My anti-accommodationism article at The Conversation

A while back I posted a critique on this site of an article by Tom McLeish at The Conversation, “Religion isn’t the enemy of science: it’s been inspiring scientists for centuries.” In that critique I wrote, “I think it’s time I contributed an article to The Conversation showing why science and religion are incompatible, as that site appears to be very soft on faith.”  Since then I’ve learned that The Conversation has several independent branches, and that piece was published by The Conversation UK, not The Conversation US.

But the former site, which may indeed be soft on faith, recently published yet another accommodationist article, “War between science and religion is far from inevitable” by David N. Livingstone, Professor of Geography and Intellectual History, Queen’s University Belfast, and John Hedley Brooke, Emeritus Professor of Science and Religion as the University of Oxford. And that was the last straw for me. That article, if you can get through it, is an encyclopedia of all the tropes of accommodationism: scientists can be religious, religion inspired scientific discoveries, and religion can provide useful values in a discussion with scientists. (It even begins with a mention of Faith versus Fact, whose thesis of course Livingstone and Brooke reject.). The prose, too, was deadly; get a load of this:

In our own day, there may well be benefits to be derived from a dialogue between theological anthropology and those advocating transhumanism. New technological possibilities are raising profound questions about what it means to be human, a subject on which theologians have had much to say. At the very least, theology might prove to be a useful conversational partner in articulating values by which to adjudicate among the human capacities that might be prioritised for enhancement.

The article winds up with a firm but plaintive assertion that religion, after all, isn’t going away. (Of course it is, at least in the West.)

I didn’t write about the piece here, as I finally decided to respond at The Conversation itself—if they’d let me. I sent The Conversation U.S. a pitch, they were interested, and I wrote a piece that didn’t directly attack the ideas of Livingstone and Brooke, but linked to their piece (and others), and asserted that yes, there is a kind of war between science and religion. This was published this morning. It was a pleasure to work with my editor and the site. (I didn’t realize that you have to be an academic to publish there, and have to link to every quote and claim that you make.)

At any rate, you can read my piece below (“Yes, there is a war between science and religion“) by clicking on the link. If you’re interested, give them some traffic, and stand up for empiricism! (You’re welcome to make comments and to engage with the commenters who, inevitably, will be upset by my ideas.) The Conversation also published under a creative commons license, so anybody can republish the article for free.

As Andrew Sullivan might say, “See you next Friday,” except I’ll be here all week, folks.

89 Comments

  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    “theology might prove to be a useful conversational partner”

    they mean of course, a theologian. Spheres of knowledge aren’t alive and don’t talk.

    Now the question is, which one? And why not Deepak Chopra?

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I like “compartmentalization” to describe Francis Collins’ rationalization of scientists who do faith.

  3. Christopher
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Not to draw attention away from your article, but did you see the article listed at the end of yours? It was questioning whether or not it is ethical to give catnip to your kitty! One person compared it to giving drugs to a child! Crazy.

  4. Serendipitydawg
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    The end of the first comment made me chuckle:

    A theist can acknowledge the outcomes of methodological naturalism, without excepting the ontological conclusions made by folks like Coyne.

    You would appear to have a faulty ontology, best get that seen to in the new year. 😀

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted December 21, 2018 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Also, the majority of the others are predictable.

      I did get as far as logging in using Google and started typing a reply (very nice preview on that site) and then decided that life is just tooooo short.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted December 21, 2018 at 9:53 am | Permalink

        That thought occurred to me.

        Also had bad experience with damn websites tricking me into logging in with whatever other account I have.

        Question I had : when was science invented?

        I thought it was defined in the early 19th c, Whewell. But before that we all know Greeks, Arabs, even ancient Egyptians used naturalistic reasoning to get good things like food and irrigation. But that’s as far as I could mark it.

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted December 21, 2018 at 10:00 am | Permalink

          Also had bad experience with damn websites tricking me into logging in with whatever other account I have.

          I haven’t had any problems thus far… I only usually log in to sites like WordPress and Stack Overflow, I would think twice for anything that wasn’t so mainstream in case there is a way for my Google credentials to leak.

  5. Mikeyc
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Well done, a precis of Faith vs Fact. You’re getting push back already, some of it, though flawed in the usual ways, is well made. Do others here have a good opinion of The Conversation? I mean as a site with quality writing and debate. I’ll browse it but opinions are welcome, if you’ve got one.

    The intertubes is a vast wasteland, but here and there one can find an oasis. The trick is to avoid the mirages.

    • TD2000
      Posted December 21, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Judging from the beating that Dr. Coyne is getting for this article, I have doubts that reading The Conversation is worth my time.

  6. Michael B
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Nice & concise!

    In an article I can’t seem to get published anywhere, I make the point (not original) that religions aren’t even compatible with each other, let alone compatible with science:

    “Science strives for consilience among its branches, but religion would seem to do the opposite: It isn’t even compatible with itself, let alone with science. Is there any matter of doctrine that the major religions agree on, to the same the extent that chemists agree on the laws of physics, molecular biologists agree on the rules of chemistry, evolutionists agree on the principles of molecular biology, and psychologists agree on the tenets of evolution?”

    (Mr Demille, I’m ready for my close-up.)

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted December 21, 2018 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      Pertinent point.
      Reminds us of the: “You Believer are an Atheist too, you don’t believe in Allah, Shiva, Odin, Zeus, etc. I have gone just one step further” (was that Dawkins, or did he cite someone?).

      • Posted December 21, 2018 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

        Ricky Gervais. If not, my second guess is Stephen Fry.

        -Ryan

  7. Neil Wolfe
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    The primary objection in the 20 or so comments (at the moment) seems to be that the article doesn’t present religion in a way that exactly matches their own faith so it is an over generalization that can be dismissed out of hand. The other comments are just silly “ways of knowing” arguments.

  8. Steve Pollard
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    An excellent article, which must have taken quite a bit or preparation (what with all those references). Shame that most of the comments so far are not up to the same standard.

    The Conversation (UK), like other similar sites, is a mixture of the good and the inane; but is worth persevering with. Just the other day I came across this recent article, which I think merits a look: https://theconversation.com/what-if-consciousness-is-just-a-product-of-our-non-conscious-brain-107973

  9. darrelle
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Good article Jerry, I wouldn’t have minded if it were a little bit longer.

    The comments so far are full of the standard philosophical accusations and no-true-Scotsman claims. It was really disappointing to learn that the poorest quality comments were authored by a retired philosophy professor. There are plenty of philosophers that I admire and that give philosophy a good name, but damn if there aren’t plenty that make it seem as if philosophy being the branch of study of how to think well is satire.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted December 21, 2018 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      ++ Religious philosophy at its finest. The comments that are coherent follow the standard theological convention of disguising their lack of content under mounds of BS.

      • darrelle
        Posted December 21, 2018 at 10:34 am | Permalink

        Exactly. Wish I’d written that 2nd sentence. A Gish-Gallop of philosophical gobbledygook.

    • Posted December 21, 2018 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      I was way over the word limit, anyway: they wanted 900 words and my piece is 1384 words, so they were generous in letting me say what I wanted. Imagine if I had to say that in 900 words!

      • Blue
        Posted December 21, 2018 at 11:19 am | Permalink

        Y e a, Dr Coyne ! and
        PLEASE, I know it is difficult; but
        PLEASE KEEP THESE STATEMENTS COMING.

        The more I work around scientists and
        within science, the MORE I see evangelical – ism ! THEREIN !

        This is so, so disheartening to me !
        I cannot even begin … … to decry, it is
        so friggin’ … … prevalent !

        Everywhere. Here.

        What th”ell happened to REASON !
        And EVIDENCE ! Here.

        JEBUS: It is y2019 !

        Blue

        • Blue
          Posted December 21, 2018 at 11:21 am | Permalink

          I reTweeted, too, as I see Dr Pinker did.
          CanNOT wait to be … … effing DISSED !

          Blue

      • darrelle
        Posted December 21, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        Thank goodness they let you go over! That was indeed a pretty lean and tight essay for the subject.

    • Posted December 21, 2018 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

      It was really disappointing to learn that the poorest quality comments were authored by a retired philosophy professor.

      I finally see who it was, and boy is that something else. I pity whoever was taught by him.

      -Ryan

  10. Kit Prendergast
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Great to see you publishing there!
    But my God (pun intended), don’t read the comments!

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 21, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      The comments must be written in large part by users of the other authors’ websites and blogs – or their students, etc.

  11. Posted December 21, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Well stated. And certainly not strident, although I expect those who disagree will claim otherwise.

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Jesus H, the comments to your piece over at The Conversation are damn near unreadable — muddled in their analysis and garbled in their expression. Much of this appears attributable to poor writing and reasoning, though some of it, I suspect, is intentional obscurantism.

    • Neil Wolfe
      Posted December 21, 2018 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      When I see the steaming wreckage of these arguments I can’t help but think “Oh the humanities”

      • Ross Foley
        Posted December 21, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        My thoughts, after the first five or six comments, were two: a) Hamlet’s “Words, words, words.” Words with very few meanings really relevant to what Dr Coyne had argued; and b)how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, and all the schisms that such nonsense can engender.
        Sue Strandberg was the only one in those few who seemed to be dealing with the discussion in a rational, meaningful way.

  13. Sastra
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Excellent article and dreadful comments.

    But I’m over there and wading in!

    • Posted December 21, 2018 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Sastra.

      BTW, Pinker tweeted it (with a gazillion more retweets than I’d ever get), but have a look at the comments on his tweet. They’re even more dismissive and ignorant than the negative ones on the Conversation.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted December 21, 2018 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      But I’m over there and wading in!

      You are, and ever were, patient. Much more so than I 🙂 I shall head over to see…

  14. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Very nice article. The comments are mostly boring and generally hard to understand. I think that’s the way they want it. The circular talk of the committed. As is always the case, theology goes on the attack and never provides evidence of their beliefs. Not once did I hear any real arguments for your specific facts, such as, why so many religions. Which one is true? I guess that doesn’t matter.

  15. Posted December 21, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    As far as I can tell from the evidence of science, human beings are essentially just meat machines with data processors on top. Science does not investigate and is not intended to investigate anything but the physical, and it therefore has nothing to say about whether there is some transcendent reality, over and above the physical, that can give persons a meaning and “special” value that the mere physical does not.

    One might hypothesize that consciousness on the human scale, which science still does not purport to explain, is part of an existent, value-giving transcendent reality that is not physical (i.e., not made of quarks, gluons, leptons, photons, etc.). After all, when persons lose consciousness and have no reasonable prospect of regaining it, we do in fact largely treat them as meat machines and just let their mechanisms lapse, turning off the life support. This is done under the legal fiction that they are “brain dead.” It’s a fiction, however, because the brain is usually not literally dead; it’s just no longer supporting consciousness.

    Mind you, my primary area of current scholarship is railing against the fallacy-based belief in “mental causation,” and I am surely not quick to suppose there are “spiritual” or other non-material causes that influence the physical domain. But I do believe in following the evidence, and I consider that the evidence of consciousness (which is quixotic to deny) raises, at the very least, questions about the completeness of science as a description of all that exists.

    • Posted December 21, 2018 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      There’s no reason to believe that consciousness is not explainable. Just because we don’t understand it yet, is no reason to give up hope. Everything we understand now was once not understood.

      • Posted December 21, 2018 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        Oh, I agree. But possibilities for future explanations are not evidence, nor are they even a framework of hypotheses for gathering and organizing evidence. Based on the evidence we have (particularly with reference to consciousness), we cannot yet conclude that the scientific description of all that exists, though impressive, is or can be complete, even in principle. Science does not even purport to investigate that “something extra” that makes us more than just meat machines. That’s my only point.

        • Posted December 21, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

          Science doesn’t recognize that “something extra” you refer to and neither do I. The existence of that something extra is for you to prove.

          • Posted December 21, 2018 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

            Yes, but see, that’s exactly why so many people are skeptical about science. They hear scientists cheerfully insisting that people are nothing beyond the physical–in effect, just “flesh.” While that may be so and there’s truly no “something extra” (and by definition, there’s no physical evidence one way or the other), it is not the sort of message that makes a person credible in the national arena. (And THAT is a social fact for which there is ample evidence).

            I think a bit more humility about what science does (and does not) actually know may temper the unfortunate resistance to scientific knowledge that IS evidence-based (like, for example, the theory of evolution).

        • darrelle
          Posted December 21, 2018 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

          There is nothing about science that constrains it to the physical or from investigating that “something extra,” whatever you or any given user of those terms may mean by them in any given usage. Science is merely a process that people use. That process can be used to investigate anything, whatever anyone wants to call it, that humans or the devices they create are capable of perceiving in some way.

          Categories such as natural, supernatural and that something extra are purely artificial divisions of this reality that we find ourselves in. If whatever phenomenon you wish to imagine is supposed to be something that can affect humans in any way that they are capable of perceiving then it would be logically impossible for that phenomenon to be beyond the purview of science because science is just a method that humans use to try and make sense of this reality we find ourselves in.

          Regarding the completeness of science as a description of all that exists, who claims any such thing? I guarantee that no remotely significant percentage of scientists would make that claim. Rather the opposite. Rather I usually see this kind of claim coming from anti-science leaning people. It always struck me as projection. It isn’t science that deals in absolute truths or claims of divine knowledge about all of creation. That’s religion.

          Regarding consciousness, it’s like the last big gap left for people to hide god in. That science can not yet describe how consciousness happens is not remarkable in any way and is not a failing of science. Nor is there any good reason to suppose that continued scientific investigation into consciousness won’t continue to yield useful results. It is still popular for people to portray consciousness as something that we know nothing about and that has got scientists completely stumped. But that just isn’t accurate. Particularly in the last 10-15 years scientific investigation has made significant progress, enabled by progress in biology in general and progress in developing more capable tools. No, we haven’t figured it out yet, not even close. But we are making discernible progress.

          • Posted December 22, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

            I believe that, in order for two explanatory systems to be deemed irreconcilable, they both have to be complete, at least in principle. If either one of them has areas of terra incognita that can’t be explained within the system even in principle, then it is, by definition. impossible rule out that the other system is somehow nestled within that terra incognita. That is to say, it is logically impossible to establish that the two systems are indeed irreconcilable.

            Some religionists may glibly deny that religion has any terra incognita, but no reputable scientist denies that science is incomplete in aspects that go beyond just filling in details.

            One has to admire the blind confidence of those who, though knowing that certain areas of knowledge remain unexplored, nonetheless declare with certainty what will be found in those areas once the exploration has been accomplished.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 21, 2018 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

          I was hearing this sort of guff a few days ago from a friend. I gave up after an hour, when he specifically insisted that an argument was only valid if you included concepts for which there is no evidence.
          As a theologian, William of Occam would be appalled. Me, I just finished my pint and went to a different pub to finish reading my “New Scientist”.

  16. Howard S Neufeld
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Was a great article Jerry. I was asked to contribute to the first edition of the U.S. version, and wrote on potential impacts of climate change on fall leaf colors. I’m sure your article will stimulate much discussion and generate lots of criticism. Nonetheless, it was a great read, and I forwarded it to all my colleagues here. Happy Holidays!

  17. freiner
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    A wonderful article, thank you. And very glad to see the intelligent comments here about the unintelligible comments there.

  18. Richard Jones
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Trying to work out where Caravaggio’s doubting Thomas fits in.

    • darrelle
      Posted December 21, 2018 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      It’s in the article.

  19. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Indeed, nice and concise.

    The citation of Polkinghorne is spot on: “….would amount to no more than an illusory exercise in comforting fantasy.” Exactly.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted December 21, 2018 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      I am going to say now that John Polkinghorne is a very nice man… I don’t, and can never, agree with his philosphy but he is courteous and respectful to the minions (such as me) in organisations. This is based on my interactions with him in the 1980’s, but I suspect that his personal conduct hasn’t changed.

      Of course, he is wrong in so many ways 😀

  20. Posted December 21, 2018 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Excellent rebuttal of accommodationism by our host. Comments on the Conversation piece were not of a high standard.

  21. GBJames
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for writing that, PCC[E]. Exactly the right number of words.

  22. Posted December 21, 2018 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Hear, hear! Excellent article, Jerry. That ought to be the last word on it, with the perfect last word about faith.

  23. rickflick
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Most of the comments are from religionists who couldn’t think their way out of a spider web. I tried to inflict some critical thinking, as did a few others, but it’s pretty hopeless.

  24. Posted December 21, 2018 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Great article, Jerry. Reading the comments I’m struck by the confusion in peoples minds about evidence. Argument does not equal evidence.

    rz

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 21, 2018 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      Good point

      Or even argument = convincing/parsimonious argument.

      Or even if there’s a clear notion of what the rules of all this is.

  25. Xenomun
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Apparently from the article and the comments here, science has gone from a search for truth and understanding of the universe, to being the last word on both. I could substitute the name of any strident fundamentalist religion’s deity for the word “science” in either the comments or the article and it would sound like the typical “convert or die” mantra of the warrior religions. The idea that anyone living on earth today actually knows more of the essential truth of human nature and the human condition than a Stoic philosopher of 2,500 years ago is the worst of 21st century hubris. Scientists of any age need to remember for all they see, they stand on the shoulders of giants. Many of those giants were Christians, Jews, and Muslims who had no problem reconciling their faith with their work. To attack believers of this age who are scientists as irrational is to deny the incredibly irrational behavior of scientists through the ages that have brought the world to the brink of catastrophe time and again. To think that today’s tools are somehow going to keep scientists from destroying the earth while saving the earth from unintended consequences yesterday’s science is truly irrational. The Stoics had it right…honor God, recognize you only control your own behavior, live modestly, study everything and accept that everything outside of yourself is beyond your control. That is the basis for good, fruitful, humble science.

    • Posted December 21, 2018 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Just because someone doesn’t have a problem reconciling belief in evidence with belief in unsubstantiated supernatural claim doesn’t mean that they’re philosophically compatible, which was my point. You don’t seem to have grasped it.

      As for God, you seem to be pretty sure a god exists Would you care to enlighten us with the data that make you believe in God? As for belief in and honoring God as the basis “for good fruitful humble science,” that’s just wrong. The vast majority of the best scientists (92% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences) are flat-out atheists. So much for your claim that honoring good is what you need to produce good science.

      • Xenomun
        Posted December 22, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

        “…you don’t seem to have grasped it” is the quote, apparently (see how that works?). The implication is that your correspondent is ignorant of your main point, because you have subjectively rejected his answer. Of course I understand the concept here…philosophical compatibility. That is akin to saying the Stoics, Epicureans, and Platonists were philosophically incompatible to the point of eliminating any rational discussion (not debate, mind you) between them. History is rife with examples of the opposite being true…there is much the many sides overlap and can agree upon, and fruitful discussions and considerations of each others’ ideas benefit both sides.

        As to the NAS (a tiny percentage of scientists practicing or emeritus), new candidates can only be nominated by existing members, so as a self-selecting group quoting statistics about its characteristics is meaningless…they select people like themselves.

        Yes I am sure God exists, which I know is taking the bait on your demand to reduce the God who holds the universe in His hand to data within a system that its residents cannot fully measure and don’t fully understand, but fervently believe they will.

        My surety is based on the knowledge of and relationship with Jesus Christ (yes, I know that name is usually only tolerated as a curse of exacerbation). Whether in the Aramaic, Koinea Greek, or 20th century English, I am convinced by the recorded life and words, period correct archaeology, epistles, 25,000 manuscripts, and the precious human examples around me and my personal experience, beyond a shadow of a doubt. That belief has been tested time an again over nearly 60 years of a less than charmed life by human standards, yet daily gives me peace, confidence, strength and perspective in this life, as well as hope and anticipation of a life to come. The life of Christ was a well documented example of how no amount of documentary and measurable evidence will be enough to convince the most skeptical and cynical people to ever live – the Julio-Claudian Romans and early first century Jewish leadership – and this is still true today. Yes I love it when the latest archaeological finds support my beliefs and provide historical context but don’t fret when they don’t, because I trust scientists and their science which will keep digging, assembling, collecting, and discerning what the artifacts are telling us with our present understanding. I have no doubt of the outcome and no fear of contradiction of my beliefs.

        • Posted December 22, 2018 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

          Re the National Academy: Do you think they ask potential candidates if they’re atheists? That’s crazy; they go totally by someone’s scientific record. And since 604% of “elite” scientists, who work at research universities, are also atheists, you can’t fob that off as “people selecting people like themselves” anyway. I don’t know what point you’re trying to make, but study after study shows, and has shown for years, that scientists are far more atheistic than “regular” Americans.

          As for your “certainty” that Christianity is correct based on your personal feelings and experience, and those 25,000 manuscripts, which of course all go back to the Bible, well, a Muslim or a Hindu could be (and are) just as certain, so no, there’s no consensus, and it’s arrogant for you to claim YOU have the right faith.

          By the way, Christianity has been tested also through prayers, which don’t work in blind studies, and through the existence of physical evil, which has NO explanation under the assumption that God is loving and kind and powerful. Ergo, there’s more evidence disproving Christianity than “proving” it.

          But I’ll let my readers discuss this with you. My own feeling is that you’ve deluded yourself by thinking that you have evidence for the truth of Christianity when, if you were raised in Saudi Arabia, you’d have the same certainty that Islam is correct.

          I wonder if there’s anything that could convince you that you were wrong about God. If Auschwitz and ;childhood cancers can’t do it, then nothing will.

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted December 22, 2018 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

          Have you considered, that perhaps, there’s a simpler explanation? An explanation where there is no need to multiply rationalizations on top of rationalizations, within conspiracies?

          Have you tried explaining this position to a child, and did they get it? That’s something to try.

          Lastly I’d ask – what’s so important about faith? Who cares? Have you tried seeiywhat happens if you give it a rest?

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted December 22, 2018 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

            “seeing” not “seely”

    • Posted December 21, 2018 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      Science, by definition, isn’t the last word on everything or anything. As mentioned several times here, it is a process by which we gain knowledge and it is always provisional. Evidently your Stoic was a straw man.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted December 21, 2018 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

        The article uses the metaphor of a “war” between science and religion, which there is, but clearly did not promote a false dilemma. There is no “debate”.

        I am eager to hear all viewpoints on religion because it should make the problem of religion even more clearly defined.

        • Posted December 21, 2018 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

          I was responding to Xenomun’s first sentence:

          “Apparently from the article and the comments here, science has gone from a search for truth and understanding of the universe, to being the last word on both.”

          I should have quoted it. I sometimes do but didn’t this time.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted December 21, 2018 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

            I have become confused, and apologize.

            I think I was agreeing with “science isn’t the last word on anything”.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 21, 2018 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      For Paul Topping, I put a reply of mine here, for the record:

      The article uses the metaphor of a “war” between science and religion, which there is, but clearly did not promote a false dilemma. There is no “debate”. I am eager to hear all viewpoints on religion because it should make the problem of religion even more clearly defined.

  26. Desnes Diev
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    “New technological possibilities are raising profound questions about what it means to be human, a subject on which theologians have had much to say.”

    If God didn’t say anything about those technologies, why theologians should talk about them?

    Other philosophers (like ethicists) may have something useful to bring to the discussion but theologians would be outside their field of competence.

  27. Posted December 21, 2018 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    The fight to me is the struggle of scientists to get people to accept facts and theories proven/discovered/accepted. I know people who do not accept theories virtually accepted by all scientists in the appropriate fields. Some of these people are religious and some are not. Education in science matters is the goal we should be working toward. Starting in pre-school and continuing through high school and beyond. The answer to failure to accept science is an education problem. I don’t see it as a struggle between science and religion as a struggle for education.

    Science can prove things that they discover. But science cannot prove negatives. Science can show what does exist and provide theories that are accepted. But science cannot prove that things do not exist or did not happen.

    Religion, philosophy and humanities are exploration of things not known by science. But it is an error and ignorance for people in those fields to fail to accept proven and accepted theories.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 21, 2018 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      “Science can prove things that they discover. But science cannot prove negatives.”

      Did science prove that phlogiston does not exist?

      • rickflick
        Posted December 21, 2018 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

        Of course the word “prove” is equivocal. Logical and mathematical proof find necessary relationships. The scientific method makes probabilistic statements about reality. Informally, if the probability is very high, you can call it a scientific proof with the understanding that it’s a different meaning. Does phlogiston exist? Very, very, probably not.

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted December 21, 2018 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

          This taboo about never using the word “prove” unless it’s in a mathematics journal is a problem. In that context is brings a host of expectations with it. Is everyone else obliged to substitute “show beyond a reasonable doubt” every time, and would it could be confusing if they did?

          • Posted December 21, 2018 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

            Unfortunately, people say “prove it” when they really mean “show your evidence”. This is different from the mathematical meaning, of course. IMHO, it’s impractical to rule out the imprecise non-mathematical usage. The best we can do is to be careful around those that do not understand the distinction or use it disingenuously to win arguments.

            • ThyroidPlanet
              Posted December 21, 2018 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

              Did science show beyond a reasonable doubt that phlogiston does not exist?

              My answer is yes.

              • Posted December 21, 2018 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

                My answer is yes also but it may never be proven in the mathematical sense. If we discover someday that the universe is a purely mathematical construction then we can perhaps prove many things.

    • GBJames
      Posted December 21, 2018 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      “But science cannot prove negatives.”

      I’m pretty sure it can prove that I don’t have a unicorn in my basement.

  28. Posted December 21, 2018 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    Looking at the comments over on the article, I’d say Sue Strandberg has a good definition of “supernatural”: That which posits the mind as fundamental. Though that might be because I agree with her.

    -Ryan

    • Posted December 21, 2018 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

      Wow. Here’s a comment by one TJ Martin:

      The simple reality is Science has not been successful at all when it comes to undemanding the universe in light of all the contradicting theories ( which are just theories not scientific fact ) the 10 or more major shifts in Science’s view of the universe all of which contradict or negate one another etc – et al – ad nauseam

      Imagine confusing a feature for a bug! No wonder they are wrong!

      -Ryan

      • Posted December 21, 2018 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

        This TJ person is just a gift that keeps on giving:

        A conversation implies two or more parties engaging in a genuine discussion / debate of which many times one comes out the loser

        Explains his abrasiveness quite nicely.

        -Ryan

        • Posted December 21, 2018 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

          Last comment (I hope):

          It was really disappointing to learn that the poorest quality comments were authored by a retired philosophy professor.

          Apparently darrelle’s aforementioned retired philosophy professor is TJ Martin. His students are quite unfortunate, to say the least.

          -Ryan

          • rickflick
            Posted December 21, 2018 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

            Hard to say what’s going on over there. It’s a very disappointing spectrum of opinion.

        • Sastra
          Posted December 22, 2018 at 10:02 am | Permalink

          I think TJ’s abrasiveness is also explained in part by his being a presuppositionalist, an argument I’m not addressing because 1.) he didn’t bring it up in any comment directed to me and 2.) it’s not relevant to answering my question about falsifiability. Presuppers are notoriously cranky.

          If he can believe both that God is found through reason alone as the necessary precondition for belief *and* that the evidence supports the existence of God, he can’t duck that question. Or, rather he can, but not legitimately. But of course I’m dim witted and not to be trusted on that.

          • rickflick
            Posted December 22, 2018 at 10:46 am | Permalink

            You are Sue?

            • darrelle
              Posted December 22, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

              She is indeed. A heroine of these “wars.”

              • rickflick
                Posted December 22, 2018 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

                Heroine is right. It’s a real struggle to maintain a conversation with people who can barely reason in a straight line. The biggest value, I suppose, is that some silent readers will find Sue’s eloquence persuasive.

            • Sastra
              Posted December 22, 2018 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

              Yes. S.A.STRAndberg

              • rickflick
                Posted December 22, 2018 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

                I’m always pleased to read your contribution here. Glad to see you willing to take on the larger world.

  29. Jackson
    Posted December 23, 2018 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Great contribution. I recommend reading the article AND the comments there including some from Jerry C.
    You could do another book just from this article, the comments, and all the digressions to explain things.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 23, 2018 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      Thanks for getting me over there again.

      Sastra gets a gold medal. Interesting comments.

      Too much to parse, but the theme of “personal”-this, “personal”-that stands out from the … “opposition”, if you will. Actually the “personal” seems to be way under the layers of other arguments, philosophy, etc., perhaps a working gear in the machine of religion…

      • rickflick
        Posted December 23, 2018 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        Interesting point. All of us are to some degree trapped in our personal selves, but some people don’t seem to appreciate that truth comes out of objectivity.

  30. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 23, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    …. hmmmm… was the title of PCC(E)’s piece teasingly chosen to bring to mind a certain Christmas time story?… a letter to a certain child, name begins with a V?… about a certain jolly guy … not that it matters,….

    Maybe it’s just me.

  31. Zetopan
    Posted December 24, 2018 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Reading the comments over there emphasizes just how brain dead supernaturalists can be when cornered. My favorite apologetic from those dead horse skeleton picking vultures was the person who claimed that since science makes new discoveries all of the time, 1,000 years from now science may discover that transubstantiation really works*, totally ignoring that transubstantiation has been previously tested and it has failed every single time. The wine is always wine and the cracker is always a cracker.

    Then the author of that insists that he is nether pro nor con transubstantiation, as though no one would actually notice his special pleading with “appeal to ignorance”.

    Christians actually stole transubstantiation from the pagan religions that literally and then eventually symbolically ate their own dead.

    *In the same way that the Earth can be shown to be flat, only 6,000 years old, located in the center of the universe, as well as ghosts, devils and angels really exist.

    Another common trope over there is that only “fundamentalist” atheists claim that Christians believe in what amounts to magic, while there are “many” Christians who do not.**

    **Percentages from surveys never provided of course. This is actually somewhat related to the “Courtier’s Reply” argumentation, where you haven’t read enough apologetics to have an informed opinion on the topic. Sophisticated Theology is “sophisticated” superstition, no matter how gaudily painted.


Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *
*
*

%d bloggers like this: