My Voice of America discussion of science versus religion

The Voice of America World Service interviewed me last week about the compatibility of religion and science as part of a 30-minute program in the “Press Conference USA” series. My take, of course, is that they’re incompatible. I use the first 15 minutes to explain why, and then we hear from a Catholic scientist who feels the opposite way.

Here are the VOA program notes:

From Galileo’s run-in with the Catholic Church in the 17th century to more recent controversies over the teaching of creationism in public schools, the relationship between science and religion has been the subject of ongoing debate. Host Rick Pantaleo speaks with Jerry Coyne, the author of “Faith vs. Fact” and Stephen Barr, President of the Society of Catholic Scientists  [JAC: he’s also a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Delaware] about whether science and religion are compatible or mutually exclusive.

Barr (whose segment begins at 15:55) espouses many of the familiar arguments: many famous scientists were religious; many scientists are still religious; Catholic priests like Mendel were scientists (he was a monk); religion “answers some questions that science doesn’t” (e.g., why are we here, how we should live), and so on. He claims that, unlike science, religion can explain why there is a Universe and why it’s orderly and obeys physical laws that can be expressed with mathematics. His answer, of course, is that there is a “Mind” behind it all, and by that he means the Catholic god.

That’s the God of the Gaps argument, which is just an argument from ignorance: “We don’t know, ergo Catholicism.” He even maintains that compatibility comes from seeing that the same motivation underlies science and religion: a desire to understand the universe and a confidence that it makes sense. But he doesn’t mention that scientific explanations can be tested, while religion’s attempts to “make sense” involve simply making stuff up, and differ from one religion to the next.

Barr finally brings up Dawkins (i.e., Satan) as an example of an aggressive, arrogant, and disrespectful atheist scientist who asserts that a person can’t be a believer and a scientist at the same time. I don’t think either Richard or I maintain that view: we argue that religious scientists aren’t coherent in how they deal with evidence. If you apportion your beliefs in accordance with the strength of the empirical evidence supporting them, then a religious attitude is clearly at odds with a scientific one. As I always say, in science faith is a vice, while in religion it’s a virtue.

Of course there can be religious scientists: that’s a matter of simple fact. But many are deeply inconsistent in how they approach life. In the end, Barr’s argument for compatibility boils down not to evidence, but to the fact that there were and are people who are both religious and scientists. And that’s not compatibility, but coexistence. 

I wish Pantaleo had asked Barr what the evidence was for the truth of Barr’s Catholic beliefs, but of course that’s confrontational, and the interviewer wished to avoid hardball questions.

Click on the screenshot to hear the two viewpoints:

Rick Pantaleo, the nice man who interviewed me, adds this:

Along with being broadcast multiple times on VOA’s radio network throughout this weekend, the program will also be available via several online audio streams (including iTunes).

The Society of Catholic Scientists is apparently new, or at least they’ve just had their first conference. Stephen Barr announces it here, with a poster. See anything interesting?

One of the speakers was biologist Kenneth Miller (not a member of the Society, though he’s considering it), and Forbes wrote this about his take on the society:

But two of the highlighted speakers of the conference were indeed quite well known Catholic scientists: Kenneth R. Miller, the Brown University biologist who became nationally known for his defence of evolution against creationists, especially during the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial in 2005.

The co-author of the best selling high school biology textbook in the country, Miller was present to receive the first St. Albert Award from the Society, in honor of St. Albert the Great, who is considered the patron saint of science in the Catholic Church.

Miller actually had been invited to speak at the March for Science, which was taking place in cities all over the country at the same time as the conference.  “And I would actually be speaking at the one in Providence, if I was at home in Rhode Island,” he said. “Because I was invited to do so.”

But one of the things that motivated that march, he told me, is the sense of disaffection from popular support that the scientific community feels.

“And I think part of that disaffection is the sense that science is in fact anti-religious,” he said. “That science promotes an absolute secularist agenda. I think that harms the reputation of science in the eyes of the public. And I think an organization like the Society here can go a long way towards healing it. So, I think this organization is a good thing.”

 I doubt it: not so long as Catholicism perpetuates antiscientific views like the existence of souls, of Resurrections, and of the literal ancestry of all humans from Adam and Eve. And not so long as they privilege faith over reason and base their religion on unsubstantiated fairy tales. In fact, the methods and outcomes of science have been secular as a matter not of principle, but of practice; so if that’s what Miller means by science having a “secular agenda,” he’s right. If he means that science leads to a lack of religious belief, well, that’s also true—or so I argue in Faith Versus Fact—but most scientists don’t promote atheism as a deliberate agenda.

57 Comments

  1. Barry Lyons
    Posted July 22, 2017 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Further to this post, I just found this essay (when doing a search for the Society of Catholic Scientists). I can’t believe that these clowns STILL bring up Lemaitre and Mendel as examples of the supposed intellectual legitimacy of Catholicism: https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2017/06/way-beyond-the-new-atheist-nonsense

    • Posted July 22, 2017 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      I broke a tooth at the first sentence I was grinding so hard.

      • Ken Phelps
        Posted July 22, 2017 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        I can fix that for you.

        • sensorrhea
          Posted July 22, 2017 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

          Or we could pray?

    • Posted July 22, 2017 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      Barr mentions them, and Lemaitre several times.

  2. Posted July 22, 2017 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    So once again, the arguments proffered by the “religion” side are all P.R.A.T.T. — Previously Refuted A Thousand Times. Do I have to tell Prof. Barr what seems obvious to a mere high school graduate like me? Of course we live in a universe governed by by physical laws that can be described by mathematics. That’s how you can tell it’s natural. Otherwise miracles would actually occur — God healing amputees and so forth. We would have a whole category of phenomena that would be justifiably explained by appeals to the supernatural. And if religion could offer any true answer to any question, then all religions should have converged on the same answer centuries ago.

    But if there is no god, and religion is simply the product of fallible humans minds working on incomplete information, formed by changing political and demographic conditions over millennia, then all is explained. Even the existence of religious scientists.

  3. Ken Phelps
    Posted July 22, 2017 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    “I think that harms the reputation of science in the eyes of the public.”

    Yes, of course, when the confluence of reality with your own ill-considered beliefs causes that nasty, dissonant sensation in your brain – shoot the messenger.

  4. Randy schenck
    Posted July 22, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Barr sounds like a poster boy for Templeton. Same old, same old. Prof. Coynes interview was excellent. The Catholic church believes in evolution except when it does not — perfect compatibility.

  5. Phil Rounds
    Posted July 22, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    “….not so long as Catholicism perpetuates antiscientific views like the existence of souls, of Resurrections..”
    …and there’s the rub! Religions are all essentially death cults. If you took away human mortality,they would all vanish in a puff of ceremonial incense smoke.

    It’s our innate human dread of nonexistence that fuels organized religion. It’s even better to believe that we will go to hell for all eternity than to come to terms with the realty of the total oblivion of not being.

    Nonexistence boggles the average human brain.
    We can’t conceive of it…there is no reference point. So we invent a scenario where there is an incorporate life after death and that eases our way through those times when we realize that death is inevitable for all of us.

    I really don’t believe we will ever be free of religion as long as there is death. So that means never. No amount of logic or scientific discovery will ever replace the individual yearning for the continuation of life after death.

    Since this is likely true (from my perspective anyway), i wonder if there could be a religion that would be compatible with science. Might it be possible to have a benign religion that included the belief in a soul but was free of ancient dogmas, gods, antiscientific beliefs, priestly hierarchy and stupid rituals?

    • Posted July 22, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      If that were so, there would be no atheists. Yet even in the benighted USA there are tens of millions of atheists, maybe even a hundred million.

      Speaking for myself, I enter oblivion quite happily at least once a day — drifting off to sleep. I’m not at all worried about going one last time.

      • Posted July 22, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

        “We who are going to die are the lucky ones …”

        /@

        • Peter N
          Posted July 23, 2017 at 8:11 am | Permalink

          Count Dracula: “To die, to be really dead, that must be glorious!”
          Mina Harker: “Why, Count Dracula?”
          Count Dracula: “There are far worse things awaiting man than death.”

          Dracula (film), 1931

  6. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted July 22, 2017 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Catholicism is married to a religion of detailed dogmas and creeds.

    Now if a religious scientist admits that scientific conclusions are far more reliably verifiable than religious ones, that the latter are at best metaphysical speculation and that sometimes there may be direct conflict between the two, then there may be a kind of detente.

    Catholicism is still bound up with the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, which buys into Aristotelian notions of causality, quasi-Aristotelian notions of substance and accident, a philosophically problematic two-level universe (natural order and supernatural order), and explains the Trinity and Incarnation with the concept of “hypostatic union” which only makes sense in Greek metaphysics, and still insists on a single-couple origin for humanity. (There’s also a myriad of problems with the historicity of the Bible.)

    If you want to believe God works by deeper patterns than the known laws of physics via resurrections etc. then fine, but a lot of the Catholic understanding of how ordinary nature works is actually flawed.

    • Posted July 22, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      But they also reject Aristotle’s non-creator God who doesn’t get involved in the world and (therefore) also doesn’t make a priestly hierarchy so easily translatable into worldly power.

      Aristotle was persecuted in his day for implying prayer doesn’t work. It’s ironic that today the church has no real problem rejecting his physics, yet still thinks Aristotle’s persecutors were right that prayer works.

      (That’s on my vague and incompetent reading of Aristotle. Open to being corrected.)

  7. Randy schenck
    Posted July 22, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Funny don’t you think that to believe religion is false and also harmful with a good deal of evidence and history to back this up, also declares you are a militant. No guns or knives required. And how many people annually are injured or killed by militant atheists verses how many through religious causes?

  8. Patrick Foley
    Posted July 22, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    The Catholic Church does not take its fairy tales as literal truth, including the Adam and Eve story. And fairy tales are not all bad. Half of our collective wisdom is expressed in fairy tales.

    [Full disclosure: I got the full Catholic training as a child including four years of Jesuit High School and a very religious mother. But I also got training in critical thinking from school, parents, literature and science. By the time I was 15, I was lost to the more rigid aspects of the church, and am agnostic as to the underlying spiritual nature of the universe. I have some affection for the positions of Spinoza, Einstein and Aldous Huxley.]

    The existence of souls is an interesting problem, and the Church’s position seems to be at odds with evolutionary ideas. Darwin believed that the ethical qualities that we admire in humans (to the extent they exist) are the result of natural selection in a social species. The Church might not fully disagree with that, but does insist that God gave us our souls, rather than prodding them to evolve. Of course the nature of consciousness, soul and such like is not a solved problem, nor is the fundamental existence of the universe.

    I appreciate that religions trying to fill in gaps in our scientific understanding with God have an increasingly awkward time of it. But I suspect that the twin problems of consciousness and the existence of anything will always provide gaps.

    • Posted July 22, 2017 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      From De Humani Generis (1950, never revised):

      37. When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.[12]

      Ergo, you have to believe that Adam and Eve were our literal ancestors. Can you metaphorize your way out of this one?

      And you’re telling me that the Jesus story, complete with miracles and the Resurrection, isn’t taken by the Vatican (and many Christians) as the literal truth? Give me a break.

      Oh, and what about all the official Catholic exorcists whose job is expelling demons? Are those metaphorical demons?

      • Patrick Foley
        Posted July 22, 2017 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

        The Catholic Church is a big slow ship that does not turn easily and has a long wake.
        I am quite sure that the Adam and Eve story is considered figurative by an increasing number of theologians and scholars within the Church.

        Has Kenneth Miller been called anathema and excommunicated? The 1950 document indicates that he should be.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted July 22, 2017 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

          It might be considered “figurative by an increasing number” but they’re continuing to teach it nevertheless. Without descent from Adam and Eve there’s no original sin, which rather obviates the need for Jesus.

          • Patrick Foley
            Posted July 22, 2017 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

            Many Catholic thinkers have always had trouble understanding the collective guilt that descent from Adam and Eve would entail. This has been a quiet theological problem for a long time.

            In some ways evolution is clearer about why modern humans need some form of salvation, since we have evolved as fairly nasty creatures to ourselves and to our distant cousins, and we retain many nasty propensities. In the absence of socialization and cultural influence.

            Please do not think that I am asking you to come to Jesus; I am not religious. But I was raised on these arguments, and in some ways they parallel evolutionary psychology arguments about the evolution of altruism, the evolution of conscientiousness, the evolution of awareness of existence of others, etc.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted July 22, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

              The difference though is religion requires guilt and the intervention of a supernatural force. With science we learn about the processes etc that cause us to be the way we are and gives us the knowledge to heal ourselves, so to speak, or recognize we need help to do that via some sort of professional such as a psychiatrist or trained psychologist/counsellor.

              Some religions are now properly training their counsellors, but they’re still tainted by referring to a supernatural agency. And many, including the Catholic Church, still insist demonic possession is real. It’s also no coincidence that the number of priests licensed to perform exorcism has skyrocketed since Pope Francis came along due to his open support for the practice.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted July 22, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      While you seem to be a fence sitter, I get this from your own confession of being agnostic, you also seem to have that contradiction of thought. Yes there will always be gaps in our knowledge but we also know the primary business of the church is filling those gaps with pure fiction and lining their pockets in the process.

      • Patrick Foley
        Posted July 22, 2017 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        I am not a fence sitter. I am an evolutionary biologist. And I see no evidence for a personal god.

        I do this that two gaps will never go away, consciousness and the existence of the universe.

        • Patrick Foley
          Posted July 22, 2017 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

          I do think

        • loren russell
          Posted July 22, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

          Seems to me that a lot of progress has been made on both consciousness and universe in recent decades. The ‘gaps’ do get smaller and will in the future — if our civilization continues to permit free inquiry. Never is a very long time, you know.

          • Patrick Foley
            Posted July 22, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

            The problem of consciousness is not that humans and other animals are capable of complex behavior. The problem is that we experience. That we experience free will. That we experience existence.
            Of course, it can be argued that I do not experience it. That I am just practiced at typing out that I experience it. Does that convince you?

            • loren russell
              Posted July 22, 2017 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

              no

        • Randy schenck
          Posted July 22, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

          I guess my confusion. You said, Agnostic as to the underlying spiritual nature of the Universe. The church has filled that gap and you are not sure. I am not sure either because as you say – no evidence, but I have no training by the church so there is nothing to be agnostic about.

          • Patrick Foley
            Posted July 22, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

            I am agnostic, because, as a scientist, I try not to have fixed positions on untestable theories.

            • Randy schenck
              Posted July 22, 2017 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

              No, you are agnostic because of the admitted religious training you received as a child. As I was explaining to you, for those of us who survived childhood without this propaganda there is nothing to be agnostic about. A scientist would only say they do not know the answer but will continue to look for it.

              • Patrick Foley
                Posted July 22, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

                I am surprised that you seem so sure you understand my motivations better than I do. Does this approach work in your familial life? It would not work in mine.

                I am not a Catholic, and I have not baptized my children. But I have encouraged them to read about various religions and to consider why they exist and what their existence means to people.

                As a (PhD evolutionary genetics from UCDavis) scientist with 4 dozen published papers in ecology/evolution/epidemiology, I think I have an understanding of what my positions are based on. And I presume you understand your positions better than I do.

              • Randy schenck
                Posted July 22, 2017 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

                My review of this discussion does not find that I was understanding anything except what you provided. If you have given up your previous religion, then good for you. Unfurling your academic history should have nothing to do with this issue, at least it does not as far as I know.

    • Posted July 22, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      In case you haven’t read it, you might find Sam Harris’s book Waking Up interesting.

      • Patrick Foley
        Posted July 22, 2017 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the suggestion. I always wanted to wake up interesting …

    • Mark R.
      Posted July 22, 2017 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

      “Half of our collective wisdom is expressed in fairy tales.”

      Au contraire. First of all, ‘collective wisdom’ is vague and embedded in cultural evolution that change with each generation (or even less than a generation). Science moves past fairy tales and cultural memes and uses empirical evidence to last the ages…hopefully. Ironically, science creates many cultural memes. Is that good or bad? A good question I think.

    • Francisco
      Posted July 24, 2017 at 6:21 am | Permalink

      Im very sorry but catholic moral repeats again and again that guilty for any sin needs three aspects: matter, to realize there is a sin in front of you and will to do the act, the sin. IMPOSSIBLE as Jerry turns clear in his book that men do the original sin since never humanity were compound by less than thousands in any moment. Original Sin (very original, we have to recognice) is the way to liberate a “good god” from doing so horrible universe (black widows, sharks, parasites… the list is without end) and puts the RESPONSIBILITY in men´s sin (?!?!?) Be aware: an omnipotent god that CAN create infinite different universes and foresee all consequences of his “creation”. And choose this one????
      No god, no redemption but a maffia earning money on weakness of men´s brain: that´s religion!!!

  9. DrBrydon
    Posted July 22, 2017 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    How about, not so long as Catholcism perpetuates things like possession and miracles? Honestly, how does a believing scientist rule out the possibility that his work isn’t being influenced by Satan, or God in one of his Trickster moments?

  10. Posted July 22, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t realize that Richard Dawkins said that religious people can’t be scientists…. Unless he of course he never said it and Burr is just making stuff up.

    Burr also (of course) bases everything on the ‘argument from design’ as a scientific fact. That is a perfect example of a scientist making a fool of himself by lazily dismissing philosophy. A first year philosophy student would fail if they pulled that.

    • Ken
      Posted July 22, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      No, Dawkins never said that. From memory, he’s notes it as a fact and attributes it to the human capacity to hold several conflicting views in our heads at the same time, much as Jerry describes. I think it was Dawkins who said religious scientists seem to leave their faith at the lab door in the morning and then collect it on their way home at night.

  11. loren russell
    Posted July 22, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    “Half of our collective wisdom is expressed in fairy tales” — and 100% of our collective folly

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 22, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Barr finally brings up Dawkins (i.e., Satan) …

    Glad to see they’ve guessed his name, before he’s laid their souls to waste, woo woo.

  13. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted July 22, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  14. Posted July 22, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    I listened to Dr. Coyne’s interview all the way through and it was great, but I don’t think I can handle listening to any more of Stephen Barr because he opened with this:

    “Historically speaking that is kind of an absurd position. Most of the great scientists who founded modern science, starting with Copernicus and Galileo, and Newton and Boyle, and Kepler, and so on, were deeply religious.”

    Of course they were! They all lived before Charles Darwin was even born. It must have been very difficult to be an atheist before the discovery of evolution.

    When someone starts off like that there’s not much hope that a point worthy of consideration will follow. I wonder how someone with such a faulty grasp of logic could be a successful scientist?

    • Posted July 22, 2017 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      Here are a couple of conclusions I came up with by applying Barr logic:

      Alchemy and chemistry are compatible because the founders of modern chemistry were alchemists.

      Astrology and astronomy are compatible because the founders of modern astronomy were astrologers.

  15. Heather Hastie
    Posted July 22, 2017 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Barr worries about the reputation of science among the religious, but the problem isn’t science, it’s religion. It’s religion that demonizes scientists at the same time as they try to take credit for their work.

    Scientists have to leave religion or any other belief system at the door, or it will taint their work.

    At its core, religion is terrified of science because they know it’s never going to come up with God’s phone number (apologies to Douglas Adams). They demonize science for that reason. An association of religious scientists is just a bunch of people fighting their own guilt and denial. And that guilt is usually a result of legalized abuse and indoctrination by the religious during their childhood.

    • Posted July 22, 2017 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      A self-help group for people who seek help from an invisible friend …

      /@

  16. Hempenstein
    Posted July 22, 2017 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    I’ve only just skipped thru the audio. These were separate interviews by phone and you didn’t hear each other’s interview at the time, right? Was there a coin toss for who went first, or did the VAWS decide that post-facto.

    • Posted July 22, 2017 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      No interaction between me and the other guy. I had no idea how the interview would appear.

  17. Posted July 22, 2017 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    I recently became aware of Donald Winnicott (1896—1971), as another facet on how to view religion:

    It is assumed here that the task of reality-acceptance is never completed, that no human being is free from the strain of relating inner and outer reality, and that relief from this strain is provided by an intermediate area of experience13 which is not challenged (arts, religion, etc.). This intermediate area is in direct continuity with the play area of the small child who is ‘lost’ in play.

    In infancy this intermediate area is necessary for the initiation of a relationship between the child and the world, and is made possible by good enough mothering at the early critical phase. Essential to all this is continuity (in time) of the external emotional environment and of particular elements in the physical environment such as the transitional object or objects.

    The transitional phenomena are allowable to the infant because of the parents’ intuitive recognition of the strain inherent in objective perception, and we do not challenge the infant in regard to subjectivity or objectivity just here where there is the transitional object.

    Should an adult make claims on us for our acceptance of the objectivity of his subjective phenomena we discern or diagnose madness. If, however, the adult can manage to enjoy the personal intermediate area without making claims, then we can acknowledge our own corresponding intermediate areas, and are pleased to find overlapping, that is to say common experience between members of a group in art or religion or philosophy. Source: Winnicott, International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 1953, PDF

    Many often have a somewhat naive view on what religion is. Jerry’s strategy is excellent here (and in his book), for he carefully makes clear that he’s after the “truth claims” of religion. Not all scholars agree that truth claims are important for religion, or that believers truly believe in them in the same way as scientific findings.

    For more on that, I strongly recommend “Myth” in the “Very Short Introduction” series by Robert A. Segal, where I learned about Winnicott.

  18. rom
    Posted July 22, 2017 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jerry ,,, enjoyed your 15 min. Thought you came across well.

    My one quibble would be science does not deal with what is true. It deals with what is not true and ever increasingly accurate descriptions of universe and the various bits in it.

    I would drop the ‘true’ claim … unless we are dealing with ‘true’ in some trivial sense.

    • Posted July 23, 2017 at 3:17 am | Permalink

      So, rom, what should this website be called? 😁

      /@

      • rom
        Posted July 23, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink

        Scientists do themselves a disservice saying some theory or another have been proved true.

        Only later to be found to be inaccurate sometimes very.

        Why Evolution is Accurate?

  19. Posted July 23, 2017 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    Rooting around the garage last night I came across a paper I’d written in 1982 while attending CSULB. The Prof was a gent by the name of Mark Biedebach, and the course was some kind of interdisciplinary science and culture kind of thing. I had a cordial relationship with Mark at the time–he even wrote a recommendation letter to UCLA for me afterwards.

    I yielded to temptation tonight and googled him. Oh my. He already made an appearance in these pages back in 2013 flogging Stephen Meyers’ stealth I. D. book Darwin’s Doubt (commenters loved typing Biedebach) and it looks as if he stepped off the deep end at some point. I would have re-opened the old thread and commented there, but it was locked.

    My sole justification for posting here is that in 1982 Mark would have sounded much more like Dr. Coyne than Prof. Barr. Required texts for the class included Chance and Necessity (I remember my mind exploding slightly as I struggled through Monod’s prose suddenly realizing he was talking about a universe that required no supreme being) and The Nature of Scientific Revolutions. I remember Prof. Biedebach as rigorous about defining scientific terms, and decidedly not antagonistic to keeping Special Creation (as Intelligent Design was known then) out of classrooms.

    People change, it seems.

    Peter

    P.S.–The paper was a short history of the science textbook controversy in California in the early 70s. I got an A/A-.

  20. Posted July 23, 2017 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    ‘See anything interesting?’ Ah, the masters of well-endowed apologetic synthesis, the Templeton Foundation.

  21. Vaal
    Posted July 23, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Jerry you were excellent! And you actually gave supporting arguments.

    Stephen Barr simply uttered a string of implied fallacies (implied, because he didn’t even truly make an argument as far as I remember).

  22. zytigon
    Posted July 23, 2017 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Good points by Jerry Coyne in the VOA interview. Some apologists for Christianity just don’t want to see or hear criticism of their faith. Not only are the scriptures woefully lacking in any useful scientific endeavor but also poor in helpful architectural advancement:

    A friend on Facebook was in Rome admiring the The Colosseum with its arches. Trying to find out more about it I watched, ” Megastructures – Roman Architecture – BBC National Geographic Documentary” on Youtube which made the point that it was the Romans who were first to develop the arch in above ground buildings. It occurred to me that arches are not mentioned in the Bible

    1 Kings 6v9 claims that the Lord God, intelligent designer of the universe, Yahweh, ordered that his Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem be flat roofed with cedar beams & planks; in the style of earlier Phoenician temples.

    Ezekiel ch 40 has a vision on Temple construction send by the lord but no idea of arches mentioned, though some apologists try to say it does.

    It was left to the Romans to invent arches, domes & concrete, presumably with the help of Zeus. But how can Christians claim their god is greater at construction than other gods ?

    Wikipedia article on Arch mentions that there is a barrel vault at Ashkelon as part of the city gates dating from the Cannanite Baal worshipers of 1850 BCE

    Even the ,’Ark of the covenant’ idea was probably a copy of Egyptian & Babylonian religious furniture.

    The Colosseum (of 72 CE) is one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions and also has links to the Roman Catholic Church, as each Good Friday the Pope leads a torch lit “Way of the Cross” procession that starts in the area around the Colosseum. Sadly without recognition that their religion is sourced from bits of non Judeo-Christian societies. As Jerry points out many modern Christians gladly use the fruits of scientific method while failing to notice it was no thanks to any god.

    Does the New Testament have Paul remark – oh look at the arches of the Theatre of Marcellus, that is a wonderful leap forward in architectural forms which will allow wondrous cathedrals to be built all around the globe in centuries to come ? No. I suspect the ghost writers for ‘Paul’ didn’t think the Earth would last more than a few decades before THE END.

    • zytigon
      Posted July 23, 2017 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Correction to my post- just discovered Babylonian Ishtar gate of 575 BCE built by Nebuchadnezzar II had an arch


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