Blaming the scientists: Giberson pins creationism on atheists, evolutionists

Over at HuffPo (who knew?), Karl Giberson, Ph.D, vice president of the Templeton-funded BioLogos Foundation, discusses why intelligent design persists in America.  Here are his four explanations:

ID’s coffin is far from being nailed shut. Several things are propping it open:

1) The complex designs of many natural structures that have not yet been explained by science. As long as there are ingenious devices and intricate phenomena in nature (origin of life, anyone?) that we cannot understand, there will be ID arguments.

2) The remarkable, finely-tuned structure of the cosmos in which the laws of physics collaborate to make life possible. Many agnostics have had their faith in unguided materialism shaken by this, most recently Anthony Flew.

3) The widespread belief that God — an intelligent agent — created the universe. The claim that an intelligent God created an unintelligent universe seems peculiar, to say the least.

4) The enthusiastic insistence by the New Atheists that evolution is incompatible with belief in God. Most people think more highly of their religion than their science. Imagine trying to get 100 million Americans to dress up for a science lecture every Sunday morning — and then voluntarily pay for the privilege.

ID’s coffin will remain open — and empty — as least as long as these props remain. Science is working successfully only on the first prop above and is a long way from having explained all the mysteries of nature.

Well, we’re doing the best we can with #1, but of course a major reason for the persistence of creationism is #3.   Here’s what the Pew Forum says:

When asked what they would do if scientists were to disprove a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they would continue to hold to what their religion teaches rather than accept the contrary scientific finding, according to the results of an October 2006 Time magazine poll. Indeed, in a May 2007 Gallup poll, only 14% of those who say they do not believe in evolution cite lack of evidence as the main reason underpinning their views; more people cite their belief in Jesus (19%), God (16%) or religion generally (16%) as their reason for rejecting Darwin’s theory.

The major impediment to acceptance of evolution in America is the persistence of faith.  It’s not the lack of outreach by scientists—many of us are reaching out (I do it all the time), and, as Carl Zimmer noted, there’s a veritable glut of information about evolution on television, in books, and on the internet.  There has never been a time, I think, when there has been so much popular writing on evolution.  And yet the statistics on American acceptance of evolution fail to budge.

That’s why winning over the public to evolution will be a long fight, for it involves loosening the grip of religion on our country. We may have to wait for decades.  But loosening that grip has ancillary benefits, for it also dispels much of the faith-based irrationality involved in opposing things like global warming, AIDS prevention, assisted suicide, and stem-cell research.  Compared to that, the rejection of evolution is small potatoes.

So what is Giberson’s solution?  Forget #3—let’s work on #4. Make those shrill New Atheists shut up!:

If the scientific community wants to dislodge ID, they need to start by admitting that their efforts have been an abysmal failure so far. And then they need to turn their considerable analytical skills on the problem of explaining that failure. If they do this, they might discover that enthusiastic pronouncements like “ID is dead” or “science has proven God does not exist” or “religion is stupid” or “creationists are insane” are not effective. They might discover that affirming that the universe is wonderful, despite our bad backs and the nonsense in our genomes, makes it easier for people to accept the bad design in nature.

And above all, they need to decide that it is OK for people to believe in God. For millions of Americans belief in ID is tied to belief in God. Unless people can find a way to separate them — and not be told by agnostic bloggers this is impossible — ID’s coffin will remain empty.

Our efforts have been an “abysmal failure” for one reason: up to now they have involved selling evolution rather than dispelling religion.  The New Atheists realize that fighting for evolution while leaving faith alone is doing battle with one hand tied behind their backs.

Giberson is simply wrong to assume that if we suddenly tell people, “Yes, you can be religious and accept evolution, too,” then millions of creationists will suddenly flock to embrace Darwinism.  There’s that little matter of 64% of Americans rejecting scientific fact if it contradicts their religious beliefs.  That’s data.  And it suggests that Giberson’s solution is nonsense.

58 Comments

  1. newenglandbob
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    The ID coffin is full and six feet under since Dover. ID has little or nothing to do with #3 and #4.

  2. Jer
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Why does he give a bullet point to a minority of atheists who loudly suggest that evolution and belief in God are incompatible and yet fail to give a bullet point to the huge number of religious leaders who loudly insist that evolution and belief in God are incompatible?

    I’ve been hearing that you can’t be a “good Christian” and believe in evolution for decades. The relatively recent surge in atheists saying something similar is small potatoes compared to the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells and Rod Parsleys and Tim LaHayes of the world. That’s where the actual problem lies – in the religious leadership of the most regressive religions, at least in the US. And yet the atheists take the brunt of his ire, when they probably wouldn’t be nearly so active if the religious leadership weren’t so damn vocal and influential on US politics.

    It’s almost like he has an agenda to push or something, and isn’t actually interested in looking for root causes of the problem at all. Funny that.

  3. Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    “Giberson is simply wrong to assume that if we suddenly tell people, “Yes, you can be religious and accept evolution, too,” then millions of creationists will suddenly embrace Darwinism.”

    It seems like one of the goals of these accomodationist is to not make religious people feel stupid for being religion. To me, the irony is they are actually treating them as if they’re completely stupid.

    It’s pretty easy to see that evolution makes belief in a God incredibly difficult, if not impossible. Just sweeping that under the rug suggests that they think religious people are to stupid to notice the blantant contradictions in the two sets of beliefs.

    • Kirth Gersen
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Jeff,
      I’m not sure I’d agree that Ken Miller and Francis Collins are “completely stupid.” The human mind is flexible — usually that’s an advantage, but it occasionally it allows for weird mental gymnastics that allow people like Collins to understand the human genome and at the same time spout off about God living in waterfalls.

      This makes the concept of incompatibility (with which I agree, incidentally) much harder to sell, because most of the arguments in favor boil down to either (a) “if you think otherwise, you’re stupid” (easily refuted), or (b) “just trust me, I’m right!” (lacking in empirical evidence).

      It seems to me that someone REALLY needs to draft a clearly-reasoned and internally-consistent argument solely on the subject of incompatibility — one that sticks to the point, ignores tangents and random sniping, and ties in the best thoughts on the matter.

      I’ve been thinking along those lines for some time, but I lack Jerry’s gift of prose. I’d love to see him tackle it.

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think that either Miller or Collins are stupid. Au contraire: they are both smart guys. I just think they’re driven by their faith to make insupportable statements. I’ve done a bit of analysis of “compatibility”, including a discussion of Miller and Giberson’s arguments for it, here.

        • Jackie
          Posted May 18, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

          Compartmentalization. We all do it, but the religious are particularly adept. Also, in the video of the interview between Collins and Schermer, I thought it was striking how he basically attributed the persistence of his belief to his upbringing.

        • newenglandbob
          Posted May 18, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

          Compartmentalization is correct Jackie.

          There is a local hospital that is medium size, and it is on a hill. From the Emergency dept. entrance, there is a long staircase down to a bus stop on the road below. One can see doctors and nurses and aides, wearing their hospital badges, standing on the steps and smoking, which is not allowed on hospital grounds.

        • Kirth Gersen
          Posted May 18, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

          Just downloaded the article, and look forward to reading it more carefully. I should have known you’d already covered such a basic argument — thank you for the link.

          • Posted May 19, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

            A great article. And the one that kicked off (or rather provided the pretext for) the long war between accommodationists and sane people. It all started with Chris Mooney offering a little free advice about that article…

      • GM
        Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        A coherent argument is not at all hard to construct; the reason you don’t see it done is that it depends a lot on how you define science. So it happens that most people think of it in a way that is both wrong and conductive to “compatibility” claims

  4. SeanK
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    I thought #2 was explained by the Anthropic Principle? And I’m pretty sure we’ve already explained how complex organs like the human eye have evolved. Seems like the ID’ers are grasping at straws.

    Combating ignorance is difficult, especially when superstition is used to prop it up.

  5. Insightful Ape
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Is Giberson himself accepting of evolutionary science? Doesn’t look like it, if the above represents his views.
    And so the whole excercise boils down to concern trolling.
    If he is so perplexed by the “fine tuning” argument he may want to take a look at the works of Victor Stenger. Except that Stenger is a New Atheist and so that disqualifies his from opening his mouth.

  6. Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    An oil spill of unreason cannot be countered by an ersatz plug of accommodation.

  7. Moses
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    ID is like a boat, a hole in the water you throw money into… As long as there are people willing to fill the hole with money, there will be an ID.

    So, regardless of the ID apologist recycling old arguments, the truth is religion doesn’t die because it’s backed by money and power. And it is run by people who love money and power.

    Sure, there are, no doubt, some truly sincere priests, etc. But they’re marginalized players and not the mainstream in Religion, Inc. And it’s Religion, Inc. that keeps its thumb on scales and the flames of ignorance and intolerance fed.

  8. Sigmund
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    His point about Anthony Flew is incorrect. It wasn’t the fine tuning argument that brought him to deism, it was reading the works of Michael Behe.
    And the onset of dementia.
    Chris Mooneys last guest Elaine Howard Ecklund made an interesting observation about scientists and the religious the other week. She claimed that the religious need not worry that their children will become atheists by accepting religion – they will simply become a member of a moderate branch of the religion.
    She said this like it would be a positive approach to take and Mooney agreed with her!
    I can just see it now. Protestant evangelicals, don’t worry about evolution – just convert to Catholicism!
    (Come to think of it, something along those lines of “convert to my moderate, science friendly version of Christianity” is the general approach of all the major theistic evolutionists.)

  9. Moses
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    2) The remarkable, finely-tuned structure of the cosmos in which the laws of physics collaborate to make life possible. Many agnostics have had their faith in unguided materialism shaken by this, most recently Anthony Flew.

    Btw, I hate this argument with a passion. As far as we can tell, the universe is exceptionally hostile to life and only a very insignificant part of even our solar system has the conditions necessary for life.

    Which kind of makes God supremely fucking incompetent if you’re talking fine tuning as most of the tuning DOES NOT SUPPORT LIFE.

    Even ruder, is that at this point in time all we know for sure is that only PART of one insignificant planet is reasonably hospitable to human life. Face it, first of all, 70% is covered by oceans which we can’t survive in for more than short periods of time. Second, huge swaths are too hot, too cold, or too dangerous/disease ridden for humans (without technology) to survive.

    • Posted May 19, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

      Not to mention the fact that it’s not as if this planet is going to be here forever – so even this one planet is only temporarily hospitable to life. So how is that evidence that Goddidit all to make us?

  10. GM
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    The major impediment to acceptance of evolution in America is the persistence of faith.

    Absolutely true. However, I just want to add that acceptance of evolution on its own is a very minor reason why religion should be eradicated. I do not read the above sentence as claiming the opposite, I just want to state it.

  11. Jacobus van Beverningk
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    #4) .. Imagine trying to get 100 million Americans to dress up for a science lecture every Sunday morning — and then voluntarily pay for the privilege…

    Indeed not sure about the dressing up, but if a local college would present an interesting lecture every Sunday (not too early!), I would probably go and happily pay for the privilege.

    • Gareth Price
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      I was thinking something similar. Wouldn’t it be an interesting challenge to pick a particular Sunday morning to hold science talks across the country and see just how many Americans we could get to turn out and listen.

    • homostoicus
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I simply cannot imagine anyone volunteering to pay huge sums of money to some elaborate organization for four or more years to sit in a building to listen to elitists go on and on about esoterica and then get judged on their comprehension on subjects like math, physics, biology, chemistry, etc. Gosh, they would have to be like really stupid people to do that.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted May 18, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

        My son is in his third year of five studying for his PhD. I guess that makes him extra stupid. Oh wait, they pay him, instead of him paying them – my bad, I am the stupid one then.

  12. Steven L.
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I think most Americans (and folks elsewhere in the world) realize that when the NCSE and their fans claim that “Oh sure, religion [any religion?] is compatible with the Theory of Evolution,” they’re selling the public a false bill of goods. And that’s why they’re rejecting it.

    Belief in *some* conceptions of God (Deism particularly) may be compatible with the Theory of Evolution. But other conceptions of God may not be. The NCSE made sure that this was never discussed during the Dover court case.

    An honest discussion of the relationship between religion and the Theory of Evolution would have to include a discussion of the following:

    Any religion whose creation myth makes claims about the natural world that conflict with science really is in conflict, and has to be altered. Either the creation myth has to be altered to fit what modern science says (such as not taking it literally), or the religion has to not depend on the creation myth (such as abandoning the notion that the Fall is the reason for Jesus dying on the Cross).

    • GM
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      Also, to elaborate further on this point, by refusing to say that certain beliefs are incorrect, they help create an intellectual climate of “anything goes, I can believe whatever I want” which directly undermines the social authority of science.

      • Tulse
        Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        by refusing to say that certain beliefs are incorrect, they help create an intellectual climate of “anything goes, I can believe whatever I want” which directly undermines the social authority of science.

        Exactly, and I don’t think this can be emphasized enough. And it’s not just science’s “social” authority, it is generally the notion of it as the main arbiter of truth about the physical world. Accommodationist are undermining the very discipline they claim to be saving.

        • GM
          Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

          I had the same thing in mind, not the best word choice maybe…

      • Kirth Gersen
        Posted May 18, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        “they help create an intellectual climate of “anything goes, I can believe whatever I want.”
        This is an excellent point. Some people truly believe that facts are not really distinct from opinions — for instance, an “opinion” that 2+2=6 is perfectly acceptable, and not subject to falsification. This is where the importance of testing predictions comes in — can using 2+2=6 as a fact lead to accurate counts of fruit, if one brings in two apples, and someone else brings in two more.

        It’s not so much the “social authority” of science I worry about, as the fostering of a world-view in which all events are random and arbitrary, with no cause and effect, and no way to form consensus on the most basic observations. In that type of a world-view, the only means of cooperation are coercion by force, by charisma, or both — exactly what one finds in the most corrupt, impoverished, and violent of tribal societies.

  13. andrew
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    god, these articles make me sad. People need to wake uP!

  14. Jason A.
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    I was recently told that ‘calling out racism is what keeps racism going!’ This reminds me of that: ‘Saying intelligent design is wrong is what keeps intelligent design going!’

    And isn’t it odd they can call us the new atheists while simultaneously blaming us for a historic, ongoing problem?

    • Jason A.
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Damn, forgot to close the italics after ‘new’

  15. Posted May 18, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Just a thought: people don’t accept science because its ideas are hard and just don’t make sense to them?

    Seriously, I know of two non religious people who reject evolution simply because it doesn’t make sense to them.

    I’m sorry to say this, but science has progressed a great deal over the past 200 years or so, whereas the average human IQ hasn’t improved that much.

    Perhaps I am cynical after teaching a couple of sections of remedial mathematics at our university; but those students, who are above average in IQ (when compared to the general public) wouldn’t understand a darned thing about science.

    • Microraptor
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know that it’s necessarily that evolution doesn’t make sense (well, I guess it doesn’t if you’re a layman with a very low science background), but that trying to understand it may, in fact, cause them to think about all the other shaky parts of their beliefs.

      • Posted May 19, 2010 at 6:05 am | Permalink

        Oh, it makes sense all right; that is why I said “makes sense TO THEM”.

  16. Tacroy
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    4) The enthusiastic insistence by the New Atheists that evolution is incompatible with belief in God.

    Excuse me, but [citation needed].

    I’ve never seen any New Atheists (or anyone else in this camp) propose that evolution is incompatible with belief in God. After all, this is a blatantly false statement. As long as there exists at least one person (like Francis Collins) who can both accept evolution and believe in God, it is true that these things are compatible.

    What we say (and I guess what he doesn’t understand) is that reality is inconsistent with the most common Christian formulation of God. Not just evolution – everything we observe in reality is either neutral towards or inconsistent with the formulations of God that are held by real people. There’s basically no way to disprove deism, but you can (and we have) disprove the claim that God acts on prayers.

    So should we shut up and stop talking about, you know, reality? Or should we just not mention the parts of reality that contradict dearly held beliefs?

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      There’s basically no way to disprove deism,

      That is an often repeated belief that seems to mean by the claimant that it doesn’t need “proof”. But let us face it, at verbatim is a religious belief.

      So let us test it. The irony is that we find it is a very basic thing to do.

      First we simply need a testable theory of science. The simplest theory predicted by applying logic is that we can surely test theories’ predictions to find out if they don’t work. (If that is confusing to you, simply think of it in software terms as going “meta”, using recursion on testing. It is the consistency that matters, not the exact way by which we arrive at it.) That is, we can falsify theories.

      By the rate of science production today, and assuming loosely that every 10th paper makes and test a theory, we can see that it suffice with ~ 5 years of production to make a binomial test at 3 sigma significance vs “yes/no” on testing as a viable method.

      Say, observing viability by simply having adoption/rejection of theory as a measure for progress. So the simplest theory can’t be rejected and we can adopt it as the best. Let us call the theory of science “naturalism”. Now any contender will have to make better predictions or we can summarily reject it.

      In the same way we can take the exact same data set and see if those tested theories test the simplest theory of nature as making up a consistent whole. And they do, by such phenomena as process and causality. (If that is confusing you, say by the philosophical argument that “sufficiently complex science will look like magic”, simply think of it in software term as “a placeholder”. It is the pattern of the connections that matters, not the exact monism.)

      Now the simplest theory can’t be rejected and we can adopt it as the best. Let us call the theory of nature “materialism”. Now any contender will have to make better predictions or we can summarily reject it.

      Since deism doesn’t make any testable predictions at all, it is a loser from the start here. Theism have been at it for centuries and fails miserably in testing. For example, IIRC Miller’s “theistic evolution” is sometimes deistic (“set” pathway) and Collins is theistic (creationism).

      Now what you have to give up is the nonsense idea that there is a philosophy of science which can use axiom dependent and often quasi-inductionist “proof”, and that there can’t be a theory of science that can use non-dependent falsification testing. Besides what the above theory tells us on this, it is IMO easy to accept since it would constitute a whole lot of empirical, actually naturalistic, progress.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted May 18, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

        And, to not leave doubt or “a hap”, 3 sigma is taken to mean tested “beyond reasonable doubt”.

  17. steve oberski
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Try replacing “ID” with “alchemy” and “evolution” with “chemistry” in Gibersons explanations to get a sense of the lunacy of his arguments.

    Also highlights his conflation of evolution, abiogenesis, cosmology and a few other branches of science.

  18. Dave
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I recently attended a lecture by Francis Collins at the NIH. The lecture was on science but the floor was opened to general questions. Someone asked him about an editorial that criticized him for his accommodationism. In his response, he suggested that antagonism against evolution can be attributed to the strident atheists, mentioned Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris by name (sorry Jerry), and then made it clear that he didn’t want to field any more questions on religion. I immediately wondered how Dawkins, Hitchens, or Harris could have been responsible for the Scopes persecution. It was an unfortunate and cheap response to a fair question after an otherwise good talk.

  19. homostoicus
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    They might discover that affirming that the universe is wonderful,… makes it easier for people to accept the bad design in nature.

    One is tempted to ask Giberson if he has ever heard of Carl Sagan – or David Attenborough, or the hundreds of others that bring the wonders of nature to just the general audience.

  20. MadScientist
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    It’s no coincidence that we call bullshit “Gibberish”.

  21. MadScientist
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Wait a minute – that’s not Mooney writing under another name is it? “It’s not working, so you’d better just shut up and let religion promulgate bullshit without hindrance.” It’s only those daft New Accommodationists who make such ridiculous claims as telling people religion is bullshit doesn’t help, and that accommodationism converts people – claims that they want everyone to accept on fiat. I’ll take the “accommodationism converts people” though – it certainly makes the religious all the more righteous and facilitates conversion to religions.

  22. Morgan-LynnGriggs La
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    As the atelic or teleonomic argument notes, the scientific weight of evidence reveals no intent- no agency- no teleology- but rather teleonomy-no planned outcome as Jerry and Amiel Rossow, building on the work of George Gaylord Simpson and Ernst Mayr [ teleonomy- his term ] @Talk Reason that found no orthogenesis or any directional force behind natural causes, themselves that primary cause!
    This isn’t just a philosophic point but also a scientific one; indeed, science itself makes it contrary to the silly assertions of accommodationists!
    Otherwise, we’d have the contradiction that natural selection, the non-planning anti-chance agency of Nature has s divine boss: no, selection does the work without any outside intent! Evolutionary creationism or creation evolution blasphemes reason and-science!
    Yes, science and the superstition of religion,like its twin, the superstition of the paranormal -” The Transcendental Temptation .” [Paul Kurtz] contradict science from the side of science; ah,but from the side of superstition, one can make it compatible with anything with compartmentalization- cognitive dissonance.
    Another argument with scientific support is the one from pareidolia in that as people see Marian apparitions so people see intent- agency- and design when there are only teleonomy and patterns at work. Scientists are investigating how people see that pareidolia of intent- agency in Nature.
    Furthermore, Miller and Giberson beg the question of teleology- that God had the intent for us or a similar species to evolve- as Jerry delineates the problem.
    Lamberth’s two arguments eviscerate the obfuscation of evolutionary creationism.
    Yes, all creationists beg the question of intent be it fundamentalist or be it otherwise!
    Carneades, Thales, Strato of Lampsacus knew that no teleology bosses natural causes! Too bad Europe did not heed these and other ancient naturalists! Aristotle is a mixed bag.

  23. Neil
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Blaming scientists and atheists for pointing out that the emperor has no clothes is just a classic case of blaming the messenger. There is no kind way of telling people that what they believe is nonsense.

  24. littlejohn
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Well, some scientists are trying, but only the choir is listening.
    Do you think any creationist has ever read anything by Dawkins, except to cherry-pick lines to use against him?
    But the secondary school teachers aren’t trying at all. With very few exceptions, they are unqualified to teach evolution. Those who are consider the subject radioactive. Not everyone goes to college.

    • Microraptor
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

      My high school biology teacher was a firm believer in evolution, but he did a terrible job of explaining it to the class (it came across as nearly Lemarkian). While at no point have I ever not been an evolutionist, it wasn’t until I read Why Evolution Is True that I actually started to understand just how it worked.

    • Kirth Gersen
      Posted May 19, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      Some are, some aren’t. The problem is that the standards (and pay) are so woefully inadequate that it’s hard to get anyone with half a brain, and nearly impossible to retain them.

      I’m a former high school earth science teacher myself — with a degree in geology and a history of clear lessons of why a young earth is at variance with the physical observations, and why the fossil record supports evolution. But all my work with each new group of kids was undone the next year, when the non-degreed clown teaching “biology” in the next room told the kids that the Earth was 6,000 years old and that Dinosaurs died out because they missed the Ark.

  25. Leigh Jackson
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Giberson appears to hate science-loving, religion-hating atheists, a whole lot more than religion-loving , science-hating IDers.

    No surprise given his love of intelligent design. Fine-tuning as an argument for intelligent design is no better than the argument from the bacterial flagellum.

    Physics has a pretty good working explanation for “fine-tuning” in the form of the multiverse. I would place a bet that the people who spoke to Anthony Flew about fine-tuning didn’t whisper a word about the multiverse.

  26. Posted May 18, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    I really don’t get why in all honesty they can blame atheists for the theistic non-acceptance of evolution. Do they honestly think that theists would be down with Darwin if not for Dawkins et al. making a tight coupling between atheism and evolution? At best I would think that maybe it’s unhelpful for people who are looking for reasons not to be down with evolution, but I would like to see data on that before committing.

    Basically what arguments like this are saying is that when theists formed their beliefs about evolution, it was atheists who pushed them into either accepting God or accepting evolution. That atheists in part or in full are responsible for the emotional revulsion of the very idea that we are a product of the evolutionary process and “came from monkeys”. Personally I don’t see a link between this. Are evangelical parents reading atheist literature aloud to their children? Are they trying to teach science through Dawkins’ Growing Up In The Universe and the children are making their own mind up about incompatibility? I’m going to wager that most have their beliefs about evolution formed long before they encounter atheist biologists. But I could be wrong.

    I can see a link between parents, preachers and community teaching children that evolution is evil. Heck, I’ve seen video of it in action. I’ve seen the creationist propaganda, heard the preachers. I’ve also read a lot of the “new atheist” literature and those who express an incompatibility. I’m going to offer the conjecture that the real problem here is theists seeing an incompatibility between evolution and the way they interpret their dogma. That atheists highlight it wouldn’t really come into it.

  27. Kevin
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    So, I have a question. Other than the aforementioned Flew (and Polkinghorne), is there any other CREDIBLE physicist who has converted from atheism to a deistic or theistic belief based on the “arguments” for god?
    Seems to me the direction would almost universally be in the opposite direction – a theistic physicist/cosmologist who went to deism/atheism. Any names come to mind?
    I hate argument from authority (especially if, like Flew, there is considerable doubt as to mental capacity). But I’d love to counter Flew Flew Flew, with Einstein Hawking (XXXX).

  28. articulett
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    It’s religions that are promising everlasting rewards for faith and threatening eternal anguish for doubt. I would say that’s the major reason Intelligent Design persists in America– not “strident atheists” like Dawkins.

    Religionistas have been far more critical of Dawkins due to his eloquent sharing of facts about evolution than he ever has been to any of them. Dismissing a belief as silly and wrong is not the same as spreading prejudice and lies. Yet religionists spread prejudice against evolutionary biologists and atheists at the drop of a hat with nary a tug at the conscience along with lies called “creationism”.

    Moreover, it’s religionists who are preaching to the choir — the choir that’s been brainwashed since birth to “have faith”. From what I’ve read, the “strident atheists” have helped many people think their way out of the miasma of faith and into the wonders of the naturalistic world. I’m one such person. So it’s wrong to conclude that atheists are JUST preaching to the choir.

    The problem with the accommodationists is that, like the theists they apologize for, they think repetition of an argument can make the case better than evidence. But I guess they have no real evidence that atheism spreads ID (or any other kind of scientific ignorance) –and it’s scary for them to consider that the root of the problem may very well have more to do with people like them “accommodating” superstition so long as it wears the label of “faith”.

    Scientists would never need to mention religion if religionists treated evolutionary theory the same way they treat gravitational theory and atomic theory and all the other scientific theories that don’t threaten their magical beliefs.

  29. Hempenstein
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    So, the guy has paperwork supporting some expertise in physics. One might expect that an organization with Bio in its name would find someone with biological qualifications to put in the #2 slot.

    I suspect that each has run for cover to the other.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted May 19, 2010 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      His expertise in optics (optical pumping with lasers, specifically) is likely underwhelmed by my expertise in electronics. (o.O)

      If Giberson’s Google Scholar record is correct he immediately abandoned physics research after his PhD and started to teach “in the field of science-and-religion” as his BioLogos cv states. He is in practice a historian of religion, not a working physicist.

      • Posted May 19, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

        And “the field of science-and-religion” isn’t even a field. It’s a project for the Templeton Foundation, but it’s not a field.

      • Hempenstein
        Posted May 19, 2010 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

        Big surprise! Thanx for the due diligence.

  30. justsearching
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    I’ve had people tell me point blank that don’t believe evolution is true. When I asked if they wanted to discuss it, they said no because they knew it was not true. When I pointed out that the vast majority of biologists do accept it as true, they said that was irrelevant. When I asked them if anything I showed them or told them could change their minds, they said no because their faith was firm. Frustrating conversations…

    • Hempenstein
      Posted May 19, 2010 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

      Ask whether, when their Buick is in need of repair, they opt for a competent mechanic or a preacher.

    • Neil
      Posted May 19, 2010 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

      And we are wasting our time trying to convince such people. Such types will always be there. We need to focus not on changing their minds, but on making sure their ignorance does not infect others.


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  1. […] Giberson, who I've bashed once or twice, has a fresh new pile of nonsense on the Huffington Post. Jerry Coyne has already tackled it, but it pushes a few of my buttons, so I've got to say my piece, […]

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