Alan Lightman spouts accommodationist nonsense on PBS

Alan Lightman is an accomplished physicist and writer who has produced a ton of books, both fiction and nonfiction (I much enjoyed Einstein’s Dreams), and is Professor of the Practice of the Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His joint interest in science and the humanities is admirable, but if this video is any evidence, his arts appear to have corrupted his science.

The short video, put on YouTube yesterday, is from the Public Broadcasting System’s (PBS’s) NewsHour: the network is notable for its softness toward religion. The piece is introduced by the presenter as Lightman’s rebuttal of the claim that “science and religion cannot coexist peacefully.”

Lightman apparently had a quasi-religious experience gazing at the stars while lying in a boat, much like Francis Collins’s epiphany when he saw a frozen waterfall. Gazing at the cosmos, Lightman says that he “found himself falling into infinity”, feeling “connected to something eternal and ethereal—something beyond the material world.”

Well, yes, many of us feel that way, although of course our emotions and awe are not “beyond the material world,” but simply neural reactions produced by a combination of our genes, our experience, and chemicals in our synapses. Such feelings are, of course, no proof that there’s anything beyond the material world, any more than the hallucinations produced by psychedelic drugs—like my young hashish-fueled vision of a blue dragon descending from the sky above the Nepalese Himalayas—proves things like the existence of blue dragons.

What’s worse, though, is Lightman’s risible attempt to foist some theology on the viewers:

“In recent years some scientists have attempted to use scientific arguments to question the existence of God. I think these people are missing the point. ‘God,’ as conceived by most religions, lies outside time and space. You can’t use scientific argument to either disprove or prove god; and for the same reason you can’t use scientific arguments to analyze or understand the feeling I had that summer night when I lay down in the boat and looked up and felt part of something far larger than myself.”

Wait a tick. First of all, most religions assert that God interacts with the world, regardless of where said God resides. And if that’s true, then yes, empirical arguments—”science”, if you will—can be used to support or weaken the case for god. The fact is that we have no evidence that God does or ever did interact with the world, despite the possibility (as I note in Faith Versus Fact), there could be such evidence. As many scientists have pointed out—Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, and Sean Carroll among them—the world looks precisely as we would expect if there were no god—at least not the omnipotent and all-loving god “conceived by most religions.” What kind of god would invent natural selection as his way of creation? Only a very cruel god, or one who wanted to be amused by the sufferings of the world. A god who doesn’t interact with the world is a god rejected by most believers.

Further, who says that science can’t understand feelings or emotions? We’re already making progress on this question from a number of directions: evolutionary biology, neurochemistry, brain scanning, and so on. To claim that these things are beyond the ken of science is to make the Argument from Ignorance, something that Lightman shouldn’t be doing. He is, after all, a scientist.

Lightman further abjures his scientific credentials when he claims, in effect, that the feeling that you’re part of something larger than yourself (and of course we are: we’re part of the Universe, and our atoms come from the stars) is a feeling that itself is evidence for the supernatural:

“I’m still a scientist; I still believe that the world is made of atoms and molecules and nothing more. But I also believe in the power and validity of the spiritual experience. Is it possible to be committed to both without feeling a contradiction? I think so.”

Well, yes, so long as you realize that the “spiritual experience” is “valid” in the sense that “people have them” instead of in the sense that “this proves the existence of the numinous.”

Lightman goes on to rhapsodize about our longing for certainties and for the “permanent: some grand and eternal unity.”  Yes, but longings aren’t the same as realities; science is in fact designed to prevent this kind of conflation.

This confirmation bias, this attempt to drag the divine into emotions felt while gazing at the stars, colors Lightman’s whole short and embarrassing monologue. It’s especially embarrassing when Lightman concludes with the deepity, “We ourselves are part of the Ying-Yang of the world.”

Of course science and religion can “coexist peacefully”: we don’t see scientists shooting Baptists or vice versa. But that doesn’t mean that faith and science are compatible. One field tells us what people like Lightman want to hear; the other tells us what’s true.  These are not the same thing.

And PBS: what on Earth were you thinking?

h/t: Mehul

68 Comments

  1. Posted June 5, 2018 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Such a shame. I too loved “Einstein’s Dreams”, so lyrical, poignant and scientifically enlightening in much the same was Lewis Thomas’ books were. He is a very good writer. Religion really does poison everything. Every damn thing.

  2. Posted June 5, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Thank you for pointing this out.
    When the wiggle words wiggle in, that’s when the rational part of his thinking is lost.
    IMHO, the PBS News Hour has really taken a nose dive in credibility since the original McNeal Lehrer Report.

  3. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Gah… Thank you PCC(E) for giving this the treatment.

    I’m saving up tons of time this way!

  4. Robert Bray
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    ‘And PBS: what on Earth were you thinking?’

    They/it were thinking ‘in heaven’s name.’

  5. freiner
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    It seems like a move in the wrong direction to go from wonder to woo, rather than from wonder to “why?” — curiosity, inquiry, and eventually new sources of wonder. A waste of wonder.

  6. Steve Z
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Talk about your deathbed conversion. Without even needing the bed or the near death event.

  7. Posted June 5, 2018 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    It sounds like Lightman is pushing his newest book Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine. Haven’t read it and don’t plan to, but it seems there is a demand for these navel-gazing books.

  8. Dale Pickard
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    “I’m still a scientist; I still believe that the world is made of atoms and molecules and nothing more. But I also believe in the power and validity of the spiritual experience. Is it possible to be committed to both without feeling a contradiction? I think so.”

    This sounds very much like Sam Harris.

    • Robert Bray
      Posted June 5, 2018 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      The knot here is the word ‘spiritual,’ which, taken in its primary sense, makes Lightman NOT a scientist. And when he equivocates on the word’s meaning the result is prevarication.

      I don’t think this is what Sam Harris is doing.

    • Posted June 5, 2018 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Sam has never argued that the “spiritual experience” is any kind of evidence for God.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted June 5, 2018 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

        This fellow seems to limit himself to arguing for Something Larger, and then uses “god” as one possible example. Mr. Lightman’s main beef is with philosophical materialism.

        I think it is “Hannah and her Sisters” that a female character says to Woody Allen’s character that “God does not play dice with the universe” and Allen replies “He likes to play hide-and-go-seek”.
        Indeed.

        Then one is left with the question of whether or not it is a good idea to invest one’s energies in a god that if she exists is heavily concealed.

        My own beef with much Western religion is mainly moral. The Catholic church’s theology of sin is a disaster, as is Evangelical Christianity’s having everything revolve around wicked beliefs about original sin and substitutionary atonement.
        This beliefs are incompatible with rational moral inquiry, putting aside science for the moment.

        But, as might be guessed by now, I’m relatively sanguine about Mr. Lightman’s perspective.

      • Dale Pickard
        Posted June 5, 2018 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        Well, call it what you will. Harris is pretty much a neo-Buddhist. He holds a supernatural view of what he calls “consciousness”. Have you heard his latest podcast with Sean Carrol? Very good discussion. Sean rather takes him to the woodshed on several topics including “consciousness” objective ethics and “free will”. Sean makes a lot of sense.

    • Neil Wolfe
      Posted June 5, 2018 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Are you thinking of Ham Sarris?

      • nicky
        Posted June 5, 2018 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        Is that Sam Harris himself doing Ham Sarris? Sounds like his voice. It’s brilliant !

        • nicky
          Posted June 5, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

          I have no idea how Douglas Murray sounds, but I guess he’s Mouglas Durrey?

        • Neil Wolfe
          Posted June 5, 2018 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

          It’s the waking up podcast edited to make Sam and his guests say absurd things.

          • Dale Pickard
            Posted June 5, 2018 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

            That was funny!

      • KD33
        Posted June 5, 2018 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for this!!

    • Posted June 5, 2018 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      No it doesn’t.

  9. darrelle
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    I had a similar experience to Lightman’s once. My then future wife and I took a small rowboat out into the middle of a beautiful lake in the country 50 miles or so south of Quebec city late one summer night. We then lay back in the boat to watch the sky. It was the most spectacular night sky I’ve ever seen. Perfect, crystal clear visibility. No moon, yet it was easily bright enough to read. There were so many stars that there seemed to be more light than dark. The inspiration for the name “Milky Way” was clearly evident. It was better than any photo I’ve ever seen of a night sky. It was one of the most awe inspiring experiences of my life. But for some reason it didn’t inspire me to believe in the supernatural. Perhaps I’m defective, or simply too heartless.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted June 5, 2018 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Also some fish were doin’ it underneath the boat.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted June 5, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

        HIS boat. I meant Lightman’s boat.

        Not yours, of course. :)…:(?

      • darrelle
        Posted June 5, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        Awesome!

      • Posted June 5, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        That’s why W.C. Fields never drank the stuff.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 6, 2018 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      I had one of those experiences once. It was at the beach, and all the colours seemed more vivid, the way the sand dunes sloped and interlocked seemed more geometrically perfect, everything seemed to be more intense. It was quite pleasurable and an almost mystical experience, lasted several hours, and one that I remembered ever afterwards.

      Possibly the half a tab of lysergic acid diethylamide which a friend had presented me with a short while previously had something to do with it.

      cr

  10. W.T. Effingham
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    One possible side effect of this type of woo from a science guy might help “,spiritual – not – scientific” ( ” numbers and symbols and signs!Oh my!) folk consider science as a way to understand there’s more to live than what is in THE hully babble.

    • W.T. Effingham
      Posted June 5, 2018 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      Life not live.

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    … my young hashish-fueled vision of a blue dragon descending from the sky above the Nepalese Himalayas …

    Damn, boss, sounds very William Burroughs.

    I listened to the audio version of Einstein’s Dreams and rather liked it, too. Shame about this nonsense.

    • Posted June 5, 2018 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      Blue dragons, brown walls.

      Chemicals do the strangest things.

      /@

  12. Jenny Haniver
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Lightman says “…you can’t use scientific arguments to analyze or understand the feeling I had that summer night…” PCC(E) responds: “…who says that science can’t understand feelings or emotions?.” Agreed, and the first thing that popped into my mind was neuroscience. There’s a rich literature on neuroscience and religion and ‘sprituality’, dare I say that it’s continually evolving. One of the latest studies relevant to this post: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180601170056.htm — “Scientists have identified a possible neurobiological home for the spiritual experience — the sense of connection to something greater than oneself.” But identifying the parietal lobe as this place or “staging ground”, is no new discovery, either.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted June 5, 2018 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      That’s the same response I had (except without the evidence at the links). I also thought what Jerry did – Lightman is using a God of the Gaps argument. He says we can’t explain it, therefore God. But as you point out, we can’t explain it (fully) YET. Science will explain it sometime, though it will take longer as the ultra-religious do their best to destroy the world via war or global warming.

  13. Posted June 5, 2018 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    I guess being a scientist does not mean you are immune to the influence of the newly discovered WOO1 gene. Or was it just ” a bit of undigested beef, a… blot of mustard, a… crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato”

    • Posted June 5, 2018 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      What the Dickens are you talking about, man?

      /@

    • Dale Pickard
      Posted June 5, 2018 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

      I get it I think, was this inspired by “The Christmas Carol”? It’s how Scrooge rationalized his hallucinations “undigested gruel”.

      • Posted June 6, 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

        My point is that Alan Lightman had some sort of experience of “something larger than [himself]” that might be explained as a hallucination caused in turn by a bit of Scrooge-style indigestion.

  14. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Here is a picture for Lightman. I was thinking of sending to PCC some of the photos but maybe won’t. I go out walking this morning and take along a camera. I see two mallards on the other side of this body of water and both have little ones. They are in the grass or along the water edge close to mom. Then I look up into the trees to the left and there are two hawks or birds of prey. What kind of a spiritual feeling am I suppose to get from this?

  15. garthdaisy
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Such a strange thing for a news program. It wasn’t even an interview but a staged videotaped declaration. So creepy and agenda revealing.

  16. Bruce Swanney
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    “we don’t see scientists shooting Baptists or vice versa” We have certainly seen the vice versa at several women’s health clinics.

  17. mirandaga
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    “. . .our emotions and awe are not ‘beyond the material world,’ but simply neural reactions produced by a combination of our genes, our experience, and chemicals in our synapses. Such feelings are, of course, no proof that there’s anything beyond the material world. . .”

    It’s certainly possible to explain away the spiritual, just as it’s possible to explain away the material (think Berkeley—the idealist, not the campus). The existence of neither can be proved, and arguing against the existence of either makes for interesting mind games.

    Or, conversely, one can—as a starting point, at least—simply trust one’s experience of both. The chair I’m sitting in is solid and real. My cat Fiddle, sitting on my lap (and making it very difficult to type) is also solid and real and, in addition, is happy. How do I know the latter? Because she’s purring and nudging me with her head to keep stroking it. Her behavior could be accounted for by means of evolutionary biology, neurochemistry, and brain scanning, and my reaction to it could be explained as neural reactions produced by a combinations of genes and chemicals in my synapses—or simply dismissed as anthropomorphism. None of this would change my belief that we are, in fact, two spirits communicating with each other, nor would empirical evidence confirming this belief make me any more certain of it.

    In short, being able to explain the mechanics of a phenomenon doesn’t account for the totality of an experience any more than understanding prosody and being able to scan the meter accounts for a Shakespearean sonnet. Short of a predisposition to believe otherwise, I should think this was self-evident.

    • Robert Bray
      Posted June 5, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      ‘. . . any more than understanding prosody and being able to scan the meter accounts for a Shakespearean sonnet.’

      I don’t know that anyone ever said it could. The meter of a poem doesn’t begin to ‘account for’ that poem’s affective power. Diction, rhetoric, and syntax–these are far more important than meter and rhyme (which, as a century + of free verse in English has demonstrated, are not necessary to poetry). And genre/form is perhaps the most important qualitative feature of all.

      That it takes two to tangle in literature, a text and its reader, makes literary study a boon companion for neuroscience and psychology. I do not see that, in principle, why a full account of reading, from the construction of a text to its assimilation through reading, requires any more than ‘science broadly construed.’

      This wouldn’t be ‘explaining away’ spirit, since the word would not be feature in any hypothesis, nor even a miniature elephant in the room of one’s subjectivity once such an account of reading (or listening to music, or looking at art, etc.) were given.

      • mirandaga
        Posted June 5, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

        “I do not see that, in principle, why a full account of reading, from the construction of a text to its assimilation through reading, requires any more than ‘science broadly construed.’”

        Well, good luck with that! LOL! I’m reminded of a “science broadly construed” study I and other poets were in at Harvard called Project Zero (don’t ask me why) to study the creative process (“the construction of a text”). I was sat down at a table in front of a recorder and told to write a poem, and every 10 minutes or so a researcher would come in, turn the recorder on, and tell me to “Verbalize,” apparently hoping to catch me in the act. I’m not sure they got anything out of it that I couldn’t have just told them had they asked, but after an hour or so of this nonsense I did manage to end up with a surprisingly good poem:

        THE DREAM OF PAPER, THE DREAM OF WORDS
        by Gary Miranda

        Last night, again, I had the dream of paper—
        scrap paper in high sparse grass, under billboards,
        along the sides of railroad tracks—
        remnants of messages people were trying to tell us once,
        if only Eat Wheaties, or This End Up.

        And waking, I thought of my mother
        writing a note to my teacher, saying:
        Gary missed school on Tuesday because he was sick—
        winding this further secret of ours,
        like a lover’s knot, around me.

        I thought of the graveyards of cars
        and the graveyards of people, and the difference,
        which seems to hinge on neatness, and flowers
        that collapse like bad metaphors.

        I thought of Jerry Grant and me
        perfecting our private whistle,
        pooling our strengths against the strangeness of girls,
        and losing, and of Thomas Grubham,
        the fattest kid in the Cub Scouts,
        who could never get the hang of cruelty
        no matter how hard
        we pumped it into him.

        I thought of my grandmother, Nannie,
        with her ninety-year harvest of smiles,
        coasting toward death confused and lonely,
        like a train pulling into heaven
        through the worst part of town.

        I thought of bricks, in junk heaps,
        that will never lie flat against each other,
        of windows whose glass has been replaced
        by cardboard, or nothing,
        of insects from whom we snatch the one life
        as if we were blowing our noses.

        And falling asleep again, I dreamt of words,
        words with faces that never turn out right,
        words that no one has thought of, really,
        that might have successfully said: “I love you”
        or: “I want you child” or
        whatever words have to say
        to make things live.

        • Robert Bray
          Posted June 6, 2018 at 7:34 am | Permalink

          Didn’t know your name, Mr. Miranda, or that you were a poet! And can’t tell whether your ‘good luck with that LOL’ is sneering or teasing. So I’ll guess the latter. While I no longer need the good luck (being retired from teaching), my mind is sufficiently stubborn not to give up on the ‘humanities broadly construed’ notion of a ‘unified field theory of reading.’

          I like your poem. Which doesn’t mean–because it can’t–that it’s ‘very good.’ Just that it affected me: cognition and emotion.

          • mirandaga
            Posted June 6, 2018 at 11:00 am | Permalink

            “And can’t tell whether your ‘good luck with that LOL’ is sneering or teasing.”

            Definitely not sneering, Robert; the idea just tickled my funny bone. Probably should have used an emoji instead of LOL. 😉

            “Didn’t know your name, Mr. Miranda”

            Yes,when I signed up for this site over a year ago I created a user name that I often use. I wish now that, in the spirit of transparency, I’d used my full name as you and some others for whom I’ve developed a definite fondness do (e.g., Ken Kucek and Rowena Kitchen). Given my potshots at atheism and what must seem like defenses of Trump, I doubt the fondness is returned by many, but if I changed my username now people wouldn’t associate it with “mirandaga” and be able to preface their reading with “Oh, it’s just him [or her] again!”

            In any case, thanks for the kind words about the poem. Also an ongoing thanks to Jerry for walking the talk on free speech and putting up with me.

    • Taz
      Posted June 5, 2018 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      None of this would change my belief that we are, in fact, two spirits communicating with each other

      What’s wrong with being two animals communicating with each other? Isn’t the communication what’s important?

      • Dale Pickard
        Posted June 5, 2018 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

        I agree! No spirits necessary.

        • mirandaga
          Posted June 6, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

          I’d never claim that they’re necessary, just that they’re real.

  18. AC Harper
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    If people *really* look for something they will probably find it – whether it exists or not.

    I think it is interesting that in the developed world people who look are more likely to find the modern god and less likely to find the medieval devil. ‘Evil’ used to be a sign of the devil but now it’s more likely to be used as a projected description of people behaving badly.

  19. Roger
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Quick, someone tell the “some scientists” they are “missing the point”. They will be like, “Oh darn! Didn’t know that. Thanks for telling us!”

  20. Posted June 5, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never understood why intelligent people can’t locate the actual common ground between science and religion — in the field of human and civil rights, freedom of opinion, freedom of expression.

    Beyond that, they are irreconcilably different, and should remain so. Science can progress, where religion can’t. Or do Christians want to argue that they understand Christianity better than Jesus did?

    • phil
      Posted June 6, 2018 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

      “I’ve never understood why intelligent people can’t locate the actual common ground between science and religion…”

      I can think of three fields where religion has demonstrated its lack of intellectual skill, namely human and civil rights, freedom of opinion, freedom of expression.

      The religions of the book have condoned slavery and misogyny, and remember what happened to Giordano Bruno and Gallileo.

      It’s not that religions don’t have ideas about morality, but, like religious ideas that impinge on science, they spectacularly fail. Furthermore the fact that some religious people can exhibit great moral clarity or strength, or scientific insight, is not a testiment to the value of religion but an example of how some people can achieve great things in spite of religion.

  21. Marilyn
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I have also noticed that some of the recent NOVA programs (the new NOVA: Wonders series) is being funded in part by the John Templeton Foundation….not good.

    • Dale Franzwa
      Posted June 6, 2018 at 1:17 am | Permalink

      I’ve watched that program and have the same concerns you have about the Templeton sponsorship. However, I have not seen any evidence that the program content itself has in any way been influenced by Templeton thinking. The science is straightforward and uncompromised, at least so far.

      Jerry, I disagree strongly with your statement that PBS itself is soft on religion. They present a wide range of programming some of which might be called “pro-religion” but I have seen other programming strongly critical of religion, recently the corruption within the Catholic Church, pedophile priests, the Vatican Bank’s money laundering of drug money, etc. I once saw a program that made a very solid case for atheism. I have yet to see a science program compromised by religious beliefs, especially Nova. Maybe the Newshour sometimes goes a little easy on religion but not the whole network.

  22. Mark R.
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Out camping, on a night of many stars and no moon, I was eavesdropping on a conversation that one of my dad’s friends was having with his son. He stated: “how can someone look at the immensity and beauty of all those stars and not believe in God.” His son didn’t say anything…maybe he gave a slight nod. I almost laughed since the immensity of the universe is one of the main reasons I decided there is no god concerning itself with this speck of water and rock.

    This is a strange example of facts bolstering faith. I guess it’s along the same line when the religious say the eye is so complex, therefore god.

  23. JG
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    How can he say that God does not interact with the world? Most religions claim he created the world! That sounds like a pretty strong interaction!

  24. Posted June 5, 2018 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    So what shall I make of the voice that spoke to me recently as I was scuttling around getting ready for yet another spell on a chat-show sofa?
    More accurately, it was a memory of a voice in my head, and it told me that everything was OK and things were happening as they should. For a moment, the world had felt at peace. Where did it come from?
    Me, actually — the part of all of us that, in my case, caused me to stand in awe the first time I heard Thomas Tallis’s Spem in alium, and the elation I felt on a walk one day last February, when the light of the setting sun turned a ploughed field into shocking pink; I believe it’s what Abraham felt on the mountain and Einstein did when it turned out that E=mc².
    It’s that moment, that brief epiphany when the universe opens up and shows us something, and in that instant we get just a sense of an order greater than Heaven and, as yet at least, beyond the grasp of Stephen Hawking. It doesn’t require worship, but, I think, rewards intelligence, observation and enquiring minds.
    I don’t think I’ve found God, but I may have seen where gods come from.

    — Terry Pratchett

    /@

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 6, 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      He should know, he created enough of them. 😉

      cr

  25. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    I have the urge to ask accommodationist scientists if they are scientists or theologians.

    ‘God,’ as conceived by most religions, lies outside time and space.

    I don’t think that there is any evidence of religions conceiving that. This is Lightman and other theologians making things up in order to defend the indefensible.

    But even if this was what was conceived, Lightman and other theologians are now in trouble. The current cosmology is based on and verifies general relativity, making a self contained cosmology; reversely it has made the universe all there is.

  26. ChrisS
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Theists positing their god as existing outside of time and space would seem to imply a multi-verse, which they don’t believe in.

    Either way, it just comes across as them taking refuge in vague abstractions. They probably chalk this up as a victory, but get very defensive or belligerent when they’re called out on it, or asked to really define their terms.

    • Posted June 6, 2018 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      It’s the ontological equivalent of a safe room.

      • Posted June 6, 2018 at 10:06 am | Permalink

        God’s accommodations are in the safe room so that make an accommodationist a sort of landlord? 😉

  27. rgsherr
    Posted June 6, 2018 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Jerry, you say it and sum it up so well. Wish the people who post the nonsense and the news outlets that spread it would read your responses. Do you forward your comments to them?

  28. Posted June 6, 2018 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    ‘God,’ as conceived by most religions, lies outside time and space. You can’t use scientific argument to either disprove or prove god….

    To say anything ‘lies outside time and space’ is to make a concrete cosmological assertion. It requires (or ought to be compelled to) defining ‘time’, ‘space’, and how the parameters of what ‘lies outside’ differ. The claimant should also be required to postulate a mechanism by which God interacts from the ‘outside’ with events and beings on the ‘inside’.

    When so concretized, that religious claim very much conflicts with science. When left unchallenged & nebulous, it merely shifts a ‘God of the gaps’ to a ‘God of the ‘Branes.’

  29. Francisco
    Posted June 6, 2018 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Yes, as many commented here, very spiritual without proof and scientific verification. But I warn all you: peacefully coexistence?? I have been tortured and attacked by my old catholic sect (related to opus dei) since I comment anything about them, their lies, their robberies, etc. And in the written rules they have an warning to ex-members: “nothing will be as for the other humans. All and everything will turn to “rejalgar” (bitterness, hurt)”
    This because their fanatic mentality based on new testament: “everybody that is not for me is against me”, “I didn’t came to give you peace, but the sword”, “There is no possible understanding between light and darkness.
    I didn’t understand the real meaning: they have a organization to silence, humiliate, empoverish all opposition, specially those like me that know the sect from inside and from long time…

  30. Leigh Jackson
    Posted June 6, 2018 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Lightman has a religous experience shaped science blind-spot.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted June 6, 2018 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

      There you go

  31. Posted June 6, 2018 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    Does existing outside time and outside space mean it exists nowhere and at no time?

    Or would that be uncharitable interpretation?

  32. phil
    Posted June 6, 2018 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    PCC obviously had much better hash than I ever did.

  33. Jackson
    Posted June 8, 2018 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    I,m thinking Templeton award.


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