Uncle Karl becomes Mooney

I thought that Uncle Karl—I restored his affectionate epiphet when he made a funneh about Eric Clapton—was finally done with his multi-part War on Coyne at BioLogos.  (Note to those captious accommodationists who accuse me of using “Uncle” as perjorative: I don’t, and Giberson calls himself that.)

It turns out, though, that Giberson’s just shifted the battlefield to HuffPo, where he’s published yet another (front page!) critique of moi with the jawbreaking title of “The precarious but profound middle ground in the struggle between religion and science.” And slowly but surely Giberson is morphing into Chris Mooney:  he cites him twice, even lauding Unscientific America for its “eloquent” demonstration that the faithful have no monopoly on scientific ignorance.

I don’t know what Giberson’s smoking over there at BioLogos, but the whole piece comes down to a long whine, viz., “Why can’t we all just get along with each other?” By “we”, he means accommodationist Christians like Giberson, atheists like me, and fundamentalist evolution-deniers like Baptist leader Albert Mohler.  When you read the piece (and I’m recommending it only if you either want LOLz or have the same obsession with Giberson as he apparently has with me), you’ll see that it’s completely clueless:

I have been wondering, especially in light of the recent, highly polarized mid-term elections, why “middle ground” of the sort that accommodationists are trying to stake out, is such a troubled bit of geography. From a purely logical point of view, Mohler could view me as “a welcome but theologically confused ally in the war on scientism.” After all, he and I both agree that Coyne and the New Atheists go too far when they insist that science rules out religion. But instead, Mohler assaults my argument as “really interesting — and really dangerous.” . .

On the other end of the spectrum, Coyne could view me as “a welcome partner in the cause of scientific literacy.” After all, I am making efforts to persuade people who reject evolution to change their minds and accept it. Both Coyne and I are trying to get more people to believe in evolution. But, from where Coyne sits, I seem to be on the wrong team and am engaged in a “crazy and futile attempt to accommodate a faith that embraces science with the faith of people like Mohler.”

Why is it that people on middle ground always seem to be on the “other” team, when this seems far from obvious? In the recent election, by analogy, why were moderate Republicans vilified for being too much like Democrats? Has everyone in the country decided that there is only “us” and “them,” so that “not us” equals “them”? Whether we agree with people in the middle or not, is there not value in acknowledging those who can make connections between disparate points of view? Are we locked in a zero sum game where victory on one side automatically prescribes defeat on the other?

After all these posts and cross-posts, Uncle Karl just doesn’t get it.  Yes, we can make some common cause with those closest to us on the lunacy-atheism spectrum.  I will be glad to join Giberson in attacking creationism.  In fact, in that respect we already are joined.  And Giberson can, if he wishes, join Mohler in touting Jebus.

But to many atheists, the middle ground is not a “reasonable” position. It enables superstition, thereby denigrating or watering down true science (example: the fine-tuning and humans-are-inevitable arguments, Francis Collins’s view that human morality couldn’t have evolved and therefore must have been given by God, and the NCSE’s refusal to admit that evolution is “unguided”). And accommodationism provides tacit approval and support for all the bad stuff that’s done in the name of faith.

After all this discourse, Giberson stlll can’t understand why people can love evolution but oppose accommodationism, or feel that the best way to get rid of creationism is not Giberson’s strategy of promoting evolution, but our strategy of marginalizing religion.

The conflict between science and religion is indeed a zero-sum game, at least to the extent that atheism is incompatible with any faith that tries to foist its beliefs on the rest of the world.  It’s zero-sum in precisely the same way that the conflict between segregationists and civil rights advocates was zero-sum.  There is no reasonable middle ground allowing a little bit of segregation. As P. Z. put it so eloquently, “squatting in between those on the side of reason and evidence and those worshipping superstition and myth is not a better place. It just means you’re halfway to crazy town.”

And so, Karl, you are indeed on the other team, because Team Atheism is more important than Team Evolution. If you’re reading this, let me inform you one more time: there are two battles—one against creationism and one against religion. The second is far more important because religion does far more damage than creationism. And when you win that second battle, creationism automatically disappears.

As a final request to Dr. Giberson, could you please explain your weird obsession with me?  I’ll answer your criticisms when I have the time and inclination, but must you do post after post on me?  Aren’t you supposed to be arguing more frequently with evolution-deniers than with evolutionists?  Like all real Americans, I enjoy the sting of battle, but it’s no fun fighting when the other side is armed with pop guns.

75 Comments

  1. Posted November 14, 2010 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    I did a little postina on this yesterday –

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2010/ten-paces-in-each-direction/

    Sigmund did a pictorial commentary

    http://sneerreview.blogspot.com/2010/11/whining.html

  2. Posted November 14, 2010 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Drat, too many links.

    I did a little postina on this yesterday –

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2010/ten-paces-in-each-direction/

  3. Posted November 14, 2010 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Why not establish an intrinsic mean between the manifestos of David Icke and neuroscience?

    • truthspeaker
      Posted November 15, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      That would be profound.

  4. Tim Harris
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Uncle Karl strikes me as a very silly little man with nothing whatsoever of interest to say – he really doesn’t seem to know what he even wants to say.

  5. Bram
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    And what is the middle ground in matters of existence? Somewhat exists? Sometimes exists?

    • Tulse
      Posted November 14, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      Bram, Bram, Bram, you are clearly in the grip of an impoverished materialist dialectic. When you move beyond such simplistic ideas as bivalent ontology, you’ll recognize that notions of divine “existence” are instead pointers to an apophatic multiconditional metaphoric reality that transcends banal conceptions like so-called “truth”.

      • Kevin
        Posted November 14, 2010 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

        I sense a Templeton grant in Tulse’s future.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted November 15, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        That’s just, like, your opinion, man.

  6. Insightful Ape
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    It is called “false equivalency”.
    Just because Al Mohler and Jerry Coyne both happen to be critical of uncle Karly doesn’t remotely make them comparable, or make them both wrong.
    It is a fallacy people seemingly get away with these days.

  7. Posted November 14, 2010 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    I find it rather interesting that Giberson defines this middle ground as, somehow, being closer to both sides at the same time, which is a neat trick. Accommodationists seem to feel that, by holding some point in between, those on their East and West are going to be fooled into thinking that they (the accommodationists) are simply “Not-West” or “Not-East.”

    Then, after espousing this view, Giberson decries the very “East/West” view that he claims everyone has. He never understands that his “position” only works in the way he says it should if everyone else thinks in binary terms. Giberson (and Mooney) seem to feel they are very accomplished to be able to count up to three in the land of twos.

    Those, however, that find that the so-called “moderately religious” seem to vote along religious lines, make excuses for religious agendas, and virtually never make a case for good schooling and following the evidence, are not really allies in the acceptance of scientific reasoning. There can be as many “sides” as you want to make up, but in the end, if you’re making excuses for religion (or any other example of flaky thinking) to be present in any form but strictly personal, then you’re not on my side at all.

    If Giberson wants to attack creationists on the evolution stance, by all means, have at it! Why does he think he needs Gnu allies for it, though? Does he actually write articles in support of evolution, scientific reasoning, weight of evidence, and so on, or does he merely claim to have that flag somewhere in his attic?

    • Posted November 14, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Giberson (and Mooney) seem to feel they are very accomplished to be able to count up to three in the land of twos.

      Great line.

  8. NewEnglandBob
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I must respectfully disagree that Gibberish is “halfway to crazy town”. He has a full fare ticket for the entire journey.

    • steve oberski
      Posted November 14, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      I’m sure he didn’t purchase a return trip.

  9. Posted November 14, 2010 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Back in June, on this blog, commenter “Marcus” elegantly summed up this point: “It is important that we not lose the debate on where the middle ground is. The middle ground is where the facts point and we are standing on it.

    Thanks, Marcus! That went straight into my Atheist’s Scrapbook.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 14, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. There are many, many observations and tests for natural theories. There are zero observations of gods. (And we can in fact reject all dualism from naturalistic data.)

      Leaving the middle ground on one side would be to claim that we know there are no gods no matter what, some form of “fundamentalist” atheism. In fact, from what we know of making and using theory that is sheer lunacy.

      Leaving the middle ground on the other side would be to claim that there may be gods no matter what, in some form of fundamentalist agnosticism. In fact, from what we know of making and using theory that is sheer lunacy.

      Theologically wise the middle ground seems awfully narrow. But that is precisely because *the gods of the gaps are an endlessly shrinking ground*, a sort of diminutive religion.

    • ckitching
      Posted November 14, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

      The entire idea of the “middle ground” can be extremely false anyway. Group A says the world is flat. Group B says the world is spherical. The middle ground says the world is a convex disc?

      Or a more relevant example might be gay rights:

      Extreme gay rights activists want homosexuals to have all the rights afforded to everyone else, including adoption and marriage.

      Extreme fundamentalist anti-gays want homosexual people executed for their sin(s).

      Where’s the middle ground here? Should we just lock them up for the crime of homosexual conduct? I still see people looking for a middle ground on this issue.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted November 15, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        The middle ground understands that the world is spherical, but they respect Group A’s sincerely held beliefs, and they wish the fundamentalists in Group B would understand that thoughtful, serious people have contemplated a flat world.

  10. Stephen P
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    What gets me is when Giberson says “Mohler and I worship the same God”.

    What does the word “same” mean in that sentence? In what way is a God who dictates holy books to his recently-created followers the same as one who would never dream of doing anything so unsophisticated? People have waged bloody battles over smaller theological differences than those between Giberson and Mohler.

    I suppose it’s a tacit admission that religion, for all its dominance in the US, is on the back foot as soon as one starts a rational discussion, so he has to try to preserve an image of unity to prevent his position from crumbling away completely.

    • Posted November 14, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Good point. That’s one of the many reasons “God” is such a useless yet harmful term – because it’s so god damn baggy and flexible when that serves theists’ purposes and then so rigid and coercive when that serves eists’ purposes – yet it’s the same name, and theists pat themselves on the back and announce that they believe in the same all-over-the-place “God.”

      It’s having it both ways. It’s keeping the cozy togetherness of religion while pretending to reject all the nasty bits. Well you can’t have it both ways – if you “worship the same God” then that is the “God” who would prefer women to die than to have abortions, and who wrote a book full of violent genocidal adventures.

    • Tulse
      Posted November 14, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      I’m sure Mohler would strongly aruge that his god is nothing like Giberson’s.

  11. Sven DiMilo
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    he made a funneh about Eric Clapton

    yeah, but I made it first, and funnier too
    *pouts*

  12. Posted November 14, 2010 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I don’t think Karl is actually obsessed with you. He sees some of your posts as having a bit of fun teasing him, so he is teasing back.

    Personally, I enjoy that level of teasing (in both directions). But Karl still has the problem that his position is untenable, and biologos is little more than a joke.

  13. helen
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    ‘perjorative’
    Somewhere between perjury and pejorative?

  14. MadScientist
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    “… even lauding Unscientific America for its ‘eloquent’ demonstration that the faithful have no monopoly on scientific ignorance.”

    I understood that to mean that the book itself was proof that the faithful do not have a monopoly on scientific ignorance.

    Giberson is being ingenious as usual with his longing for middle ground between Truth (science) and Lies (religion).

    I got my LOLZ quota from the quoted segment. I don’t think I’ll abuse any brain cells by reading the rest of Giberson’s gibberish.

  15. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I have been wondering, especially in light of the recent, highly polarized mid-term elections, why “middle ground” of the sort that accommodationists are trying to stake out, is such a troubled bit of geography.

    Where to begin? In the recent elections, thanks to the Tea Party, one of the choices in many races was batshit insane. Does Uncle Karl really think that we should stake out some middle ground in between sanity and batshit insane? In the profound words of Richard Dawkins and some other guy, “One side can be wrong.”

    • truthspeaker
      Posted November 15, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      And in that election, almost all of the Democratic candidates held the middle ground but were painted as extremists by their opponents.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted November 15, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        Successfully painted as extremists, I meant to say.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted November 15, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        Indeed.

        I kept thinking back to a famous line from that old poem by Yeats.

        “The center cannot hold.”

        It’s my opinion that at some point in time, along with the concept of “the American dream”, Americans were sold another fallacy; that of

        the middle ground

        • truthspeaker
          Posted November 16, 2010 at 7:30 am | Permalink

          It starts in junior high when they tell us what a great idea the 3/5ths compromise was.

  16. Doc Bill
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Uncle Karl appears to me to be intellectually stunted, as in dumb as a bag of doorknobs. No wonder he dwells in the land of theology where such thickness is a prized trait.

    Uncle K writes: “Some of these Christians who prefer their planets young, like the Southern Baptist leader, Al Mohler, however, are not oblivious to the progress of science. Mohler is educated and does not hold this belief because of simple ignorance. He is well-read and informed on such things. But he’s inclined, for widely accepted theological reasons, to get his science from the Bible. There are, of course, equally legitimate Christian leaders — say Tim Keller or Joel Hunter — who do not feel compelled by their faith to believe that the earth is a few thousand years old.”

    Karl writes that Mohler is “well-read and informed” (and I would very much doubt that Mohler has any concept of what science is or does than he picked up in the 5th grade), but prefers to get his science from the Bible, a collection of stories conceived thousands of years before the invention of science.

    Dear Uncle Karl,

    Pay attention. Science is not a preference. You cannot prefer your planets young. There is no preference. We don’t “believe” in science any more than we “believe” in the broom in our garage. It’s all about the evidence and how that evidence fits together to describe the universe. The Bible is a book of myths and stories; it is not a science book. Did you miss that day in theology school?

    Dismissively yours,
    Doc Bill

    Yes, I am dismissive of the theological con game you play. It’s time you put aside your childish ways and grew up. There is no evidence for anything in your theology, so I suggest you spend your time coming up with a better theology rather than cram your Bronze Age, goat herder notions into the observed world.

    • Kevin
      Posted November 14, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that’s the fundamental problem, isn’t it?

      …”widely accepted” does not equal “valid”…

      Else we’d all still be geocentrists and flat-Earthers.

    • articulett
      Posted November 14, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      Yes, the truth doesn’t have sides.

      And I would hope all scientists are on the side of truth.

    • Rayl
      Posted November 14, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

      “We don’t “believe” in science any more than we “believe” in the broom in our garage.”

      Yes, well said. Evolution, just as any other scientific theory is a tool that scientists accept because it is useful. If it should be found to not be useful in certain situations it would be replaced by a more useful tool. One that looked a lot like evolution for many applications, but which worked better for the new facts.

      It’s not about believe, it’s about acceptance and the acceptance is always provisional.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted November 15, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      “Some of these Christians who prefer their planets young, like the Southern Baptist leader, Al Mohler, however, are not oblivious to the progress of science. Mohler is educated and does not hold this belief because of simple ignorance. He is well-read and informed on such things. But he’s inclined, for widely accepted theological reasons, to get his science from the Bible.”

      And this is where Gibberson makes our case for us. By treating Mohler’s beliefs with such deference, he is conferring a sense of legitimacy on him, which is exactly our complaint about many “moderate” Christians.

  17. Kevin
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Let’s review, shall we:

    Atheism: An assertion that all god are imaginary.

    Theism: An assertion that at least one god exists (with varying degrees of belief as to that god or gods current interaction with us and the rest of the natural world).

    Religion: A set of beliefs, often but not always centered on god(s), that demands a set of beliefs and behaviors of its adherents. Supported by that religion’s core book of mythology and additional evidence-free theological writings by its adherents.

    Creationism: A religious-based belief that a god or gods created of the universe, life on this planet, and humans. Backed by nothing more than books of myths and badly reasoned theology.

    “Guided” evolution: A religious-based belief that a god or gods directed the evolutionary process in order that humans would appear on the planet. Supported by no evidence whatsoever and contracted by the entire oeuvre of all of the scientific disciplines devoted to the study of evolution.

    Evolution: A scientific theory with regard to diversity of life on this planet. Supported by millions upon millions of data points in a wide range of separate and inter-related disciplines. Makes precisely and absolutely no claims about god(s), (a)theism, or religion.

    All together now: “One of these things is not like the other…”

    Why can’t Uncle Karl get this? Is this so hard to follow?

    • Kevin
      Posted November 14, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I really do wish for preview.

      god’s or gods’
      contradicted

      Carry on.

  18. llewelly
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Coyne:

    Like all real Americans, I enjoy the sting of battle, but it’s no fun fighting when the other side is armed with pop guns.

    Unfortunately much of the audience is convinced that if it looks like the pop-gun is pointed in your general direction, you should lie down and admit defeat.
    Pointing out that the other side’s arguments are nonsense is cheating!

  19. Posted November 14, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Kevin, exactly my point! Thank you!

  20. Posted November 14, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, that is why Lamberth’s atelic/teleonomic argument is so strong as it bases itself on the [scientific] weight of evidence that no intent exists behind natural forces and to posit such intent contradicts natural causes and thus does not compliment them, even metaphysically [ no category mistake involved on our naturalist part].
    Thus, science here has a role to play against this superstition as it also plays against it in its revelations that no person can be virgin-borned, do miracles and be resurrected!
    And as we accept PMN, if supernaturalists could evince evidence for His attributes coherently and non-contradictorily and for His referents, then, science would have more to say about it! Thus, PNM does not a priori deny the supernatural and the paranormal but find that they require the appropriate amount of evidence.
    Not only does the argument eviscerate teleological arguments but also others with intent such that He cannot have referents as the Grand Miracle Monger, Primary Cause and such and thus cannot exist as part of the ignostic challenge, whose other part is that He has incoherent,contradictory attributes such that He cannot exist!
    That’s, my friend, is a triple whammy!
    Thus, Kevin strikes brilliantly his points,particularly against directed-evolution.

  21. Posted November 14, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Hi Dr. Coyne,

    I subscribed to your blog only yesterday and this morning am quite humored to find this post, referring to the exact article that led me to your page in the first place. Feeling my mouth hang open a little as I read Giberson’s woe – just as my gut began to turn – I clicked your link…

    Thank GOD!

    ~Aud.

  22. Posted November 14, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I have suggested to Uncle Karl and other folks at BioLogos that “middle ground” is not the right descriptor, but since they keep using it, they need to be shown why it doesn’t work. My suggestion is that if one wants to accept everything that science reveals and yet also wants to have a personal faith in something beyond science, one has to define a third way. The Unity Church comes to mind, and as Ophelia has previously suggested, any such fellowship should be ‘benign’ and have no truck with the vast majority of current religions. Seems like loving you neighbor and loving your enemies is all the “theology” one needs.

  23. JamesT
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Totally off-topic, but did anyone else see this new website, http://www.phylointelligence.org? It does an excellent job documenting the evidence for evolution; surprised it isn’t more well-known.

    • oldfuzz
      Posted November 14, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

      From the Biologos website. “BioLogos explores, promotes, and celebrates the integration of science and Christian faith.”

      Who “explores, promotes, and celebrates the integration of science and all non-science of which Christianity is a part.”

      In my view, Biologos is stuck with a false premise; i.e., Christianity as that Old Time Religion with God as Creator and Controller in Chief, a view held by fewer each year even those who see themselves as Christians in that the basic teachings of Jesus inform their behavior, but not the Christianity as supreme position.

      • oldfuzz
        Posted November 14, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

        Oops. Posted in wrong place. Sorry. Stopped here to visit phylointelligence.org

  24. Andy
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    The psychology of this whole “middle ground” thing fascinates me—the subtle ways people like Karl and Mooney insist that they are more enlightened, more nuanced than those of us who feel compelled to take a more, shall we say, partisan position. I’m so sick of these tacit assertions that, because I wish to defend science and reason uncompromisingly, I am somehow not as deep a thinker as Chris Mooney—I’m not appreciating all aspects of the problem. If Mooney and Giberson want to be accommodationists, fine. But I wish they’d stop acting as if accommodationism is the only reasonable position and the rest of us are just hard-headed assholes.

    The “middle ground” is often the most dogmatic position, especially when the persons who stand on it are absolutely convinced that staking out a middle ground is always a good and helpful thing to do. The self-congratulatory tenor of Mooney’s remarks at the Secular Humanism panel was more than I could bear. Here was someone completely convinced he was the most reasonable person in the room, and he simply would not hear otherwise.

    • Posted November 14, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      Yup – and that’s what’s so irritating about Giberson’s post too, all right all right. That wearily puzzled air of superior wisdom…ugh.

      It’s standard issue with the anti-gnus, I suppose – they often talk as if the extreme loonyness and badness of gnu atheism were simply self-evident.

    • Diane G.
      Posted November 14, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

      The self-congratulatory tenor of Mooney’s remarks at the Secular Humanism panel was more than I could bear. Here was someone completely convinced he was the most reasonable person in the room, and he simply would not hear otherwise.

      So worth repeating!

  25. Sam
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know what Giberson is whining about. Of course we acknowledge that their ‘middle-ground’ position exists. We just don’t agree with it.

    Even though, with the way they are religious and yet do science, I do tend to think of them by a different name. I call them Daywalkers.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted November 15, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      Daywalkers. Excellent.

  26. Hempenstein
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Uncle Karl is trying to fight two wars simultaneously, which history shows is a bad idea. He would be far better off just battling Mohler, but my guess is that that probably wouldn’t interest HuffPo. Without fundamentalist stridency, this would all disappear.

    Excepting a few Professional Moderates like UK, it isn’t the moderates who continually force the issue!

  27. Nick Andrew
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    I like your quotes re segregationists and two battles.

    The two battles against creationism and against religion have substantial overlap, after all one can’t fight to have a religious notion (creationism) replaced by a scientific understanding (evolution) without implying at some point that the religion is wrong.

    NCSE seems happy to fight the battle against creationism only where it doesn’t intersect with the battle against religion. I’m very glad the NCSE is fighting, but the place they won’t go is where the Gnu atheists have to be.

    Where’s the preview button? 🙂

    • Tim Harris
      Posted November 14, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      There ain’t one; which is the main reason for odd spellings, words dropped out, woozy syntax…

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 14, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

      I hear that if you pay thirty pieces of silver, you can get a premonition button. YMMV.

  28. Helen Wise
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Oh, Sweet thing, Sweet thing
    My, my, my, my, my Sweet thing
    And I shall drive my chariot
    Down your streets and cry
    Hey, it’s me, I’m dynamite
    and I don’t know why
    And you shall take me strongly
    In your arms again
    And I will not remember
    That I even felt the pain

    Van Morrison, Sweet Thing.

  29. Peter Beattie
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    One rather important thing from a science literacy point of view: we are not “trying to get more people to believe in evolution”. Believing, or professing such belief, don’t enter into it. What we do try to get more people to do, though, is understanding evolution and its consequences. Lip-service, and/or a superficial ‘acceptance’ of evolution, we should not want to have any truck with.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 14, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      Or at the very least we would want people to not outright reject established fact. Understanding science can come later.

  30. articulett
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    It looks like you really hit a nerve with Uncle Karl, Jerry. I guess you made him think about his faith, and we all know what that can do to faith.

    But it’s time for believers to start thinking about what they believe and why –and to quit demanding respect for magical thinking. They’ve gone unquestioned for too long and it’s made such a huge mess of things.

    Uncle Karl’s rants raise consciousness on the subject and judging from the responses both here and at Huffpo, we seeming to be gaining converts on the side of reason. So he may be more of an ally than you realize (though not in the way he intended.)

    Theists find themselves on the same side of the fence as those who believe in silly and conflicting theologies. Giberson is stuck defending faith in general when he really only wants to defend his brand of woo. He wants scientists to accommodate his supernatural beliefs, but not the supernatural beliefs of Mohler, Muslims, Mormons, Buddhists, etc. What can he do, but vilify the one who made him aware of the conundrum in the first place?

    • Posted November 14, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      It’s all the fault of this pesky internet thingy. Used to was, a believer could get away with this “My God is good and kind and I love everyone, Mohlers and Coynes and all” kind of thing, but now people get to talk back, and it’s just no longer possible not to realize that the arguments…are…weak.

      • articulett
        Posted November 14, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

        Yep…

        used to be you could say, “I won’t question you about your wacky beliefs if you don’t question me about mine”– but those uppity atheists had to go and point out that there is no evidence for any supernatural beliefs of divine truths. There’s no reason to give any faith more respect than we’d give a witch doctor.

        Plus those atheists keep trying to pin down a god definition so they can point out that theists don’t seem to believe in the same invisible guy even though theists keep assuring each other they do.

        It is a funny position for theists to be in– they have to all assure each other that they believe in the same god and respect eachother’s faiths and that faith is good, but in reality they think the other folks are wacky, wrong, ignorant, incoherent, and mislead by faith– while believers in their brand of magic have stumbled upon the truly true truth.

      • Kevin
        Posted November 14, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

        …and in real time, too…

        Used to be you’d have a publication cycle before you got flayed. Now…seconds.

        It’s not a great time to be intellectually flabby.

        • articulett
          Posted November 14, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

          Speaking of intellectually flabby, Sheril Kirshbaum points out that a third of Texans believe in the Flintstones:

          http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2010/11/14/surprised/

          Do she and Mooney really think that catering to the institution that ennobles this ignorance is going to solve the problem?

          • Kevin
            Posted November 15, 2010 at 8:08 am | Permalink

            Well, to be fair, I know a fair number of science geeks who are convinced that Star Trek was filmed on location. 🙂

          • Posted November 15, 2010 at 11:50 am | Permalink

            Yes they really do think that. Why do they think that? It is a Mystery.

  31. Posted November 14, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    The problem with the middle ground is finding it. There is no fixed map, what maps there are be fuzzy and depict unfocused landmarks.

    If Mohler is educated and then chooses to be obstinately wrong about the way that science is done (the early paleontologists were trying to discover how God created the world in 6 days 6000 years ago and discovered ammonite by ammonite that it was not so) the good on him for being satisfied that he has an authoritative “Truth” source on natural history, but that doesn’t affect the actual history of our planet and the life there on to being somewhere in the middle between 4 billion years old and 6,000 years old. The first life appeared when it did no matter what one chooses to believe. I don’t see a need to adjust my expectations of when abiogenesis occurred.

    Okay, so there are religious scientists. Someone needs to explain in basic logic that this doesn’t mean that science and religion themselves are compatible. If it means that people are not machines, and that incompatibilities exist in people. It has nothing to do with science itself. Science is just a process for understanding the relationships between natural philosophy. Religion is a package of “Mysteries” that Priests sell with the Promise that You will never solve the Mysteries and even though they will never solve them for you, they will ask better questions about the Mysteries than you ever could without them.

    “sound theological reasons” is a bit of an oxymoron, isn’t it?

    • Posted November 14, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

      “natural philosophy” s/b “natural phenomena”

  32. Doc Bill
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    Where’s Karl? Hey, Karl, come on out and play!

    Karl won’t come out to play because we’re uncivil, which to Karl and his ilk means either agreeing or not disagreeing to everything and anything he says.

    We’re supposed to sit here and say, “Hmmm, verrrry interesting. More tea?”

    Of course, Karl, that’s not going to happen. I do believe you challenged our theologic acumen, so why not stroll down here for a little chat and educate us on the latest and greatest theological research.

    • Andy
      Posted November 14, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

      Well that’s the thing. They’re always threatening to do the one thing they never do—which is tell us, in plain English, what exactly these “sophisticated” theological arguments are. What are we missing? People like John Haught are always referencing the oh-so-sophisticated theology that we gnus are so reluctant to attend to, but they never feel the need to describe it with any specificity.

      And of course, such a shell game could ONLY happen within the “discipline” of theology. Imagine if scientists behaved this way:

      “Well that’s some interesting data you have there Johnson, but it still doesn’t disprove my theory.”

      “Really? Oh, well, what is your theory?”

      “My theory is very sophisticated. And you have not attended to it. Are you scared, perhaps, that it might prove you wrong?”

      “Well, I’m not sure. Again, what is your theory? Would you be so kind as to outline it for me?”

      “Why are you so unwilling to engage with sophisticated scientists such as myself?! You have not attended to ANY of my sophisticated theories. Instead, you merely pick the low-hanging fruit of other scientists’ UN-sophisticated theories.”

      “Uh huh. Well, perhaps you could give me the Cliff Notes version? I’m interested in engaging your sophisticated theory, so could you please tell me what it IS? A hint—may I have a hint?”

      “Why are you so closed-minded?”

      Fin.

      • Doc Bill
        Posted November 14, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

        This is what creationists do all the time, he painted with a broad brush.

        Dr. Behe, what is the theory of ID?

        Behe: read my book.

        Dr. Behe I read your book but it says nothing specific about the theory of ID?

        Behe: read my book again more carefully.

        And so it goes.

        Until Uncle Karl either faces reality that he’s a closet atheist and comes clean, or develops a Theology for the Twenty First Century ™ he will forever be Uncle Karl who sits on a park bench and tells kids how he was so poor he lived in a paper cup and walked to school, in the snow, uphill, both ways.

      • Posted November 15, 2010 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        Oh they tell us sometimes. They explain that God is the ground of all being. That’s the sophisticated theology.

  33. Screechy Monkey
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    It’s one thing when Uncle Karl writes a piece setting forth why he thinks the Gnus’ critique of him is wrong. That’s good healthy debate.

    But I don’t get these posts that seem to consist of whining at the mere effrontery that the Gnus have voiced any criticism! After all, if you agree with someone on one issue (creationism), you are obligated to shut up and refrain from criticizing them about anything else, because … uh, why is that again? Oh, right, “because shut up, that’s why.”

    His insistence that both sides should be kissing his butt (Gnus should be grateful for Uncle Karl’s “acceptance” of evolution, and Mohler should be grateful for Uncle Karl’s belief in Jesus) is amazingly egotistical. “Hey, there’s no need for Gnu atheists and creationists to fight! You can both agree on how awesome I am!”

  34. camelspotter
    Posted November 15, 2010 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    “middle ground” might make sense in terms the tone of our message, rather than the content. I couldn’t give *some* of my Christian friends a book called The God Delusion, but might give them one called What is Atheism? or something similarly neutral sounding. No need for accomodationist *content* though.

  35. JS1685
    Posted November 15, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    *sigh*

    Someone should direct Giberson to this:

    Argument to Moderation

  36. Sundar
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    As always, Jesus & Mo have a classic based on this article.

    http://www.jesusandmo.net/2010/11/16/sober/


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