AAAS continues its incursion into accommodationism and theology

UPDATE: Dr. Swamidass has responded to my criticisms in a comment below (here), but my concerns are not allayed, as you can see from my response.

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The American Association for the Advancement of Science is America’s most famous umbrella organization for scientists, and publishes the influential journal Science. In the past few years, though, it’s been increasingly sticking its nose into religion, with the explicit aim of convincing religious people that their faith is compatible with science. Their efforts include the Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER) Program, headed by an evangelical Christian astronomer, Jennifer Wiseman.

Five years ago, with the support of the Templeton Foundation (who else?), the AAAS began a “Science for Seminaries” program, using AAAS and Templeton money to send scientists (often religious ones) into seminaries to try to get students of religion to learn more science and to learn that it’s not in conflict with their faith.  I wrote about this program five years ago, saying this:

Why, I ask, is Templeton and the AAAS so interested in infusing science into seminaries? Wouldn’t the money be better invested in teaching minorities or underserved communities about science? After all, at least that carries the possibility that those kids might become scientists.

The purpose of the seminary program, of course, is not really to make America more science literate, but to blur the boundaries between science and religion, which has always been Templeton’s aim. Why else would the program work not by teaching straight science to theologians, but to somehow (and how is not clear) infuse science or “the history of science” (?) into courses including “pastoral counseling or systematic theology.” Like that’s worth $3.75 million!

What’s worse is that the program’s aims are deeper than that, for they include not only putting science into theology schools, but trying to teach theology to scientists, as the paragraph below shows. Talk about a waste of money! Why on earth do scientists need to become more theologically literate? Yes, it might be salubrious for most of us to know something about the history of religion, and about the nature of religion, but somehow I don’t think that’s what Templeton had in mind.

Now, an article in Wired gives us an update on the program, and it’s clear that the AAAS is now using religious scientists to tell the faithful that they can have their God and science, too. Click on the screenshot below to read the piece:

Now I don’t really object to scientists going to seminaries to teach students science, although, as I said above, the dosh might be better spent teaching those who don’t have a religious bias against science, and have a chance of actually becoming scientists. What I really object to is the AAAS emissaries trying to tell religious people how to reconcile science with their religion—and that is theology.  Here’s a description of one of their science ambassadors, who of course is religious:

IN MAY 2015, S. Joshua Swamidass, a computational biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, received a curious email: would he like to try advising a theological seminary? The note was from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a nonprofit organization that was spinning up a program to send scientists into religious institutions. The organizers had come across an essay he had written, and thought he could help.

So this is how Swamidass and the program help (my emphases):

A week after he got the email, Swamidass headed down to Concordia Seminary, a historic Lutheran campus just a few blocks away from his office in Saint Louis. He met with Joel Okamoto, a Concordia systematic theology professor, and they began searching for places to insert science into the school’s curricula. One course on the Old Testament would analyze whether Genesis could be interpreted as a form of early cosmology. Another would explore what neuroscience has to say about human identity and the soul. “That’s a central preoccupation of books like the Psalms or the Book of Job,” says Okamoto. They also drew up plans for a day-long symposium on faith and the science of memory. Soon, Swamidass was visiting Concordia as often as a few times a month.

. . . The program also made room for more difficult discussions, like evolution. For instance, Bethany Seminary, in Indiana, is planning a conference that will explore “another way of reading [the Bible], whereby they can take the Bible seriously but also accept where the science leads,” says Russell Haitch, a Bethany theology professor.

The bits in bold don’t represent science, but theology: trying to force two disparate ways of knowing together, like mismatched pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

But does it even work? Who knows? BioLogos, a similar organization started by Karl Giberson and Francis Collins, has failed miserably in its goal of getting evangelical Christians to accept evolution. Instead, that program is now deeply engaged in theological pilpul like trying to reconcile Adam and Eve with genetics; and evangelicals are still resisting Darwinism.

The Science for Seminaries program also seems to be failing, at least in some venues:

In response, Concordia reaffirmed its commitment to a Six-Day creation in a science-themed summer edition of its Lutheran Journal, which featured the Hubble Space Telescope’s image of the Westerlund 2 star cluster on the cover. “To the credit of AAAS, they never wanted us to compromise or change,” says Okamoto. “They wanted to make sure we knew that.” But, as he wrote in the journal, “Science for Seminaries” had affirmed that Richard Dawkins did not represent most scientists, “just as the Westboro Baptist Church does not represent all Christians.” Concordia has also learned to empathize with the “lonely calling” of Christian scientists and “theistic evolutionists” like Swamidass—even if the seminary wouldn’t take their position.

Yep, the AAAS is telling the faithful that Richard Dawkins doesn’t represent most scientists, for of course Dawkins is Satan to many religious people. It’s unclear, however, whether Dawkins’s views on atheism don’t represent “most scientists”, since the ubiquitous and unctuous accommodationist Elaine Ecklund says this:

Elaine Ecklund, who researches science and religion at Rice University, says that scientists often underestimate how popular their work is within religious communities, and vice versa: 39 percent of American biologists and physicists affiliate with a faith.

That’s a lot less religiosity than is seen among non-scientist Americans.

So Dawkins’s atheism may indeed characterize most scientists, and certainly characterizes scientists at elite universities (72% atheists) as well as member of the National Academy of Sciences (93% atheists). But even if it didn’t, deliberately dissing one of biology’s premier science popularizes to seminarians is at best unseemly.

And the emissary Dr. Swamidass embarrasses himself in other ways, too (my emphasis):

Meanwhile, seminarians at other schools heard about Swamidass’ work with “Science for Seminaries” and started privately reaching out, curious to understand how he simultaneously affirmed evolutionary science and his faith. Swamidass responded to the interest with a blog post on his lab page, in which he wrote: “it appears that, for some reason, God chose to create humans so that our genomes look as though we do, in fact, have a common ancestor with chimpanzees.”

For some reason? For WHAT reason? Maybe there isn’t a god, and evolution just happens to have occurred by naturalistic means. That in fact is what most scientists believe, not that God made us looking as if we had evolved. Here Swamidass comes perilously close to the old canard that God put the fossils in the rocks to test our faith. At the very least, he’s promulgating a form of theistic evolution.

If you’re a member of the AAAS, be mindful of this. I for one would never join that organization, as I don’t want my money going to theological endeavors.

h/t: Diane G.

49 Comments

  1. Blue
    Posted October 8, 2018 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Dr Coyne, for writing upon this, and
    Ms Diane G, for bringing it to his / our attention.

    I am so angered by this. I am not a member,
    never have been but ‘ve so been pressured to be.

    Just head – shakingly angering. It is difficult enough
    to hafta .be. alongside such persons inside
    my daily scientific endeavor. Then to have
    this organization, commonly joined for colleagues, messing with f a c t this way ? !
    WHEN THEY KNOW BETTER. I know they know better.

    ! J. E. B. U. S. !

    Blue

  2. Posted October 8, 2018 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Concordia reaffirmed its commitment to a Six-Day creation […] “To the credit of AAAS, they never wanted us to compromise or change,” says Okamoto.

    What?? Really? The AAAS has no problem with six-day creationism??

    … “Science for Seminaries” had affirmed that Richard Dawkins did not represent most scientists, “just as the Westboro Baptist Church does not represent all Christians.”

    What a ridiculous and offensive comparison.

    • Sastra
      Posted October 8, 2018 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      Yes. It would have been insulting enough to have compared Richard Dawkins to Ken Ham, but at least that would have placed them on both ends of the spectrum on evolution/creationism.

      Instead, they pick an example of a religious extremist who preaches Hell, hate, and the most virulent sort of intrusive repulsiveness and hostility protesting funeralsand place gentlemanly Richard on the other side, who wrote a book explaining that religion is probably not true. Same thing.

  3. Historian
    Posted October 8, 2018 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    I found this statement in a post by Swamidass:

    “We find that Adam and Eve could be genealogical ancestors of us all, less than 10,000 years ago in the Middle East, de novo created, without parents. As surprising as this may sound, these confessions are entirely consistent with evolutionary science.”

    Need anything more be said?

    http://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/review/theistic-evolution-a-scientific-philosophical-and-theological-critique-2

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted October 8, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      There’s more of Swamidass and his pals here http://peacefulscience.org/. This is a sight to check out and be alarmed by. Its very name is alarming; and this from its website:”What exactly is it that science does and does not say? We are a trusted voice in a scientific world, engaging these questions with empathy.”

      “A trusted voice in a scientific world”??? And they are really touting this genetic Adam and Eve BS and a book by one Dennis Venema titled “Adam and the Genome.”

    • Mike Cracraft
      Posted October 8, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      If these fools really want to know the truth they can read David Reich’s new book “Who We Are and How We Got Here”.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 8, 2018 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    … Dawkins is Satan to many religious people.

    Or at least Screwtape.

  5. DrBrydon
    Posted October 8, 2018 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    One of my favorite lines from the old “King othe Hill” show was from an story involving Christian Rock. At one point Hank exclaims, “You aren’t making Christianity better, you’re just making rock ‘n’ roll worse!”

  6. Posted October 8, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    To me the thing to do is work on education at the high school and earlier public education level to make sure science is taught property at those levels.

    All colleges do not require courses in biology or physics so if we miss kids in high school we miss them. And college attendance is not universal.

    Many ministers do not receive any science after the high school level.

    There is where we should place our emphasis on universal education.

  7. Posted October 8, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Hello Dr. Coyne.

    Thank you for the thoughtful article today. These are issues of very high importance. I see legitimate concerns arising both in your article and in some of the comments. I was merely interviewed for this article and did not control the final text. So it seems worthwhile to flesh out a few key points, that hopefully expose some places of common ground.

    First, regarding Dawkins. I have a great deal of respect for Dawkins. He is NOT equivalent to the Westboro Baptist Church. He is most certainly not “satan.” I work with atheists as my colleagues every day as a scientist. They are brilliant, hardworking, honest, moral people. I hope that better bridges can be built so that atheists are no longer demonized in religious communities.

    Second, regarding my quote about the “appearance” of common descent. Like everyone here, I believe life looks like it evolved because it DID evolve. The rhetoric here was designed to create space so that evolution skeptics could approach the evidence without having to agree with it from the get go. This sensitivity was so infuriating to anti-evolutionists at the Discovery Institute, that they promptly assaulted in on the ENV blog (https://evolutionnews.org/2016/05/stunning_eviden/). The back and forth on that was entertaining. In the end, I do not present anything but the best evolutionary science, as would be agreed upon by scientists like Coyne, Miller, Dawkins, Moran, and most other secular scientists (maybe not Shapiro though), but I do attempt to do so in a non-combative rhetoric.

    Third, regarding Peaceful Science and the quote about Adam and Eve. My site is just a personal blog, but also has a forum (http://discourse.peacefulscience.org). There are several scientists of all sorts there, including many secular/atheist/agnostic scientists. It is not a parochial challenge to mainstream science. In no way does science demonstrate that Adam and Eve are real or were de novo created. The quote about Adam and Eve makes sense if you read the 2004 paper in Nature by Rohdes on common ancestry. In that quote, I am explaining a though experiment on Adam and Eve, based on our scientific understanding of genealogical (not genetic) ancestry. If I made any scientific errors on those points, I intend to correct and retract them immediately.

    Finally, regarding Concordia reaffirming Six Day creation. That is not what AAAS affirms (of course not) nor what I affirm. Nor is it an accurate statement about what happened in the denomination. What I can tell you is that there is an increased openness to mainstream science within this denomination. This is good thing for all of us, though it will take time to work out.

    Science depends on broad public support, both prevent conflicts over science textbooks and to support its funding and adoption. I am now a tenured professor, but I began this work early in my career before I was tenured. I did this because we live in a fractured society, and it is in everyone’s benefit to find way to a common society of mutual tolerance and honesty. Science, I am certain, could be a place of common ground. This, at least, is what I hope for and what I work for now.

    I hope this reduces some of the real concerns that have been raised here. Thank you for your interest in my work.

    • Posted October 8, 2018 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for this letter. I would like to know who told Concordia that Dawkins wasn’t representative of all scientists, though. Was it you, some other emissary of the AAAS, or somebody else. Second, my concern is not allayed, because by professing theistic evolution (saying that God created humans looking as if they evolved), you are mixing the science (human evolution) with an unsubstantiated religious claim (there is a God, and that God created humans). I cannot support anybody who goes into seminaries and mixes science and religion in this way, especially when you profess a form of theistic evolution that sticks God into the naturalistic process.

      So no, my concerns are not allayed. You and the AAAS and Templeton are promulgating theological viewpoints on the dime of AAAS members. But I appreciate your attempt to explain.

      • Posted October 8, 2018 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

        These are legitimate concerns that deserve honest answers. I’ll answer some of the most pressing issues here in separate comments

        I expect it will take time to work through all your concerns. Let us keep the lines of communication open.

      • Posted October 8, 2018 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

        I want to answer the questions about Dawkins. It took me some effort to track this down, but it appears to be from the Concordia Journal from Summer 2017 (https://issuu.com/concordiasem/docs/17018a_concordiajournalsummer17_a12). The quotes in questions were written by two seminary professors. The context of the quote is important. Here is what was said:

        “If scientists carry a caricature of Christianity filtered through the media, the same applies to many of us when it comes to science. The media is happy to give a voice to and promote “star-power scientists” like Richard Dawkins, but they do not represent all scientists just as the Westboro Baptist Church does not represent all Christians.
        We ourselves run the risk of describing (and interpreting) the supporting data for evolutionary theory inaccurately, or we describe the theory in hundred-year- old terms. Pastors who misrepresent the status of the field and misrepresent what scientists are saying and not saying, run the risk of losing credibility among their congregants who have a strong scientific background. As in any discipline, we need to state the position of evolutionists in such a way that the scientist can say, “Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying.” Only then are we in a position to analyze it.”

        There were three other quotes about Dawkins in this journal issue that I am reproducing here:

        “Contemporary materialists like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, from whom we heard earlier, will point to the way science offers comprehensive explanations of the universe and conclude that God is not only unnecessary for understanding the universe, but unnecessary altogether. Proponents of intelligent design agree with this logic but not the conclusion.”

        “Some scientists even become militantly anti-religion or anti-Christianity. Religion is a threat to the system on which they stake their daily lives, their place within the universe, and their perception of meaning in the universe. People from Richard Dawkins to Stephen Hawking receive a level of media attention that gives the impression that all scientists are of like mind.”

        “First, most scientists distinguish their work from the work of those who have
        moved from science to philosophy such as Richard Dawkins. Thus, many scientists recognize the limited nature of their work; they are not seeking to make claims about everything much less about God. They are trying to understand how the various aspects of our world intersect and operate.”

        —–

        Like most public consumption articles in the sciences, it seems critical to go to the primary literature to get the full story. In context, the sense in which Dawkins “does not represent all scientists” is stating the fact that not all scientists are atheists. This seems to be indisputably true.

        The quote about Dawkins and Westboro is not equating the two as morally equivalent. Rather, they are saying that presuming all scientists are anti-religious atheists is as unfair. The comparison to Westboro makes sense to them, because they feel the media has unfairly painted all Christians like Westboro. This comparison might have made sense in the context of their internal conversation, but it does not translate the public context of the WIRED article.

        Personally, I would not have put that quote in the WIRED article. It creates the false impression that Dawkins and Westboro are morally equivalent, when they certainly are not.

        The larger picture I see in these quotes is that they are encourage their denomination to take seriously the findings of science. In my work with AAAS, I did not promote any specific theological viewpoint, but focused on explaining the best science in an understandable way. This seems to be precisely the mission of the AAAS, to promote public understanding of science, including evolutionary science.

        • Dave137
          Posted October 9, 2018 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

          “Religion is a threat to the system on which [scientists] stake their daily lives, their place within the universe, and their perception of meaning in the universe.”

          In reality:

          “Science is a threat to the system on which [the religious] stake their daily lives, their place within the universe, and their perception of meaning in the universe.”

          * * *

          The latter conversion lies at the heart of why Templeton bleeds money.

          On the one hand, arguably there’s value in speaking with those with whom we disagree, and in presenting science to those likely unfamiliar with it. Doing so could actually enlighten and inspire people to transcend whichever indoctrinated myth. And maybe that’s the intention, if only for AAAS.

          On the other hand, Templeton desires a gradual muddying of the waters, as Dr Coyne previously expressed. How AAAS could partner with such an “institution”, therefore, is problematic.

          So, I’m increasingly considering cancelling my membership over this, just as I did with Nautilus Magazine upon realizing after a couple issues that it’s merely a slick front for Templeton: and even though, sadly, some excellent scientists and thinkers contribute to it.

          Bleh.

      • Posted October 8, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        About mixing science and religion. This is an important concern. I also want to be sure that the integrity of science is maintained. I take guidance from Eugenia Scott from the NSCE who writes:

        “Because creationists explain natural phenomena by saying “God performed a miracle,” we tell them that they are not doing science. This is easy to understand. The flip side, though, is that if science is limited by methodological [naturalism] because of our inability to control an omnipotent power’s interference in nature, both “God did it” and “God didn’t do it” fail as scientific statements. Properly understood, the principle of methodological [naturalism] requires neutrality towards God; we cannot say, wearing our scientist hats, whether God does or does not act.” https://ncse.com/religion/science-religion-methodology-humanism

        When it comes to my scientific work, Dr. Coyne, I approach it just as do you, without any appeals to God or “Intelligence” or “Design.” I do not mix religious belief with science. None of the scientific conclusions I draw depend on theology or religious beliefs.

        Outside of science, in non scientific work, it is legitimate to contemplate the larger implications of what we find. This is what Dawkins has done to great effect. His philosophical/personal (or whatever we want to call it) understanding of the implications of evolutionary science is that it affirms his atheism. This is entirely legitimate, and he has a right to explore these conclusions and make his case, as he has for years.

        In the same way, outside science, in theological or philosophical or personal reflections, I can consider larger questions too. For example, it is legitimate to wonder if God was involved in our origins, as a theological exercise, not as an insert into a science textbook or scientific paper. I’m very careful to keep these theological reflections outside of science, maintaining the integrity of scientific work.

        Of course, we are going to disagree about theology. That is fine. We don’t have to agree. We still have science as common ground. This is possible precisely because I am NOT mixing in religious views into science. I’m keeping them separate within the scientific context. This is why several atheist/agnostic scientists (e.g. Authur Hunt, Dan Eastwood, and others) and I find common ground rebutting critiques of evolutionary science together.

        Agreeing with Scott, I see science as neutral on these questions, but I also see an invitation to larger conversations outside science itself. In that sense, I’m engaging the same sorts of larger conversations as Dawkins, and perhaps even yourself. We are not on different teams. We all care about putting the best and most accurate science into the public square. We all care about moving our society in a more just and kind direction. We will disagree on some things, but we also will agree on quite a bit.

        • Posted October 8, 2018 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

          Umm. . . it’s EUGENIE Scott, and I don’t agree with her on methodological naturalism. It’s crazy to say that “we cannot say whether God does or does not act.” There is NO EVIDENCE THAT HE DOES! One might as well say “We have no evidence whether fairies do or do not act.” Or “we have no evidence that Bigfoot exists.” If the evidence should be there and it isn’t, then that counts as evidence, too. And we’ve seen not an iota of credible evidence for God acting in the world ever.

          An epistemological buttress to methodological naturalism is philosophical naturalism: that there’s no god to act. Barbara Forrest has expounded this view eloquently in this paper: https://infidels.org/library/modern/barbara_forrest/naturalism.html

          • Sastra
            Posted October 8, 2018 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

            And to add to the analogy, saying that “science cannot address whether God exists or not” is like saying science cannot address the truth or falsehood of alternative medicine, psychic powers, or whether our thoughts are a form of cosmic energy playing upon the quantum field.

            All those beliefs are put forward by people who dance on a cusp between science and spirituality, falling towards pseudoscience when they think they can win the point and/or the audience, and asserting separate domains when it looks like it’s not going over very well.

        • Posted October 8, 2018 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

          When it comes to my scientific work, Dr. Coyne, I approach it just as do you, without any appeals to God or “Intelligence” or “Design.” I do not mix religious belief with science.

          This is an interesting comment. You believe (I assume) a god exists who also intervenes in the universe. How do you know that gods or intelligence or design are negligible factors in your research?

          We don’t have to agree. We still have science as common ground. This is possible precisely because I am NOT mixing in religious views into science. I’m keeping them separate within the scientific context.

          I don’t understand how you can keep them separate. Do your religious views accurately reflect reality? If so, science and religion cannot be separated, since they would describe the same reality and their areas of inquiry overlap.

          • David Heddle
            Posted October 9, 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

            “This is an interesting comment. You believe (I assume) a god exists who also intervenes in the universe. How do you know that gods or intelligence or design are negligible factors in your research?”

            I won’t reply for Dr. Swamidass, but as another believing scientist. His reply may differ.

            The answer is very simple. As a scientist I simply assume (in an inviolate manner) it to be so– i.e., that God does not interfere with scientific experiments. (I also believe this to be a theologically sound conclusion, so it’s not as if it’s struggle or creates cognitive dissonance.) The only way for me to be a scientist is (when I’m doing science) to adhere to the scientific method, without reservation or exception. I would never be that guy in the famous Sydney Harris cartoon invoking a miracle in his proof. To be explicit, if I encountered a person who could walk on water I’d instrument the lake and the person and look for a natural explanation as if I were Randi. I’d either find one or go to the grave trying–I would never in the context of science claim a miracle.

            If God does interfere with science, then as scientists we all are lost. If God is engineering the anomalous large scale motion, rather than, say, dark matter, then science fails. But just like secular scientists, I take it on faith, a faith rooted upon centuries of impressive success, that science is not a fool’s errand.

            • Posted October 9, 2018 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

              If God is engineering the anomalous large scale motion, rather than, say, dark matter, then science fails.

              Why assume a god can’t be investigated by science? If they affect reality, then they are amenable to scientific investigation.

              But just like secular scientists, I take it on faith, a faith rooted upon centuries of impressive success, that science is not a fool’s errand.

              Then that isn’t faith. That is evidence-based belief. Some might say that faith is based on evidence, but in my experience with Christian friends and even theists on r/DebateReligion tells me that they resort to faith when there is insufficient evidence for their beliefs.

              -Ryan

          • Sastra
            Posted October 9, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

            The usual response tends to fall somewhere along the line of “science discovers reality using the head; faith discovers reality by adding the use of the heart.”

            And if we define “using the heart” as “allowing our preconceptions, biases, intuitions and desires to add things into the model of reality “ then sure. But an honest epistemology wouldn’t allow us to do that. And that eliminates the additions, either through scientific falsification or Occam’s Razor.

            But theists want “using the heart” to keep the meaning we use when dealing with meaning — meaning the way we employ it when talking about love, values, ideals, and feelings of transcendence. Science can explain the sunset to the mind, but only our hearts recognize and respond to its beauty. That sort of thing. They want to stick God into that subjective category.

            And they also want to use it as an objective fact and a reasonable explanation for objects and events. It’s a floorwax AND a dessert topping!

            • Posted October 9, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

              I tend to hear “using the heart” as “not using the brain”. I think it is a useful rule of thumb. It’s not that emotion isn’t important but referring to it to make a decision should be a red flag.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted October 8, 2018 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

          I am not a scientist. My training is as an historian though I like to think I approach investigations with the same rigour as a real scientist.

          All scientists leave God (or any other supernatural entity) at the door when working. There is no other option. They could not do their job if they had to consider whether a supernatural power might interfere in the results. And, of course, there is no evidence that any supernatural entity ever has interfered with the work of scientists.

          If the results were not what they were expecting, no scientist ever considers a supernatural explanation for why that might be. Even if they cannot find an explanation, the assumption is never that God messed with the results.

          When it comes to issues like evolutionary theory that science has found huge amounts of sound evidence for, and that all new evidence found just confirms the theory, I personally don’t see how that can be reconciled with a belief in God.

          I can understand that via the cognitive dissonance we all have in some areas, people can believe in God and still accept scientific theories. But I can’t see how a scientific organization can waste huge amounts of time and money trying to create cognitive dissonance in theologians because, imo, that’s all you’re really doing. Either that, or this is really a secret plan to make them recognize that there’s no God.

    • Posted October 8, 2018 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      I would be interested in your response to Historian, above, who quoted you as saying “We find that Adam and Eve could be genealogical ancestors of us all, less than 10,000 years ago in the Middle East, de novo created, without parents. As surprising as this may sound, these confessions are entirely consistent with evolutionary science.”

      Are you asserting that there is scientific evidence that supports a two person population bottleneck in the past 10,000 years?

      • Posted October 8, 2018 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

        Someone thinks SBA could have gone from the Middle East to Southeast Asia and South America in ten thousand years?

      • Posted October 8, 2018 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        The evidence does NOT support a two person bottleneck in the past 10,000 years. In fact, the evidence seems to strongly RULE OUT a two person genetic bottleneck as far back as about 500,000 years ago, perhaps as far back as 700,000 years ago. Farther back in time, it might not be possible to tell one way or another from evidence.

        • Posted October 8, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

          Okay, I think this is enough. You’ve left two very long comments–equivalent to another post. If you want to say more, please put it on your own website. Thank you.

        • Posted October 8, 2018 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

          > the evidence seems to strongly RULE OUT a two person genetic bottleneck as far back as about 500,000 years ago, perhaps as far back as 700,000 years ago.

          That’s my understanding as well. I am having trouble reconciling what you’re saying here with what Historian quoted you as saying about Adam and Eve being “consistent with evolutionary science.”

          I see that PCC(E) has requested that you respond on your own blog. If you answer this question there, could you please provide a link here?

          • Posted October 8, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

            He is trying to accommodate mitochondrial Eve, as described in coalescence theory, into a form that is palatable to devout Christians. But the translation leaves a lot out. This Eve was not the first woman in the same sense that the first ‘Sturtevant’ of my lineage was the first person with Dutch ancestry.

            • Posted October 8, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

              > He is trying to accommodate mitochondrial Eve, as described in coalescence theory, into a form that is palatable to devout Christians.

              Interesting, thanks. That still doesn’t get him anywhere near close to an Eve, however loosely defined, in the last 10,000 years, of course.

              I wonder if he’ll provide a straight answer to the apparent contradiction between his two statements.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted October 8, 2018 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

      So I am confused, here you seem to claim that there were a human bottleneck of a single breeder pair since coalescent theory of genetics maps to genealogy (give or take mistaken ancestry), while in a later comment you *also* admit that genetics rejected that 2011. (And it would in general be unlikely in mammal lineages anyway.) And how that square facts as somehow “tolerate” common ground non-facts I do not see.

      Let me be upfront with that I think modern religion just passed into the same sphere that astrology and homeopathy occupy. I had long known that thermodynamics reject religious ideas of ‘souls’/’afterlife’ – making religion non-rewarding and morally problematic – but only by consistency; it was not a slam dunk observation. However I have now noticed that public physicists (Brian Cox, Neal deGrasse Tyson, Sean Carroll) claim or agree openly since 2017 that the accumulated LHC particle experiments – tested theory *and* measured outcomes – constitute such a slam dunk; not enough rest interactions to mimic or read out a brain state.

      And of course the last few weeks saw the Planck cosmology results show several independent but agreeing ways that our universe – objects and events – is 100 % mechanistic. So explicitly no ‘gods’ anywhere, at the usual evidence level of facts. How should I be factful and moral, and at the same time pretend that there is a common ground with dealers in astrology, religion, homeopathy? It cannot now be done; unless of course religion stops making claims about nature and its history and starts becoming a social club among others. As has been suggested before, perhaps the diverse sects could indulge in some harmless practice such as knitting.

  8. Posted October 8, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    I have gone to AAAS meetings in the past as a representative of my company and an exhibitor. Judging by the talks and exhibits, as well as random conversations with attendees and other exhibitors, I do think the AAAS does good work overall. It seems likely that their connection to religion is just to position themselves as agnostic and to avoid those on the right who might otherwise label them as being anti-religion. I think this is just smart in this political climate and considering the religiosity of the US population. It is certainly not in their interest to show people how science is incompatible with religion, even if it is the case. Perhaps it is good that they attempt to bring science to the religious even if it doesn’t always succeed.

    Of course, there’s also nothing wrong with complaining about it. Everyone has their role to play.

    • Posted October 8, 2018 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

      I feel like this isn’t the best solution. One could just not talk about religion.

  9. Jon Gallant
    Posted October 8, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    “…it appears that, for some reason, God chose to create humans so that our genomes look as though we do, in fact, have a common ancestor with chimpanzees.” What a flawless summary of the entire theological case against empirical science! When I was teaching Genetics long ago, I used to state Mr. Swamidass’ interpretation; and then asked the students to decide for themselves between the hypotheses that things were as they appeared to be, or, alternatively, that God liked to stage elaborate practical jokes (“for some reason”).

  10. Posted October 8, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    That not-so-subtle bit comparing Dawkins to Westboro Baptistians… That made me squawk out some swear words!
    It is as good an example as any that these accommodationists are unable to use simple thinking and reasoning to arrive at a justifiable conclusion. I swear these folks can be more outrageous than the bible literalists who have no truck with science. At least with the latter you can hope for internally consistent delusions.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted October 8, 2018 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      I found that bit disgusting as well. Setting aside the morality of their respective views, the essential difference is that Dawkin’s views are not generally outside the mainstream of science, while the Westboro Baptists are, we are repeatedly assured, far outside the mainstream of Christianity. The comparison is dishonest at every level.

  11. Posted October 8, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    I must have missed the part where Dawkins claimed he was representing most scientists or somehow speaking for science. Rather, his statements about religion are all positions that can be easily and directly drawn from science. The only somewhat unusual thing, perhaps is that he speaks about it openly.

  12. Dan Eastwood
    Posted October 8, 2018 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I think that finding common ground to discuss the meaning of science with people is far more productive than the endless argument of explaining why someone’s religion is not science. You don’t need to be religious to do that, it just takes some empathy and understanding.

    My two-bits.

    • Posted October 8, 2018 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Well, that’s your opinion. The fact is that Richard Dawkins’s “The God Delusion” probably turned more people against religion and toward science than any amount of accommodationism. That’s MY two bits.

      • Blue
        Posted October 8, 2018 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

        +1. Mine as well.

        Blue

      • Dan Eastwood
        Posted October 11, 2018 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        Fair enough. I’d say that Ken Ham has probably created more atheists than Richard Dawkins. How can we lose? 🙂

  13. Posted October 8, 2018 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Simply, like rubidium and water the two, science and theology, can never mix and be nice to each other, somethings just ARE.
    We know people do science, use it’s benefits, make a living from it and keep a fairytale for comfort, why?
    I, myself, the thing in my head, think it is because they are unwilling to let themselves go with the flawed, the profound, the incredible, the inexplicable, the beauty, the flamboyance, the ugly and ferocity of the natural world.
    Understanding science, showing the power and fragility of life and the non living, is a continuous, dynamic epic story based on reality… a fairytale explains nothing but a measure of comfort.

  14. CAS
    Posted October 8, 2018 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Why does the AAAS go to ridiculous lengths to accommodate religious belief? It may be simple. There are a lot of believing Christian legislative folks that vote on science funding. For example: The survey of the beliefs of elite NAS scientists has never been repeated.

    National Academy of Sciences 7% believe in god (Nature, 1998; 394, 313)

    • Posted October 8, 2018 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. Even though their “Science” journal publishes real science, the AAAS is chiefly a science advocacy organization. They can’t be seen as alienating anyone.

  15. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 8, 2018 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    At the highly liberal seminary I attended, the battle against creationism was long settled, but the battle against quantum woo not!!
    Many saw through the pretensions of Deepak Chopra and films like “What the Bleep Do we Know?” but not all.
    Please, someone fund some courses on real quantum physics in liberal seminaries!!!

  16. Posted October 8, 2018 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Here’s what Darwin wrote in Chapter IV of “The Descent of Man,” when filtered to account for the fact that he preferred not to completely alienate his pious Christian wife:

    “Look, get this through your adamantine skulls. The claim that there are objective moral truths is an essential and critical claim of virtually every religion. Such truths do not exist. If another species approached the intelligence of human beings, its morality would be different. That fact makes science and religion mutually exclusive.”

    Given his circumstances, I don’t see how he could have said it more plainly. To the extent that one considers Darwin a scientist, it is impossible for science to accommodate religious belief.

  17. Matt
    Posted October 9, 2018 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Build that wall! Build that wall!

    I’m talking about the wall between science and religion.


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