Faraday and Templeton brainwash British kids

It’s horrible to brainwash children into religious faith.  How much less horrible is it to brainwash the kids into being accommodationists—to accepting that science is compatible with religion?

That, at least, is the latest project of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, a think tank (or, rather, a revelation tank) originally funded by the Templeton Foundation.  Faraday has some science street cred, too, as it’s based at St. Edmund’s College at Cambridge University, so, unlike Templeton, it’s affiliated with a respectable academic institution.  But Faraday is the British equivalent of Templeton, for its mission is to show that faith and science are harmonious, compatible, and best friends forever. So my British friends, though you pride yourself on the lack of religiosity, be aware that there are stealth accommodationists among you.

Here are a few of Faraday’s recent activities:

  • A “short course in science and religion” this month, featuring two Templeton Prize winners and accommodationists (John Polkinghorne and Denis Alexander), four Reverends, a theologian, and someone with science training. Looks as if religion is predominant in this one.
  • A lecture series that included a talk by Polkinghorne on “A destiny beyond death” (what do you suppose the answer might be?), and will include a talk on the legacy of Thomas Aquinas and, inevitably, a talk by Elaine Ecklund, the Templeton-Funded sociologist who specializes in distorting data to make American scientists seem more religious than they really are.
  • A public lecture in February by Jügen Moltmann, “From physics to theology: a personal story.”

But alas, perhaps the most nefarious of Faraday’s activities is its “Faraday Schools” project. This is a series of lesson plans, movies, and other educational materials designed to convince young kids that science and God are compatible.  Watch the three-minute movie on the front page, which starts out all science-y but then transits into JesusLand after two minutes. There’s some dissing of Dawkins for confusing “mechanism” with “agency.”  And, like John Haught, Professor John Bryant, the Dawkins-disser, uses a cup of coffee to show that difference (Haught used tea)!  I’m going to refer to this accommodationist argument as “The Hot Haught Beverage Fallacy”:

a. I want a cup of tea

b. I put the kettle on the boil

c. Physics makes the water boil

d. But I made the tea!

e. Ergo Jesus.

FaradaySchools.com is part of a larger project called LASAR (“learning about science and religion”). LASAR is funded by Templeton, and here are their aims:

LASAR (Learning about Science and Religion) is a collaborative project between the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion (based at St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge) and the Institute of Education, Reading University.

The LASAR Project was motivated by a concern that there is a strong public perception (reinforced by some popular media) that science and religion are in some sense opposites, that is that science is an atheistic activity.

In particular, we were concerned that school pupils may come to accept this as a normative standard: something that is both incorrect, and which could deter students who hold religious faith form considering science as a suitable basis of future study and career.

Such an effect would not only be unfortunate when there is widespread concern about the limited numbers of young people seriously considering science careers, but in principle could set up a self-fulfilling prophecy. If people of faith are significantly deterred from science, then science could over time become dominated by atheists!

And here’s FaradaySchools’ mission, carefully disguised to hide the Jesus parts:

“Do you even wonder, what’s the purpose of life?”

Almost everyone ponders this question at one time or another. But where do you go for answers? Science and religion look like obvious choices except that according to over 50% of teenagers science and religion don’t agree. Science seems to say we’re here because of evolution; religion says we were put here by God. Are these two ideas really in opposition? Some scientists say that science and religion can coexist. Have a browse around this website and see if you agree.

There’s a lovely bit on “God and Miracles,” a sleazy accommodationist video called, “Science tells you how and religion tells you why” (one of the narrators, Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, is employed by the Templeton-funded Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion project at the American Association for the Advancement of Science), and. . . well, you get the drift.  Watch the video and realize that it’s aimed at children.

Now I’m not sure how much money Templeton has siphoned into Faraday Schools, but they support its sponsoring organization, have given money to some of its directors, and have funded some of the research underwriting Faraday Schools’s programs.  And Faraday is certainly carrying out the mandate originally funded by Templeton.

The real, question, though, is how this research is going to be used.  The curriculum being developed by FaradaySchools is presumably intended to be implemented in British schools.  But how and where?

97 Comments

  1. Adrian Tate
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    “If people of faith are significantly deterred from science, then science could over time become dominated by atheists!”

    what a preposterous statement. All the data shows that this is already the case. Within science there is not just a majority of atheists but an overwhelmingly huge majority. That majority is not an accident – it is mainly because science itself has yet so reveal an iota of evidence for the existence of a God. Notice the exclamation point “Atheists!”.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      That was my immediate reaction as well.

      This means two things:

      – The child abusers heaps more than abuse on their children, they will set them back against the later process of science education.

      – Science wins anyway.

      • Sastra
        Posted January 4, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        But if science is dominated by atheists, then all those exciting and fruitful proposals to run tests for the existence of God will no longer be put forth!

        Wait … you mean that’s not what theists are doing?

    • Bill
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      I teach all of my children about God. I don’t volunteer much info but if they ask me I have to be honest. It’s self evident to most children anyway that God created the universe since there is no other plausible explanation.

      • Griff
        Posted January 5, 2012 at 3:23 am | Permalink

        “self-evident”

        Really?

        So, if no-one ever discussed the concept of gods with a child and never exposed them to any religious beliefs, and when asked are given the reply “we don’t know”, they work out for themselves that a supernatural sentient being created the universe (presumably after creating itself first) and it’s vastness solely for the benefit of one species of chimp on one planet?

        Really?

        In the case of Xians (is that what you are?), the child also works out that the being is omnipotent and omniscient, but desperately wants our love, is loving and kind, but will torture us for eternity if we live a selfless life but choose the “wrong” god?

        Really?

        If the religious truly believed that children would “work it out for themselves” there wouldn’t be Jesus camps and Madrassas.

        You have a strange definition of “self-evident”.

      • microraptor
        Posted January 5, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        Bill, it’s self evident that the Earth is larger than the sun, that a bowling ball will fall faster than a feather in a vacuum, and that Europeans have some sort of inherent mental or physical superiority to other races. The problem with “self evident” things is that all too often they’re simply not true.

  2. Sigmund
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    “Professor John Bryant, the Dawkins-disser uses a cup of coffee”
    Dammit! The theists have figured out the Achilles heel of the atheist movement!

    • Chris Granger
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      Science and religion coffee can coexist in perfect harmony!

      • Chris Granger
        Posted January 4, 2012 at 8:11 am | Permalink

        No HTML strike tags, then, hmm? “Religion coffee” indeed. *sigh*

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted January 4, 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink

          Religion too much coffee!?

  3. Posted January 4, 2012 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Whyevolutionistrue:

    “So my British friends, though you pride yourself on the lack of religiosity, be aware that there are stealth accommodationists among you.”

    Oh don’t we know it, and we have far worse problems than that Jerry. Did you know that we have a law (a **law**) — renewed as recently as 1998 (!) — which requires that:

    “each pupil [at a state school] shall on each school day take part in an act of collective worship”

    … where the “worship” must be “broadly Christian”. The parents have a right to opt their kids out, but the kids who are required to do the worshipping have no opt out.

    Yes, this does mean that, in the UK, even 16- and 17-yr-olds are *legally* *required* to worship the Christian god, and cannot opt themselves out of it.

    The only bright spot is that vast swathes of UK schools simply ignore the law.

    • Posted January 4, 2012 at 6:05 am | Permalink

      What do you want from a country that has a “state religion.” Is such a country a democracy? Many non-religious scientists view religion in the UK as a type of folklore that you don’t have to take seriously, and that is innocent. They must also view what the Templeton Foundation stands for as silly, but since they have the money, you better take it.

      • Sigmund
        Posted January 4, 2012 at 6:26 am | Permalink

        The Templeton prize is even awarded by God’s representative on Earth, the defender of the Faith (well, technically her husband, Phil the Greek!) at Buckingham Palace.

        • MadScientist
          Posted January 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

          Well obviously the CoE is the Wrong Religion since it allows queens regnant starting with Elizabeth #1. Mary Queen of Scots wasn’t a True Catholic and god punished her for being queen regnant by delivering her to the English.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted January 4, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        It is a democracy with a lagging history. Sweden just kicked the habit (in 2000), and our monarch is _still_ required to be “protestantic” or else.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted January 4, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        And I should have made that “habit [sic!]” or maybe “habit [/sick]”, as well as “retard history”.

    • Posted January 4, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      and, Chicago (on another post) isn’t the only university that sees divinity as a real subject, as opposed to a subject in History:

      http://www.divinity.cam.ac.uk/

    • Posted January 4, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      On the other hand, the collective worship can be so incredibly dull or embarrassing that it helps push children away from religion.

      • Posted January 4, 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink

        Heh, Steve, that’s a very valid point. My first real beef with religion came when my primary school teacher placed me between two older girls once when we were in church. That was the pits for an eight year old who liked to chat, but not with older girls who made it their job to keep me quiet!

  4. Posted January 4, 2012 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    ‘Becoming a scientist does not mean that you can’t believe in God. That’s clear since there are many scientists who do.’

    This can be rephrased :-
    Becoming an adulterer does not mean that you can’t believe in God. That’s clear since there are many adulterers who do.

    And hey presto, we have proved that adultery and Christianity are compatible!

    • Posted January 4, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      Thank goodness someone has cleared that one up!

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      Adulterers, and then there is the Pedophilers and Children Traffickers Church.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      “Becoming a scientist does not mean you can’t believe in ESP, homeopathy, ghosts, alien abduction, or Bigfoot. That’s clear because there are many scientists who do. They just leave off being good, consistent scientists in those areas.”

  5. Griff
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    Tell me where the events are being held and I’ll go and heckle them.

  6. Posted January 4, 2012 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    A bit surprised to see Jim Al-Khalili supporting this – he appeared at a Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People. I guess he’s more accommodationist than I realised.

    • Steve Zara
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      Oh no. That’s really quite depressing.

    • Posted January 4, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      The woman who speaks before Jim Al-Khalili is nauseating, but I can’t help wondering whether Jim himself knew how he was being used. He only actually says historical things about Islamic science. I don’t think he ever says he is a Muslim himself, does he? In the same way, I could imagine visited by a film crew and asked about scientists who were also Christian. I might in good faith talk about Newton and Faraday and Maxwell, and explain how religious they were. I might be aghast later to find myself spliced into a film of religious propaganda. Remember, this is a religious organisation: lying would be second nature for them.

      • Posted January 5, 2012 at 3:28 am | Permalink

        Your scenario sounds plausible, Richard, and you may be pleased to hear that Al-Khalili is quoted as saying:

        “I find it more comfortable to say I’m an atheist, and for that I probably have someone like Dawkins to thank.”

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/science-discovery/jim-al-khalili/#subject-3-topic-2

        However, he does call himself on that broadcast a ‘cuddly’ atheist, and you unsympathetic (No!) to the religious. As we’ve seen, there are plenty of non-believers who want to treat religion with kid gloves (such as Hoffmann) so Al-Khalili may be one of those. I had the impression that he was keen to show that Islam need not be anathema to science, in Science and Islam, for example, without endorsing the religious approach. This Faraday Schools project appears to be endorsing the religious approach.

        I’ve sent him a message to see what his views are, but you may be more successful at getting a response!

  7. Egbert
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    Jerry,

    When I looked into the various and voluminous organizations that Templeton funded, I notice that some had a neo-conservative agenda. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the origins of neo-conservatism or many of the thinkers that influenced them, but they do have an agenda of pushing religion because they perceive that liberalism is weak, and that without such propaganda against the masses, it would eventually lead to the domination of ideologies that threaten America.

    I’m not suggesting that Britian or Europe don’t have their own nefarious agendas and organizations, but I think Templeton is largely a pro-American organization using religion as a disguise for its neo-conservative agenda.

    I could of course be wrong, but I suspect that Templeton has a nefarious political agenda disguised as accommodationism between religion and science. It is of course a corrupting influence as it is, but I think if neo-conservativism is behind it, it might show us who our real enemy is.

    • Posted January 4, 2012 at 6:12 am | Permalink

      Exactly. Just like Plato viewed popular religion as a way to control the masses. He advocated the execution of those who reject this religion. At the same time, the “elite” did not have this requirement and could indulge themselves in Plato’s “astral” religion.

      • Kharamatha
        Posted January 5, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

        In the “State”, even the elite should be controlled tightly. The “Philosopher Kings” were meant to uphold the “philosophy”, not form it.

    • Posted January 4, 2012 at 7:31 am | Permalink

      It’s well known in these quarters (but virtually unknown or ignored most everywhere else) that Templeton is in bed with the Koch Brothers and the “Drill, baby, drill!” crowd.

      b&

      • Sajanas
        Posted January 4, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        I’ve been really disturbed by how often I see “funded by BlahBlah Koch” in front of episodes of Nova, and Nature on PBS, or in front of Museum exhibits. They really put a lot of money down for science education, but you really have to wonder what strings come with that.

        • Strider
          Posted January 4, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

          It’s an interesting question and I think I have a good example. The David Koch Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian, about which Jerry’s written before, is *excellent* in its utilization of different media, artifacts, and hands-on exhibits to examine what appears to be the state-of-the-art evidence for human origins. In the part about current and future human progress, however, there are glaring omissions. For example, while the exhibit openly discusses rising CO2 levels (“The level of CO2 today is the highest since our species evolved.”) there is no mention of the phenomenon’s ultimate cause: human activities. That section of the exhibit is called “Humans Change the World” which implies culpability but doesn’t overtly acknowledge it. That to me seems like a good example of self-censoring by the exhibit’s creators due to Koch’s involvement in extractive industry.

          • Sajanas
            Posted January 5, 2012 at 8:03 am | Permalink

            Yeah, I noticed that when I was there… it was suggesting climate changes was one of the causes of human evolution. It was strange on a lot of levels, because I don’t think the exhibit would have lost anything if it wasn’t there at all… its like they Koch brothers want something in there to show that climate change is a good thing.

          • microraptor
            Posted January 5, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

            I remember seeing some stuff when that exhibit first opened- there was significant amounts of speculation (including here, I think) about the Koch brothers’ roll in that particular display, since it was a glaring omission.

    • Tim
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      No question about it. Leo Strauss’s acolytes are scumbags of the lowest order and willing to stoop to anything to subvert liberal democracy – or rather, keep liberal democracy propped up as a kind of Potemkin Village image of society. They paint liberals as “elitists”, all the while cynically pushing religion as pablum to be fed to the knuckle-draggers to keep them in line. Neoconservatism is the ultimate in elitism. Karl Rove is a perfect example. An atheist, but he loves evangelical fundamentalism as a political tool.

      • Notagod
        Posted January 4, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        In an email exchange with Kamy Akhavan of ProCon.org, Rove wrote “I called Mr. Hitchens after he made his erroneous statement and as the true gentlemen he is, he apologized. He has seen a quote in which I remarked on my admiration for the faith of White House colleagues which I felt was deeper and richer than mine and misquoted it. I am a practicing Christian who attends a bible-centered Episcopal church in Washington and an Anglican church in Texas.”

        http://www.speroforum.com/a/49285/site/privacy.asp

  8. Posted January 4, 2012 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it here, too.

    What an insult to the name and memory and accomplishments of Faraday!

    • MadScientist
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      Yes, they’re not even pushing Faraday’s religion – you’d think that with a name like that their purpose would be to revive his particular sect. Nor are they teaching anyone about the numerous experiments and assiduous observations performed by Faraday and which were essential to James Clerk Maxwell’s work on electromagnetic theory.

  9. Graham Martin-Royle
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Science seems to say we’re here because of evolution; religion says we were put here by God.

    As usual they are being specific about only one religion, as if that is the only religion. What this should read is, “religion says we were put here by God(s)”.

  10. vel
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    for “accomodationists” they sure are intent on pushing just one religion. I guess that’s the only one they want “accomodated”, and screw the others. Never see Templeton supporting the idea that Vishnu or Tezcatlipoca were responsible for creating the universe or for a magical afterlife.

  11. Finbarr
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    I clicked through to the lecture by Moltmann you mention, as I studied him a bit in my theology degree at Cambridge (where I had a few run-ins with accommodationists myself!) and found this gem, explaining why Moltmann believes in God:

    ‘In July 1943 I was an air force auxiliary in a battery in the centre of Hamburg, and barely survived the fire storm which the Royal Air Force’s “Operation Gomorrah” let loose on the eastern part of the city. The friend standing next to me at the firing predictor was torn to pieces by the bomb that left me unscathed. That night I cried out to God for the first time: “My God, where are you?” And the question “Why am I not dead too?” has haunted me ever since’

    So he was saved because God loves him so very very much, but his friend was killed in a rather horrible way. What a lovely God he has there! Pathetic. Truly pathetic, insulting to the friend’s memory (if God saved Motlmann, did he choose to kill the friend? Why?), and also bafflingly stupid. If this is the best theology has to offer, the battle has been won. They’re just vultures fighting over the corpse now.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      A Catholic friend of mine recently mentioned that a friend of his was going to double-major in Physics and Theology. He smugly assured the room that this wasn’t as surprising as it seems at first — they go together quite well! More so than ever!

      I wanted to ask him if theology had a lot of that math and science stuff — which I hear is quite common in physics — but refrained because it didn’t seem a good idea at the time.

      As soon as some physicist comes up with a testable theistic hypothesis and some positive studies which meet the rigorous criteria required in physics, then I’ll consider the possibility that physics is “compatible” with theology. Thinking of ways you can reinterpret findings in physics so they sound vaguely like something a theologian might say doesn’t cut it.

  12. Posted January 4, 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    “From physics to theology: a personal story”

    Reading this title, the word “brain” and the word “damage” come to mind.

  13. Posted January 4, 2012 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Please don’t conflate religion with Christianity.

    The Templeton gang are promoting one particular form of religion, not the whole of religion.

    Some religions (the non-theist, liberal, open-minded ones) are compatible with science.

    • Posted January 4, 2012 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      The problem is that those “non-theist, liberal, open-minded” religions can be counted on one hand, as can the global population percentage of their adherents. Really, the proper term for them is, “rounding error.”

      Not to mention, of course, that they’re still saddled with some form of “faith” or other means of embracing the unevidenced and rejecting empiricism.

      It’s like Catholicism, which officially “embraces” “evolution” (but, oh-by-the-way, it’s just the big-picture view, and Jesus always has his fingers in the mix and personally directed the “evolution” of humans through the Adam and Eve population chokepoint). Those other religions you’re referring to just aren’t quite as absurdly blatant about their irrationality…maybe.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Kevin
        Posted January 4, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        +1 for “rounding error”.

        I’m definitely stealing that one.

      • Papalinton
        Posted January 4, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

        +2 for the ’rounding error’.

      • Posted January 5, 2012 at 4:58 am | Permalink

        +0.0001%

    • Dominic
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      Belief in the supernatural is not really compatible with science. If it is material it can be studied. As Ben & others have said on these pages before, if it is interfering with the material universe it must be subject to physical laws & therefore open to scientific study.

      • Dominic
        Posted January 4, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

        In fact, if ‘it’ (anything) exists, I would say ‘it’ (anything) is open for scientific study. Whether we can find anything out is another thing.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      No religion is compatible with science:

      – in observation:

      no magic observed implies physics rules alone

      – in theory:

      physicalism predicts why science is so successful, same as uniformity, mediocrity, et cetera

      – in method:

      science is in the business to replace beliefs with facts, while religion is in the business to replace facts with belief.

      Really, I can’t understand why someone would make a special pleading for the area of special pleading (=: religion). (O.o)

      • microraptor
        Posted January 5, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

        The only real difference between religions when it comes to their scientific compatibility is where and how much they contradict science. There’s never a question of if.

    • Sajanas
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      I would be really interested to see which religions you would list under your description. If it has supernatural claims, you still run into the problem that those claims are really only provisional, until science gets around to filling in whatever gaps the religion has plugged itself into in the origin of the universe or what not. If it has no supernatural claims, can it really be said to be a religion, and instead is more of a philosophy or an ideology? And even those are subject to more fine analysis (say, like studying meditation to see if it actually does produce benefits).

    • Sastra
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      Religious beliefs about the nature of the universe are not compatible with science if scientists could not arrive at the same conclusions without the religion.

    • Posted January 5, 2012 at 5:05 am | Permalink

      I’m not convinced that non-theistic religions exist… that is, by definition a religion involves one or more gods or other supernatural agencies (see, e.g., A. C. Grayling).

      /@

      • Kharamatha
        Posted January 5, 2012 at 8:23 am | Permalink

        Broadly, I suppose Steve Jobs is a god, à la roman imperial ascension.

        • Posted January 5, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

          Wasn’t he the fruit of the iMaculate conception? 😉

          /@

          • HaggisForBrains
            Posted January 6, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

            +1

  14. PB
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    When the religionists say faith, they always meant christian faith, while actually the christians have to deal with other religions first before they want to take on science.

    Islams should debate Christians first.

  15. Tim
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    A destiny beyond death.

    • Dominic
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      That came into a W/Jayne County song, ‘Storm the Gates of Heaven’.

  16. Dominic
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    “Do you even wonder, what’s the purpose of life?”
    No, because it clearly does not have one!

    • Kharamatha
      Posted January 5, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      The purpose of pig life is mostly commercial.

    • microraptor
      Posted January 5, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      One of my second cousins is a marine biologist.

      She sometimes wonders what the porpoise of life is.

      • Posted January 5, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

        To have a whale of a time?

        /@

        • microraptor
          Posted January 5, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

          I don’t know, it just seems like such a fluke.

  17. TJR
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Ye gods, first Oxford (Green-Templeton college) and now Cambridge.

    It’ll be Hull next!

  18. Posted January 4, 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Geebus on a cracker.

    “Do you even wonder, what’s the purpose of life?”

    I recall what Joseph Cambell replied when Bill Moyers asked him about the “purpose” of life:

    “I don’t believe life has a real purpose. I mean, when you really see what life is… it’s a lot a protoplasm with an urge to reproduce and continue in being.”

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      That is one reason why life as a property of populations is different from “the life” of an individual. Populations have no purpose but obey the evolutionary process; individuals may create their own purpose.

      • Kharamatha
        Posted January 5, 2012 at 8:28 am | Permalink

        Depends on the population. The population of the Vatican was mostly assembled for a purpose.

    • Kevin
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      OK, let’s go over this again….

      “Purpose” in theist-speak = size and location of my after-death apartment. In other words, it’s nonsense.

      Species can and do have a “purpose” — it’s to perpetuate that species. Humans do this by being good parents (including the ‘it takes a village’ style parent), good members of the community at large, and careful stewards of the Earth’s finite resources.

      Individuals can and do have “purposes” — however, these are finite and not mystical. They can also change over time. My father’s “purpose” in 1944-45 was to be an infantryman in the US Army and get shot at a lot. After that until about 25 years ago, his purpose was to be a good auto mechanic and a great dad. His current purpose is to nap, eat, and fart.

  19. madamX
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Oh those poor children! Their minds are being ruined by grinning buffoons pretending to be scientists. “Hi little children, I’m a scientist you can trust me..” Then they get a little Jesus in them, ouch!

  20. Posted January 4, 2012 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    The argument should be called “The Haught Beverage Argument,” no?

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Except in Haught’s formulation it’s:

      a. I want a cup of tea

      b. I send my wife to put the kettle on

  21. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    The LASAR Project was motivated by a concern that there is a strong public perception…that science is an atheistic activity.

    That perception would be correct. Science is an atheistic activity, even when done by religious scientists. If your hypothesis includes divine intervention, then you’re not doing science.

    What’s the alternative? Lab-coated postdocs Tebowing every time they get a positive experimental result?

  22. MadScientist
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    “Do you even wonder, what’s the purpose of life?”

    I’d like to see the Faraday Institute for Religion (there’s no science in it) answer that truthfully: there is no purpose, life is what you make of it, but religions will tell you that your purpose is to serve an evil ghost from a book of ancient myths.

  23. madamX
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Of course! I see it so clearly now! My child *put* her doo doo in her mouth, ergo Mohamed. Excuse me while I get fitted for a burqa.

  24. Posted January 4, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    “There’s some dissing of Dawkins for confusing “mechanism” with “agency.””
    I do wonder just what the tea example shows. After all, I don’t think that anyone would pretend that there’s anything other than human agency involved in making tea – just that human agency is, well, human. We have physical bodies with brains that make decision, and agency is the sum of a subset of that physical system. Yes, we might desire a cup of tea, know how to make one, then set about to work towards those ends, but none of that says anything about the origin of the universe.

    • Posted January 5, 2012 at 1:53 am | Permalink

      They also seem to think that they can detect agency behind self-reproducing cups of tea.

      When a mummy cup of tea and a daddy cup of tea love each other very much and make a baby cup of tea, we can’t rule out that this happens because John Haught is thirsty.

      I assume that is the point of their analogy, although I admit this does concede that there is point to their analogy – something which can be disputed.

  25. Infidelkaffirheretic
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Its a damm shame trades descriptions cant do something about fools like this.
    I flush the loo,
    my s**t dissapears,
    ERGO miracle!

  26. betts
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Children learning about religion is ok, but teaching children religion is quite different.

  27. Posted January 4, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    They virtually have to teach this stuff. For a long time they taught that science and religion were incompatible and science was wrong. They’ve been soundly defeated on the second part, so rather than admit that religion is wrong, they’re going to give away the first part – nay, they’re going to impose the first part. But whether science and religion are compatible is a testable proposition, and it’s going to fail that test.

  28. Posted January 5, 2012 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    $

  29. Posted January 5, 2012 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    28.

    $ => A nice cup of tea and a chat after the service x 1m => $$$$$$ => Faraway Institute => More cups of tea in twenty years or less => $$$$$$$$$

    That’s the plan. Better than stealing underpants.

  30. Pleiades
    Posted January 5, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I wonder what people think about what Lisa Randall and Ian Hutchinson had to say about the limits of science:

    http://www.aaas.org/spp/dser/02_Events/Lectures/2011/ScientismEventBrief1.shtml

  31. Infidelkaffirheretic
    Posted January 5, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Science is not an atheistic activity, doing sciece properly might however lead to atheistic conclusions.That is not the fault of science, it is the proper interpretation of evidence, ie if there is no evidence to support something, it is unsupportable,go away, conduct another test, interpret more non existant evidence as further confirmation.
    The religious want to redefine what constitutes evidence,to something they have predetermined and which will support their cause, that is not science, and is completely incompatible with science.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted January 5, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      Doing science properly means checking your supernatural beliefs at the door and using only natural explanations in your scientific work. That makes it an atheistic activity in my book. Not that you have to be an atheist to do it, but you have to think like an atheist while you’re doing it to get credible results.

  32. Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    I must say, though, this accommodationism sure pays well!

    http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/news/2012/01/30/rice-wins-2m-grant-to-study.html


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