Another HuffPo blogger fails to understand the conflict between science and faith

UPDATE:  Over at Choice in Dying, Eric has written a very perspicacious piece on Tallmon’s article, concentrating on whether religion really does serve as a source of morality. A snippet:

Tallmon, sadly, is mistaken in practically every way in his attempt to reconcile religion and science. He thinks the world can be neatly divided into two different realms of knowing. No, it can’t.  Religious people are right to be afraid of science, because science, and empiricism or naturalism generally, are corrosive of religious belief. But the truth is that most people already know this. They already make moral decisions based on what makes life better, not on the basis of what a few men in dog collars or with long beards may say. And it really is time that we simply sidelined religion as a pastime for those who get a charge out of religious feelings and experiences.

____________

As per Arianna’s diktat, the HuffPo Science Section continues—with the refreshing exception of Victor Stenger—to push accommodationist pap when it isn’t extolling the latest discovery of fossilized dinosaur feces. (In fact these two genres are much alike.) The latest piece, “Teach the non-controversy,” is by David Tallmon, an associate professor of biology and marine biology at The University of Alaska Southeast.  In this call for the teaching of evolution in schools, while retaining our respect for believers, we find the usual tropes of the Kumbaya-NOMA crowd:

1. Blame Americans’ rejection of evolution on scientists.

Although this might seem a trivial point to some, I think we scientists have failed to teach the general public that falsifiable hypotheses lie at the core of science. One of the consequences of this failure is that we continue to waste time debating the role of evolutionary biology in public schools.

Yes, for if all those Christians understood that scientific hypotheses are actually tested, and that evolution has passed many such tests (see, for example, my fricking book), they’d immediately embrace Darwinism. Not!

2. Claim that science and faith can cohabit happily. After all, there are religious scientists!

Understanding evolution needn’t cause one to abandon one’s god, moral code, or respect for life. Many brilliant scientists have reconciled their spiritual beliefs, however fundamentalist or liberal, with evolutionary theory and have emerged both devout believers and insightful scientists. They seamlessly function in the spiritual and scientific worlds. One of the things I enjoy most as a teacher is seeing my senior biology students have an “aha” moment when they realize how much evolution makes sense as a mechanism to explain the diversity of life, and that they do not have to abandon their morals to appreciate its elegance.

I call this The Argument from Francis Collins. And I needn’t reprise the many reasons that it’s wrong, and why I see faith and science as incompatible; read my paper in Evolution if you’ve missed them. (By the way, could some kind reader with Wikipedia skills add that paper to my list of publications?)

Tallmon also conveniently omits the well known data on the greater prevalence of nonbelief among scientists than among the general public. In the elite U.S. National Academy of Sciences, for example, only 7% of members accept a personal God, with 93% being agnostics and atheists. In the U.S. general population, these figures are almost exactly reversed. And, of course, in our BioLogos post yesterday, president Darrel Falk noted that “Evangelicals are fourteen-fold under-represented among the scientists at the nation’s leading universities.”

For every brilliant scientist who accepts a personal God, there are more than thirteen who reject one. Doesn’t Tallmon wonder why that is? It is because we scientists simply haven’t taught people about hypothesis testing? LOL!

3. Argue that science and religion are nonoverlapping magisteria that address different topics. Ergo, Jesus and Darwin are pals.

We need to make sure the general public understands that science is about proposing testable mechanisms for how the natural world works. Let us teach evolution (and particle physics) in our science courses. Let us teach religion in our religion courses. Let there be no controversy; they address different topics. Science is a method of learning about the world that need not be threatening. To suggest otherwise is to add sound and fury that divert resources away from learning how the world works. Our students deserve better. Our society deserves better.

This, of course, neglects the very many religious people—not just evangelical Christians, but Jews, Catholics, Muslims, and Hindus as well—who do see religion as imparting genuine truths about the universe. I have a whole folder of statements by Sophisticated Theologians™ like John Haught, Alvin Plantinga, and John Polkinghorne, for instance, claiming that religion and science are both ways of apprehending real, empirical truths.

Let’s face it: Gould’s idea of “nonoverlapping magisteria” (NOMA) is dead in the water. No “person of good will” (Gould’s euphemism for accommodationists) thinks that religion has the corner on morality, as Gould claimed in Rocks of Ages. And who among us really thinks that religion refuses to make claims about the real world? Gould’s limitation of moral arguments to the domain of religion, and assertion that “real” religion says nothing about the real world, is a dichotomy that was palpably false from the outset. Yet it’s still being pushed by people like Tallmon.  Are they unaware of the weakness of their accommodationist arguments, or do they simply ignore them? Do they not see that accommodationism hasn’t worked at all, despite being the dominant strategy of the last forty years?

If Tallmon were honest, he’d see that the way to dispel creationism in America is not for scientists to do a better job imparting to the public how science works, but for scientists (and everyone else) to show the vacuity of unsupported superstition.

Victor, come out of the HuffPo woodwork and pwn this guy!

128 Comments

  1. Cafeeine
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    Excellent post, but this just gnaws at my leg:

    “For every brilliant scientist who accepts a personal God, there are more than thirteen who reject one.”

    This is not what the previous quote implies. Not all religious scientists are evangelicals.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted July 16, 2012 at 4:44 am | Permalink

      I was not referring here to Falk’s data, but to the 93%/7% ratio of believers/nonbelievers in the National Academy of Sciences. Sorry to be unclear about that.

      –C.C.

    • gravelinspector
      Posted July 17, 2012 at 3:53 am | Permalink

      I don’t know about you, but here “evangelical” means “one who evangelises” ; viz, one who takes his faith and tries to convert others to follow it.
      By which basis, the proportion of evangelical scientists is very likely to be lower than the proportion of “scientists who accept a personal god.”
      Though I suppose that one could evangelise for a non-personal god too. Einstein’s “my [non-personal] god doesn’t throw the dice where you can’t see them” being interpretable as a form of evangelism.
      Or is this another case of “that word has changed meanings “here, there and somewhere”, but has not changed meanings in the same way “thither, yon and yonder?” In which case, you’re going to have to follow IIRC Aristotle’s advice and define your terms carefully : not everyone agrees on where “here” is.
      Having to think now, whether or what the distinction is between “evangelising” and “proselytising”. Have to check that.

      • RF
        Posted July 17, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        Well, if you look at the etymology, “evangelist” comes from “eu” (Greek for “good”) and “angel” (which comes from the Greek word for “messenger”). “Proselytizing” comes from “proti” (Greek for “toward”) and “eleusesthai” (Greek for “to be going to come”). So “evangelism” is simply preaching the “good news”, while “proselytizing” is converting people. At this point, there’s pretty much no adult in the Western world who has not heard the “good news”, so people who call themselves evangelists are generally in fact proselytizers.

  2. Posted July 16, 2012 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    “I call this The Argument from Francis Collins.”

    I’ll call it the Argumentum ad Franciscum Collins.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Is that the same as “Fallacy by appeal to waterfalls”?

      Looks to be a formal fallacy (non sequitur).

      • Posted July 16, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        But it has force (“foss”) majeur!

        /@

      • PeteJohn
        Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

        Heehee.

        Those waterfalls are pretty. There are three. There are three expressions of God’s love. I’m a Christian now! Hurrah!

        • gbjames
          Posted July 17, 2012 at 4:25 am | Permalink

          You can do the same with bears!

  3. gbjames
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 4:59 am | Permalink

    sub

  4. Posted July 16, 2012 at 5:08 am | Permalink

    “If a way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst.” — Thomas Hardy

  5. Hempenstein
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    (By the way, could some kind reader with Wikipedia skills add that paper to my list of publications?)

    Done. Or at least roughed in. Vol/pg #s don’t seem to be available yet.

    • Posted July 16, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

      The link to the CV is broken, and the only thing I can find on the uchicago.edu website is “Recent Publications:. Do you have an up to date link to your CV?

      • Hempenstein
        Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

        ‘Faculty website’ under External Links at the bottom of the W’pedia page works for me, and has a bunch of publications.

        • Posted July 16, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

          Yes, it a list of recent publications, while the CV presumably has them all. We could just remove the link to the CV, since it is dead.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      Coyne: “Need more feline hoards!”

      Cats: “…”

      So much for atheism as a religion.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

        Duh, “hordes”. Sry plz, speling non-kitteh words iz noe easee.

        • Posted July 16, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

          Are feline hoards caches of mice and birds?

          /@

  6. Mary - Canada
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    “Let us teach evolution (and particle physics) in our science courses. Let us teach religion in our religion courses. Let there be no controversy; they address different topics.” Does Tallmon honestly believe that?! It’s naive to think that religion has anything good to offer humanity.

    • gmaduck
      Posted July 16, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      What’s so hard about it? The Catholics have been doing it for years. Just ask the Pope.

    • PeteJohn
      Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      They do offer instructive tips on how NOT to be a decent person.

    • RF
      Posted July 17, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      I suppose they address different topics the way medicine and homeopathy address different topics. Medicine addresses the question of how to make people well, and homeopathy addresses the question of how to make loads of money selling placebos.

  7. darrelle
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    “Let there be no controversy; they address different topics. Science is a method of learning about the world that need not be threatening. To suggest otherwise is to add sound and fury that divert resources away from learning how the world works.”

    Any believer worth their salt, and with more then two brain cells to rub together, will see right through this guy. Hope he doesn’t mind being used. Believers will use this guy like a patsy. They will willingly let him champion them against the likes of us, and let him take the heat, and then spurn him among themselves. No self respect I guess. And it’s not like he is ignorant, except perhaps willfully, so he deserves whatever he gets.

    • Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      The only thing that really matters to accommodationists is how they feel–it feels deliciously good to accommodate, an impulse deeply a part of their identity. They also need to think that they are important, that they are peace keepers, that they are invaluable. And I have no idea how to give them what they crave and still keep my own integrity so I just diss them every chance I get.

      • darrelle
        Posted July 16, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        “They also need to think that they are important . . .”

        Yes indeed, and an important (oops) part of that is the feeling of moral superiority they get from being the tolerant, mature peacemaker. It is like an endorphin high, and then some Gnu Atheist comes along and ruins it for them.

        “And I have no idea how to give them what they crave and still keep my own integrity so I just diss them every chance I get.”

        You are soooooooo mean!

  8. Fred Rickson
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    You can do science and believe anything…world is flat, moon is green cheese….you just cannot invoke belief as a cause of your results.

  9. Filippo
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    ” . . . I think we scientists have failed to teach the general public that falsifiable hypotheses lie at the core of science. One of the consequences of this failure is that we continue to waste time debating the role of evolutionary biology in public schools.”

    The gentleman directs not one word of opprobrium at the profoundly willful non-curiosity of too many of the general public.

    What specific, positive recommendation does the gentleman make about how to “teach” the “bread and circuses” general public? Shall we require that the general public periodically return to the classroom for refresher training? Ah, but that would be a violation of their freedom.

    What is preventing the general public, in this age of internet information access, from becoming curious and motivated to improve its “STEM” competency? Do they have to bribed to do so, just as K-12 students more and more are in effect bribed with material rewards to do their academic work, which should be its own intellectual reward? (“If you pick up the trash [which you should pick up anyway!], you’ll get a CAAAANNDYYY bar!” This reflects the consumerist modus operandi here in The Land of the Fee and The Home of the Craven.)

    Did Jerry Coyne have to commandeer the attention of any reader here? Somehow I got wind of his book, “Why Evolution Is True,” whether by visiting bookstores, or reading hard-copy/on-line book reviews, or a head’s-up from other science-related websites. It’s all about Curiosity. As Feynman put it, it’s “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out” and “The Meaning of It All.”

    • BilBy
      Posted July 16, 2012 at 6:42 am | Permalink

      I’d agree with this: I had an unpleasant time arguing with someone who claimed that scientists failed to convince her of evolution and when I suggested buying some books she took umbrage and seemed to claim that somehow scientists should magically transmit their knowledge to her without her having to spend any money. Public libraries and the internet were also dismissed as she has no ‘time’. She regarded herself as an intelligent iconoclast who wasn’t afraid to ask tough questions: this Dunning-Kruger mindset is all too common.

      • darrelle
        Posted July 16, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

        Laziness seems to be a large factor. It’s just too difficult to think for to long. Don’t you know that the brain consumes a huge amount of energy?

    • DV
      Posted July 16, 2012 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      Curiosity killed the cat, didn’t you know.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted July 16, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

        With 9 lives, who knows?

        (Cat-theology is a bit fuzzy.)

        • darrelle
          Posted July 16, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

          It does have a tendency to chase its tail though.

  10. Posted July 16, 2012 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    As you put it, Jerry, at the core of religion is faith, or “Trust me!” while at the core of science is rational empiricism, or “Don’t trust me; here’s what I’ve done and would you please double-check my work?”

    You couldn’t even theoretically come up with two more different approaches to understanding the universe — and the results of which works and which doesn’t have been in for more millennia than there have been Christians.

    Cheers,

    b&

  11. Jeff Johnson
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    It seems to me that this debate over non-overlapping magisteria suffers from the reality that while religion makes many claims about nature and existence that clearly overlap with the proper domain of science, there are also aspects of religion that do not overlap with science.

    Religion is a stew of a variety of aspects of human culture: narrative (literature, history, poetry, psychology, philosophy, early bad attempts at explaining nature), dance, ritual, song, social solidarity, etc.

    While religion no longer has any business trying to seriously assert any of its claims about nature, such as demonic possession, the soul and afterlife, the creation of the universe, the earth, and humans, it doesn’t take too much thought to see that much of what is in the Bible and what comprises religious practice are related to human subjective and social experience; these are areas that empirical study in the form of sociology, anthropology, psychology, economics, political science, and others may be able to make intelligent statements about, nonetheless there is nothing that substitutes for or renders obsolete the raw power and necessity of direct human experience and expression.

    There needs to be clarification that identifies the specific aspects of religion that overlap with science, while also elaborating on what does not. Prayer, for example, can be of service to humans in the way meditation or self-hypnosis can be, as a tool to focus and discipline the mind. It can do this even if the association with supernatural communication and divine intervention is factored out entirely. Social gatherings, sharing music and cultural symbols and participating in church led initiatives have value to many people simply because they’ve grown up with these things, and do not need to conflict with science in any way because they are purely about human society and subjective experience.

    A teasing apart from religion of those elements that are corrupted by ignorant attempts to explain the natural world, and those parts that are signs, symbols, and acts purely related to human subjective experience would be a useful basis for settling these debates about the overlapping or non-overlapping of these magisteria.

    There already are some liberal religionists who no longer believe in the literal truths of the mythology, but for whom participation in the church plays a part in fulfilling what they still think of as their spiritual needs. In other words, it still plays a role in ordering their lives, in providing a context for a certain kind of fulfillment that can exist as a part of human experience wholly independent of any superstitious and false beliefs.

    I may be wrong, but I really believe that these elements, these non-superstitious human social activities are what many churchgoers really value and are fighting to preserve when they make accommodationist and NOMA type arguments, even though when they feel less threatened they can willingly concede that Genesis, the miracles, the divinity of Christ and the resurrection are not literally true.

    Certainly these remarks can not be true of the majority of Christians, and especially the fundamentalists, but there seems to me some practical value in clearly identifying what a religious practice sans superstition might look like and how it might benefit those who feel they can not live without depending on that kind of social support.

    • gbjames
      Posted July 16, 2012 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      In other words, some religious people are in it for the warm-fuzzies of membership. Fine. Then they should abandon the BS and call it what it is… a bridge club, a book club, a political action group, whatever.

      What was your point exactly?

      • Jeff Johnson
        Posted July 16, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

        You have captured part of my point; I agree that religion is a social club, but not all social clubs are equal. The modes of sharing and engagement in a bridge club are different from people who participate in activities that engage more of the fantasy and imagination, such as fan conventions for science fiction, historical re-enactment, etc. where people actually adopt alternative forms of dress, linguistic communication, performative expression, etc. There is a different dimension involved when tripping on mushrooms or acid at a Dead concert than going to the VFW hall for supper, or participating in a bowling league. There is yoga and meditation, which are aimed at improving health, increasing energy, and elevating the state of mind away from possibly self-destructive habits and toward cultivating habits deemed by the individual to be more desirable.

        So I’m saying first that religion has many aspects that depend only on human nature and not at all on the supernatural, in much the same way as other potent subjective experiences humans share, whether in sport, taking drugs, or re-enacting medieval games. Religion seems to be a fairly potent combination in that it has the weight of history and the artificial legitimacy of being a mainstream cultural phenomenon, and of engaging people psychologically in powerful ways. For example, even if the beliefs are false, the experience people feel in their minds of communing with God is in fact a real psychological state based on neurological and biochemical phenomena. I suspect it is connected with a childish need, one developed in infancy and brought on by the experience of the seemingly infallible and omnipotent protection of the parent relative to the helplessness of the infant. In some sense religion allows humans to extend aspects of their childhood, so it can be seen as a crutch, like drugs, that retards development to full maturity, to a full acceptance of personal responsibility. So while this need or weakness that religion answers is purely a subjective psychological one, it has real impact on people’s lives and people are attached to it in ways not much different than fans of comic and sci-fi conventions engage their imagination and fantasy in ways that are psychologically fulfilling and foster deep attachments as well. And religion is healthier than drug abuse in many obvious ways.

        The second aspect of my point is that there could be some real utility in framing this endless science vs. religion debate if there were a clear and commonly understood decomposition of religion into the aspects that are purely human and psychological and social, and have a certain value, and the parts that are false claims about natural existence based on crude primitive fairy tales. Of course these distinctions seem at face value obvious to atheists, but they are less obvious perhaps to others. And perhaps they are not all as obvious as they at first seem. We all ridicule the imagined efficacy of prayer, yet I mentioned above a possible way to reinvent prayer so that it could have some practical value to those who feel that need. Also it could be good to have a clear and common definition of what words like soul, spirit, inspiration, blessedness might mean in a metaphorical and purely psychological context, stripped of their supernatural fallacies.

        Mind you I’m not proposing anything absurd like this fellow Alain de Botton, who suggests that atheists could benefit from simulating religious rituals. I’m saying that this science v. religion debate could benefit from a more clearly articulated common language identifying exactly where science conflicts with religion, and where religion has potentially valid uses for humans in the way they engage with life subjectively. It could be valuable to, say religious scientists and liberal Christians to share a somewhat less vague and less idiosyncratic vision of what is salvageable in religion if one truly strips away all false supernatural belief and accepts the conclusions of science.

        I’m saying that it is not necessary to entirely discredit and nullify religion in order to establish what is true and what is properly the domain of science and out of religion’s league. And to concede this aspect of the warm and fuzzy, as you call it, to religion (it clearly is not in the purview of science) could be a wise step to take, without devolving into mushy and sentimental accommodationism.

        I really don’t care if people go to church any more than I care about people engaging in fantasy role playing or historical re-enactment conventions and meetings. I just want them to stop making claims that effect public policies and education, and I want them to abandon the tribalism and totalitarian mindset that leads to conflict, violence, and war. If religion were reinvented in such a way that people viewed it as a purely social, subjective, and psychological experience or activity without pretense of knowing dramatic truths about nature and existence, it would be like a bomb defused and rendered relatively harmless.

        • gbjames
          Posted July 16, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

          I think you are describing a dispute that does not exist. I don’t know of any science/atheist types that object to people eating pancake breakfasts in church basements. It is precisely the things you describe (effects on public policy) that is at issue. If religion existed without the nonsense nobody would complain. But then that wouldn’t be religion anymore would it? It would just be bingo night for the old folk and hootenannies for the kids.

          • Jeff Johnson
            Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink

            I suspect many religious people can’t hear this distinction between the human/social and supernatural aspects when faced with criticism of religion from atheists.

            The criticism often gets heated and goes beyond the proper bounds of scientific knowledge and strays into the territory of cultural bias, anti-religious prejudice, resentment, and grudges. I share in this excess myself, often feeling incredulous at the stupidity of it all, and straining at the limits of my patience with people unable to see the foolishness of religious faith. And many of us have real and profound reasons to hold grudges against religion for its hyper-normative control, domination, and enslavement our lives that we had to struggle hard to escape.

            But religion could be more than just bingo without relying on the supernatural. Sharing acts of charity and sacrifice for the benefit of others can be inspiring and uplifting without involving God. Prayer can take on aspects of yoga and meditation and self-hypnosis without the involvement of God. Bonding with others in fellowship to celebrate the intricate and profound inter-connectedness of all life as implied by evolution could become in the future as popular as fellowship in God is today.

            Religion could become a social phenomenon in which people voluntarily engage in deeper emotional and psychological ways than bingo without relying on superstition and fear as a mechanism of control and enforcement. I don’t know, but what I’m saying is that it is not necessary to completely destroy and discredit all aspects of religion in order to make the important points we want to make about reality, empirical facts, predictive models, and the value of an accurate understanding of nature and society as opposed to perpetuating primitive myths and supernatural fallacies.

            • gbjames
              Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:14 am | Permalink

              “Sharing acts of charity and sacrifice for the benefit of others can be inspiring and uplifting without involving God.”

              Saying something like this on a site full of atheists is peculiar at the very least. Possibly a shrouded insult, though I would hope you didn’t intend that. Do you really think that we don’t know that we’re perfectly capable of acts of charity without getting a deity involved?

              I think you are concern-trolling.

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted July 16, 2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink

                I am an atheist, and I’m not trolling.

                I’m simply trying to say that science and religion do not conflict entirely. There exists some Venn diagram with an intersection of conflict, and some disjoint parts involving science that religion does not pretend to supersede, and parts of religion or religious experience where science has little or nothing to say. I think this is obviously true.

                In order to establish where religion is false because it treads on the territory that is well mapped out by science, it is not necessary to debate the morality of religious people or to deride or belittle the personal psychological, social, and communal benefits people feel they get from religion, however much we may feel that these are weaknesses or however much we may bitterly resent the failings and excesses and horrors that religion has perpetrated in the world.

                Trying to attack all of religion in order to establish that major parts of religious belief and doctrine are invalidated by scientific knowledge is a strategy that puts religious people in a maximally defensive and irrational mode. It invites the Pol Pot/Stalin attacks. It isn’t necessary to solidly establish in the public mind what the facts are about the origins of the Universe, of human beings, and about the nature of the brain and human intelligence.

                As Thomas Jefferson did, I think one can cut God, miracles, and the afterlife out of religion and still find that something of value to humans remains. It won’t be Christianity or Islam or any other current religion as they exist today. But it could embrace science and scientific explanations in a celebration of life and community.

                I understand the impulse to vomit at the prospect of such mushy warm and fuzzy stuff. But absent supernatural superstition and founded upon scientific understanding there could be room for some form of human activity that resembles religion in some aspects, and atheists need not discount this possibility in order to establish what the scientific truths are.

                What we need to establish is that there is no evidence for God, no magical spirit rays that intervene and countermand the laws of physics to cause miracles or inject souls into fetuses, that there is no soul or afterlife and that we are biological organisms, mammals, homo sapiens, the miraculous product of an awesomely beautiful process known as evolution. I use “miracle” in its original meaning, an object of wonder.

                We don’t need to attack people’s desire to gather in special buildings and sing, and celebrate life, and inspire joy in one another and share life’s burdens and provide mutual support.

              • gbjames
                Posted July 16, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

                We don’t need to attack people’s desire to gather in special buildings and sing, and celebrate life, and inspire joy in one another and share life’s burdens and provide mutual support.

                But WHO’S DOING THAT? Nobody! You are arguing against a case that isn’t being made! I love to go into a big building with a lot of other people and listen to a fine orchestra and chorus perform Verdi’s Requiem.

                How ’bout this… I suggest that we act on what we are apparently agreed upon… getting rid of the dreadful aspects of religion) Then, once we’re done with that, I’ll promise to stop and let the formerly religious people continue enjoying their bingo games. OK? There! Have you won your case?

              • Posted July 16, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

                I think Jeff’s scraping de botton of the barrel … ;-)

                /@

            • Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:39 am | Permalink

              Goodness, of course, there is a non-rational life beyond religion. If these believers think otherwise, then they are ignorant. I do point that out to every believer who claims that religion has a monopoly on all good things. It is amazing to me how deep this ignorance is (I answer questions at an atheist site)–many of them believe that atheists have empty lives. No amount of convincing them otherwise works, because if they embraced that truth, then their own perspective would have to change and their own faith would weaken. Everything goes into keeping their non-evidential faith strong.

              • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
                Posted July 16, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

                I am an Atheist.

                Hath not an Atheist eyes?

                Hath not a Atheist hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is?

                If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not go *prrrfhhhhttt*? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.

                [Badly paraphrased.]

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted July 16, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

                Hath not an Atheist eyes?

                And yet they still want to demand their pound of flesh from atheists…

        • Posted July 16, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

          “Mind you I’m not proposing anything absurd like this fellow Alain de Botton”

          Orly?

          /@

    • Posted July 16, 2012 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      You hardly need religion to enjoy any of the benefits you’re ascribing to it. And can any of those benefits balance the horrors of religion, such as the international chile rape rackets and the full-frontal assault on science, healthcare, education, and civil liberties?

      Once you grant these people that it’s okay for them to speak on behalf of the ultimate power in the universe…well, you’re fucked, basically.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Jeff Johnson
        Posted July 16, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

        I agree, religion is not necessary. This doesn’t change the fact that religion exists. The question is whether any surgery can be performed on the patient, or whether it must be killed, buried, and forgotten. The argument against the latter is that billions of people have grown up with strong emotional attachments and habits connected to religion.

        The UPenn/Sandusky affair shows that child rape is not unique to religion or dependent upon religion; child rape is a purely human biological phenomenon, and one of which religion disapproves.

        In my view, they would have to abandon the idea of any knowledge about the ultimate power of the Universe. That’s the first thing to go because science clearly supersedes religious myths about natural reality. I suspect there are many religious people who have already done so, and they view it more as a social activity that helps them order their lives. I’m not suggesting surrendering to religion; I’m suggesting clearly articulating exactly what parts of religion are invalidated by science, and what parts of religion seem to have social, cultural, and psychological benefits to humans that are not based on supernatural fallacies and are consistent with scientific understanding. There is no need to continue to express outrage and anger toward religion (though it deserves its share) by smearing them as rapists and warmongers and terrorists and idiots; they are largely humans of limited capacity and good intent trying to do their best, but obviously failing in specific ways. What the precise boundaries of those specifics are is perhaps still too vague in much of this dialog.

        • gbjames
          Posted July 16, 2012 at 8:54 am | Permalink

          child rape is a purely human biological phenomenon, and one of which religion disapproves

          I think there is some evidence to the contrary.

          In any case, what you are saying is that religious people can’t be expected to give up religion because they grew up with it… etc. But somehow you think they can be detached from the nonsense and keep the pancake breakfasts. I think that’s a fool’s errand.

          Why on earth is it wrong to express outrage against religion-protected child rape and war mongering? Are you kidding me?

          • Jeff Johnson
            Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

            It’s not wrong to express outrage at child rape, or at the very typical weaknesses of the Catholic bureaucracy of fallible humans trying to cover their asses.

            But it is wrong to imply that this particular defines religion, or that all of religion is tainted because of this lustful excess on the part of a minority. It certainly discredits religions pretense as the sole source of moral authority, but it doesn’t make religion more evil than the rest of humanity.

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:49 am | Permalink

              Oh but it does. The origins and practices of religion has been as much about power and riches as other ways to societal organization has been. See how shamans wants to control nature or catholics wants to control Jerusalem in the crusades.

              The Pedophile Church has aided and abetted crimes many times, safe in their belief that they are above secular law and at least the equals to democratic nations.

              Religion poisons *everything*, even democracies and justice systems.

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted July 16, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

                Perhaps this makes religion and secular ambition for power equally evil. Perhaps evil masked by the pretense of holiness is worse than naked ambition for power. There is a totalitarian nature in religion that asserts itself as the one true way, and there is an enslavement of weak and gullible people that is offensive and harmful.

                Generally in history religion and secular ambition have been in league, and I agree that religion as we know it poisons everything. For example secular charity asks nothing in return, whereas religious charity tries to enlist new membership as an ancillary benefit.

                Humanity’s highest aspirations are reflected in our philosophy, our science, and by the best of our human impulses which are entirely independent of religion.

                But some part of human nature as evolved by nature inspires many (not all) people to seek community, fellowship, togetherness. This impulse is not inherently evil, and nothing about it requires supernatural beliefs. Under that corrupted institution known as religion today this impulse, combined with ignorance, has been exploited to advance aspirations to power and personal gain by unscrupulous and cynical actors. These things are all abundantly clear, I don’t deny any of it.

                Still, using science as scissors ala Jefferson, supernatural belief can be excised, and something good remains that need not be named religion but that is included in what religion encompasses today.

                The goal in establishing how religion conflicts with science need not be to destroy people’s impulse to seek community and solace and psychological comfort and self-improvement, but simply to dispel the ignorance and to deflate the pretense of authority. The dominant power structure should fall, but the activities of small communities needn’t be attacked.

              • gbjames
                Posted July 16, 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink

                …but the activities of small communities needn’t be attacked.

                You mean like these guys?

                whyevolutionistrue.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/p1020171.jpg

                What you smoking, dude?

            • RF
              Posted July 17, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

              gbjames wrote “international chile rape rackets”
              It took me a while to figure that one out.

              Jeff Johnson wrote
              “The UPenn/Sandusky affair shows that child rape is not unique to religion or dependent upon religion; child rape is a purely human biological phenomenon, and one of which religion disapproves.”
              Anyone paying attention to the Sandusky affair and the Catholic scandals should draw a quite different conclusion. Child rape is not an biological phenomenon, but a sociological one. Do victims of child rape remain silent, and those that do come forward get ignored, because of biology? Saying that child rape is a biological phenomenon is like saying that lethal injection is a chemical phenomenon. Child rape is a sociological phenomenon, and we must look at what sociological forces support it. The Catholic Church may claim to oppose child rape, but their deliberate actions and gross negligence in creating sociological conditions that promote child rape says otherwise. You can’t tell people that priests are God’s representatives on Earth, that they have the power to send people to heaven or hell, put no safeguards in place against child rape, cover up the cases of child rape that arise, and then claim that you’re opposed to child rape, any more than you can go to a zoo and pass handguns out to monkeys and then claim that you’re opposed to people being shot by monkeys.

              “But it is wrong to imply that this particular defines religion, or that all of religion is tainted because of this lustful excess on the part of a minority.”
              But the whole point is that it’s *not* about the actions of a minority; it’s about the shirking of responsibility by the majority. The vast majority of Catholics, through their negligence, support child rape. Giving massive amounts of power to theocrats and then claiming innocence if those theocrats abuse that power is pretty much what religion is. While one might be able to point to some arguably “religious” movement that does not needlessly invite abuses of power, such a phenomenon is not compatible with the common meaning of “religion”.

              • gbjames
                Posted July 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

                ‘gbjames wrote “international chile rape rackets”’

                I did?

              • RF
                Posted July 17, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

                No, sorry, it was Ben Goren.

            • RF
              Posted July 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

              “The UPenn/Sandusky affair shows that child rape is not unique to religion or dependent upon religion; child rape is a purely human biological phenomenon, and one of which religion disapproves.”
              I addressed the second half of this, but forgot to fully address the first half. While it’s true that child rape can happen without religion, it is facetious to pretend that religion had nothing to do with the Catholic scandals. Furthermore, the sociological phenomena present in UPenn have disturbing parallels to religion. In addition, the child rapes at UPenn occurred within a wider context a religiously-inspired neurosis about sex in general and same-sex encounters in general, creating a taboo against discussing the crimes that victims found difficult to overcome. While belief in a deity is not necessary for child rape, is it not really belief in a deity that atheists have such a problem with. Belief in a deity is merely a symptom of the closemindedness, irrationality, fanaticism, groupthink, and submission to authority that is central to religion. And by that standard, UPenn WAS a religion.

        • Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

          The argument against the latter is that billions of people have grown up with strong emotional attachments and habits connected to religion.

          No. People have grown up with strong emotional attachments and habits connected to one of any of a small handful of modern popular religions.

          In times past, people have abandoned many more religions and many more gods than any believe in today. All we ask is that humanity as a whole grow up and go one religion and pantheon further.

          In my view, they would have to abandon the idea of any knowledge about the ultimate power of the Universe.

          Then you would have them abandon the one real reason they cling to religion, and the one claim religion has to relevancy and importance.

          There is no need to continue to express outrage and anger toward religion (though it deserves its share) by smearing them as rapists and warmongers and terrorists and idiots; they are largely humans of limited capacity and good intent trying to do their best, but obviously failing in specific ways.

          The active protection of child rapists from civil authorities remains the official position of the largest and oldest Christian denomination. Bush himself said that his gods told him to invade Iraq and called the invasion a “Crusade.” The officially-stated reasons for Muslim acts of terrorism against the West are overwhelmingly religious and include explicit statements of their expectations of the after-death.

          And, I’m sorry, but you’ve really got to be stupid to think that there’s anything of transcendent value to be found in a millennia-old faery tale anthology that opens with a story about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry giant, that continues with a talking plant that gives magic wand lessons to the reluctant giant, and concludes with a bizarre zombie snuff pr0n fantasy.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Jeff Johnson
            Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:23 am | Permalink

            Then you would have them abandon the one real reason they cling to religion, and the one claim religion has to relevancy and importance.

            Yes. But this is not the only thing of value in religion, and there are religious people who have already arrived at this stage of not really believing but continuing to participate. I would love the world to abandon religion entirely; I’m only suggesting what may be a constructive rhetorical approach, given the enormous inertia religion still possesses at this juncture.

            The active protection of child rapists from civil authorities remains the official position of the largest and oldest Christian denomination. Bush himself said that his gods told him to invade Iraq and called the invasion a “Crusade.” The officially-stated reasons for Muslim acts of terrorism against the West are overwhelmingly religious and include explicit statements of their expectations of the after-death.

            I agree all of these things are terrible, but as arguments against religion in its totality, as arguments against every single religious person, these are no more persuasive than when the religious point out the atheism of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. The points are identical and of limited value.

            And, I’m sorry, but you’ve really got to be stupid

            I’m not stupid, and I don’t think any of the things you mentioned in your last paragraph, and nothing I’ve said here implies that I think any of those things.

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:35 am | Permalink

              “nothing I’ve said here implies that I think any of those things.”

              So we should play nice with religion not because it has intrinsic value, which alternatives like knitting has (think of the clothes), but because it exists?

              Seems like extortion. Thanks, but no thanks.

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted July 16, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

                No ground should be conceded on scientific truth, and on the nature of existence, on origins of the universe and the nature of human beings, no coddling religion on supernatural belief. We don’t have to play nice where science is on solid ground.

                But I’m arguing that religion has some intrinsic value, none of which depends on either supernatural belief or using the word religion to describe what remains after the non-sense is surgically excised.

                And I think scrupulously distinguishing between what it is in religion that conflicts with scientific knowledge and what is left that gives people moral courage and emotional comfort is a rhetorical approach that has a better chance of making progress than actively advocating religion’s destruction.

              • gbjames
                Posted July 16, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

                But I’m arguing that religion has some intrinsic value…

                Why don’t you just tell us what it is? Just give us a list of the things that are intrinsically religious that are valuable and should be retained.

              • gbjames
                Posted July 16, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

                But I’m arguing that religion has some intrinsic value…

                Why don’t you just tell us what it is? Just give us a list of the things that are intrinsically religious that are valuable and should be retained.

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted July 16, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

                Why don’t you just tell us what it is? Just give us a list of the things that are intrinsically religious that are valuable and should be retained.

                I’m going to list parts of religious practice that have intrinsic value to humans; they are not intrinsically religious, and could be had from joining other communities. But how people pursue these satisfactions is their own choice.

                I’m not arguing what people should or shouldn’t do with respect to religion. I’m not arguing that there are benefits in religion that humans can’t get any other way. I agree we don’t need religion. I’m just trying to argue what, given present realities, atheists should perhaps do in their rhetoric when debating the question “are science and religion compatible?”

                We all know the answer is that religion and science overlap (NOMA is a weak idea), particularly in the claims about the natural world. They conflict and they can’t both be right, and science clearly wins because of its founding on empirical evidence and verifiable theoretical predictions and it’s practical value in engineering and modifying our environment to practical ends. Meanwhile belief in God teaches nothing about the natural world, and gives us no help in engineering or medicine or any other practical endeavor.

                Religious people feel there is something more that science can’t get at and can’t understand. In a way they are right, because even though science can address psychological states of mind and biochemical reactions in the body, and science can look at human adaptations that give us a tendency toward religious belief from an evolutionary psychological perspective, science does not attempt to substitute for the raw subjective experience people feel in their mind and body when involved in religious activities. Science doesn’t provide people guidance on how to structure their lives, or build communities that help people deal with the anxiety and stress of being a small helpless creature in a vast and dangerous world.

                Here are some things where I think religious people feel they benefit that don’t depend on supernatural beliefs. Keep in mind I know these things are not unique to religion.

                - a sense of common purpose and shared history.
                - a community of support.
                - personal courage to face and overcome adversity.
                - feeling of joy and optimism, a celebration of what is positive and good in life.
                - commonly understood and practiced rituals that can be shared, and through symbolic value strengthen relationships.
                - tools such as prayer and meditation to focus and discipline mental activity. This can help people to overcome tendencies toward laziness, lack of confidence, or other psychological weaknesses that might hinder one from achieving goals or developing good habits or new skills.
                - physical practices that involve movement such as yoga, dancing, swaying, rocking, or others that promote group unity and can induce positive changes in the body and mind.
                - a community of shared moral values. Some people feel it helps reinforce virtuous behavior if they feel compelled or encouraged to live up to group expectations.
                - a personal feeling of value and worth from belonging to a community and having a role to play that others value.

                These kinds of things go back at least tens of thousands of years in human societies and tribes, and are abundantly evident in anthropological data. I’m sure that spending more time I could add to this list, but this is a flavor of what I’m talking about.

                The indisputable reality we are faced with is that billions of people get some satisfaction from religion; believers think that satisfaction is derived from a personal relationship with a deity, but atheists don’t believe that deity exists. This means atheists need an alternate explanation for what people who think they are connecting with a deity are actually experiencing. Is it necessarily true that people could no longer derive satisfaction from religion without God? After all, they are doing that without God already, they just don’t realize it.

                My point was that in framing the debate on the conflict between science and religion it is not necessary to say “this planet is not big enough for both of us, one of us has got to go”. The magisteria overlap, clearly, but not entirely; there is also disjunction between science and religion. Religion only needs to concede the overlap, where it loses. I think there are still intelligible reasons why people who wish to can enjoy and find benefit from participating in a religious community even absent belief in God and Jesus and Heaven. I read recently about “cultural Jews” who don’t believe in God, but still have a sense of connection to Jewish culture, and still participate in Jewish rituals and identify as Jewish. It does not make one an accommodationist or a weak atheist to acknowledge this possibility. In fact there are real human social and psychological phenomena that predate religions and are connected with human social adaptations and brain biochemistry that draw people to religion. This is a real basis, as opposed to the imaginary basis called God.

                I would think even the most rudimentary experience with conflict resolution should enable one to understand why acknowledging some value in religion, even if at the same time explaining how the supernatural is in unresolvable conflict with science, has a better chance of penetrating the understanding of those who seek to defend religion.

              • gbjames
                Posted July 16, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

                Because “they are not intrinsically religious, and could be had from joining other communities”, your list is off topic. It is of no interest that religious people feel joy any more than that they breath oxygen. We all do that.

                But, sure. It would be nice if we all were nice to each other. Kittens are cute.

              • Posted July 16, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

                @ Jeff

                Please show us where religion has yielded to “religion without faith in the supernatural and without dogma”. In which of the largely atheistic countries in Europe is there anything like this? Why do you think these needs cannot be found outside a quasi-religious community?

                /@

            • RF
              Posted July 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

              “I agree all of these things are terrible, but as arguments against religion in its totality, as arguments against every single religious person, these are no more persuasive than when the religious point out the atheism of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. The points are identical and of limited value.”
              This argument has been refuted to death, and it’s quite annoying to see people bring it up again and again. Is the argument “People who joined the Nazi Party made the wrong choice, because Hitler did a lot of bad things” “identical” to the argument “People who didn’t join the Nazi Party made the wrong choice, because Stalin did a lot of bad things”? I’m not comparing religion to Nazism, just comparing the logic.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:01 am | Permalink

          “There is no need to continue to express outrage and anger toward religion (though it deserves its share) by smearing them as rapists and warmongers and terrorists and idiots; they are largely humans of limited capacity and good intent trying to do their best, but obviously failing in specific ways.”

          The same can be said about rapists and warmongers and terrorists and idiots; they are largely humans of limited capacity and good intent trying to do their best, but obviously failing in specific ways.

          It is just that the good intent can involve similar power games as religious likes to do in a more organized fashion, say rapists mostly having good intents for themselves as asserting their dominance.

          • Jeff Johnson
            Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

            The same can be said about rapists and warmongers and terrorists and idiots; they are largely humans of limited capacity and good intent trying to do their best, but obviously failing in specific ways.

            I totally agree with this.

            It is just that the good intent can involve similar power games as religious likes to do in a more organized fashion, say rapists mostly having good intents for themselves as asserting their dominance.

            I agree religion does not deserve the respect and authority that it now enjoys. Religion without the control mechanisms of punishment and reward, of fear and superstition, would be less powerful and more benign.

            Perhaps I should not talk about “religion” so much as “religious people”. When we talk about this subject, we don’t talk to religion, we talk to religious people. But the subject being discussed is what claims must religion abandon in order to not conflict with science, and what might be preserved from religion that is of value to people and outside the reach of science. I don’t think the answer must be religion needs to be entirely destroyed, but it would need to be dramatically transformed.

            Religion in the absence of supernatural belief and the false authority that confers would be as voluntary as sky diving or bowling among the range of optional human activities. So it would no longer be “religion” per se, but it may be that there is a non-trivial successor to religion that would appeal to a significant sector of the population and that does not conflict with science while providing pleasure, social and psychological support, and a reinforcing community that helps people order their lives.

            Personally I don’t advocate this for anyone; but I know it is appealing to many people. I’m a drastic introvert who loathes groups and clubs, and avoids going places that might force me to interact with large numbers of people. I like living the way I do and don’t need anything from religion that I don’t get from my marriage and from learning via contemporary sources of information and simple everyday experiences.

            The essence of my point is that the conversation could benefit from clearly and precisely identifying how religion conflicts with science, and acknowledging that there is room for personal psychological subjective benefit from religion-like activities for those who want it. I think the general understanding of how religion and science conflict may still be too vague. It is not necessary to destroy and annihilate religion to make the points that science needs to make.

            • gbjames
              Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

              it may be that there is a non-trivial successor to religion that would appeal to a significant sector of the population

              What, in this collection of residue, doesn’t already exist outside the world of religion?

              You want to get rid of all the stuff that makes religion religion. Great. So do I. But you keep suggesting that there is some precious residue that is threatened by the mean religion-bashers.

              This is a silly argument. Nobody is bashing pancake breakfasts. And any religious person who thinks that atheists are trying to take away their pancakes is either dull-witted or following a leader who is misinforming them.

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink

              I agree, I think the religious are better people than their religions makes them.

              But I have to disagree that the solution is to stop criticizing them. No atheist is suggesting that religion should be destroyed or annihilated, but enjoy secular freedom of religion. (Humbled and humiliated maybe, since they stand on such a high pedestal of special privilege.)

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted July 16, 2012 at 11:11 am | Permalink

                I don’t think we should stop criticizing, but I think the criticism can be refined.

                Perhaps the ultimate result of abandoning supernatural belief is the complete obsolescence of any kind of institution or human activity even remotely resembling present day religion, and I would welcome it.

                I don’t see that transformation as happening overnight, or even in a few decades. I’m suggesting there is progress to be made by carefully dismantling the basis for supernatural belief while acknowledging that many humans derive benefits from whatever rush of neurotransmitters they get while standing together in a cavernous building and singing, whatever they want to call it.

                I say this because the Sophisticated Theologians (TM) and the religious liberals, those who pride themselves on not taking the Bible literally, those who imagine that by embracing doubt and mystery that they somehow insulate their object of faith from the reach of reason and science are the ones who still mistakenly imagine that atheists don’t understand these things, that we are shallow reductionists, that we are in some way lacking human feeling or emotion or subtle perception. This is the softer version of the Stalin/Pol Pot attack, and I know it’s wrong and you know it’s wrong, but those who use this argument apparently can’t discover that they are wrong when they read or listen to the arguments of atheists. By insisting that religion as a whole is evil and poisonous without any complication or ambiguity, we leave ourselves open to this kind of retort, and while we see it is bogus, those making such points can not.

                We can do better by establishing that religion is fundamentally wrong about the truth of nature and existence, while acknowledging that what religious people actually experience on a daily basis may have perceived benefit and is real, but has nothing to do with a supernatural deity. It rather has natural explanations in terms of human biology and the social nature of humans. I think this is better than to simply assert over and over again that religion is totally fucked up.

              • gbjames
                Posted July 16, 2012 at 11:20 am | Permalink

                Jeff Johnson, please provide some specific examples of where the problem you are concerned with actually is manifest.

            • Brygida Berse
              Posted July 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

              Religion in the absence of supernatural belief
              What on earth are you talking about?

              • steve
                Posted July 17, 2012 at 3:49 am | Permalink

                I think he is talking about secular humanism.

                Also, Jeff Johnson at July 16 4:07 pm has gotten a free pass (as of yet) when he states:

                ”Science doesn’t provide people guidance on how to structure their lives, or build communities that help people deal with the anxiety and stress of being a small helpless creature in a vast and dangerous world.”

                That is just blatantly untrue: Consider civil engineering, architecture, urban planning, modern agriculture, nutrition, family planning, hygiene, psychology, etc., etc., etc. Are these not expressions of “science” and scientific methods, and not at all extensions of religion and religious methods?

  12. Caroline52
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I don’t understand why scientists like Tallmon, who in their own area of expertise presumably demand evidence beyond mere correlation to back up any claim that one phenomenon causes another, feel perfectly comfortable making a confident claim about a causal relationship between two phenomena based on mere correlation outside their area of scientific expertise. Frankly, a lot of biologists are no better than nonscentists when it comes to making unsubstantiated empirical claims about the causal relationship among human social interactions.Simply arguing that he’s wrong here accords his argument too much respect. Someone should point out to him that he’s being a lousy scientist.

  13. ManOutOfTime
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    The conservative/religious assault on reality is the most depressing and obnoxious thing going in the public sphere. Susan Jacby’s book tells the sorry tale of the anti-reality program back to the pundit of he republic, of course, and how the current era is just old wine in new bottles – the latest era being apparently in response to the successful civil rights, women’s lib, sexual revolution, gay rights, etc. movements.

    The second most nauseating thing is the accommodationist approach which seems not to realize the context. Perhaps the author is feigning a lack of understanding as a way of attracting flies with honey instead of vinegar. I believe I have yet to read an accommodationist piece that confronts the controver head-on: if they reject the premis that there is an intentional anti-reality campaign afoot, why do they not address it and use fact and argument to refute it?

    It’s absolutely appalling that a person of science can take a stand and fail t acknowledge the intentional campaign of disinformation against evoluion, climate change, cosmology, geology, economics, history, and the list goes on. Disingenuousness is not going to win the day; surely there is a way to make this case without ignoring the context.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 16, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      There is a good example in this very thread. Thousands of words written and yet Jeff Johnson has not been able to clearly describe what is special and unique about religion that should be saved, or why religion should not be ridiculed.

  14. Posted July 16, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    It is nice to see that he is getting lambasted in the comments, for once. (There used to be about 50:50 accommodationist commentary on these types of articles).

    Perhaps the hands-across-the-water types haven’t had their morning cup ‘o yerba matte yet, and are not yet ready to pounce. Normally, I can’t tell the difference between PuffHo and Youtube commenters.

    I’m suspecting a larger-than-usual group from here (and Dawkins, etc.) have pounced first?

    • Jeff D
      Posted July 17, 2012 at 1:24 am | Permalink

      I agree with your suspicions, but I caution everyone against assuming that most yerba mate drinkers are “hands-across-the-water types.” I’ve been drinking my black tea and yerba mate mixture since 1977, and I am no accommodationist.

      And regarding the whole Jeff Johnson detour: What good is a sense of belonging, “shared joy,” and social solidarity if it comes at such a high cost (destruction of intellectual honesty and personal integrity)? “I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.”

      • gbjames
        Posted July 17, 2012 at 4:33 am | Permalink

        Hey! I like spinach!

        • Jeff D
          Posted July 17, 2012 at 7:25 am | Permalink

          I was referring to the caption of a famous old New Yorker cartoon by Rea Irvin (text by E. B. White, perhaps). Mother says to scowling child, “It’s broccoli, dear,” eliciting the quoted reply. I like both broccoli and spinach, but I feel the same way about pickled beets, mushy accommodationism, and organized-religion-as-social-club.

          • gbjames
            Posted July 17, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

            I think you have confused pickled beets and cooked carrots. ;)

  15. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    If Tallmon were honest, he’d see that the way to dispel creationism in America is not for scientists to do a better job imparting to the public how science works, but for scientists (and everyone else) to show the vacuity of unsupported superstition.

    Someone should do a case study here, because it has been claimed that “one of the most wide-ranging cultural debates ever in Sweden” that philosopher Ingemar Hedenius started broke the back of intellectual acceptance of religion.

    “In Belief and Knowledge he described three postulates which theology does not comply with, to show that it is not possible to have a rational debate about religion. According to Hedenius this means that theology can not be classed as knowledge, but belongs outside it as “quasi-knowledge”:

    - The religion-psychology postulate: A religious belief contains metaphysical assumptions which science can neither verify nor falsify, for example, assertions of the existence of God, or the immortality of the soul.

    - The language theory postulate: It must be possible to communicate the religious comprehension and experience even to non-believers.

    - The logic postulate: Two truths cannot contradict each other. Of two contradictory statements, at most one can be true. Theology not only contains theses which contradict what we know about reality (first postulate) without accepting also inner contradictions, for example, the oldest and according to Hedenius also insoluble problem of evil.

    Hedenius was of the opinion that Christianity violates these rules and is therefore irrational.”

    If that is true the record is atheism 1 – accommodationism 0.

    • Posted July 16, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      A religious belief contains metaphysical assumptions which science can neither verify nor falsify, for example, assertions of the existence of God, or the immortality of the soul.

      Of course, as you know full well, science actually can verify and / or falsify those types of claims. That we are meat robots without ghost-in-the-machine souls is overwhelmingly well established, and any sort of interventionist gods (and even a creator god, by very definition, intervenes at least at the moment of creation) is observable by the very interventions.

      Religion is thus revealed as simply another form of literary fiction, no more and no less.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted July 16, 2012 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        Literary fiction, with fictionalized scientific literacy!?

        I agree, it was an illustration of what little it took.* Hedenius tactics would not fit atheists, unless they dump science and concentrate on the philosophy of Sophisticated Theology™.

        At a guess Hedenius used the 2nd postulate to isolate and drive home the 1st. It can as well be used to isolate a religion-physical observation, that a religious belief contains testable claims aside from the flapping of gums.

        ————
        * Not really, though. Hedenius was also a great opportunist. It is claimed that he secured a media channel in one of the large newspapers beforehand to be able to efficiently and publicly reply to the religious counter attack in churches, sundry articles and speeches.

        I dunno if that can be done in a large media market like US, say.

    • RF
      Posted July 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      “According to Hedenius this means that theology can not be classed as knowledge, but belongs outside it as “quasi-knowledge”:”
      I suppose that depends on whether theology is understood as the study of God, or the study of beliefs about God.

  16. Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Let me give a plug for Nick Warner, who years ago taught me general relativity at MIT, and now occasionally blogs at HuffPo:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nicholas-warner/an-universal-ethic-for-science_b_1616022.html

    • gravelinspector
      Posted July 17, 2012 at 4:12 am | Permalink

      Paraphrasing, and stripped of the “Huff” : “Doctors can have a fundamental principle of ‘first, do no harm’, but that would paralyse most branches of research science and engineering which seek to make progress into the unknown. So [Nick Warner] suggests a principle of ‘If in doubt, act to reduce suffering.’ He acknowledges it as derived from Gautama Buddha.’
      It’s a workable one-line answer to the canard “atheists have no morality”.

  17. Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    It would be nice if people better understood the difference between the scientific method and other ways of “knowing”. But in my experience many (most?) people have little interest in or appreciation of science beyond its technological spin-offs. It’s even considered fashionable and cool to admit that they flunked math and science and “that stuff goes right over my head”. The scientific way of thinking requires some training of the mind, involves some hard mental work, and often leads to ideas and descriptions of how things work that seem counter-intuitive. Many people never do understand the work it takes to “prove” a scientific theory, among those being people like Deepak Chopra who imagine that by spouting scientific words like “quantum” they are being scientific. It’s not a lack of intelligence I fear; it’s just that people don’t care to examine their beliefs, especially if such an examination would place them at odds with the people in their lives. Understanding how easy it is for people to fool themselves has made me tend to question my own beliefs frequently.

    • gravelinspector
      Posted July 17, 2012 at 4:21 am | Permalink

      people like Deepak Chopra who imagine that by spouting scientific words like “quantum” they are being scientific.

      … I search (briefly) the web for a scientific bullshit generator, or a general purpose BS generator which I can customise to Chopra’s needs.
      So I’ll have to settle for pointing out Chopra’s valuable work towards a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity.
      h/t Alan Sokal.

  18. Stonyground
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    I notice that in the second quoted paragraph religion is , yet again, being conflated with morality. The notion that religious people are more moral than atheists is a remarkably tenacious one, particularly when it is so obviously and self evidently untrue.

  19. RWO
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Any degree of Neville Chamberlain accommodation approach to whatever form of woo it romances poses at least as great a threat to truth and knowing as fascism poses to democracy.

    • Posted July 16, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      That’s sailing very close to Godwin… :-D

      But quite apt.

      /@

  20. FastLane
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Is it just me, or does this kind of pablum, while irritating to us godless, strike one as being truly insulting to the religious? All this strikes me mostly as a passive aggressive pat on the head “that’s nice dear, now go play with your imaginary friend while the scientists do some real work”….

    I mean, I’m all for insulting religions and occasionally, believers, but this sorta thing would irritate me way more than a direct insult (if I were the religious sort).

    • gmaduck
      Posted July 16, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      I don’t understand the big bang. I don’t have any idea what a singularity is. Further, I don’t understand the biology of DNA. I don’t comprehend anything about the “Hydron Collide-able”: what it is, what it does, and how it does it. I’ve read all the arguments about the non-irreducibility of the eye and still couldn’t give you an intelligent answer to support either side. As an atheist I have FAITH. I have faith that scientists know what they’re doing, have the answers, are being truthful, and can back up what they say with facts. Trouble is, I won’t understand the facts. My Christian friend says we both base our lives on faith

      • gbjames
        Posted July 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        No, you have trust. Trust is something very different from faith. Trust is earned. Trust doesn’t require you to accept anything without evidence. You can be reasonably confident that it would be possible, at least in principle, for you to understand the facts.

        • gravelinspector
          Posted July 17, 2012 at 4:25 am | Permalink

          Further : you can test your trust any average day of the week. Turn the lights on. Turn the lights off. Grounds for trust strengthened (to the limit of your lighting equipment).
          Now, kneel and pray for illumination. Kneel and pray for absence of illumination.
          Trust in empiricism strengthened.

        • gmaduck
          Posted July 17, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

          So my friend would answer “Trust in the Lord” and I would say, “Trust needs to be earned.” “He’s earned my trust” is refuted how?

          • gbjames
            Posted July 17, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

            Asking “How, exactly?” Or perhaps suggesting that your friend see a psychiatrist to help with the voices in his head?

          • RF
            Posted July 17, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

            Did you mean “So my friend would answer “I trust in the Lord””? If he’s asking *you* to trust in “the Lord” because He’s earned *his* trust, that doesn’t make any sense.

            And how are you basing your life on faith? Is the question of whether the big bang happened something that affects your daily life?

            • gmaduck
              Posted July 18, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

              RF: No, whether the big bang happened does not affect my daily life other than I put my “trust” in science, even tho I don’t understand it, can’t recite it, or explain it. I’m just asking how does that make me different from a Christian who puts their “trust” in god even tho they can’t explain it? Isn’t it two sides of a coin (their side being tales)?

              • RF
                Posted July 19, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

                Well, if a Christian is basing his life on belief in the Bible, and you’re not basing your life on belief in the Big Bang, the there’s a clear difference.

              • gmaduck
                Posted July 19, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

                What? Explain that. I don’t think you base your life on the big bang. I think you base your life on your experiences and knowledge. I believe in science; I just don’t understand it. The only difference between my “faith” and my friend’s faith is I know I can find the answers if I really want to and the answers are all proven facts. She has no facts to prove her faith. But we both put faith in what we don’t understand! That makes us similar.

              • Posted July 22, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

                gamduck, the trust issue hinges on pitting your friend’s teachings up against today’s university professors. On any topic under the sun.

                Having ‘faith’ means he is trusting his heart and favourite holymen who claim that biblical teachings still win some rounds. Ask them which. Cosmology? Biology? Ethics? Psychology? Politics? Anthropology? Etc. Secular universities know all about christendom.

  21. MNb
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Well, if you ask an American accommodist about percentages, I ask you about them concerning the Netherlands.
    Only 14% of the Dutch calls themselves atheist. About 45% of the proferssors is; much more, but not the majority.
    The majority of the Dutch considers themselves religious, about 60%; it’s more than 20% for the professors.

    http://www.forumc.nl/images/Rapport_Levensbeschouwing_Hoogleraren_Nederland1.pdf

    Alas for the most of you it’s in Dutch.
    Still the so-called evolution/creation controversy is not an issue in my home-country.
    According to your own arguments in your Evolution in America paper that makes a strong point for accommodationism.
    Had I been an American I would probably called myself a New Atheist too though. The point is of course that there only live few creacrappers in The Netherlands.

    • andreschuiteman
      Posted July 16, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      The Netherlands are not as backwards as you suggest. According to the report you cite, 24% of the general population call themselves theist, 36% believe that ‘there is something’, 26% are agnostic, and 14% identify themselves as atheist. You are therefore misleading the readers here when you suggest that 60% are religious. Among the professors the percentages are 17%, 5%, 28% and 44% respectively. In other words, 72% don’t believe in the supernatural.

      Furthermore, the organisation responsible for the report, ForumC, is a Christian, BioLogos-like organisation. Their polling method was, shall we say, unsophisticated: they sent out questionaires to all Dutch professors and assessed only the answers of the 32% who bothered to respond. There’s ample room for bias there, I should think.

  22. MNb
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    “For every brilliant scientist who accepts a personal God, there are more than thirteen who reject one.”
    That’s an appeal to majority – a logical fallacy.
    My own standpoint is this. I don’t f*****g care if science and religion are compatible. If no, fine. If yes, I still will be an atheist. It’s simply not my problem. And this seems to be the prevalent attitude of most Dutch atheist and agnost scholars.
    But keep religion out of science at all costs. This I have in common with Gould. I might even go as far as saying that NOMA seems to work at Dutch universities.

    • andreschuiteman
      Posted July 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think you understand what NOMA stands for. It doesn’t just mean that religion should stay out of science. It also means that science should stay out of religion. Is that what you want?

      • RFW
        Posted July 17, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

        The difficulty is that religion says X, while science says not-X. Which one is trespassing on the other’s field?

        The answer to that question, ISTM, is that when religion tries to explain natural phenomena and gets it wrong (as it often does), it’s because religion is trespassing on science in its role as explainer of natural phenomena.

        The fact that such trespass long predates the rise of modern science is irrelevant. The age of the bibblical text in no way validates the nonsense it spews about why the world is the way it is. The bibble has been superseded by science as an explainer of natural phenomena and it’s time for everyone to recognize that.

    • gmaduck
      Posted July 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      For us idiots, what is NOMA? A disease, a restaurant, an accronym for “Not On My Account?” “National Organization of Minority Architects?” “New Orleans Museum of Art?” “Now Our Mother Approves?”

      • gbjames
        Posted July 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

        Non-Overlapping MAgesteria.

        en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-overlapping_magisteria

        Steven J. Gould’s most embarrassing idea.

        • Posted July 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

          Shouldn’t it be “NOMa”? “Non-overlapping magisterium” would form the acronym “NOM”, which would become “NOMs” if the term had a regular English plural…

          Nothing in English makes sense except in the light of etymology! ;-)

          /@

          • gbjames
            Posted July 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

            I’d prefer “NoMo”, for “No More”. But hey… It isn’t my acronym.

    • RF
      Posted July 17, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      ““For every brilliant scientist who accepts a personal God, there are more than thirteen who reject one.”
      That’s an appeal to majority – a logical fallacy.”
      No, it’s not. Tallmon says that science doesn’t lead to atheism. Coyne replies that an overwhelming majority of scientists are atheists. If you think that is an “appeal to majority”, you really don’t understand the term. “Appeal to majority” is when a proposition is defended based on what the majority BELIEVE, not what the majority ARE.

  23. RF
    Posted July 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m a bit uncomfortable with the Popperism. While many scientists like to think that this defines science, there are problems with that position.

    • Posted July 22, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

      Problems that undermine Hume’s Of Miracles?

      The falsifiability part of science seems to undermine the credibility of any institution who’s teachings insist that history contains divine miracles.

  24. Jeff Johnson
    Posted July 18, 2012 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    I’m going to make one more attempt to explain the widely misunderstood point I tried to make above.

    What I did NOT set out to say was that religion should continue to exist without belief in God, nor did I try to defend religion as entirely good, nor did I try to minimize the harms people have committed in the name of religion, because of their religious belief, or in spite of their religious belief. Any responses that address these issues are non-responsive to my point, and are made by people who either did not read or did not understand what I’m saying at all.

    There are a whole lot of other things I’m not saying, but I don’t have room to enumerate them all. :)

    Here is another go at what I was trying to say:

    1. Religion and science obviously overlap and conflict, and a fairly short list of claims about the natural world describe that overlap and conflict pretty well (see below).

    2. In the area of conflict, science wins, which should require no explanation to this audience.

    3. Billions of people still have false beliefs about reality because of religion. That billions believe and regard religion as central to their lives is an indisputable fact we can’t deny. As much as we’d like religion to be a footnote to history, it’s not going away any time soon.

    4. The task of persuading people of the falsity of their religious claims about the natural world is a hard job.

    5. The task of persuading people that religion in its entirety is evil, wrong, and should be entirely abandoned is an even harder job than #4.

    The main point I was trying to make is that arguments of the type that fall under #5 above are counterproductive to the goals of #4 above.

    Arguments about child rape, terrorism, the inquisition and crusades, the wars, the corruption of church power structures, the enslavement of peoples minds, the manipulation of gullible masses, etc. are all valid points, but they identify specific harms done by religion or caused by religious confusion while ignoring what religious people themselves perceive to be all the good in religion. These arguments at best are preaching to the choir for atheists (irony intended), while all these arguments do for religious believers is make them defensive. Such arguments are easily ignored or countered by believers in whose estimation (not my estimation) the net good in religion outweighs the harms.

    The areas of conflict between science and religion can pretty much be summed up as the following:

    a. The existence of God, particularly a conscious intentional deity or being who has human-like concerns, who created the universe and all life in it, who takes a personal interest in humans, who intervenes in the natural world by altering the laws of physics.

    b. The existence of miracles.

    c. The presence at any time of special divine beings on earth, prophets and Sons and the like who have special divinely gifted powers and abilities.

    d. The existence of the soul and an eternally persistent afterlife for that soul.

    I’m trying to say that arguments about the incompatibility of science and religion should focus on exactly these points a, b, c, and d above, and on the solid scientific evidence that makes belief in any of these things a perverse deviation from reason and sense.

    These are the areas where science is really on solid ground.

    A further point was that in spite of the fact that these religious claims about reality are false, it need not be accommodationist or compromising to acknowledge another truth: religious people experience or receive social goods and personal benefits from their participation in religion, even if the reasons for that differ in reality from what they think they are, i.e. even if God doesn’t exist and their benefits are all related to brain chemistry and the social nature of humans.

    An important distinction to make here is the difference between objective material reality and human subjective experience. Human subjectivity can learn and benefit from imaginary things, such as reading Moby Dick or fantasizing about comic book characters, or even reading the Bible.

    The discussion about “ways of knowing” seems to fail because this distinction between objective material reality and human subjective imagination and experience is too seldom clarified. Our language and culture and habits often blur this distinction in ways we take for granted.

    It seems to me, and perhaps I’m totally wrong, but it seems to me that making the objective/subjective distinction clear, and sticking to firm scientific arguments about the clear and obvious conflict between science and religion outlined in a, b, c, and d above, while conceding that many good and joyful things religious people experience are in fact not in conflict with science, would be the best way to focus reasoning and rhetoric in approaching this debate.

    • gbjames
      Posted July 18, 2012 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      I don’t see anything subjective about the systematic operation of a child rape syndicate being run by the oldest and most powerful religious institution this planet has ever known. I don’t see anything subjective about hundreds of years of religion-inspired warfare. I don’t see anything subjective about the fact that religiously-inspired jihadists blow themselves and others to smithereens around the globe.

      I see no reason at all to think that by avoiding mention of specific examples of the horrors of religion on Planet Earth we make it any easier to confront religious lunacy.

      • Jeff Johnson
        Posted July 18, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

        Sure, I agree with what you say, but you’ve managed again to go after another thing I’m not saying. I’m NOT saying everyone should be quiet about these things. But if you do make these arguments, the religionists can make (nearly) equivalent points to yours by bringing up Pol Pot, Stalin, and Mao. I don’t mention Hitler because the evidence that his program used religious ideas, symbols, and allied with the church are ample, so claiming Nazism was atheist is totally bogus.

        But you are merely repeating the kind of argument I mentioned in this paragraph:

        Arguments about child rape, terrorism, the inquisition and crusades, the wars, the corruption of church power structures, the enslavement of peoples minds, the manipulation of gullible masses, etc. are all valid points, but they identify specific harms done by religion or caused by religious confusion while ignoring what religious people themselves perceive to be all the good in religion. These arguments at best are preaching to the choir for atheists (irony intended), while all these arguments do for religious believers is make them defensive. Such arguments are easily ignored or countered by believers in whose estimation (not my estimation) the net good in religion outweighs the harms.

        I’m saying if someone is trying to craft an argument specifically addressing the question of what the conflict between science and religion is, especially if the intended audience are religious believers, the following is potentially an effective approach: clarify the subject/object distinction before talking about “ways of knowing”, or even avoid talking about “ways of knowing”; reduce the conflict to its most basic terms by conceding the obvious reality that religious people experience subjective and social benefits, even without God, and that these benefits don’t conflict with science; and to focus on the solid scientific arguments against points (a), (b), (c), and (d) mentioned in the post above.

        • Posted July 18, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

          …except, of course, for the minor niggling fact that the Bible explicitly, emphatically, and repeatedly not merely condones but orders all sorts of heinous stuff, and all the religious people are doing is acting in what they claim is the authority of the divine force that created Life, the Universe, and Everything.

          When a Christian soldier marches off to war, he’s doing exactly as Jesus commanded: “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.”

          When Stalin and Pol Pot did those things, the fact that they thought Jesus was a faery tale had no more bearing on their actions than the fact that they thought that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are faery tales. Or the fact that they both sported mustaches.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Jeff Johnson
            Posted July 18, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

            All true, except Pol Pot didn’t have a mustache (or did you mean the tooth fairy had a mustache)?

            Any way, the “Stalin retort” issue is an ancillary diversion from my main point.

            My main point was to suggest a way to argue about the conflict between science and religion (and NOT to tell anyone what to do).

            Nobody has commented on this point yet, so it’s apparently hard to understand, or I’m doing a terrible job explaining it, or else it has no merit and nobody thinks it’s worth discussing.

            • Posted July 18, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

              May I suggest an exercise?

              Try explaining your point one more time, in a response no longer than the one I’m replying to.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Posted July 22, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

                JJ’s claim is this “arguments of the type that fall under #5 above [christendom is evil] are counterproductive to the goals of #4 [christendom is factually mistaken]”

                The counterproductivity gambit sounds convincing if JJ means deconverting 1 follower of christ.

                Less convincing if JJ means de-religionizing the politics of the US, or other (nation) state.

        • gbjames
          Posted July 18, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

          So, if they bring up Pol Pot, etc., then I/we just respond accordingly.

          There is no reason to repeat large blocks of copy. I read that the first time and made a point of using examples that you had mentioned.

          MY point is that your approach of “don’t talk about X” is a non-starter if for no other reason than it is dishonest. X is important. And I see no reason to think that not talking about X is going to make Y successful. I think that is just foolishness. But, by all means, go off and convince the creationists your way. I’m not trying to stop you. Be sure to come back and report about your successes. Just please stop telling the rest of us that we’re doing it wrong.

          • Jeff Johnson
            Posted July 18, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

            I’ve said repeatedly, my point is not “don’t talk about X”, it is “if addressing the specific topic of where do science and religion conflict, here is a suggested strategy”.

            A agree X is important and I never said it wasn’t.

            • gbjames
              Posted July 18, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

              Maybe I’m just dense but when you say you are NOT saying “don’t talk about X” (because you agree it is important) and then turn around and offer the “suggested strategy” of not talking about X (because they might say “Pol Pot”), I get whiplash.

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted July 18, 2012 at 11:22 am | Permalink

                I think what I was saying could be summarized as “In trying to argue in the limited case of Y, a suggested strategy that might be more effective than what I’ve seen is to stick to A, B, and C, and possibly avoid X.”

                I really wasn’t thinking for a second of telling anyone what to do, nor of trying to stop others from talking about X. Sorry if I gave that impression.


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