systems because you don’t like the answer science gives. But not all Christians are creationists. Why? Because not all Christians are willing to switch modes just because they don’t like the answers of one of those modes. It is the claim of many religious people that they use different methods very specifically because one set of methods is more useful for the task – not because they “don’t like an answer”. And this claim is utterly defensible.

    Here’s the glitch… The two classes of question under discussion are these:
    1) questions about how the universe operates under the regularity of nature
    2) questions about (assumed) contingencies beyond the regularity of nature.

    As philosophical materialists, we have come to believe there are no such contingencies beyond the regularity of nature. But this is a philosophical position that cannot be scientifically proven, and until we can do that we cannot bind someone else to accept our assumptions, nor can we prevent them making their own set.

    If indeed there are contingencies beyond the regularity of nature, then they will often be misunderstood or completely unseen by science, which depends on regularity to operate. If indeed there are such contingencies, faith may or may not be an appropriate approach toward understanding them. I feel that it is not. But who gives a shit? The point is that religions generally do not require one to use faith for scientific questions.

    So, unless you can show otherwise, it looks to me that your “epistemic incompatibility” is just a pompous restatement of a trivial point: the two methods aren’t appropriate for use in the same endeavors. And everybody already knows that…

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted August 28, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      What a load of smoke that is being blown around.

      It is verbal masturbation. Another case of many words that say noting.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted August 28, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        noting should be nothing.

      • Posted August 28, 2009 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        Not exactly nothing… just pretty close to it – like I said, “a pompous restatement of a trivial point”. But you put it in a cartoon and use the HAW HAW HAW lettering and it is funny. In the same way that Chick is funny.

      • Posted August 28, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

        That’s another good one. Verbal masturbation. Anybody know where I can get a good verbal vibrator? I think I want to “choke the larynx” if you know what I mean.

        Epistemically incompatible, Epistemically incompatible, Epistemically incompatible,OH GOD!

  11. H.H.
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    smijer, science is a method for understanding reality. It is not limited to the material. That’s an artificial constraint.

    Lenny Flank gives one of the best overviews on the topic that I’ve seen:

    The scientific method is very simple, and consists of five basic steps. They are:

    1. Observe some aspect of the universe

    2. Form a hypothesis that potentially explains what you have observed

    3. Make testable predictions from that hypothesis

    4. Make observations or experiments that can test those predictions

    5. Modify your hypothesis until it is in accord with all observations and predictions

    Nothing in any of those five steps excludes on principle, a priori, any “supernatural cause”. Using this method, one is entirely free to invoke as many non-material pixies, ghosts, goddesses, demons, devils, djinis, and/or the Great Pumpkin, as many times as you like, in any or all of your hypotheses. And science won’t (and doesn’t) object to that in the slightest. Indeed, scientific experiments have been proposed (and carried out and published) on such “supernatural causes” as the effects of prayer on healing, as well as such “non-materialistic” or “non-natural” causes as ESP, telekinesis, precognition and “remote viewing”.

    http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Hangar/2437/idtheory.htm

    A premise–any premise–must pass a series of hurdles to qualify as knowledge. Hypotheses are subjected to a battery of tests. A discernible pattern must emerge during observations. And, because we all inhabit the same reality, one’s findings and conclusions must be verifiable by separate minds. This is how science susses truth out of infinite possibilities. The success of this method is all around us and undeniable. But if a premise–any premise–fails these steps, then science says it must be rejected until such time as it can pass them (if ever). If Christians do not define God or the supernatural in a manner which can be tested by science, then science says god and the supernatural must be rejected until such time as it can be tested. There are no exceptions to this.

    Because not all Christians are willing to switch modes just because they don’t like the answers of one of those modes. It is the claim of many religious people that they use different methods very specifically because one set of methods is more useful for the task – not because they “don’t like an answer”. And this claim is utterly defensible.

    No. The reason Christians have decided that the scientific method is “not useful for the task” of addressing faith claims is because the scientific method returns answers they don’t like. It’s not that science fails to work on supernatural questions, it’s that it accurately returns negative answers. It works fine. Science says “these premises fail and should be rejected.” So anyone applying science consistently and appropriately would be forced to reject supernatural assumptions.

    And no, we cannot bind people to our assumptions. But we should demand consistency in the assumptions they make. You can choose to adopt a scientific worldview or a faith-based worldview, but not both.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted August 28, 2009 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      It’s not that science fails to work on supernatural questions, it’s that it accurately returns negative answers so far. It works fine. Science says “these premises fail and should be rejected.” So anyone applying science consistently and appropriately would be forced to reject supernatural assumptions.

      That is the heart of the debate, right there. Bold is my addition. Science is accepting of any change to those results. Religion rarely does.

    • Posted August 28, 2009 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      “material” isn’t really the demarcating factor. Predictability is.

      Make testable predictions from that hypothesis

      How do you make a testable prediction about something that is completely non-contingent on the regularity of nature, like God?

      The reason Christians have decided that the scientific method is “not useful for the task” of addressing faith claims is because the scientific method returns answers they don’t like.

      Though it’s certainly true in some cases, I’m afraid that you misunderstand religion badly if you think that it is always true, or a native function of religion.

      You can choose to adopt a scientific worldview or a faith-based worldview, but not both.

      In principle that is possible. But in practice it is impossible to choose a completely scientific world-view or a completely faith-based one. World views are complex structures that include numerous elements. Those elements are scientific, artistic, political, moral, faith-based depending on how we structure them.

      • H.H.
        Posted August 28, 2009 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        How do you make a testable prediction about something that is completely non-contingent on the regularity of nature, like God?

        That’s for the supporters of the god hypothesis to worry about, isn’t it? Why should theistic assumptions be given a free pass just because theists can’t figure out a valid way to verify them?

      • Posted August 28, 2009 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

        That’s a dodge – you are the one claiming that it is possible to do that for something that is not subject to the regularity of nature. It is your claim that such a hypothesis can be scientifically tested, so it is up to you to demonstrate that by showing how it can be done.

      • H.H.
        Posted August 28, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

        That’s a dodge – you are the one claiming that it is possible to do that for something that is not subject to the regularity of nature. It is your claim that such a hypothesis can be scientifically tested, so it is up to you to demonstrate that by showing how it can be done.

        No, that is definitely not what I’m saying. I’m not suggesting that every possible claim can be tested by science. I’m simply saying that claims which cannot pass the tests of science must be rejected as unsound. If a claim cannot ever be tested even in principle, than that is simply an admission that it is a claim which must always be rejected as a matter of principle.

      • Posted August 28, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

        Your words: “Nothing in any of those five steps excludes on principle, a priori, any “supernatural cause”.”

        Ummm. Again – steps 2 & 3 kind of do. This is in response to “No, that is definitely not what I’m saying. I’m not suggesting that every possible claim can be tested by science.”

        I did re-read what you wrote… and I apologize – I missed it before… you were already claiming that the untested was “rejected”… Good choice of words, since “shown false” would be incorrect. But a claim “rejected” in the sense of “passed over without evaluation” by science may still be viable through under some other system.

        Yes – I do understand the track record science has of sussing out knowledge about the things that operate within the regularity of nature. And, like you, I extrapolate that those things that it has no track record of bringing knowledge about – those things supposedly outside the regularity of nature – are probably worthless as ideas (and faith a worthless tool for sussing out knowledge about them). But it’s silly to pretend that the areas that are important to faith are the same areas that science has a great track record on. It’s never been able to make a testable prediction about what is in principle unpredictable. It has no track record of sussing out knowledge on such matters. It has a track record of sticking to understanding those things it is able to make testable predictions about.

      • H.H.
        Posted August 28, 2009 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

        But a claim “rejected” in the sense of “passed over without evaluation” by science may still be viable through under some other system.

        I am open to the possibility that there exists other viable systems, but I’ve never seen anyone able to demonstrate the existence of such a system. Do you have a candidate in mind?

        Yes – I do understand the track record science has of sussing out knowledge about the things that operate within the regularity of nature. And, like you, I extrapolate that those things that it has no track record of bringing knowledge about – those things supposedly outside the regularity of nature – are probably worthless as ideas (and faith a worthless tool for sussing out knowledge about them).

        Yes, we seem to agree here.

        But it’s silly to pretend that the areas that are important to faith are the same areas that science has a great track record on.

        But which areas are “of interest” to faith are irrelevant if faith a worthless tool for sussing out knowledge. The claim is that science is inadequate to address certain claims about external reality–specifically that there exists an irregular, immaterial plane of existence unbound by the laws of the material. But if not science, then what system of knowledge is adequate to address such a claim? I’m not saying science is perfect, I’m saying it’s all we have. The limitations of science are simply the limitations of what is knowable, period.

        It’s never been able to make a testable prediction about what is in principle unpredictable.

        But what can?

        It has a track record of sticking to understanding those things it is able to make testable predictions about.

        But that’s just another way of saying science can only inform of us of things which are, in principle, knowable.

  12. Posted August 28, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    If a claim cannot ever be tested even in principle, than that is simply an admission that it is a claim which must always be rejected as a matter of principle.

    So you could have skipped the primer on the junior high science book version of the scientific method, right? Because the operative item was the step you left out: “If it is impossible to evaluate the claim using these criteria, then it automatically evaluates false”. Calvinball much?

    • H.H.
      Posted August 28, 2009 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      Not false, necessarily. Any hypothesis can be made to avoid falsification if enough ad hoc assumptions are thrown in to prop it up. (See: the god hypothesis) But such claims certainly cannot be given the status of “true” or “valid” or “knowledge.”

      And you’re the one defending a position which states “I can’t figure out any way to keep score, therefore I win” and you accuse me of playing Calvinball? Lol.

      • Posted August 28, 2009 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

        It appears to me that you, like so many others on this web-site, are assuming that all knowledge is scientific knowledge.

        But such claims certainly cannot be given the status of “true” or “valid” or “knowledge.

        That goes further than what science says. Science simply says they are not justified by science.

        Whether they are justified as “truth”, “knowledge”, “sacred belief”, or whatever else, and how they may properly be so justified, is a question outside the domain of science. A philosophical question.

        And you’re the one defending a position which states “I can’t figure out any way to keep score, therefore I win”

        Wrong. The position is that no one can possible figure out a way to keep score using a particular set of rules, therefore those rules are useless for this particular question.

      • H.H.
        Posted August 28, 2009 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

        Wrong. The position is that no one can possible figure out a way to keep score using a particular set of rules, therefore those rules are useless for this particular question.

        Then which rule set should we be using? Oh, and please be sure to demonstrate that it leads to accurate scores.

      • Posted August 29, 2009 at 5:19 am | Permalink

        Then which rule set should we be using? Oh, and please be sure to demonstrate that it leads to accurate scores.

        Good philosophical question. Religion says faith (generally speaking) in revealed teachings is a good method for those questions that apply to the transcendent. It says that the accuracy of its justification is based on the truthfulness of God or some such.

        This is the point that you and I agree on: we both think they are full of it in thinking so.

        BUT, the question this thread is about is not whether religion is right or wrong, good or bad. The question is whether there is some mysterious force preventing a person from incorporating this other set of of faith rules for questions that are not well suited for scientific investigation.

        If you want someone to argue further that religion is justifiable or right, you will have to find a theologian to argue with.

        If you want to argue that religion is “AHEM, ePIStemologically INcompatible, HAW HAW HAW”, then lay out some rigorous definitions and use some inductive method and actually make a case for THAT.

  13. Posted August 28, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Any hypothesis can be made to avoid falsification if enough ad hoc assumptions are thrown in to prop it up.

    And, while doing that is contrary to the spirit of the enlightened search for knowledge, it isn’t strictly speaking “contrary to science”. But that isn’t what we’re talking about. The character of supernaturalism is such that it is outside the regularity of nature to begin with. That is not an ad hoc assumption meant to avoid falsification.

    • H.H.
      Posted August 28, 2009 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

      The character of supernaturalism is such that it is outside the regularity of nature to begin with. That is not an ad hoc assumption meant to avoid falsification.

      Oh, it most certainly is an ad hoc excuse. Early Christian scientists had no doubts but that the evidence for god’s existence would be uncovered in his handiwork. That evidence just never materialized, is all. Remember, Christians don’t just believe that god exist, but that he interacts with his creation in observable ways. Plenty of these supposed interactions are testable by science. If the geological record showed clear evidence of a global flood, if controlled studies proved the efficacy of prayer, if tests on communion wafers before and after the act of transubstantiation demonstrated change on the molecular level, if any of these things were tested scientifically and came out with positive results, do you really think Christians would reject them on the grounds that “the supernatural is in principle untestable?” Not bloody likely. The only reason we’re subjected to the “god is not testable” mantra is because the results came back negative.

      • Posted August 29, 2009 at 5:25 am | Permalink

        It is an ad hoc excuse if we could expect to make testable predictions about the subject matter. On some matters it is true that they feel the subject matter is more apt for that than others, but 2000 years ago the New Testament was already warning against testing God in this way – and it wasn’t because they were in awe of Galileo.

        When most of these beliefs began, no one even knew what the eventual scientific criteria for investigation would be. They just knew that they were talking about something that was beyond nature and not fond of being poked with a stick.

        When science came along there were problems because it isn’t a method for studying what can’t be tested through testable predictions. But it was already of that nature before anyone knew what a science was or how to throw one.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted August 29, 2009 at 6:45 am | Permalink

        2000 years ago the New Testament was already warning against testing God in this way – and it wasn’t because they were in awe of Galileo.

        It was because they knew they were full of shit and that they would be challenged about their fantasy stories.

        The Republicans in the US do that very thing today to cover up their lies, deceptions and stories.

  14. NewEnglandBob
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    When it comes down to it. Religion has nothing to stand on. Science has a huge amount.

    Theologians blow smoke and tell lies and fabricate stories.

    Science deals in facts and evidence.

    They are completely incompatible due to religions defects.

  15. madamX
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Smijer,
    With all due respect, you are an idiot. That is all.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted August 28, 2009 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      There is that.

    • Posted August 29, 2009 at 5:26 am | Permalink

      Kthx… I think you are needed on the thread with all the other smart people who are above actually arguing their position. bai…

  16. KP
    Posted August 31, 2009 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    More competition: http://www.wired.com/science/planetearth/news/2007/12/dowd_qa

    • KP
      Posted August 31, 2009 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      Ah, I just realized that was some pretty old news. Sorry.

    • newenglandbob
      Posted August 31, 2009 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      That guy’s “Evolutionary theology” is a load of nonsense anyway.


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