Oy! An accommodationist comic book

Excuse me; I should have said “graphic novel” in the title, but I can barely bring myself to describe this venture as having the gravitas of real graphic novels like Maus or The Rabbi’s Cat. The bad news is that the science-and-faith-are-friends juggernaut is rolling on. The good news is that this project may not reach fruition.

In Faith versus Fact, I argue that science and religion are incompatible if you believe that religion makes “truth statements” about the real world, which then brings religion into the realm of the empirical—and in principle the realm of the testable. I won’t amplify that thesis here, as all loyal readers should have either bought the book or read a library version. (I will add that I give provide ample documentation that religion is indeed grounded on statements about what’s true in the universe, and that that notion is explicitly confirmed by many theologians.)

One of the reasons I wrote that book was to counteract the spate of other books—in fact, the vast majority of books on science and religion—that argue for the compatibility of science and faith on specious grounds, e.g.,  the existence of religious scientists.

And now we have the first accommodationist graphic novel. As described in at article at PuffHo, the comic was financed by Tommaso Todesca, a wealthy Los Angeles banker and a Catholic of Italian extraction.

Todesca got the idea for this travesty from reading an Italian accommodationist book called Scienze e fede (“Science and faith”) written by two Italian professors. After initially wanting to translate the book into English, Todesca decided that a graphic novel would be a better venue for his misguided thesis:

The “hook of the project,” Todesca said, is the message that “science and faith are not in conflict with each other.”

“Through the patience of dialogue, science and faith can and should complement each other, and make each other stronger,” he told The Huffington Post.

As I say in FvF, science can certainly change religion, but by rejecting religious dogma that’s scientifically testable (Genesis and its creationism, Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, the Exodus, the census of Caesar Augustus, the efficacy of prayer, and so on). Whether this makes religion stronger is questionable. I’d argue that as religious scripture becomes increasingly falsified by empiricism, religion becomes weaker. But certainly faith does nothing to make science stronger, for science utterly rejects faith. Science is an atheistic enterprise. As Laplace supposedly said, we don’t need a god hypothesis.

The comic book, apparently also called Science and Faith, has a Kickstarter page with a goal of $10,000 (I won’t link to it, though the PuffHo page does). Judging by the data so far, the idea isn’t selling like hotcakes:

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 2.43.13 PM

And the plot? Lame.

The graphic novel will feature Savagnone and Briguglia — a philosopher and a physicist, respectively — as comic book characters who go on a journey that takes them from Rome to Florence to Toulouse, meeting with great scientists and thinkers of the past and the present, including Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler and Thomas Aquinas. [JAC: The Kickstarter video also mentions that Savagnone and Briuglia will meet Richard Dawkins, but that meeting is pointedly omitted by PuffHo; possibly because potential funders see Dawkins as Satan incarnate.]

Their dialogue draws from the original book, which Todesca said “makes a compelling case for faith as a type of knowledge that can find its ground in rationality.”

The fact that Todesca claims that faith is a “type of knowledge” based on rationality will be the comic book’s fatal flaw, for faith, whatever it may be, is certainly not a type of knowledge, but rather belief in the absence of convincing evidence. And it’s grounded not in rationality but irrationality—the desire to confirm what you want to be true. That makes faith the very antithesis of science. But I digress. .

PuffHo gives some panels from the novel’s beginning. The use of the book’s text as dialogue seems to be a fatal flaw. Have a gander. I’m not impressed, but of course I’m biased!

Note that they mention Father Coyne, which of course isn’t me, but Father George V. Coyne, former director of the Vatican Observatory and a vociferous accommodationist.

(Note: They should fix “biforcations” in the first panel.):

56e34b071e0000b300703e6a

Zzzzzzzzz. . . .

Well, if Pope Benedict said it, it must be true, right? Pity about those 40% of Americans who reject what he said, seeing a clear conflict between their view of creation and “the version offered by empirical science.”

They should also fix the misspelling in the first panel here:

56e34b391e0000950070fe13

I have no bloody idea what’s happening in the last panel, but it looks like a miracle: the resurrection of that old charlatan Teilhard de Chardin—out of a book bag. (If you want something really entertaining, read Peter Medwar’s review of Teilhard’s famous The Phenomenon of Man. Both Dawkins and I think it’s the best bad book review ever written.)

If all this comic book does is illustrate tedious bromides from the accommodationist movement, as the panels above suggest, it will be not only a snoozer but a loser. Can you imaging a curious kid—or anyone with two neurons to rub together—wanting to read it?

Oh, and have a look at the comments. Most of them aren’t exactly supportive.
Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 3.14.40 PM

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 3.17.35 PM

I’m heartened, as these sorts of comments would have been unthinkable fifty years ago.

100 Comments

  1. Zado
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    “I think most people want the truth regardless if it contradicts 2,000 year old myths.”

    If that were the case there wouldn’t be accommodationists. Unfortunately, most people hold beliefs for emotional reasons, not reasoned reasons. That is, at bottom, what this never ending debate is really about.

  2. Pliny the in Between
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Hmm, maybe we should have a graphic novel about the Deilluminati, a cabal of religious figures throughout history who actively oppose science and persecute scientists for demonstrating true ways of knowing. Oh never mind – we already have that. It’s called world history.

  3. Daniel bertini
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Looks like a juvenile rip-off of the dialogue. Call it the anti dialogue for simpletons!!

    • somer
      Posted March 21, 2016 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      Big Yawn cartoon

      It would be a miracle if these people could spell!

  4. Posted March 20, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Meanwhile the Modiphius “Conan” RPG Kickstarter stands at:
    4,102 backers
    £406,661 pledged of £45,000 goal
    2 hours to go

    This is the kind of fantasy people really like!

    /@

  5. Roger
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Since when did Pope Benedict “clearly state” something? lol.

  6. Filippo
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    “Savagnone and Briguglia . . . go on a journey . . . meeting with great scientists and thinkers . . . including Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler and Thomas Aquinas . . . .”

    Will they be meeting with Galileo while he’s under house arrest? Will they be observing his interrogation by those pure as the driven snow? Ought they not meet with Giordano Bruno, both on the rack and at the stake?

    Re: “(I will add that I give provide ample documentation that religion is indeed grounded on statements about what’s true in the universe, and that that notion is explicitly confirmed by many theologians.)”

    I note in today’s hard copy NY Times – don’t know if it’s already been mentioned on this website – the obituary of philosopher Hilary Putnam, written by Bruce Weber, who informs readers that Putnam “studied with Hans Reichenbach, a leading proponent of logical positivism, the school of thought now in disrepute [“Disrepute”? Says who – Weber?], that maintains that the only basis of knowledge is that which can be scientifically verified. But Professor Putnam argued against it, offering a course at Harvard in ‘nonscientific knowledge,’ encompassing the wisdom that comes from aesthetics, ethics and religion.’ ”

    ” . . . has a Kickstarter page with a goal of $10,000 . . . .”

    Seems “a wealthy Los Angeles banker and a Catholic,” so refulgently confident in the rectitude of his views, should be able to fund the project. (But, in the great banking tradition, much better to use other people’s money, eh?)

    • Posted March 20, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      Possibly, he’s wealthy because he’s able to spot a terrible investment when he sees one.

    • Posted March 20, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      “Will they be meeting with Galileo while he’s under house arrest?”
      Yes, and maybe they’ll swing by the witch-trial of Kepler’s mother.

      • philfinn7
        Posted March 21, 2016 at 8:11 am | Permalink

        Who knew?! I love the things one can learn here from other people’s comments.

    • Posted March 21, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      Positivism *is* in disrepute, to say the least, with good reason – it is incredibly lousy as a philosophy of science. However, that “one line summary” is massively massively oversimplified, bordering on caricature. Putnam was important, but he kept changing his mind (Bunge makes good-natured fun of that in his _Dictionary of Philosophy_, suggesting that the “hilput” be used as the unit of philosophical fickleness) so figuring out which time-slice to use is hard. I got the impression he reverted (again) to more subjectivism and away from realism (again) towards the end of his life.

  7. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    In Peter Medawar’s review of The Phenomenon of Man is the delicious line:
    “Yet the greater part of it, I shall show, is nonsense, tricked out with a variety of metaphysical conceits, and its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself” [emphasis mine].

  8. Matt
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Faith is such a slippery word. When examined closely it can be seen that people do not actually have faith in God but faith in the people who tell them about God, be they Pope Francis, Muhammad, or Moses. In the case of Moses you then need to have faith in those who told you about Moses. But the faith is never directly in God unless you think that God speaks to you either verbally or through some kind of confirmation feeling which is clearly just normal everyday feelings combined with wishful thinking and indoctrination.

    Rather than Faith Vs Fact I think the argument should really be presented as revelation vs observation. Because religious faith is more about a confidence in revelation than “faith in God.”

    Not that I think the esteemed professor should change the title of his book or anything, but I think that the main problem with faith is that it is actually a belief in revelation by “special people.” The word faith is so slippery and has a warm fuzzy connotation even for the non religious. but “revelation by special people” is an indefensible idea IMO. Much harder to make people think “revelation by special people” is a good thing than the word “faith” which even non religious people use in everyday language.

    As for this comic book? An exasperated sigh is all I can muster. Exasperation to the max. SIGH!!!

    • Sastra
      Posted March 20, 2016 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      Good point. When you get right down to it, the real “faith” involved in divine revelation is the self-assurance that you can’t possibly be mistaken about the difference between a divine revelation and wishful thinking and/or indoctrination. OTHER people make that mistake all the time. Of course. But not you — you’re special.

      Because you’re so humble. It takes a lot of arrogance to deny that trying to eliminate one’s self right into God is humble.

      The term ‘faith’ is then slippery so that people can be comfortable using it to weave warm non-religious virtues (like good will, appreciation, or persistence) so closely into the fabric of religion that the atheist is left naked. Once again, the subjective is scrunched up into a weird and unjustified claim of meta-objectivity.

  9. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Medawar’s review is hilarious.

    Other funnies here:

    – ‘No conflict between creation and empirical sciences.’

    So what about the bigiie then for example, when the Hot Big Bang, from which the universe as we recognize it appeared. was shown to be just a temporary stage after inflation? No big bang, no hope for ‘de novo creation’.

    – Comment: “religion is not a delusion”.

    Snort. “A false belief or opinion”. [
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/delusion ]

    That is how scientists construct it, re “The God Delusion”.

    Or if she wants to go the APA route:

    “Because of the gaining recognition of the overlap of spiritual/mystical experiences and mental health problems, in the early 1990s authors Lukoff, Lu, & Turner (Turner et al., 1995, p. 435) made a proposal for a new diagnostic category entitled “Religious or Spiritual Problems”. The category was approved by the DSM-IV Task Force in 1993 …” [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritual_crisis ] Just politics.

    • reasonshark
      Posted March 21, 2016 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      I don’t think that Wikipedia reference is a supporting example. It’s describing an identity crisis in spiritual/religious terms, not religious belief per se.

      And there’s more to the psychiatric definition of “delusion” than simply playing host to a false belief or a false opinion. It specifically has to be a persistent one, immune to reasoned argument and counterfactual evidence. Even then, it’s usually reserved for the most extreme examples, like believing you’re dead, or believing in paranoid conspiracies, or believing God tells you directly to do stuff.

      That’s not to say it’s incorrect to use the term…

  10. Robert bray
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Aquinas was not a great thinker, but he did think a great deal.

  11. Posted March 20, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Maybe they’ll take the Vatican exorcist with them so that he can pick up a few tips from the pros.

  12. keith cook + or -
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I think religion with this waste of time, is heading in the right direction, a comic book! It wouldn’t be dis-similar to Marvel comic’s, super hero’s with no basis in reality but I suspect probably nowhere near as entertaining.
    A hero that conjures up a miracle everytime they are in deep s**t would soon start to bore the pants off the reader. Like it doesn’t already you may say but at the very least it would be in the right category, Comic / Fantasy.

  13. Posted March 20, 2016 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Visually, this is an unappealing book, if the pages shown are typical.

  14. Kiwi Dave
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    I’ll wait for the film of Sav and Bri’s Excellent Adventure. In the meantime this post, filled as it is with old white males and one dead white male, might need a trigger warning for readers with delicate sensibilities.

  15. Kiwi Dave
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Apologies if this is a double post – the first attempt seems to have vanished.

    I’ll wait for the film of Sav and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Meanwhile, since the post is filled with old white men and the ghost of a dead white male, there should be a trigger warning for those with delicate sensibilities.

    Any WEIT reader who hasn’t read Medawar’s review is missing a comic treat.

    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted March 20, 2016 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Doh! Sav and Bri’s…

  16. Roger
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Oh aren’t they such brilliantly enlightened smartypants. In the mean time, [insert long list of stupid superstitions here].

  17. stuartcoyle
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Give me The Watchmen over this any time. I think Dr Manhattan would beat both these guys, after all he is a scientist and a god!

  18. Pliny the in Between
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure you need a full graphic novel to understand accommodation.

    http://pictoraltheology.blogspot.com/2016/03/accomodation-made-easy.html

    • EvolvedDutchie
      Posted March 21, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      I like the grumpy, disappointed cardinal. He’s got a point. 😛

  19. Sastra
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    “Scientific truth, that is a way to partecepate to the divine truth, can help philosophy and theology to understand ourselves and God’s revelation to human beings. Not only there is a lack of conflict, but also a positive interaction!”

    That’s not a typo. “Partecepate” means “in reality have jack all to do with but will look like it’s participating anyway if we just make the terms vague enough.” Science partecepates in religion, and religion partecepates in science. But neither of them participate in the other.

    Religion doesn’t just steal from science, it steals from philosophy. The cartoon pope’s statement might make a sort of sense if we substituted “reality” for “divine truth” and cut out all the crap about theology and God. Science and reason work in tandem.

    • reasonshark
      Posted March 21, 2016 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      As far as I can tell, apologists not throwing their lot in with creationists and “fundies” usually try to palm off everyday concepts and philosophical topics as though they were automatically supportive of or integral to the god hypothesis.

      Thus the perfectly workaday concepts of “reason” and “reality” become “divine truth” and “Ground of Being”. Ethics and religious attempts at it become synonymous, as though you couldn’t have one without the other, or as though there were nothing in secular ethics. And human exceptionalism – whether in our reasoning faculties or aesthetic faculties or total conscious experience and subjectivity – is a magnet for apologists looking for an epistemological refuge. It’s basically a subtle god-of-the-gaps argument.

      This is ignoring the obviously non-intellectual “arguments”, such as the Little People Argument and the “Scientists Have Been Religiously Inspired” Appeal. If you’re hearing those, then you’re basically hearing coded confessions that they are short of material.

      They like to present themselves as reasonable middlemen, but as far as their arguments go, they’re no less fundamentalist than the “fundies”. They’re just less direct and more sophisticated about it.

      • Sastra
        Posted March 21, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        Well said. Lots of conflation and equivocation which positions theism as not just reasonable, but loving.

        In the more “reasonable” theologies what you call the ‘epistemological refuge of human exceptionalism’ gets blurred together with childlike humility. I call it the Playpen Theory of Reality. The universe was created around us so we can realize how small and weak and grateful we should be to its Creator. So clearly we don’t believe we’re something special. Golly, no. We’re believing the opposite.

        If you think it all “just happened” or our existence is a “mere coincidence” or an “unintended consequence” then you’re obviously not appreciating all the trouble and energy which went into trying to get you to be thankful. Atheists lack a thankful nature, they miss the opportunity to feel their unworthiness, and so forth.

        Human exceptionalism has thus turned into the humble perspective. Now atheism gets to be framed as both arrogant AND unsatisfying. Theists all arrive at the same place:using the same basic methods: credulity, confusion, and compartmentalization. The sophisticated versions have simply put more thought into justifying these sins as virtues.

    • Michael 2
      Posted March 21, 2016 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      “Religion doesn’t just steal from science, it steals from philosophy. ”

      Not quite (IMO). Religion, philosophy and science (especially chemistry/alchemy) have a common ancestor and started to break into these departments in the Age of Enlightenment.

      I find your use of “stealing” interesting but not interesting enough to explore your deeply held moral values and ask how it is you have that particular sense that it might be possible to “steal” from either science or philosophy.

      The consequence of stealing is that the legitimate owner no longer has it. If the owner still has it, then it has not been stolen. Ideas may well have been *copied* and why not?

      • reasonshark
        Posted March 21, 2016 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        If the owner still has it, then it has not been stolen. Ideas may well have been *copied* and why not?

        Try telling that to the Federation Against Copyright Theft. In any case, the theft in question is religion’s tendency to pass off the work of other fields as though it were its own, as so amply demonstrated by the misunderstanding of religion and ethics which you yourself provided below. Some religions claim to be the (only) source of ethics, even though this claim is insubstantial at best. Not only does secular ethics exist, but the only unique thing religions can bring to the table is a mixture of arbitrary claims and “secular-in-disguise” ones. In other words, either someone else’s qualifications or none.

        • Posted March 21, 2016 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

          Yes, exactly that!

          /@

        • Michael 2
          Posted March 21, 2016 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

          reasonshark writes: “Try telling that to the Federation Against Copyright Theft.”

          I believe the argument has been abundantly made; I’m hardly the first with it.

          At any rate, were I inclined to waste more time than I do right here, that is what I would say.

          It is not the copying that is theft, copying is copying (duh). What is theft is the potential loss of revenue from the maker of the intellectual property in case any reasonable expectation existed for such revenue.

          That’s a type of “pre-crime” since no actual theft took place and the revenue loss cannot be enumerated.

          It is the nature of selfish humans to attempt to claim ownership of the commons; Microsoft for instance patenting the tab key method of navigating a web page. Is it theft to copy from the commons? No. But your mileage will vary if you put it in the commons or just wish to fleece the sheep.

      • Sastra
        Posted March 21, 2016 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        I would not agree that religion and philosophy have a “common ancestor” (unless you’re making a rather uninspired reference to “human nature” or something like that.) Theology, like science, is a subset of philosophy. A rather twisted subset, in that it ultimately sidesteps the Agora in favor of Special Revelation.

        By “stealing” I meant trying to lay an exclusive claim to something which extends far beyond its boundaries or origins. Reasonshark mentioned ethics, but I could also include things like “deep thinking,” “asking questions,” “finding meaning,” and exploring how to live a life worth living. Although those are basic philosophical issues, many defenses of religion pretend that these are all “religious” activities.

        Certainly they might be done from within the context of a religious world view, but they do not and did not arise out of religion. This tactic (conscious or no) marginalizes and demeans nonbelievers by fiat, as it were.

  20. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Re: the census of Caesar Augustus,

    Luke seems to be referring to the census of Quirinus. The exact words of Luke are “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.”

    Unfortunately this census took place 10 years after the death of King Herod in whose reign Luke places this event.

    • Michael 2
      Posted March 21, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      “Unfortunately this census took place 10 years after the death of King Herod in whose reign Luke places this event.”

      Not bad for writing from memory 70 years later (more or less).

  21. noncarborundum
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    They should also fix the misspelling in the first panel here.

    Not to mention the grammar. How does one participate “to” a truth? And “ourselves” is reflexive: science and theology can’t understand “ourselves”.

  22. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Savagnone and Briguglia.

    Reminds me for some reason of Salviati and Simplicio. Bat that didn’t go well…

    cr

    • Filippo
      Posted March 20, 2016 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

      And perhaps also Alphonse and Gaston.

      (Seems there’s another similar duo more or less contemporaries to A&G but I can’t remember the names.)

  23. Roger
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    “and the version offered by empirical science”

    Way to sound smart, obtuse smartypants theology people. Thanks for your version, empirical science, we will have Jesus consider your offer, lol.

  24. Posted March 21, 2016 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    Dio mio. Jesus Christ, it’s a romance language, already. How many gaffes can they cram on a page? Looks like Jack Chick still has no competition. (he’ll be 92 April 13th, God willing…)

    • Michael 2
      Posted March 21, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      “How many gaffes can they cram on a page?”

      Probably about 40. It depends on the font size.

  25. Posted March 21, 2016 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    Having read Medwar’s marvelous dismissal, I was immediately taken by how Teilhard’s tomb, I mean tome, is actually prototypical Woo, exactly of the Chopravian aroma. I wonder (though only very briefly) if Deepak has been influenced by Teilhard’s typing, if only via cosmological osmosis, of course…

    That said, I am extremely grateful for having been given the opportunity to read Medwar’s criticism. His discussion alone is an educational opportunity–and pure joy, to be sure–which I will be able to use as a standard against which to compare my own terribly inadequate attempts to expose similar nonsense. Thank you very much for this.

  26. wetbook71
    Posted March 21, 2016 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    I recently came across an accommodationist book called “Faithiest”. It describes a guy (the author) who became born again because he was “becoming aware of injustice”. Then after leaving behind the homophobia (he’s gay) of the born-again crowd, he reached out again to the religious because his disdain for them was “holding him back from engaging in meaningful work with people of faith”.

    Okay, so the guy initially joined a group he thought would put him in the fight against injustice, and now he still longs to do meaningful stuff in the world. That’s wonderful. But why does that impulse have to be about bridges between atheism and the religious? Since when do good works lie exclusively in the domain of religion? The entire premise of the book is a non sequitur: “hey people who want to do good in the world…if you happen to be atheist, go hang out with the subset of churchies that won’t hate on your gayness.” There’s no logical connection.

    • Michael 2
      Posted March 21, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      “Since when do good works lie exclusively in the domain of religion?”

      Because religion defines “good” or good defines religion (it is somewhat circular).

      Without religion, the goodness of your acts has no reference point; you might as well call everything you do, “good” and who has authority to say otherwise? Nobody.

      • reasonshark
        Posted March 21, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        Actually, the field you want is ethics, specifically metaethics, which has plenty of secular “reference points” debated through reasoned argument. Despite the claims of its apologists, religion is no more authoritative on ethics than it is on the life cycle of Australian termites.

        • Michael 2
          Posted March 21, 2016 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

          reasonshark writes: “religion is no more authoritative on ethics than it is on the life cycle of Australian termites.”

          Nor any less, I suppose. To a Catholic, the only source of ethics is the pope. To Muslims, your friendly neighborhood imam provides ethics guidance. Mormons look to a prophet in Salt Lake City.

          So who is your authority on “ethics”?

          • reasonshark
            Posted March 24, 2016 at 8:22 am | Permalink

            Nor any less, I suppose.

            It’s certainly true that there is no currently recognized science of morality, and it is also true that many people believe – for various reasons – that there couldn’t be one. Plenty would suggest, though, that ethics is under critical scrutiny and is at least as good as the fact claims it allies with. Since religious attempts at ethics often come with cosmological claims and claims about human beings, animals, etc., they are only as good as those claims.

            And on that front, science has a clear advantage. Even were one meta-ethically inclined to moral relativism, which you seem to be hinting at, this alone would provide a conspicuous stumbling block. No one, for instance, could claim morality from God in the absence of evidence that such a thing exists.

            So who is your authority on “ethics”?

            I don’t stick to or obey a “superior” dispensing commandments from on high. Ethics is just as much a matter of truth as science is, so I aim to treat them the same way. I consult works on ethics and meta-ethics in an attempt to learn what I can and (hopefully) apply critical thinking to the contents. I certainly pay attention to what philosophers say on the subject, if only because that’s a logical place to go to for information and arguments, but the “authority” is supposed to come from the rational case, not their position.

            Religious claims to any special prominence on the subject of ethics – especially meta-ethics – are misguided at best. That’s why they steal from the subject; they’re stealing its credibility and passing it off as their own.

            • Michael 2
              Posted March 24, 2016 at 10:32 am | Permalink

              “but the authority is supposed to come from the rational case, not their position.”

              Rational cases have no authority. I sense your meaning and would write it “Each person is his own authority on ethics, guided by reason or rationality.”

              I also sense a problem that different people with different weights of self vs group could arrive at very different ethics, each of which is rational by that persons’ judgment.

              I have a saying, latitude makes attitude, as a first approximation of selfism (equatorial) vs socialism (north of 40 degrees). In high latitudes socialism is necessary; farmers must be subsidized to a certain extent in the off seasons, dangers are abundant, you need doctors, intelligence, news, defense. But in the tropics with no meaningful seasons, a person can be a hunter year-round, farming doesn’t work particularly well although I’m not sure why not. In that setting, nations don’t exist except as lines on a map put there by Europeans. What exists are clans and within a clan well-established hierarchy and genealogy, between clans endless war.

              The ethics of an Omo river tribe will be one thing; Hamar and Kara typically recognize you are a man when you’ve killed three other men (the enemy of course) for which they mark themselves as badges of honor. Ethics in Sweden will be quite different and in its realm entirely appropriate.

              Now take that Swede and Kara and plop them both as immigrants in Topeka and see what happens. Each will see the other as uncivilized.

              This thing called “god” works best when least defined. Muslims and Mormons both believe in “God” if you don’t demand much in the way of detail. You can achieve quite a bit of common ethics if you cite something nebulous; but as soon as it becomes specific you start having problems.

              Mitt Romney would likely have been President of the US except that he’s a Mormon; I suspect more atheists voted for him than any member of any other religion. To an evangelical or charismatic branch he is the enemy. To an atheist, merely misguided or deluded.

              • reasonshark
                Posted March 24, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

                Rational cases have no authority. I sense your meaning and would write it “Each person is his own authority on ethics, guided by reason or rationality.”

                No. I mean what I say: the “authority” comes from the strength of the argument, not as some weird aura emanating from who’s making it. The soundness or invalidity of an ethical position has nothing to do with who makes it, any more than the answer for 1+1=? depends on who is involved. It answers to the same demands as any rational inquiry: no arbitrariness, no untrue statements, requires coherence, correspondence to the real world and what we know about that, and so on. It makes no difference if it’s put forwards by an Aboriginal Australian or a New York bank manager. If it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, then that’s simply too bad. It is what it is.

                I also sense a problem that different people with different weights of self vs group could arrive at very different ethics, each of which is rational by that persons’ judgment.

                That various people have various normative ethics is one thing, but that’s not the same as a comprehensive meta-ethics, which examines the unstated assumptions behind any particular system. In any case, differences of opinion don’t by themselves counter my point about the need for rationality. If there are different “weights”, then they can’t all be true unless some relevant local differences justify them, in which case you only have to offer those conditionalities up for scrutiny, not conceal it under an opaque “judgement call”.

      • Posted March 21, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        Yet some things that one religions says are good, other religions say are bad.

        Who has the authority to say which religion is right?

        /@

        • Michael 2
          Posted March 21, 2016 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

          Ant: “Who has the authority to say which religion is right?”

          The leaders of organized religions make that determination for their subscribers. You choose for you.

          “Right” in this context seems a bit fuzzy. There’s a mixture of “oughts” and “is” in any religion. The “is” is descriptive and the “oughts” are prescriptive. Catholicism has a lot of “ought” and not much “is”, Mormons have more “is” and less “ought” (for example).

          • Posted March 22, 2016 at 1:51 am | Permalink

            So it boils down to a matter of human choice not divine truth? You’re pretty much admitting that religions are just made up.

            /@

            • Michael 2
              Posted March 22, 2016 at 9:40 am | Permalink

              Ant “So it boils down to a matter of human choice not divine truth? You’re pretty much admitting that religions are just made up.”

              It would have been quicker/easier just to ask.

              Of course religions are “made up”. So are anti-religions, the Boy Scouts and every other group that now exists or ever existed.

              Religion becomes a group with a purpose. Greenpeace is a group with a purpose. Communist Party of the USA is a group with a purpose.

              By “made up” I presume you mean fictional. That, as with global warming, is a thing that may require more proof than is immediately available and must be taken on faith.

              The truth of global warming’s catastrophic potential won’t be known for hundreds of years.

              The truth of any particular religion won’t be known until you are dead or until Armageddon or whatever.

              • Posted March 22, 2016 at 10:46 am | Permalink

                Boy Scouts, Greenpeace and communists don’t make truth claims that are inconsistent with the findings of physics!

                You’re really very ignorant if you think those last two things are on anything like the same footing.

                /@

              • Michael 2
                Posted March 22, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

                Ant writes: “You’re really very ignorant if you think those last two things are on anything like the same footing.”

                You clearly do not understand the implications of some aspects of the theory of relativity. There is no privileged frame of reference in the universe.

                Each group that instantiates itself also instantiates the rules by which it is judged. It is inappropriate to use physics to judge the Boy Scouts or a religion; it is inappropriate to use religious principles to judge physics.

                Obviously you can achieve any judgment you wish by choosing the system of judgment that will match a judgment you have already made.

                So who uses a system of belief to judge other systems of belief? Well, religions usually do that, and so do you. Another parallel is hereby demonstrated.

                I accept that all systems of belief assert their own validity and challenge or deny the validity of all other systems of belief. An exception to that rule would be rather odd.

              • Posted March 22, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

                As I have a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, I think I can claim to have a good understanding of the theories of relativity (special and general) and their implication.

                Your trying to apply it here is simply bogus.

                I never suggested using physics to judge Boy Scouts, only that we should use science to adjudicate truth claims about the universe, as it is the only system that has yielded meaningful and convergent answers. As religions do make truth claims about the universe, science can inevitably be used to judge those claims (and find them, mostly, false).

                /@

              • Michael 2
                Posted March 22, 2016 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

                Ant writes: “we should use science to adjudicate truth claims about the universe”

                Agreed, more or less ignoring some nuances.

                Jesus would probably say: “Render unto physics that which is physical.”

                What he is reported to have said was that his kingdom is not of this world. The realm of religion and the realm of physics ought not to overlap and to me they don’t.

                A slightly more meaningful question then becomes whether anything exists beyond the reach of physics? for you, probably not. For me it is a bit more complicated. I doubt there is much that can be detected on demand. It is like a virtualized computer. The host knows all about the virtual guest computer, but the guest computer knows nothing about the host nor does it have much in the way of means to detect the existence of the host since all methods of detection are also virtualized.

                Clock jitter is the only way I can think to properly discern the existence of virtualization if the guest is swapped out sometimes.

                When I was about 12 years old my sister was complaining about her girlfriend thinking a particular song over and over and it was annoying my sister. That was an extraordinary claim to make so I went in the house and called her friend and asked her to stop thinking that song, but instead think something else. Then I went outside and asked my sister to relay the thought her friend was now thinking. It was an actual sentence in English and she had it perfectly. This was in the mid 1960’s, no micro-electronics and such geeks as existed in my household was me and electronics in that time was 12AX7 twin triodes (my favorite). I think the transistor radio had just come into existence and was a really big deal.

                So anyway I spent a couple of years trying to replicate this phenomenon with anyone else with zero success but it worked consistently with my sister and her friend.

                So I use the word “god” as sort of a place-keeper since really there’s quite a lot out there that you won’t find in a physics book.

              • Posted March 23, 2016 at 2:56 am | Permalink

                Ah. So you’re just another Gappist. Enough said.

                /@

      • Sastra
        Posted March 21, 2016 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

        What gives religion its authority to define “good?” And how would one establish the moral authority of God? And what does it mean to say God is “good?” According to what and whose standard do we measure by, in order to answer those very significant questions?

        Bottom line, we define “good.” You, me, and everyone else — by finding and using what we can agree on. And if you say there’s nothing we can agree on, then not even God can make a reference point. You really can’t skip all the philosophical work. Neither can religion.

        • Michael 2
          Posted March 21, 2016 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

          Sastra wrote “What gives religion its authority to define good?”

          A social contract between leader and followers.

          “And how would one establish the moral authority of God?”

          As you have discerned, a human representative claiming to speak for God. It may be true but the actual truth of it is not usually known or knowable. Where it matters, God can tell you himself, more economically by simply certifying one of the claims as being more legitimate and correct.

          “And what does it mean to say God is good?”

          It is a definition. God is that which is good. Good is that which comes from God. There’s a certain amount of circularity.

          “According to what and whose standard do we measure by, in order to answer those very significant questions?”

          Whoever is your moral authority. Your morals may vary (YMMV).

          “Bottom line, we define good.”

          There is no WE.

          “And if you say there’s nothing we can agree on, then not even God can make a reference point.”

          Actually, I said there is no “we”, not in a universal sense. You and I might sit at a picnic table and develop a social contract. Its utility would be somewhat limited. But if I was Caesar or Alexander, then I can impose right and wrong on a very large number of people.

          The problem is that Caesar’s die.

          Rosseau explains that you need a Caesar that doesn’t die. Then you need a spokesman. Then a billion or so people that believe the spokesman cannot lie.

          The result is civilization — shared social values. Remove shared social values and in a few generations civilization is no longer civilized.

          • Posted March 22, 2016 at 1:49 am | Permalink

            Reading between the lines, you’re pretty much making Sastra’s arguments for her.

            The only point you’re tripping up on is “there is no we”, as there clearly is – even in /your/ argument: the spokesman and the billion or so people that believe the spokesman cannot lie.

            /@

          • Sastra
            Posted March 22, 2016 at 9:40 am | Permalink

            “What gives religion its authority to define good?”
            A social contract between leader and followers.

            If the religion is deemed to be less than good, is there a right to refuse the contract — or sue the leader?

            I think you are going to have a very hard time trying to blend social contract theory with the Divine Right of the King to Rule.

            “And what does it mean to say God is good?”

            It is a definition. God is that which is good. Good is that which comes from God. There’s a certain amount of circularity.

            Well, yeah. Sure is. Your “certain amount of circularity” spins this entire argument out of control.

            You can’t justify something or someone as “good” just by definition — not unless you’re coming up with synonyms for a thesaurus. Doing this requires digging down into the nature of “good” before we get into the nature of “God.” You’re going to have to come up with appealing ethical qualities God may or may not have and we’d have to first figure out if we also find those qualities appealing or moral and then we’d have to evaluate and debate over whether or not God exhibits those characteristics in its behavior. We’re rationally forced to measure God by a standard we ALREADY have.

            And we’re not even addressing yet whether it exists or not, or who knows about it better than other people. Do you think that part is easier? Getting agreement, I mean.

            And since you’re trying to establish God as a universal moral authority your claim that “There is no WE” is god-shattering. If there is no common shared understanding of what is “good” then there is no possible way God can be universally understood as “good.”

            The only objective basis you’re left with is power — the ability to enforce a command. Might makes right. It ain’t wrong if you don’t get caught. Lovely.

            But if I was Caesar or Alexander, then I can impose right and wrong on a very large number of people.

            The problem is that Caesar’s die. Rosseau explains that you need a Caesar that doesn’t die.

            Stop that. Seriously. Wtf. You’re not talking about establishing a society which IS moral. You’re only talking about the high ability of a theocracy to maintain order by indoctrination, fear, and force.

            And what might be moral or immoral within this society? Anything the majority — or the people in power — says God says. And that can be anything at all, including torturing infants for amusement or slaughtering left-handed people on alternate Thursdays. I daresay neither one of us thinks that efficiency in “keeping people in line, any line” is the measure of a civilized civilization. Iirc Rousseau was more of a Romantic than a humanist.

            If we’re seeking “shared values” we will have to find them in our human nature, together, through heavy discussion and exploration. They can’t be magically created by groups of people invoking the mighty fist of some arbitrary supernatural dictator which is defined into a goodness which hangs on nothing.

            I do not know if you believe in God or not. It wouldn’t matter. Technically speaking, God’s existence has nothing to do with your moral argument. Belief in God is being used as a handy tool to achieve conformity. Big deal, we knew that, it gets us nowhere. Power politics. That’s not even scratching the surface of the nature of ethics, or good and evil, or right and wrong.

            • Michael 2
              Posted March 22, 2016 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

              Sastra wrote “If the religion is deemed to be less than good, is there a right to refuse the contract — or sue the leader?”

              In the United States, yes. Elsewhere your mileage will vary.

              “I think you are going to have a very hard time trying to blend social contract theory with the Divine Right of the King to Rule.”

              The contract exists between the King and his innermost circle and the King and pope (the “king makers”). They swear oaths of allegiance.

              “Your certain amount of circularity spins this entire argument out of control.”

              It also means you can get on or off at any place like a free trolley.

              “You can’t justify something or someone as good just by definition”

              It can be no other way. Good is a WORD. It is easy to say God is Good and vice versa; it is just as easy to say God is evil. Google it: About 355,000 results. God is libertarian: About 8,300 results. God is good: About 23,600,000 results

              Well, there you have it. Google has spoken, God is Good.

              http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=good

              good (adj.) Old English god (with a long “o”) “excellent, fine; valuable; desirable, favorable, beneficial; full, entire, complete;” [and quite a bit more]

              Sense of “kind, benevolent” is from late Old English in reference to persons or God, from mid-14c. of actions.

              “And since you’re trying to establish God as a universal moral authority your claim that There is no WE is god-shattering.”

              Consider Polaris, the North Star. Is it really the north star? No. it has no idea that it is the north star. There’s nothing special about that star other than its happenstance location more or less above the north pole.

              It does not need to know that it is a guide. So it is with God. He does not need to know how people are using his name as a reference point.

              “If there is no common shared understanding of what is good then there is no possible way God can be universally understood as good.”

              Quite right. Good is not universal therefore neither is God, since they are inseparably connected by definition.

              “The only objective basis you’re left with is power — the ability to enforce a command. Might makes right.”

              It always comes down to force.

              “You’re only talking about the high ability of a theocracy to maintain order by indoctrination, fear, and force.”

              Exactly. You are not here to argue about my personal feelings about why birds fly.

              “And what might be moral or immoral within this society? Anything the majority — or the people in power — says God says. And that can be anything at all, including torturing infants for amusement or slaughtering left-handed people on alternate Thursdays.”

              Indeed. Scary. A friend of mine was shot at in Pennsylvania just for being a Mormon.

              Do you suppose secular forces cannot do likewise?

              Global warmists have called for imprisonment and even execution for global warming deniers, citing science, the modern god.

              But you might argue that scientists would never do such a thing. Well, they haven’t had much opportunity. German scientists killed a great many people in their experiments and to advance eugenics. Google “john holdren population control”

              “I daresay neither one of us thinks that efficiency in keeping people in line, any line is the measure of a civilized civilization.”

              It is near the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy. If people won’t work together you have no society, and if you have no society you probably do not have civilization. I don’t have a specific measure of civilization but hot and cold running water, electricity and flush toilets certainly count.

              “If we’re seeking shared values we will have to find them in our human nature, together, through heavy discussion and exploration.”

              I almost agree with every word. I have seen through my Navy career that many forces exist pushing people apart. Humans do not naturally try to get along or seek shared values. (some do, most don’t). Diversity and inclusion means “my color and culture”.

              Christianity distills to three words: “Love your neighbor”. It is the greatest command by virtue of also being most difficult and uncommon.

              “I do not know if you believe in God or not.”

              As you use the word, probably not. As I use the word it is certain.

              “It wouldn’t matter. Technically speaking, God’s existence has nothing to do with your moral argument.”

              Yes. Morality ought to be able to stand on several legs, a leg of religion or a leg of reason (maybe other legs).

              “Belief in God is being used as a handy tool to achieve conformity.”

              Yes. I believe it is the best tool ever used.

              “it gets us nowhere.”

              It got some people to the MOON.

              But it is a nuanced view. Religions that propose “predestination” inhibit personal responsibility, risk taking and adventure.

              But religions that preach free agency and opportunity (Mormonism) lead to entrepreneurship. No barriers were created especially for you!

              • Sastra
                Posted March 22, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

                Good is not universal therefore neither is God, since they are inseparably connected by definition.

                They can’t be inseparably connected by definition since “God is evil” is coherent. And if you are NOT claiming that only God can set a universal standard then I wish you’d explain what you meant above when you said “Without religion, the goodness of your acts has no reference point; you might as well call everything you do, “good” and who has authority to say otherwise? Nobody.”

                It seems that now you’re agreeing that even with religion the goodness of our acts has no real reference point, for God would or could have no more moral authority than anyone or anything else, ethically speaking. It’s a tool to enforce whatever people want to enforce… and that’s fine with you, apparently.

                I’m not sure you’ve thought that one through. Especially since you speak fondly of things like personal responsibility and scornfully of things like one group killing another. The goodness of YOUR goodness has more reference points than other ways of saying “good.”

                Christianity distills to three words: “Love your neighbor”. It is the greatest command by virtue of also being most difficult and uncommon.

                Bushwah. “Love one another” is found in many religions and philosophies, before and since. If you’re happy throwing out all the stuff about Jesus, salvation, atonement, and God and calling that “Christianity” then it seems to me your view lacks some serious ‘nuance.’

                Ditto, I suspect, with “God.” Like Humpty Dumpty, when you use a word, it means just what you choose it to mean — neither more nor less. Until it changes to suit some other purpose. Which brings us right back to the original complaint regarding equivocation.

                You’ve trumped us atheists! No, not THAT meaning. I mean you sound like Donald Trump.

              • Michael 2
                Posted March 22, 2016 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

                I think I’ve pretty well worn out this thread so I’ll answer your questions but after this I might not.

                Sastra wrote “And if you are NOT claiming that only God can set a universal standard then I wish you’d explain…”

                I emphasize the word set in your sentence. I have not declared that God has set (commanded, invoked, established) anything, never mind making it universal.

                Leaders of most religions set moral standards and *might* claim God as their source but most deny the existence of revelation (and thus might as well deny the existence of God). It is possible that one of these leaders or prophets really does represent God’s will, and if there’s a God, and he cares, then there will indeed be one or many voices speaking for God. But if theres a god, then there’s the opposite polarity, also speaking contrariwise. I can sympathize with the simple life of an atheist saying “a pox on all of your houses!”

                Since it is impossible for you to know who actually heard words from God and who did not, I accept that no duty attaches to you to make that determination.

                “It seems that now you’re agreeing that even with religion the goodness of our acts has no real reference point.”

                Globally that is correct but within the scope or realm of a particular church (instantiation of a religion) then goodness is very much defined. If you are a Catholic, then specific behaviors are sin. If you are Anglican, then sin is recalculated fairly often; if a thing is sinful today come back next week or next year and see if it is still a sin or has been advanced to celebration.

                “for God would or could have no more moral authority than anyone or anything else, ethically speaking.”

                His realm is not here and his cost/benefit ratio is not for here. It is a contract, a social contract. Because he owns heaven, he can do whatever he likes with it and establish whatever contract with you that are mutually acceptable.

                The great command is “love your neighbor”. If you do that, the rest pretty much takes care of itself and you have fulfilled a contract. If not, then not. You might still find eternal happiness but you are off contract at that point.

                “It’s a tool to enforce whatever people want to enforce… and that’s fine with you, apparently.”

                Fineness is irrelevant. Effectiveness is relevant. Many tools exist but tend to have limited effectiveness. Ridicule works on sheep because they fear being ejected from the herd. It is not effective on libertarians that don’t want to be in the herd.

                “I’m not sure you’ve thought that one through. Especially since you speak fondly of things like personal responsibility and scornfully of things like one group killing another.”

                That didn’t make a lot of sense; hopefully it wasn’t the most important part of your writing. But yes, one makes his own bed, figuratively speaking.

                “Bushwah. Love one another is found in many religions and philosophies, before and since.”

                Glad to hear it. What is Bushwah? Are you asserting that Christianity does NOT distill to “love your neighbor?” I have asserted no principle of exclusivity or even originality, although it does seem to have taken the Jews by surprise.

                “If you’re happy throwing out all the stuff about Jesus, salvation, atonement, and God and calling that Christianity then it seems to me your view lacks some serious nuance.”

                You have it backwards. I have defined only the Great Commandment of Christianity. That’s hardly all there is to it; but beyond that you enter a morass of confusion and conflict among the 7000 or so denominations of Christianity, little or none of it belonging on this website.

                “Like Humpty Dumpty, when you use a word, it means just what you choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

                He’s my pedantic hero. I hope someday to be able to believe six impossible things before breakfast.

              • Posted March 23, 2016 at 3:56 am | Permalink

                “I hope someday to be able to believe six impossible things before breakfast.”

                That was the White Queen, not Humpty Dumpty. Your knowledge of Lewis seems as poor as your understanding of Sean.

                /@

              • Filippo
                Posted March 22, 2016 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

                “I have seen through my Navy career that many forces exist pushing people apart. Humans do not naturally try to get along or seek shared values.”

                Hence the apparent necessity, in the U.S. military, of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (Navy veteran myself.)

              • Posted March 23, 2016 at 2:49 am | Permalink

                “It also means you can get on or off at any place like a free trolley.”

                Well, it’s clear by now that you’re off yours.

                /@

                >

              • Sastra
                Posted March 23, 2016 at 8:45 am | Permalink

                I was going to let you have the last word on this thread but I’m afraid you said something which startled me a bit. You needn’t answer, that’s fine, but this:

                Leaders of most religions set moral standards and *might* claim God as their source but most deny the existence of revelation (and thus might as well deny the existence of God).

                Is confusing. I can’t think of any religions which deny the existence of revelation, that God (or the spiritual equivalent) revealed or reveals itself through a sacred text, mystical experiences, ritual practices, and/or the contemplation of nature. In fact, special revelation helps to distinguish a religion from a non-religion, which is why there are disagreements at the fuzzy borders, such as secular Buddhism. Thus religions and spiritual world views proudly base their authority on the authenticity of their revelation.

                So thank you for making a claim which is new to me.

              • Michael 2
                Posted March 23, 2016 at 9:33 am | Permalink

                Sastra wrote “I can’t think of any religions which deny the existence of revelation, that God (or the spiritual equivalent) revealed or reveals itself through a sacred text, mystical experiences, ritual practices, and/or the contemplation of nature.”

                I use the word, revelation, as an active, modern, imparting of knowledge (verbal or gestalt sudden understanding), direct from something invisible (god, angel, holy ghost, martians, etc) to you or me. It helps if the information is meaningful or useful and distinct, in other words, cannot have been gotten any other way.

                Islam expressly denies such revelation after Mohammad. Catholics haven’t ever had a prophet, seer or revelator (what such things had been called in the Judeo-Christian traditions). Modern Christians generally speak of a nebulous “priesthood of members” or something like that.

                When a voice told me, “change lanes now”, and I did and avoided a headon collision, that was a revelation. It was immediate, necessary and easily seen to be important in the real world and not just navel-gazing.

                When a voice said, “turn around, ** needs you”, that turned out to be unique, immediate and important. His daughter had just been in an automobile accident.

                I make no claim to know exactly who or what spoke to me. But something did.

                Inductive logic proposes I should seek instances where I have had such a voice and nothing happened. But there is no such event. I keep pretty meticulous records of my life. This voice happened only three times and two I have mentioned pertained to saving my life, providing service to another. The third was just for me.

                Lesser things I call inspiration rather than revelation. They are common and not easily attributed to anything. I appreciate inspirations but do not consider them particularly metaphysical.

  27. Michael 2
    Posted March 21, 2016 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    “science utterly rejects faith.”

    Your science is not my science. My science says nothing at all about faith. Faith obviously exists. People have it. It is real.

    When I am in the mountains, should it happen I get lost, find a creek and follow it down. In the mountain west all creeks lead to civilization. I have faith in that proposition even though I have not tested it by following all creeks out of mountains.

    My faith says nothing about science. Avogadro’s Number is nowhere in my scripture. Neither is the Stephan-Boltzmann equation, Weins Displacement Law or Lorentz Transformation. Neither, for that matter, is denial of these things part of my faith or scripture.

    I don’t even have to put them in separate compartments. A few things, yes, have to stay in separate compartments; things that tend not to be particularly important to me (but might be to others).

    • reasonshark
      Posted March 21, 2016 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Your science is not my science.

      It’s not a question of “your” or “my” science. Science is science, and making claims based on “faith” is not recognized scientific methodology because it isn’t a rational (or even a reliable) means of obtaining information. Faith is antithetical to science’s raison d’etre.

      Faith obviously exists. People have it. It is real.

      This is a strange “rebuttal”. For one thing, Jerry never said it didn’t exist. “Science rejects faith” means pretty much what I said in the previous paragraph, and it wasn’t exactly obscure from context.

      I have faith in that proposition

      Religious faith and probabilistic, pragmatic guesswork are two different things. House sparrows don’t have faith that the next hedgerow they search will contain caterpillars; they search a likely looking place because it’d be pointless to search a window or a ditch in a field, and if they get a caterpillar then the gamble pays off. People – if they’re not entertaining delusions – try to minimize the amount of guesswork in their lives while simultaneously having to work around it for practical reasons. We don’t experiment with every possible causal hypothesis that occurs to us for the simple pragmatic reason that we couldn’t even if we were able and willing to do so.

      Religious faith, by contrast, is a prearranged commitment to stick to its cosmological, ethical, and philosophical teachings, come what may. It is, by its nature, biased thinking that minimizes the role of skepticism, possibly with a feel-good connotation associated with it, which raises the question what place a “faith” or a “scripture” even has in this discussion.

      • Michael 2
        Posted March 21, 2016 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

        reasonshark wrote: “It’s not a question of your or my science. Science is science”

        Sometimes I wish I had your simple mind. The best definition of science is “science is what scientists do.” Other than that it seems to lack a universal definition. Perhaps you would like to add to the noise and contribute your definition below…

        “Faith is antithetical to science’s raison d’etre.”

        On the contrary. Without faith in the scientific method who would undertake science?
        Science turns faith into knowledge!

        “Religious faith and probabilistic, pragmatic guesswork are two different things.”

        I appreciate your nuanced view of the word. Probabilistic, pragmatic guessword is almost exactly my definition of faith.

        “We don’t experiment with every possible causal hypothesis that occurs to us for the simple pragmatic reason that we couldn’t even if we were able and willing to do so.”

        I believe that is called “Bacon’s Problem” and is a fundamental problem with inductive logic.

        “Religious faith, by contrast, is a prearranged commitment to stick to its cosmological, ethical, and philosophical teachings, come what may.”

        The word faith does not have this connotation for me. I don’t have a single word that corresponds to your description but I think I know what you mean; a belief that cannot be dislodged and has no particular reason to be there in the first place.

        In my religion, faith has two prongs: (1) things hoped for and (2) based on evidence of things not seen. There does have to be some sort of evidence. Science does not deal in “hope” but modern science includes a lot of evidence of things not seen.

        • reasonshark
          Posted March 24, 2016 at 7:56 am | Permalink

          “The best definition of science is “science is what scientists do.”

          Find anywhere where I’ve said as such, and I’ll find a user stuffing words into other people’s mouths. My point is that you can play with semantics and raise hermeneutic uses of possessive determiners all you like. When there isn’t a mechanism in scientific methodology for discovering truth via blind faith (the adjective, I should note, is redundant), then you don’t get to divide the subject into “my” and “your” version of it any more than you get “your” 1+1=48 and “my” 1+1=2.

          ” Probabilistic, pragmatic guessword is almost exactly my definition of faith.”

          When you’re done playing around with semantics, perhaps you’ll note that faith in a god is simply unwarranted bias towards an idea on the meagrest of evidence. Confusing it with what I’ve described as probabilistic, pragmatic guesswork is little more than an attempt to borrow unearned credibility for what are essentially arbitrary and baseless claims.

          “On the contrary. Without faith in the scientific method who would undertake science?
          Science turns faith into knowledge!”

          You don’t have faith in the scientific method. It works. It works for logical reasons that can be laid out and scrutinized; the need to compare with a control group, for instance, minimizes the possibility of confusing correlation with causation. It takes a lot of care and scrutiny to make sure its practice adheres to those resulting principles. If there were problems with the methods, then they would be replaced. Levels of uncertainty and speculation need to be noted, not celebrated. And there is no place in the procedure for faith.

          Besides, you’re confusing faith with ignorance. Neither one is some cosy buddy with science any more than disease is to medicine, though if you want to argue that faith and ignorance are problems to be reduced, I won’t stop you.

          and is a fundamental problem with inductive logic.

          If you start with nothing on your slate, perhaps. The converse is that the more radical your claim, the stronger the evidence needs to be to reduce ambiguity, aka “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.

          In my religion, faith has two prongs: (1) things hoped for

          If this is meant to be an epistemological point, then it’s wishful thinking and not something to boast about. It should be apparent that, however much you want something to be so, that has no effect on the truthfulness of that state of affairs except in the case of self-fulfilling prophecies, and even then there’s a big difference between:

          a) wanting to lose weight, and thus losing weight, and

          b) thinking you’re lightweight when you’re not, and over time that belief resulting in actual weight loss.

          The first one is, in any case, a transparently secular and mundane phenomenon. I hope it won’t rain, but it’ll rain one way or the other. I hope to get my pay on time, but my calling the office to check it’s coming is an action intended to get results, not a consequence of a faith in that proposition. And so on. It’s not scientific methodology for the simple reason it’s not a methodology at all, at least speaking epistemologically.

          If you can’t tell the difference between the two scenarios, I can’t help you.

          and (2) based on evidence of things not seen.

          Which religious believers only think they have. As do ufologists, alternative medicine apologists, astrologists, 9/11 truthers, and creationists. The frank matter is that the evidence doesn’t, metaphorically speaking, stand up in court.

          In any case, as you yourself point out, evidence of unseen phenomena is hardly unheard of in science. There are tight standards when it comes to investigating them, though, so religions certainly don’t pass muster there. I suspect your “evidence” wouldn’t fare any better.

          • Michael 2
            Posted March 24, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

            “you don’t get to divide the subject into my and your version of it any more than you get your 1+1=48 and my 1+1=2.”

            Says who? you?

            I say 1 + 1 = 10

            There’s 10 kinds of people in the world, those that understand binary and those that don’t.

            But yes, for me to claim 1+1=48 would be a bit of a stretch. It is certainly my right as a free expression of speech.

          • Michael 2
            Posted March 24, 2016 at 10:46 am | Permalink

            “Which religious believers only think they have.”

            And you only think they do not.

            I love it when arguments become symmetrical!

            “The frank matter is that the evidence doesn’t, metaphorically speaking, stand up in court.”

            Actually it does. You refer to testimony of witnesses. That is pretty much all there will ever be for a transient phenomenon.

            “so religions certainly don’t pass muster there.”

            Agreed. I do not attempt to apply science to religion, or religion to science. Either seems doomed to failure.

            • reasonshark
              Posted March 24, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

              And you only think they do not.

              Well, if a sound argument is ever put forwards in their favour, I may think otherwise. The symmetry you revel in, akin to your proud flaunting of innumeracy as a “counterpoint” above, is shallow at best, insubstantial at worst.

              Actually it does.

              See above.

              You refer to testimony of witnesses. That is pretty much all there will ever be for a transient phenomenon.

              “Metaphorically” in this context means that the court reference was not a reference to the testimony of witnesses, but to a process of critical scrutiny. In any case, given the multitude of cognitive and social and cultural biases, it wouldn’t stand up to much even if it were. Witness, for example, the multitude of books on Near-Death Experiences, and how often (on this blog, for example), the claims of someone like Ben Carson are overreaching, potentially confused, and occasionally altered in the telling. “Testimony” is one of the weakest forms of evidence.

              Agreed. I do not attempt to apply science to religion, or religion to science. Either seems doomed to failure.

              Not because they are “different ways of knowing”, though. To pick an obvious example, Christianity is based on the claim that a historical figure called Jesus Christ was in some way significantly related to a monotheistic deity – Son of God and so on – rather than a normal human preacher. For this to be the case, there must be plausible evidence for the existence of said deity, evidence for its ability to intrude on the human world at all, much less so dramatically, and a coherent theoretical framework uniting both these ideas and the current understanding of physics and cosmology.

              This is not something that can be honestly walled off from science. Even outside the designated realm of science – say, the much broader realm of secular philosophy, including humanities like history and literature – such claims are arbitrary and unfounded because they still come under the scrutiny – and thus the standards – of rational inquiry, just as science does. Walling religion off from science is, in this case, a confession that the whole thing is vacuous.

            • reasonshark
              Posted March 24, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

              That is pretty much all there will ever be for a transient phenomenon.

              Scientific methods are perfectly applicable to historical events and items (most obviously in archaeological findings and various dating methods), so “transient phenomena” don’t get off the hook so easily. In any case, trying to defend a witness’ claim this way is on par with invoking the Appeal to Ignorance; it is not evidence for the phenomenon. And when the claim is so extraordinary, it’s outright gullible to take it at face value. The very notion of providing evidence for anything by it would be rendered meaningless in the face of every possible claim one could make this way.

    • Posted March 21, 2016 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

      “My faith says nothing about science.”

      It’s very easy to find examples of science that are not incompatible with faith or scripture. But the closer science gets to the fundamentals of biology and cosmology the harder it is to avoid those incompatibilities (if one properly understands the implications; see, for example, Sean Carroll’s talk at Skepticon 5).

      /@

      • Michael 2
        Posted March 21, 2016 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

        Ant writes: “the closer science gets to the fundamentals of biology and cosmology the harder it is to avoid those incompatibilities.”

        So it seems.

    • Sastra
      Posted March 21, 2016 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      I have faith in that proposition even though I have not tested it by following all creeks out of mountains.

      Ah, but you do not have a religious faith in that proposition.

      If you did, you could follow a creek down a mountain for a thousand miles, stand all alone in the wilderness, and solemnly redefine what you meant by “civilization.” Yes! It’s true! It worked!

      It can’t fail; only you can fail. You fail when you give up and admit a mistake in the proposition.

      That’s the conflict between faith and science. There’s no conflict, of course, between faith and pseudoscience. One informs the other in a positive interaction.

      • Michael 2
        Posted March 21, 2016 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

        Sastra “Ah, but you do not have a religious faith in that proposition.”

        And if I did, then what? keep adding adjectives in front of “faith” until I agree with you?

        I have described how I view the word “faith”. Your mileage may vary.

        • Posted March 22, 2016 at 1:40 am | Permalink

          And does your faith in God have the same basis as your faith in creeks (which, whatever you say, is grounded in experience and your understanding of physics and physical & human geography — water flows down hill, creeks flow into larger water courses, humans frequently settle by water courses)?

          /@

        • Sastra
          Posted March 22, 2016 at 8:46 am | Permalink

          Our general complaint is that the religious regularly equivocate on the word “faith” so that the extreme version piggybacks towards credibility by riding on the back of the trivial interpretation.

          Because this is the issue, “how (you personally) view the word ‘faith'” is germane. All the little visions of faith are rapidly running around in circles colliding into each other causing accidents.

          • Michael 2
            Posted March 22, 2016 at 9:05 am | Permalink

            Sastra wrote “Our general complaint is that the religious…”

            Our? You persistently use “we” and “our” suggesting not only membership in a group, but authorized to be speaking for it, either by appointment or you are its leader. That does not seem very different from a religion.

            As for me, I do not speak for “the religious” and I doubt any description can be made about “the religious” that does not also apply to you (but it would be fun to see if it is so).

            “Because this is the issue, how you personally view the word faith is germane”

            Yes, that is true of every word I use, and every word you use.

            • Sastra
              Posted March 22, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

              You persistently use “we” and “our” suggesting not only membership in a group, but authorized to be speaking for it, either by appointment or you are its leader.

              No, someone using words like “we” and “our” doesn’t suggest that there has been some sort of formal election. Many atheists, including Dr. Jerry Coyne who runs this website, are frustrated by theists equivocating on the word “faith.” He’s written on the topic many times. It’s in his book. It’s a common theme among those who comment — and those who don’t. It’s a common complaint among most (not all) atheists, those who do not identify as “people of Faith” and suddenly find themselves stripped of hope, trust, persistence, and the right to believe anything at all. Go figure.

              That does not seem very different from a religion.

              Or a political party, or a poetry-reading society, or a petting zoo. This point is not persuasive.

              • Michael 2
                Posted March 22, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

                Sastra wrote “Or a political party, or a poetry-reading society, or a petting zoo. This point is not persuasive.”

                By Jove, I think you’ve got it! One {club, group, association, etc} {denouncing, deprecating, ridiculing} another, seeking improved food, shelter and breeding rights thereby.

            • Posted March 22, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

              « I doubt any description can be made about “the religious” that does not also apply to you »

              How about: “Believe in truth claims about the nature of the universe and humanity’s place within it that are inconsistent with the findings of science.” /@

              • Michael 2
                Posted March 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

                Ant writes: “How about: Believe in truth claims about the nature of the universe and humanity’s place within it that are inconsistent with the findings of science.”

                Nice try, but no gas. Your definition must pertain to all religious people, the common denominator, and still exclude you. Remember to include Shinto, Buddhism and Confucianism and doubtless several hundred others.

                It’s a fool’s errand I’ll admit but why not try?

                Many people worship science but know little about it. They have faith that this thing called “science” brings happiness and joy, solves problems and could soon bring eternal life by solving the problem of telomeres. The priesthood of “science” consists of “scientists” whose work must not be questioned on pain of being labeled a denier and shunned by the believers. The only persons permitted to define science are the scientists; as perfectly self-serving as you can imagine.

                Nor is this situation binary. My grandmother had just as much faith in the government to bring happiness and solve problems. When I joined the Navy and was thus “with the government” she was extremely proud.

                The choices of what to believe and who to accept as your authority are many. These choices seem more similar than they are different insofar as activating parts of your brain; choosing a magnet and clamping tightly to it, resisting efforts to move you to a different magnet, ridiculing everyone that has chosen a different magnet.

              • Posted March 22, 2016 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

                Ah, you didn’t define religion. I was following A. G. Grayling’s definition. Too bad for you.

                But my statement is true for any life-stance, “religious” (in Grayling’s sense) or not, that includes a belief in reincarnation, for example.

                What’s more Shinto has its kami and so on, and many kinds of Buddhism (e.g., Tibetan) also have their gods.

                OTOH, Confucianism is a system of philosophical and ethical-sociopolitical teachings and Zen Buddhism is also primarily a philosophy (a point that is stressed by proponents such as Alan Watts).

                Your view of science, and scientists, is lamentably naïve.

                /@

              • Michael 2
                Posted March 22, 2016 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

                Ant writes: “Your view of science, and scientists, is lamentably naive.”

                Thank you. I try to keep it simple but such things can be as complicated as you wish.

  28. Jerry Tarone
    Posted March 21, 2016 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Why is the human pooping on the satellite?
    Is that a Freudian slip?

  29. Leigh Jackson
    Posted March 21, 2016 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Benedict trotted out the repeated assertion of the harmony of science and RC faith. That is only true if the God of RC faith is true. The truth of that God rests on the truth of Divine Revelation. The truth of DR rests on the truth of The Holy Spirit. That truth rests on fear of damnation if you should question it.

    Science and atheism are in harmony whether or not God, Revelation and the Holy Spirit are other than the wishful fictions that common sense suggests they are.

    According to Benedict (cf Aquinas) there exists a necessity for a foundational cause of all being and becoming. Science merely examines secondary or natural causes.

    “A decisive advance in understanding the origin of the cosmos was the consideration of being qua being and the concern of metaphysics with the most basic question of the first or transcendent origin of participated being. In order to develop and evolve, the world must first be, and thus have come from nothing into being. It must be created, in other words, by the first Being who is such by essence.”

    This is a dogmatic assertion of the existence of an essential being beyond the realm of the inessential cosmos. “Understanding” the origin of the cosmos it is not.

    Metaphysical musings of Thomas Aquinas do not necessarily make science and RC faith harmonious. Faith makes it seem so.

  30. jeffery
    Posted March 21, 2016 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Looks like a Chick Publications tract…..


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