Lying for Darwin

We all know about creationists lying for Jesus. In fact, we saw an example of that last night when Eben Alexander, debating the existence of an afterlife against Sean Carroll and Steve Novella, deliberately misrepresented a quote of Carl Sagan by taking it out of context.

What we don’t expect is that pro-evolution people would use the same tactic to promote their agenda. Yet they do if their evolution is mixed with religion, as it is in the case of Peter Hess, the “Director of Religious Community Outreach” for the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). That organization, which has done great stuff by keeping creationism out of the schools, is nevertheless committed to undiluted accommodationism, repeatedly telling religionists that their faith is compatible with evolution. That, in fact, is Hess’s job (he’s a Catholic, I believe). In that way they push theology as well as evolution, for such accommodationism effectively tells people what form of religious belief is considered “proper”. (Hint: it’s the form that accepts evolution.)

And Hess, perhaps because of his religiosity, isn’t above doing a little quote-mining to defend that accommodationism. In a new article on the NCSE blog “Science League of America” (an unfortunate title for that site, I think), Hess has accused atheists of arguing that religious people can’t do good science.

Hess’s piece is called “An astronomer for God: William R. Stoeger (1943-2014),” and it’s a paean to a cosmologist and theologian (a Jesuit) who tried to put a religious interpretation on science. Hess plainly admired Stoeger, though I’d argue that praising this kind of accommodationism on the NCSE website is unseemly, as it’s osculating the rump of superstition. Nevertheless, I’ll let Hess have his moment of admiration, which includes these encomiums:

Bill Stoeger was both a brilliant and careful astronomer and an astute partner in dialogue about issues at the interface between religion and science. It was his lifelong conviction that

“God is speaking to us not only through Scripture, but also through the beauties, the wonder, the intricacies, and the harmonies of creation, and so what we discover, either about the way our brain works, and how it coordinates our behavior, or what we discover about the biology of the cell, or the chemistry of DNA, or the working of cosmology or physics, all those things are going to tell us, at least a little bit, about how God acts in the world.” [The quote is apparently from a Catholic biologist who knew Stoeger]

Father Bill, we bid you fond farewell and Godspeed, in remembrance of and thanksgiving for your contributions to our understanding of so many facets of life in the universe.

That curled the toes of my shoes a bit, but what really upset me—and reader John Harshman—was this statement from Hess (my emphasis):

 Biblical fundamentalists and their opponents on the extreme opposite end of the spectrum of belief often share one significant assumption: in order to contribute to modern science you have to be an atheist. That is, you cannot at the same time believe in a personal God and accept the scientific explanations of Big Bang cosmology, of the age of our solar system, and of the evolution of biodiversity on Earth.

Well, I’m not sure whether many Biblical fundamentalists feel that only atheists can contribute to modern science, but I know for damn sure that few atheists, or atheist scientists such as myself, feel that way. Although I think scientists who are religious are engaged in a form of subconscious cognitive dissonance, I’ve never said that religious belief automatically prevents somebody from doing good science.  There were many believers, even in my own field (Ronald Fisher and Theodosius Dobzhansky, to name two) who made immense contributions to evolutionary biology. And although I vehemently object to Francis Collins’s touting scientific evidence for God (i.e., “The Moral Law”), I’ve said repeatedly that Collins was a good scientist and that I had no scientific objections to his heading the National Institutes of Health.

But Harshman wanted to know which atheists, exactly, held the views that Hess claimed, and, in the comments on Hess’s post, pressed him relentlessly:

Picture 3

My comment at the end represents Hess’s answer, responding to Harshman, to “which atheists think that religious people can’t do science?: For Hess had put up a response (now altered) that had two names, “Vic Stenger and Jerry Coyne”.

I never said anything of the kind. Hess’s misrepresentation really ticked me off, so I left my own comment after his post.

Picture 2

I waited patiently for Hess’s apology, and instead of tendering one, he simply modified his list of atheist miscreants by striking out my name (I don’t have a screenshot of the earlier version that lumped Stenger and I, but here’s his “apology”):

Picture 1

Well, that’s hardly an apology, and I’d expect a real one from a believer like Hess. After all, wouldn’t Jesus do that? But perhaps we’re learning that accommodationists can be just as devious and manipulative as fundamentalists. (I don’t think I’ve ever distorted a quote.)
So, Dr. Hess, I’m still waiting for you to retract your words, and not simply by striking out my name from your “J’accuse” list.
In the meantime, Hess is hoist with his own petard. After accusing fundamentalists and atheists of behaving the same bad way, he goes ahead and behaves exactly like a fundamentalist creationist.

74 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I’d dispute the title of this post. IMO this is just a variant of Lying for Jesus, since the intent is to misrepresent things in the interest of providing support for a religious point of view.

    • Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Sorry, I don’t understand. It’s MEANT to parallel the classic religious trope. And it’s meant to do that because it shows that just as religious people can engage in misrepresentation to further the cause of Jesus, so pro-science people (especially the accomodationist ones!) can engage in misrepresentation to further the cause of science. Both are reprehensible.

      For another example of an accommdationist (not a religious one) who engaged in this kind of behavior, I refer you to the Chris Mooney of a few years ago.

      • gbjames
        Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        My point is that the accomodationist position is (trying to be) both supportive of science and of religion. The sort of lying you identify here is not motivated by a desire to enhance the science-side of the accomodationist position, but the religious side. The lie here is saying “those extremist atheists say…” and one wouldn’t make that argument unless you were trying to comfort believers.

        • Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:13 am | Permalink

          Well, yes, they’re trying to cater to religionists and not the science-friendly in particular, but the ultimate aim is to foster the acceptance of evolution by eliminating what they see as a block to it: those pesky atheists who they see as forcing people to choose between science and religion.

          Remember, Hess works for the NCSE, and his job is to promote evolution (and now acceptance of anthropogenic global warming) by osculating the rump of faith.

          • gbjames
            Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:17 am | Permalink

            I don’t disagree at all, really. I’m just saying that Darwin (science) doesn’t require any “lying-for” to make a case, whereas Jesus does. So while Hess is making a case for science, his lie is on behalf of Jesus.

          • Posted May 9, 2014 at 3:39 am | Permalink

            Hess is lying, literally, in the claims he makes about atheists, as an accommodationist ploy, while superficially making it out his interest is the promotion of Darwinism, so committing a more subtle lie (though not subtle enough to be missed).

            So I thought Jerry’s title was an ironic usage.

        • eric
          Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:25 am | Permalink

          “Lying for Darwin” is apt because they are trying to misrepresent science in a way that gets more fundies to accept Darwin, just as “lying for Jesus” refurs to people misrepresenting some topic to get more people to accept Jesus. It doesn’t necessarly mean one is lying solely about Darwin/Jesus, it’s lying about a range of topics for promotion of evolution/Christianity.

          • Posted May 8, 2014 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

            Well, I don’t see that lying for accommodationism is for Darwin. Especially given Darwin’s views on religion later in his life.

            /@

  2. Sam Salerno
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    I have been a member of NCSE for three years now. Because of their work keeping creationism out of public schools. And I have brought to their attention several times that religion can and has been tested by science. And that the two are not non-overlapping magisteria. And I have never received a response from them. But I have never the less kept my member kept my membership up. I think it’s time let my membership expire.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      Don’t forget to TELL them why you’re letting your membership expire.

      • Sam Salerno
        Posted May 8, 2014 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

        good point. Will do

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted May 8, 2014 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

          Not a lot of point in doing what is, essentially, a political [hawk, spit!] action and not actually getting some chance of an effect out of it.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Because of their work keeping creationism out of public schools.

      Which is why you might want to consider tolerating their accommodation. That’s not to excuse Hess’s lying. But if NCSE weren’t accommodationist, it’s unlikely that they’d be as effective. It’s the world we live in.

      • Sam Salerno
        Posted May 8, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        I just feel like I’ve tolerated it enough. If NCSE can’t see the fault in their logic after all these years, I don’t want to support them. Besides there are other more effective forces at work. Like the FFRF, American Atheists, Americans United.

    • John Harshman
      Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      Maybe you should reconsider that. Does the NCSE, on balance, do good work despite rampant accommodationism? If so, and I certainly think so, you would be [insert cliche about noses and faces].

    • michaelfugate
      Posted May 8, 2014 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      Is the NCSE doing good work? That is a question which currently has no answer; the NCSE has no assessment mechanism in place to determine if its methods are making a difference. It is as if I were teaching a course and never asked a question in lecture and never gave an assignment or exam to ascertain the effectiveness of my efforts. My discussions with certain current and former staff indicate to me that they have no interest in knowing if what they do works.

      • Posted May 8, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

        Well, I don’t think there’s much doubt that they did great work in the Dover case, and put out brushfires like those in Texas. Of course there’s no way to assess whether their negative effects outweigh these, but I doubt it. (I’m trying to be charitable here, but I do believe that.) I just wish they’d get rid of the accommodationists like Rosenau and Hess, and that way they’d do all the good stuff without osculating the rump of faith.

        • michaelfugate
          Posted May 9, 2014 at 10:27 am | Permalink

          I was emphasizing their education efforts rather than their legal ones. They obviously convinced Judge Jones on the failures of ID as legitimate science. That they include any theology on their site seems out of bounds.

  3. colnago80
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Well, I happen to know one such individual who was my PhD thesis adviser and was also a born again Christian. He was competent enough to have contributed to the theory of the Higgs boson and was a finalist for last year’s Nobel Prize in physics. He lost out because of the limitation to 3 awardees and there were 5 individuals who were responsible for the theory. The committee picked 2, Higgs and Englert but, apparently, none of the other 3 could garner a majority of the votes for the open 3rd slot.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      It’s confidential of course. But the outside discussion in Sweden (involving scientists that advice the committee, I think) was that the discussion wasn’t converging on discussing how to share the prize between 2 individuals and a 3d. The last round was supposedly about if the 3d slot could be awarded to a group (CERN) for the first time.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

        I remember more now. Rumor was that they were divided on the group thing until the last minute. In fact 30 minutes late in announcing it. (The group award is unprecedented, belongs to modern science work modes, but is somehow worded against in Nobel’s will IIRC.)

        Presumably then, if it is true, they hadn’t time to revert back to discuss if to award an individual the 3d slot, but the 2 already decided slots were plan B.

        • colnago80
          Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

          Well, that was sheer speculation on my part so I wouldn’t disagree. However, my information is that they deliberated for an hour, not 30 minutes. Incidentally, one of the 5 individuals, Gerald Guralnik, passed away yesterday.

  4. Greg Esres
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    My suspicion is that people like Hess are actually hearing what they say they hear, which is why they keep repeating it and don’t apologize.

    • Latverian Diplomat
      Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      In public discourse, one must be held to a higher standard than this.

      If you accuse someone of holding a position or having expressed an opinion, you had damn well better be able to point to a specific quotation published by a reliable source.

      If you can’t do that, keep what you thought you heard to yourself.

      • Greg Esres
        Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        Agreed….not trying to defend, only explain. The problem to be solved is how to hold someone’s feet to the fire in order to compel them to see their own biased interpretation.

        • Latverian Diplomat
          Posted May 8, 2014 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, I apologize for writing my post in a way that comes across as critical as yours, as opposed to just using yours as a starting point. I understood what you were doing but I neglected to convey that understanding in my post.

          Thanks for your courteous reply.

  5. colnago80
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    By the way, this behavior shows a total lack of class and an exhibition of childishness on the part of Mr. Hess. He should admit his mistake and move on.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      Indeed, I’d be horribly embarrassed to misquote someone. He didn’t even cage his reply in a “I think” or “if I recall correctly”. If I were called out, I’d update the post with a correction & apologize.

      However, I guess he doesn’t want to because of his n=1 data sample that undermines his central thesis – but really, n=2 was no better!

      • eric
        Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        The really head-scratching part is that an apology would’ve been trivially easy. “Hi Jerry, sorry I misrepresented your position. I didn’t mean to, and I’ll take you off the list with Stenger. Is that good?”
        Is that so hard? Sheesh.

        • Dawn Oz
          Posted May 8, 2014 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

          Eric – excellent teaching – perhaps you could send it to him to show him how to be academically moral. Part of being human, is having to eat humble pie from time to time. If you can’t accept this, then you can’t play.

      • michaelfugate
        Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:43 am | Permalink

        That he could only come up with 2 names after some period of time with at least one based on no evidence and this he tried to surreptitiously retract is telling. His whole argument is empty. Reminds me of the “don’t be a dick” silliness.

  6. Greg Esres
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    BTW, John Harshman was (is?) a formidable combatant for science in the old talk.origins newsgroup. It’s good to see him still involved, assuming this is the same person.

    • John Harshman
      Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      And TO is still there too.

  7. darrelle
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    How cliche of Mr. Hess.

    I have to agree with gbjames. Just one of the standard, stale, lying for jesus claims so common these days. I’d say he is an idiot if he really thinks his claim is accurate, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for the moment. After all, it is just as likely that he believes it is okay to misrepresent other people as long as it is in defense of his religious beliefs.

    You can explain what you actually mean time after time, but some people just won’t hear it. They don’t want to hear it because if they do acknowledge it then they won’t be able to deliver the devastating quip they really want to. It might also leave a chink in the armour of rationalizations they have erected around their religious beliefs.

  8. michaelfugate
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    One of the hardest things to do is being able to determine someone’s else motivations, yet Hess claims remarkable mind-reading abilities. Is he real able to discern that all creationists are lying when they claim to be doing science? The NCSE has written off huge chunks of the US population as being beyond redemption due to their belief in Biblical literalism. Why is an organization with both science and education in its title resorting to theological arguments to inform its strategy? I pretty sure science and education research would give a different answer.

  9. davidintoronto
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    So… do we know that Victor Stenger has expressed the sentiment at issue? Or is that made up too?

    • Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      I haven’t read everything Vic ever wrote (though I’ve read most of his books), so I didn’t feel comfortable trying to defend him. I know only what I wrote.

      • Latverian Diplomat
        Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        Very true.

        The burden of proof is on Mr. Hess though.

        It should be a neutral question to ask him to supply quotes from Stenger to that effect.

        Somehow, I doubt he would take such a request as a neutral one, though.

        • John Harshman
          Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

          I’ve already asked him. No response so far.

          • Posted May 8, 2014 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

            Hess or Stenger?

            /@

          • Latverian Diplomat
            Posted May 9, 2014 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

            Thanks. It’s good to have someone challenging this, and it is appreciated.

  10. Stonyground
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    As I see it, accommodationists need to be dishonest because they are trying to defend an untenable position. The notion that science and religion are compatible is absurd. I know that some accommodationists probably mean well because they are aware of a public perception that scientific knowledge tends to lead to atheism and they see this as a bad thing. The thing is though, scientific knowledge does tend to lead to atheism, not in every case but pretty often, it is futile to try to deny it.

    • eric
      Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      NCSE doesn’t need to be dishonest to accommodate Christian scientists and secularists, they just need to be truthful: some people think it’s compatible and some people don’t…and (here’s the important message) NCSE will work with both to help improve sound science education in public school classrooms, including education on evolution and climate change. The point they should be making is that people with different positions on the compatibility issue can come together and work together on the issue of what gets taught in public high schools.

      If Alice is a compatibilist Christian and is worried about the fact that Bob the incompatibilist atheist supports NCSE, what you tell them is this: the Ken Millers of the world are not are bothered by the fact that Jerry Coyne supports NCSE. The Jerry Coyne’s of the world aren’t bothered by the fact that Ken Miller supports NCSE. So you Alice should not be bothered by Bob’s support, and likewise, if there’s a Bob out there that is bothered by Alice’s support, he should get over it too. Talk compatibility over beers on your own time: when you’re helping or communicating with NCSE, focus on sound science education.

      • reasonshark
        Posted May 9, 2014 at 3:34 am | Permalink

        That’s a good point, and that way would be fine. However, they could do that by just being secular and religiously neutral upfront, i.e. without making stuff up about “fundamentalist atheists” and, in Jerry’s own words, oscillating the rump of religion. Is it just an accident that they end up producing apologetics for Christian believers, or do they have motives other than simple cooperation in science education?

  11. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    My own take FWIW is that religious scientists are good technicians, because they don’t apply empirics equally, in the same manner that a homeopath astronomer or an astrologer surgeon would be. Of course they can contribute, achieve excellence and be awarded the Nobel Prize – all this has happened for a fact, and who would deny that =D – but one shouldn’t be surprized if they push theology. [For a clear example: Collins pushes the theology of “moral law”, yet is a biologist and should know better.]

    I think HuffPo article of Stenger set Hess on him, because he criticizes the christianist claim that they were behind science at the start of the article:

    “Many historians and sociologists have denied the there ever was a war between science and religion. Some have even claimed that Christianity was responsible for science! But they have ignored the most important historical facts. Greece and Rome were well on the way to modern science when Christianity interrupted its development for a thousand years. It was no accident that the scientific revolution of the eighteenth century happened only after the revolts against Church authority in the Renaissance and Reformation opened up new avenues of thought.”

    Clearly a “militant” atheist, finding religionists at fault!

    What Stenger says on religious scientists immediately after is pertinent here:

    I don’t deny that many scientists are also religious, but they have compartmentalized their brains into two sections that don’t talk to each other.

    Science and religion are fundamentally incompatible because of their unequivocally opposed epistemologies — the assumptions they make concerning what we can know about the world. Every human alive is aware of a world that seems to exist outside his or her body, the world of sensory experience we call the natural. Science is the systematic study of the observations we make about the natural world with our senses and scientific instruments and the application the knowledge obtained to human activity.

    All major religions teach that humans possess an additional “internal” sense that enables us to gain access to a realm that lies beyond the world we see around us — a divine, transcendent reality we call the supernatural. Religion is a set of practices intended to communicate with the supernatural and apply the insights gained thereby to human needs.”

    [My bold]

    I think Hess is quite obviously Lying for Jesus™. (I happen to agree with gbjames, Hess is arguing for science but [by] lying for Jesus.)

    And I don’t think Hess or NCSE (which the Hess link goes to) will apologize to Stenger either.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Edit: “astrologer chemist” rather than astrologer surgeon, I messed up.

      And “this” article of Stenger.

    • Kevin
      Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      I think people like Hess fail to recognize that religions does not uncover any verifiable truths about the universe. They marvel at the transcendent capacity that religion advertises but are at a loss to make religion do what science does which is actually do something.

      “don’t apply empirics equally”. That is part of the religious diode: religion takes from science but does not give back. What is left over is tantamount to treason against reason trying to put religion and science in one bowl without an explosion.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted May 9, 2014 at 3:34 am | Permalink

        LOL: “treason against reason”. A good sentiment, too!

    • John Harshman
      Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for finding a quote that falsifies Hess’s characterization of Stenger. He should probably now go back and delete the other name from his “response”.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      I wouldn’t take Hess’s word – nor Collins’s for that matter – that he’s a believer. He’s religious, that’s all we know. Maybe it’s just a role he likes to play. Defender of the Faith and Iconoclast Scientist.

  12. Ken Pidcock
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad to see Hess pressed on this. That xkcd 774 crap is about as common as “I’m an atheist and I think Dawkins is an asshole.” People need to be held to account for their pandering.

  13. H.H.
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never known an accommodation to accurately represent the New Atheist position or its arguments. Never. I mean, how many years has this “discussion” been going on, and Hess is still trotting out worn-out canards like this? How many times can you correct your opponent before recognizing that they have no intention of arguing in good faith? The lack of intellectual honesty among accommodationists has always been their defining trait.

    • Posted May 8, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      “… Hess is still trotting out worn-out canards like this? How many times can you correct your opponent …”

      A rhetorical exchange known as “ducking and diving”.

      /@

  14. Filippo
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    “That curled the toes of my shoes a bit . . . .”

    “Shoes”? Blasphemer! 😉

  15. Jim Maughan
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I stuck that Stenger PuffHo quote over on that blog. Couldn’t help adding a bit of snark.
    I wonder if Hess has heard of Ray Comfort?

    It wasn’t too hard to find a suitable quote it was the first hit on the Google.

    • John Harshman
      Posted May 8, 2014 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      I suppose you didn’t notice that I had stuck it in several hours earlier?

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted May 9, 2014 at 3:38 am | Permalink

        Thanks to you both!

        [I mostly refuse to go to NCSE akin to how I don’t want to wade into DI & AiG cesspools if I can avoid it. Takes a lot of comfort coffee or even chocolate afterwards, it does. :-/]

  16. Glen
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    > That organization, which has done great stuff by keeping creationism out of the schools, is nevertheless committed to undiluted accommodationism, repeatedly telling religionists that their faith is compatible with evolution.

    Why would it be a bad thing if the NCSE convinced them of that?

    • Bruce Gorton
      Posted May 8, 2014 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

      Because first of all it is not actually true so it builds up misconceptions about evolution (the time frames aren’t the only issue Christian creationism has with evolution, evolution also does away with creationism’s neat ordering of the origin of species for example) and also because it is not the only issue on the table.

      It is a bit like the civil rights era – the atheist movement at the time basically went along with it when the black civil rights movement decided to downplay their contributions in order to better win over the hyper-religious South.

      As a result we now have people proclaiming civil rights as a victory for mainstream religion despite the fact that the largest support for civil rights came from atheists and the fringe religious, and the largest opposition came from the mainstream.

      That includes the so-called liberal Northern churches that repeatedly criticised Martin Luther King Jnr’s militancy by the way.

      And nowadays you see those same churches that opposed civil rights back then – using the moral capital they got from that movement to oppose gay marriage and abortion while arguing for an American theocracy where only Christians have first amendment rights.

      Religion still acts as a barrier to basic civil rights because of way back when civil rights leaders allowed religion to remain relevant to the issue.

      So lets say we convince the religious that evolution is perfectly compatible with their religion – they will start using that to back their religion up.

      Which will be a huge problem when the next big scientific revelation comes along to show that some other idea in their religious holy texts is bullshit.

      • reasonshark
        Posted May 9, 2014 at 2:43 am | Permalink

        Basically, because it obscures the real causes with feel-good but misleading distractions?

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted May 9, 2014 at 3:46 am | Permalink

      If NCSE feels comfortable to claim that astrology is compatible with astronomy even now when the original “signs” have changed or we know about gravity, or homeopathy with chemistry, well then creationist “guided evolution” with its magic mechanism could be claimed by them to be compatible with entirely natural biology.

      But of course they won’t claim the first because it would be disruptive to education and a smear on science. So why do they do the third?

      Tip: it starts with “sanct” and ends with “i[‘]m od … er … nious”.

      • reasonshark
        Posted May 9, 2014 at 3:50 am | Permalink

        Sanctimodernious? Eh?

    • Glen
      Posted May 9, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      > the time frames aren’t the only issue Christian creationism has with evolution, evolution also does away with creationism’s neat ordering of the origin of species for example

      Sure, so part of convincing religionists that their faith is compatible with religion would be getting them to accept a Biblical interpretation allowing for the timing and ordering indicated by the evidence. Many people do accept such an interpretation. If more were to do so, wouldn’t that be an improvement?

      > So lets say we convince the religious that evolution is perfectly compatible with their religion – they will start using that to back their religion up.

      So you’re worried they’ll claim that the Bible demonstrated the truth of evolution before Darwin did? Personally I think that’s extremely unlikely, but even if it did happen, wouldn’t it still be preferable to the current situation?

      > Basically, because it obscures the real causes with feel-good but misleading distractions?

      I’d agree that if it obscured what we knew to be real causes, that would be a problem. Can you provide an example of arguments used by the NCSE that do that?

      > well then creationist “guided evolution” with its magic mechanism could be claimed by them to be compatible with entirely natural biology

      I’m not sure what you mean by “creationist guided evolution”. Are you referring to theistic evolution? If so, natural selection need not be discarded as the primary mechanism. A theistic evolutionist might presume some small level of devine guidance, too subtle to be disproven by science. But if science can’t disprove it, then I don’t see why you’d have a problem with it.

      Possibly I’m not fully understanding what is meant by “compatibility” in this context. Religious and scientific ideas are both groups of memes. The only place memes exist is inside someone’s head. So if both sets of memes can co-exist peaceably inside someone’s head, then (I’d think) they must at least potentially be compatible.

      Does Jerry mean to say they’re not *logically* compatible? If so, it would be nice if he specified that, because the next question is why we should care. I hold the logically incompatible beliefs that light behaves both as waves and as particles. I don’t see why anyone should be bothered by that.

      Furthermore, there are lots of ways to spin religious beliefs so that they aren’t logically incompatible with what we know of evolution. All the arguments I’ve seen Jerry give involve theological objections. For instance: (paraphrasing) “What was the point of Jesus’ death if there was no original sin, and how could there by original sin if Adam and Eve weren’t the literal original ancestors of all humanity?” There are all kinds of potential answers to that. Maybe “original sin” was simply the demonstration that everyone is capable of sin, and Jesus’ sacrifice was to obsolve people of their own sins. The point is that if someone comes up with a theological answer to the question that satisfies her and that allows her to accept evolution, then it’s a bit insane quibble with it.

      • Bruce Gorton
        Posted May 9, 2014 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

        So you’re worried they’ll claim that the Bible demonstrated the truth of evolution before Darwin did? Personally I think that’s extremely unlikely, but even if it did happen, wouldn’t it still be preferable to the current situation?

        Actually, it is extremely likely given that Islamist creationists have tried to do exactly the same thing with embryology.

        And no, it wouldn’t be preferable to the current situation – because we would end up with exactly the same arguments all over again with regards to the next major issue.

        So long as religion is kept relevant to science, as accommodation does, science gets polluted.

      • Posted May 10, 2014 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        “I hold the logically incompatible beliefs that light behaves both as waves and as particles.”

        Actually, that’s a singular “belief”!

        But there’s nothing *logically* incompatible between light sometimes behaving as waves and sometimes behaving as particles; that’s a perfectly logical consequence of the fact that light is fundamentally a quantum field, just like everything else in Standard Model physics.

        It’s just counterintuitive for macroscopic beings.

        /@

      • Glen
        Posted May 12, 2014 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

        > So long as religion is kept relevant to science, as accommodation does, science gets polluted.

        There’s nothing “polluting” about acknowledging that religion need not contradict scientific findings. And if you’re that worried about science’s purity of essence my advice would be to pay close attention to your precious bodily fluids.

        > that’s a perfectly logical consequence of the fact that light is fundamentally a quantum field

        Aha! So then, you must be a politician! http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2221#comic

        • Posted May 12, 2014 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

          No. Just someone who understands modern physics. (Feynman quote goes here.*)

          /@ / Praha

          * One or both of two that spring to (my wholly physical) mind.

  17. Posted May 9, 2014 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    Well so much for the “Science Education” aspect of Hess’s work. If he is incapable of acknowledging such simple factual error, how on earth can he feel justified in “educating” anyone else about the pursuit of scientific knowledge?

  18. Zetopan
    Posted May 11, 2014 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    I had been a member of the NCSE since its inception, but I exited that organization when it became appallingly clear that they had decided to become a part of the “Belief System Industry” a few years ago. It has only gotten worse since them. If they ever regain their senses I will rejoin, but that seems unlikely to ever happen. Once people buy into believing in religious magic they almost never return to sanity.


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