Report #2 on Questions to Calvert

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The first, and most important, question that I asked Calvert was:

There are millions and millions of people who from a religious point of view do not buy your argument that science is antithetical to theism. I would hope that you would respond to that.

What do you think about these people who don’t believe that just because science seeks natural explanations it’s inherently materialistic and atheistic? They don’t believe the theory of evolution teaches their children they’re mere occurances. They believe that religious beliefs incorporate scientific beliefs about the physical world and other beliefs about meaning, purpose and values. To put it bluntly, do you think they’re wrong? How do you respond to this large silent majority of religious people who are being wedged out of the conversation?

Calvert’s answer, both in his emails to me and in his other writings, basically reiterates his position without addressing the issues:

1. He says that science is not “antithetical to theism when conducted objectively,” but his definition of “objective” means to not use a “naturalistic bias in answering speculative historical questions.”

That is, Calvert’s position is that science is not antithetical to religion if we define science in a different way than science is commonly understood. In other places, Calvert makes it clear that his definition of “objective” science includes the possibility of supernatural as wall as natural causes. (See point 5 below.)

So really his point is that if we change what science is, it is not antithetical to religion, but as science is now practiced it is antithetical to religion.

2. He confirms this conclusion when he says that “the naturalistic bias just happens to be the fundamental tenet of nontheistic religions like secular humanism. At this point science ceases to be religiously neutral.”

This is a confused conclusion that precisely avoids the question that I am asking. It is a matter of simple logic that “All A are B” does not imply that “All B are A.” The fact that “All people who are secular humanists seek natural explanations for what happens in the physical world” is not the logical equivalent of “All people who seek natural explanations for what happens in the physical world are secular humanists.”

3. Calvert then makes another common point of his: that the “millions of people” I refer “do not even recognize that many in science use a naturalistic bias.” He says “the bias is not discussed in science textbooks,” and so the public gets the impression that science produces “objective evidence based explanation” when really it does not.

This is a bizarre claim. All science textbooks discuss the nature of science, and make it clear that science studies how the world works. There is no hidden rule here - the “naturalistic bias” of which Calvert speaks has been central to the scientific enterprise since people like Galileo and Newton first articulated the basic principles of empirical investigation.

4. Implicit in the above claim is that those theists who accept science don’t really understand this “naturalistic bias” of science, and therefore don’t understand that they are really supporting the secular humanists (or maybe are really secular humanists themselves despite thinking that they are theists.) Calvert does not understand, or does not accept, that people can accept the explanatory limitations of science and still be a theist - he believes they are at best “confused” about their theology when they do this.

Calvert concludes by saying that “analyzing the religious views of particular individuals is not helpful because most religious belief is based on many things other than a design inference or an inference of no-design.” This is again a back-handed way of saying that theists who accept science are wrong in some way.

But my point is that they have good theological reasons for their beliefs, and Calvert is not willing to discuss this. They are not confused, or secretly in league with the secular humanists, or sell-outs to naturalism, or anything other than orthodox Christians who have a different view of the relationship between God and the physical world.

5. In his recent editorial in the Wichita Eagle (http://www.kansas.com/mld/eagle/new[…]11044336.htm), Calvert made similar points when he wrote,

Nontheistic religions such as secular humanism, atheism, agnosticism and scientism are quite happy with science that seeks to remove any “supernatural” influence from its explanations.

Here he again gets “A implies B” confused with “B implies A,” and he makes it quite clear that his idea of “objective” science is one that can contain supernatural causes. So what if secular humanists et al are “happy with” naturalistic explanations in science - millions of orthodox and unconfused Christians are also happy with this.

Calvert is avoiding saying what he really believes - that these Christians are wrong. This is a theological discussion that needs to take place, but Calvert is not willing to engage in it. That was my original point, and I continue to stand by it.

118 Comments

Can somebody help me? WTF is a “non-theistic religion?” Isn’t that like “promiscuous celibacy?”

Both the Theravada Buddhists and the Jains are religious without worshiping a deity. It’s also possible to believe there is in fact a god and yet not be religious. Religion is best understood sociologically and not in terms of its doctrines. Which is why, by the way, a normal scientific attitude is not a religion. It pertains to a different kind of institution than a religion.

My definition of religion is a stubborn belief in something based on blind faith, which contrary data will not affect. No god or other theistic entity is necessary. Of course, this might not meet Calvert’s definition, but I suspect his definition is flexible, depending on the circumstances. That’s the problem with arguing with Christians - mere facts will never convince them that they could be wrong, because they’re operating on blind faith, and the Bible tells them that blind faith is the way to salvation.

I think I understand why Calvert takes this position. Many Christians (but not all by any means) prefer to avoid difficult questions about their faith. It’s understandable because probing beneath the surface can be very uncomfortable.

For example…

Many liberal and moderate Christians believe that God does not intevene in the natural world very often. They believe that miracles are very rare at best - e.g. miraculous healings, being miraculously saved from the jaws of death, etc. But many of these same people believe that God speaks to them and guides them through their lives on a daily basis, often in response to prayer. But how is he supposed to do this? Our minds, our brains are natural constructs that, on the face of it, have no supernatural link or connection. Certainly neuroscience hasn’t found one and doesn’t assume it exists, and yet somehow this supernatural entity frequently “whispers in our ear”. If that is true then some form of miraculous brain manipulation - be it altering brain chemistry or simple firing of neurons - must be going on all the time. So millions, even billions of miraculous interventions are happening every day in our natural world.

That leads to all sorts of other questions about why God is happy to do “tiny” miracles but is reluctant to do bigger ones? There may be a quantative difference, but is there a qualititive one?

(I understand that some Christians would argue that they are merely inspired by events in the Bible and not through some form of communication from God, but I think most would find that an unsatisfying justification of their faith.)

Calvert believes that nature cannot be disentangled from the supernatural because to think otherwise cuts God off from our natural world, making things like faith and prayer pointless and ineffective. The only was to press this point home to the “wayward” theistic evolutionists is to argue for a bigger role for God in the natural world, but he appears to be afraid to approach this from either a scientific or theological direction. I think he realizes that his attempt to bridge the gap between his own faith and the generally accepted nature of science opens up too many tough theological and scientific questions he has no rational answers for.

Secular humanism, atheism, agnosticism, etc. are not religions at all. There can be nontheistic religions–like Buddhism–but a religion implies the adherence to some sort of faith-based dogma. Religious people like to call atheism a religion just to make themselves feel that their beliefs are equal. Nope.

Given this definition of religion, I think that science is definitely anti-religion. Science is the antithesis of that which is faith-based. However, the existence of God and science is not inherently atheistic, because if at some point science pointed to the existence of God (how would it do this, I don’t know) we would acknowledge it. Science looks for the most reasonable explanations, and God is not a reasonable explanation for anything that we know of.

So, I do think that religious people–of any degree–cannot maintain their beliefs while acknowledging the supremacy of science. (And scientific reasoning is supreme.)

Error, second paragraph: I meant to say “The existence of God and the supremacy of science is not inherently antithetical.”

It is hard to define religion, but it need not involve either a deity or a literal belief based on faith. Mr. Harrison may be closest to the truth saying it has to be understood sociologically or, as I might say, culturally. If anyone is interested, see my Free Inquiry essay, “How to find meaning in religion without believing in God,” http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung/FIarticle.htm, or my IRAS conference presentation, “How to be religious without believing in God - and why,” http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung/IRASconf.pdf. The secular humanists took issue with the first paper, but the Reform Jews and Unitarians at the conference seemed to enjoy the second.

Mike Walker Wrote:

So millions, even billions of miraculous interventions are happening every day in our natural world.

That leads to all sorts of other questions about why God is happy to do “tiny” miracles but is reluctant to do bigger ones? There may be a quantative difference, but is there a qualititive one?

Some theistic evolutionists believe that if God truly does perform miracles, it happens in an empirically undetectable way. This may seem like a strange viewpoint for a believer to propose, but please bear with me as I explain further.

One of my personal objections to ID is that it implies that God must frequently intervene to redirect or “fix” a flawed creation. In contrast, I prefer Howard van Till’s idea of a perfectly sufficient creation in which the Universe has been invested by God with all it needs to flourish and evolve.

In addition, some theistic evolutionists have suggested that quantum indeterminancy provides a means for God to influence the Universe in a way that would be completely undetectable to our methods of scientific observation. Even more importantly, such a means of interaction would be entirely consistent with the “laws of nature” as humans have come to understand them. Therefore, this view of God’s interaction with the Universe would not necessarily be considered “miraculous.”

I’m not sure whether this point of view resolves the issue Mike brought up, but I thought it might be helpful to recognize that not every believer envisions a world where “billions of miracles” happen every day. Some of us believe that God’s interaction with creation takes place in ways that are entirely consistent with the laws of nature.

One sign of whether or not a particular point of view is religious is whether its adherents conduct rituals such as weddings or funerals. So far as I know, biologists haven’t developed an Office of the Dead yet. Note, however, that the Soviets did develop liturgies. Their version of atheism really did have a religious dimension.

Matt Inlay:

It is hard to define religion.

Not at all! It’s easy to define religion; maybe too easy. The difficult - in fact impossible - problem is to arrive at a definition that everyone agrees to. What I might call “superstition”, some people might call “religion” - and, of course, they would be entitled to all the rights and privileges attached thereto.

Jim Harrison Wrote:

Note, however, that the Soviets did develop liturgies. Their version of atheism really did have a religious dimension.

Technically, the State Religion of the USSR was Marxism-Leninism(-Stalinism). Functionally, the CPSU replaced the Orthodox Church in the post-revolution social structure.

Well, if he wants science to “contain” supernatural causes, seems like (imo) all he’d have to do is find a way of producing repeatable verifiable observations of some of those causes. Or does “supernatural” just mean anything that’s either unrepeatable or unverifiable?

Henry

I have been thinking that a personal God conjured by the evangelical Christians - one who wants to be involved with humans in a personal way - is likely to be more interested in the humans who are capable of thinking in rational or scientific ways. After all, the creator is more likely to be delighted in seeing problem solving and discovering than in predictable mouthing of “praise.” Another analogy: those of us who are parents enjoy when our children are discovering the world around them. Who needs a child who is constantly asking us for things and telling us how great we are? I imagine that the God that Calvert worships gets a little weary of the narrow-minded creature that Calvert represents.

The notion of the supernatural is always going to be problematic. If it suddently turned out that God was a real being with an effective role in nature, faith, at least in its evangelical form, would be in crisis because the pathos of such religion requires belief in something which is false or at least exceedingly unlikely. The believer is like the cuckolded husband whose expressions of trust in his wife become all the more virtuous the more obvious his spouse’s infidelities. Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine Aristotle belting out gospel tunes and falling to his knees to adore the Prime Mover precisely because he actually thought there was a Prime Mover. No need to worry yourself into anemia about it.

Parallel Case: The Amazing Randi made a standing offer of a substantial prize to anybody who could demonstrate supernatural abilities such as ESP or telekinesis. A guy showed up who claimed he could identify the music on vinyl LPs by feeling the grooves with his fingers; and, sure enough, he demonstrated that he could indeed pull the feat off. Which impressed exactly nobody because the whole glammor of supernatural abilities lies in dubiousness. By the way, as I recall, the man who could read the music from the records didn’t feel entitled to the prize because he knew he hadn’t done anything magical.

Mike Walker Wrote:

That leads to all sorts of other questions about why God is happy to do “tiny” miracles but is reluctant to do bigger ones? There may be a quantative difference, but is there a qualititive one?

My hypothesis: Those tiny miracles are performed by numerous demigods; the bigger ones are those of Zeus and his family. As a reference, see “Clash of the Titans.”

Years ago, I got the impression that atheism was of a religious nature, because the (few) atheists I was familiar with seemed to be proselytizing activists. I never got the impression that scientists were all atheists. Now that I’m older and wiser, I better appreciate the diversity of religious and non-religious tendencies; but I’m still convinced that not all scientists are atheists.

I think China was just as officially athesistic as the Soviet Union. But when I visited China, my impression was that religion and politics had been conflated. Hmmm…

Jeremy,

What does the God that you believe in actually do? If you give credence to the scientific explanation of things then the only thing God could have effected would have been the initial creation of whatever bundle of cosmic stuff that existed prior to the Big Bang (which I don’t think has a substantial scientific theory explaining it yet. Of course, I’m sure that we one day will find one).

Even the most ardent atheist must say that God MAY exist, ‘cause there’s no proof otherwise, but why make the jump to have faith that there is one?

We are all naturalists. Fundamentalists like Calvert have been taught not to admit that. But have you ever watched Calvert very closely for a month or two, 24 hours a day?

Unsurprisingly, he behaves a lot like I do except he tells more lies – and he lies because he understands the principle of cause and effect and he has seen the success such a strategy has had in energizing his less rhetorically skilled followers and encouraging those followers to open up their mouths to recite scripts, and open up their wallets to donate money.

Maybe when Calvert demonstrates his abilities to levitate or communicate with dead people like Fox News expert John Edward, I’ll think about joining Calvert’s religion with its strange anti-gay anti-science propoganda at its core.

One of my personal objections to ID is that it implies that God must frequently intervene to redirect or “fix” a flawed creation. In contrast, I prefer Howard van Till’s idea of a perfectly sufficient creation in which the Universe has been invested by God with all it needs to flourish and evolve.

Van Till’s conception, like Kenneth Miller’s, is a variant of intelligent-design creationism. Instead of intervening an indeterminate number of times after the supposed creation, this god has front-loaded his or her (or its) universe with everything needed to make the universe come out “right.” How?

I thought the administration of PT was a little wacky, but suspending the Bathroom Wall just takes the cake.

Van Till’s conception, like Kenneth Miller’s, is a variant of intelligent-design creationism. Instead of intervening an indeterminate number of times after the supposed creation, this god has front-loaded his or her (or its) universe with everything needed to make the universe come out “right.” How?

He does it by “moving the goalposts” - just as the creationists are inclined to do so often. The difference between Van Till and your average YEC creationist is that Van Till wisely goes straight to the farthest point on the other end of the playing field, namely, the beginning of freakin’ time itself - the greatest no man’s land of them all. The ID creationists are forever tripping over their own goalposts, but Van Till cleverly removes all the intermediate goalposts and goes straight to the Big Daddy of them all, where nobody can touch it, and where nobody can see him sticking his tongue out at the people who like to see some solid facts, “nya nya nya, you can’t get me now!”

He does it by “moving the goalposts” .…

Sorry - I agree that’s what van Till does, and probably Miller too, but I meant how did the god do it? How did he front-load the universe? Or did he just throw a bunch of stuff together and was pleasantly surprised when he got something other than a uniform mixture? If he front-loaded the universe, then it’s intelligent-design creationism. How did he do it? For example, did the first bacteria have all the genes for eyes (a favorite creationist organ) zipped up in their genome somewhere?

There are millions and millions of people who from a religious point of view do not buy your argument that science is antithetical to theism. I would hope that you would respond to that.

Who the f*** cares if there are millions and millions of people who believe or who do not believe that science is antithetical to theism, religion, Porky Pig, the Kingston Trio or whatever. It doesn’t matter what people think about this issue.

Science is not in the business of generating popular support. It doesn’t check the polls to see which way the wind is blowing. It doesn’t care whether anyone buys into its propositions about the world. Scientific truths are not up for popular vote!

If the scientific community deems your (pl.) silly beliefs as irrelevant, stupid, primitive, irrational, or whatever, that’s your problem not ours. Go pontificate your superstitions to someone who gives a shit. In the mean time, you religious nuts are wasting our time.

OT, but anyone who wants to get into fantasy baseball, I’ve set up the Darwin League. Yahoo fantasy baseball. fantasysports.yahoo.com

ID# is 273292

Password is darwin

“Scientific truths are not up for popular vote!”

True. But the ability to broadcast these views -whether in biology classes or Imax movies - can be, along with funding, etc.

Jay Davies Wrote:

What does the God that you believe in actually do?

From an empirical perspective, I agree that it might seem that God is entirely inactive. Suffice it to say that I believe there is more to this Universe than that which can be measured and described empirically. I have no verifiable scientific evidence to offer you. I believe that faith in God is a choice, not a scientific conclusion. Unlike most ID proponents, I don’t depend on empirical evidence to believe.

Even the most ardent atheist must say that God MAY exist, ‘cause there’s no proof otherwise, but why make the jump to have faith that there is one?

To get too deep into this would be inappropriate for discussion at Panda’s Thumb, since it is a blog about science (and folks like Buridan might get even more incensed and indignant). I’m not here to proselytize. You can click on my name above and visit my website if you really want to know what I believe.

Why attack the “God made science” concept? There’s no way to really touch it - it’s entirely outside of science and logical thinking in general - and it’s not dogmatically anti-science. I personally have no particular, pressing reason to believe it’s true, but why smack it down?

The question of how different metaphysical systems see the realtionship between the metaphysical and the physical is quite appropriate here at PT, although other aspects of theology may not be. I encourage people who are interested to visit Jeremy’s website, and hope he is not discouraged from posting here.

By the way, Buridan’s remarks are excessive - he could have made his points in a less inflammatory way. If he retirns to this thread, I hope he considers this.

John Calvert probably does not believe “science is antithetical to theism.” And it is not important whether Calvert believes “science is antithetical to theism.” I don’t like approaching issues through definitions like “science.” People use words in different ways. And I don’t care if someone classifies “intelligent design” or creationism as “science” or “non-science.”

We should teach critical thinking skills and inductive logic. Is that “science?” I don’t care. But whether we call it “science” or “non-science,” we should teach it.

But I’m not clear what the proponents of “intelligent design” want taught in the public schools. Do they want it taught that a deity turned inert matter (or “nothingness”) – poof – directly into two human beings? That shouldn’t be taught. Whether we call it “science” or “non-science,” it shoudn’t be taught. Why not? Because it didn’t happen. The first organism that we would identify as human was born in the same way I was born.

Some believe that they have been abducted by aliens. But we shouldn’t teach in the public schools that some people have been abducted by aliens. Because it didn’t happen.

We shouldn’t teach kids that the universe may be about 6,000 years old, because it’s not. We shouldn’t teach kids that some people lived to be 969 years old, because they didn’t.

However, we should teach that a self-replicating molecule evolved into all the multicellular organisms to live on earth. It did happen. And it is important and fascinating. Teaching it helps people understand some of the proximate causes of the existence of animals and of humans. Teaching it also advances understanding of the universe and promotes scientific progress. The latter can result in life-saving cures for disease.

Moreover, public schools should not teach the so-called “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution. That would be like teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” of the theory of continental drift or of atomic theory and would give students the idea that common descent is questionable or reasonably doubted, which it is not. It would be like teaching students the strengths and weaknesses of the idea that Lincoln was shot.

It would be fine for teachers to teach that we have a lot to learn about the series of events that caused the first self-replicating molecules on earth. Nevertheless, whether we all evolved from single-celled microorganisms is not an issue.

I’ve yet to see someone who refers to him or herself as a “proponent of intelligent design” present a clear hypothesis on which event(s) the designer caused. The closest thing I have seen to such a hypothesis is something like the following: In the last 3.8 billion years, a deity or extraterrestrial discretely intervened and caused one or more events that caused some organisms on planet earth to live and/or reproduce, but we have no idea which event(s) the deity or extraterrestrial caused and I’m not going to speculate.

Perhaps I don’t know for certain that the above claim is false. The claim may be too vague for me to know for certain that it is false. However, there are some events that clearly did not occur. For instance, a deity did not turn inert matter – poof! – directly into the first two humans (one male and one female). The first organism that we would identify as “human” was born in the same way that I was born. The same goes for the first T-rex, the first elephant, the first aardvark, the first ferret, the first pig, etc.

Moreover, I’m justified in believing that the claim as a whole is false, though I don’t want to get into that right now.

But the claim shouldn’t be taught in public schools. First, it is so vague. Second, it might give students the impression that common descent didn’t happen, which it did. Third, I’m justified in believing that the claim as a whole is false.

I am sympathetic with the intelligent design people on one issue. They want their claims assessed in terms of whether the events they referred to actually occurred. I’m willing to do that. I’m not going to dismiss their claims as “non-science.” I would something like the following: “No, you are mistaken. The universe is not about 6,000 years old.” Or: “No, a deity did not turn dust directly into the first elephant. The first organism that we would identify as an elephant was born.”

Some of the events they suggest occurred did not occur. But I’m not going to dismiss their claims as “non-science.” But I might say, “Well, that didn’t happen. Or at least I am overwhelmingly justified in believing that it didn’t happen.”

i’m, probably going to get whacked for this, but I spent over 30 years fencing with my father over the theory of evolution. After about five of those years, I let it go and just let him spout off why it couldn’t have possibly happened because the bible literally says everything happened in 7 days, etc. at nauseum. By the time he was at the end of his life, until he became demented because of the cancer, he would bring it up and I would just repeat, “We don’t need to be discussing this.”

You can’t argue with stupid/overly faithful people who will not see that there is evidence that evolution happens. The evidence is in the geological and paleontological records, plus the DNA evidence is blatant. Otherwise, is what everyone who studies such things just pulling it out of their ass? (ground, whatever, it’s almost all very physical evidence that sensible people cannot refute exists.)

One of my favorite high school teachers spoke of the theories of Father Teilhard de Chardin (spelling may be off). That a divine spark was the mover of evolution. But it happened in the due time that it took.

I really don’t care what motivated evolution, I just know it happened because the f-ing PHYSICAL EVIDENCE of fossils DNA, etc. says it happend. Science is not religion, religion is not science.

and once again, I say you can’t argue intelligently with people that believe something on faith because some butthead preacher told them to believe and ignore the physcial evidence. it’s a fallacious argument because you are arguing from two different starting points.

I posted:

“We shouldn’t teach kids that the universe may be about 6,000 years old, because it’s not. We shouldn’t teach kids that some people lived to be 969 years old, because they didn’t.”

Someone might ask: “Do you know for certain that the universe is not about 6,000 years old and that no person lived to be 969 years old?” If I don’t, I am least really really justified in believing it.

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OK, with that dizzying exegesis I’ll concede that I lost the bet that Rev agrees with me in this one instance. It was a fool’s wager, to be sure.

Although he might agree with me. I’m not sure if he agrees with nobody or with everybody.

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Mike,

On your first point: mainline protestant declines actually plateaued during the 90’s and the precipitous rise among conservative protestants is no longer gaining at the rates it did in the 80’s. Much of this depends on how you slice the ecclesiastical pie, but according to conventional measures, we’re beginning to see some stabilization. Nevertheless, in terms of absolute numbers, mainline protestants still constitute the clear majority.

Second point: clearly religion is part of the mix, we wouldn’t be talking about it if it wasn’t, but acknowledging that does not at all suggest that the debate therefore needs to be framed with due consideration for the concerns of the religious right. It’s a religious issue for them and it’s not for us. Not only is it unnecessary for us to give any ground on this point, it’s crucial that we don’t because this is exactly the point of dispute. Evolution has absolutely nothing to do with religion. The religious right has constructed this as a religious issue and that’s exactly what we’re arguing against. There is no false dichotomy here. Science didn’t define the parameters of this conflict. We didn’t pick this fight! So any dichotomy, false or otherwise, is not our doing.

Third point: again, I’ll repeat what I said before. We’re told we need to play nice while the other side is given carte blanche politically. It just isn’t going happen and it’s kind of silly to ask us to do so. We’ll construct our playbook you construct yours (pl.).

Forth point: exactly! It isn’t about science at all! But it will be science that loses if they succeed. Science is being held hostage by a group of people who see it as their mission to transform the whole of society into a theocracy – science is just one leg of a broader culture war that the religious right believes is divinely mandated. We didn’t ask for this.

Fifth point: do you really realize what you’re saying here? Insofar as a religious group can muster the political clout to demand that they have a legitimate standing (no pun intended) in the engineering of bridges, e.g., designing bridges via biblical instructions, then yes they ought to be taken seriously. You can’t be serious. Moreover, you simply cannot remove the process of designing bridges from this analogy (as you have) because the religious right are asking that evolutionary biology change its science to fit its religious worldview.

Last point: conduct on this site has no direct demonstrable impact on what the general public thinks about this issue. Nearly everyone hear (I would guess 95% conservatively) has already made up their mind on this issue and will not be persuaded otherwise – it happens but extremely rare. To say that my conduct or anyone else’s conduct on this site will reflect poorly on science among the general public is not true and you know that.

Once again, context is important here. PT is a place to blow off steam, to have lively debates, to discuss current issues in evolution and creationism, and to try to look smart and marvel in one’s own cleverness. I have fun doing all the above and that’s why I participate – to have fun, be informed, and learn something. This discussion has actually been one of the more fun ones for me. Thanks.

Probably part of our disagreement comes from the fact that I’m politically and theologically conservative, so a) I don’t see my position as “special pleading”, and b) I don’t feel threatened by the religious right, since, in most cases apart from evolution, I’m part of it. But apart from that, I still think my advice has strategic merit if I try to look at things from your perspective. But perhaps I’m not correctly perceiving your perspective, or perhaps my views are clouding my judgement.

I simply point out that politically I am to the left of Che Guevara (WAY to the left), religiously I think the fundies are idol-worshipping hypocritical heretics, and I consider the fundies to be THE single biggest threat to democracy in modern times.

And I agree completely with your “strategic merit”. It is a simple matter of tactics. Alienating allies and turning them into enemies, is stupid, as well as being political suicide. We already have enough enemies. We don’t need to keep creating more. The fundies do quite enough of that without our help.

One other thing. The postmodernist critique of science is a load of crap.

Agreeing with the good Rev., we oppose creationists best by pointing out the untruth of their three great memes (as elucidated by Scott and Branch) :

1. Evolution isn’t real science. 2. Evolution is incompatible with religious belief. 3. It’s only fair to teach both sides.

The bottom line is they lie, about this and a lot else. They are not ignorant; they are deceitful.

Rev, I think you’re mixing up posts. You’re quoting me and my comments were addressed to Mike S. No problem. It seems that there are 4 or 5 different conversations going on at the same time.

Rev, As far as I am concerned, any flavor is better than strawberry!

Heddle wrote: I think what you are saying is that “anything” can be taken as a metaphor. I think that is an unfair criticism, though an easy one to make. It is always easy to fall back on “you can interpret the bible however you like.”

Thank you! I will save this post of yours forever. You words will guide all future posts I write to you or about you, now since we have Christians like those UCC and UU Christians who believe Jesus was either a characature or a fictional construct are *not* just as “right” as the AiG-type Christians who believe every single letter of the bible is factually true and absolute Truth. Who takes what as metaphor and who takes what as historical and/or factual truth are neither right nor wrong, but merely expressing their own “comfort levels.” So, now you know that it is not me with whom you have a dispute, but those believers who differ from you.

Now, when I read James 3:12, this is what I see: “Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.” Now I agree it is true this is a mataphor, but why would god use a blatantly false metaphor, when he could so much more easily use a metaphor that is true? That in my eyes means a lack of science knowledge, metaphor or not. (see more below)

DavidF wrote: How is it a false metaphor? The desalination thing is absurd because James wasn’t saying that you couldn’t produce pure water from salt water. If this is the point you’re making then I’d say it’s a gross distortion. If it isn’t your point then could you elaborate? How can a spring simulaneousy produce salt and fresh water?

Also, technically desalinated water isn’t fresh water. It’s purified water

Sorry, but H2O is H2O. fresh water does not have brine, and there is no difference between fresh and purified water, other than purified water has fewer impurities in it (and some added to it). Thus it is a false metaphor: salt water is deadly for human consumption, but fresh water is not, and since salt water can be made into fresh water, it is no longer deadly, that makes it a false metaphor. Just take a deep breath and remember that H2O is H2O, its the impurities that make it salt water, lake water, spring water, mineral water, or even (gasp!) distilled water. It’s still all water, my friend. (I’ll not dispute the varying translations of this passage, some say both salt water and fresh water cannot come from the same spring, and some say that fresh water cannot come from fresh water – its that silly interpretation thing; what did God actually say, and what did he actually mean???)

Back to DH: What you need is an explicit statement against science or an observation that is in violation of science where no miracle is implied or called for, and no reasonable metaphor is being employed.

Well, since you will write off all obvious flawed science references as metaphor or miracle, I would have chosen the next best thing, an engineering fallacy. I would choose the Tower of Babel story, in it God feared that man’s technology/science was at a point where they could build a tower to heaven. Today we have sent probes to the edge of the solar system, and landed men on the moon, and have not even come close to reaching heaven. That must have been one huge tower for to have that fear!

Finally, my conclusion, and I will then drop this thread.

Then there was the one about Jesus and the mustard seed (oops! biggest bush, smallest seed??). There are many others, but, no, I think I will stick with James 3:12 and Jude 1:12 (because I like that you now argue in favor of failed metaphors – electrons orbiting the nucleus was classic, it was almost as sweet as calling me out on my “common man” description of the duality of photons prior to interaction) FWIW: using planetary orbital laws as a metaphor for electrons is a bad example on your part, for the metaphor itself is still true, i.e. planets do, in fact, orbit the sun according to Kepler’s laws. It is just that electrons don’t behave in that way. In James, the fresh/salt water metaphor is wrong, thus proving my point.

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Jeff,

(I’ll not dispute the varying translations of this passage, some say both salt water and fresh water cannot come from the same spring, and some say that fresh water cannot come from fresh water-its that silly interpretation thing; what did God actually say, and what did he actually mean???)

I’ve just checked 18 different translations online and they all say from the “same spring”, “same opening,” “same hole” or similar. Have a look online. None carry the meaning that fresh water cannot be extracted from salt water. Can you provide an example otherwise? The vast preponderance (100%) as far as I can see) seem to be in favor of James being correct. Also have a look at Job 36:27.

In labs you can get “deionized water”, “distilled water” etc. This is in chemistry labs - everyone knows that pure water is pure H2O but equally there is a legitimate everyday meaning for such terms as “fresh water” “brine” “distileld water” etc. For example, in our lab we have distilled water in the system but I’d be sued if I bottled it up and sold it as “fresh water.”

This is a really awful example to disprove the Bible’s scientific accuracy and, I think, not very smart to go on defending it as such. That is, unless you can produce some more substantial goods than you have so far.

Oh yes, and I’m an atheist who thinks the flood legend is absurd. My point in pushing this is that we cannot legitimately criticize ID-ers if we use similar tactics. Why pick bad examples when there are plenty of good ones?

DavidF wrote: I’ve just checked 18 different translations online and they all say from the “same spring”, “same opening,” “same hole” or similar. Have a look online. None carry the meaning that fresh water cannot be extracted from salt water. Can you provide an example otherwise? The vast preponderance (100%) as far as I can see) seem to be in favor of James being correct

Well, allow me to enlighten you, even though this is so irrelevant to my point (and this discussion):

The New International Version reads: “My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water

The New American Standard Version reads: “Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh

The English Standard Version reads: “Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water

The New Revised Standard Version reads: “12Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh

Shall I go on???

(see http://www.biblegateway.com/ and search “James 3:12” then check the various bible translations.)

Oh, and Job 36:27, “For he draws up the drops of water; he distills his mist in rain” has no bearing on this discussion, unless you’re saying that, “Hey, guess what? H2O is H2O!”

Since you seem to have such a problem with the idea of “water”, allow me to explain this. “distilled” water is water that is boiled and then condensed back into water. “purified” water is water that is filtered to remove particulates. “deionized” water is water that has had all ionized material removed from it.

“fresh” water is water that contains much muck, but not brine.

Since all other forms of non-brackish water qualify as “fresh” then my statement stands, and you are left with splitting hairs.

Now, as for your rather sophmoric argument about “fresh” water, the bible implies drinkable water. Thus just because your lab water does not pass FDA regulations (for selling drinking water), does not make it non-drinkable, and thus non-fresh.

Jeff,

Interesting. First, you raise this precise issue to make a point. Once it’s challenged then the question suddenly becomes “sophomoric” and “irrelevant.” Perhaps you should have chosen your examples more carefully. As it is, resorting to insults to make your point hardly advances your case.

As I stated, a preponderance, which means the vast majority, of examples that I have found - and also which you have now reported - speak of water coming from an orifice which makes a natural analogy with the mouth. If a single orifice can simultaneously produce brine and fresh water then do enlighten us. Granted it’s not 100% as you have found a lone exception in the NASV which does not refer directly to an orifice. Maybe there are others too. However, the Interlinear versions I’ve found also use the word fountain/spring (or similar) explicitly as here:

http://www.blueletterbible.org/tmp_[…]4878.html#12

But, with all documents that have been translated over thousands of years there is bound to be some uncertainty. To go for the jugular on Bible inerrancy and scientific accuracy on what is, at best, a minor point of translation is foolhardy. Especially when any idiot can see well enough what James was alluding to. Have you never come across teachers who use such analogies? I’d yell at a student who was doing a titration using tap water instead of distilled water, perhaps even saying, “you can’t get distilled water out of the tap.” If you were one of my students I’m sure I’d be regaled with your cry that “H2O is H2O, my friend!!!!!” By the way, I do congratulate you on knowing the chemical formula for water and very much admire your helpful mnemonical mantra, viz., H2O is H2O!!!! I’ll work at trying to remember that. But you seem to be ignoring the fact that water contains some D2O as well. Are we to conclude that you are scientifically ingnorant since, while H2O is H2O (!!!!) water is not usually exclusively H2O.

I also find it remarkable that you are so literal that you cannot recognize a distinction between everyday usage and precise scientific usage. Perhaps you would have been happier if James had added a footnote to the congregation pointing out that in the 20th century desalination plants, reverse osmosis, deionization etc. would detract from the analogy he was making.

He believes in the Bible, and he has the bravery to defend his belief. In this, he proudly stands almost alone. He knows that the salvation of the world depends upon a belief in his creed. He knows that what are called “the sciences” are of no importance in the other world. He clearly sees that it is better to live and die ignorant here, if you can wear a crown of glory hereafter. He knows it is useless to be perfectly familiar with all the sciences in this world, and then in the next “lift up your eyes, being in torment.” He knows, too, that God will not punish any man for denying a fact in science. A man can deny the rundity of the earth, the attraction of gravitation, the form of the earth’s orbit, or the nebular hypothesis, with perfect impunity. He is not bound to be correct upon any philosophical subject. He is at liberty to deny and ridicule the rule of three, conic sections, and even the multiplication table. God permits every human being to be mistaken upon every subject but one.

No man can lose his soul by denying physical facts. Jehovah does not take the slightest pride in his geology, or in his astronomy, or in mathematics, or in any school of philosophy – he is jealous only of his reputation as the author of the Bible. You may deny everything else in the universe except that book.

Does it seem to anyone else that the fundamentalist liars rely upon this quote by Ingersoll as divine truth?

It would explain a lot.

Buridan Wrote:

Fifth point: do you really realize what you’re saying here? Insofar as a religious group can muster the political clout to demand that they have a legitimate standing (no pun intended) in the engineering of bridges, e.g., designing bridges via biblical instructions, then yes they ought to be taken seriously. You can’t be serious.

I think you may be misunderstanding my point here. In the hypothetical situation where there was a large, committed, politically powerful, religiously motivated constituency who objected on religious grounds to the current process/knowledge of brige building, then I would not take their views seriously in the scientific/engineering context of actually building bridges. Just as I give no weight to Creationist/ID claims in the context of studying evolutionary biology. But as a practical matter, I would have to give some consideration to their religious views in order to a) understand where they were coming from, and b) figure out the best way to defuse or deflect their objections.

I still think you are confusing your right to mercilessly criticize someone’s beliefs with the effects such actions will have on the larger evolution vs. Creationism debates. I never said you can’t criticize fundamentalists, or that you need to take their theological ideas seriously, or that you have to afford their views equal standing to yours, or whatever it is you think I’m suggesting you do. All I’m saying is to think about how your rhetoric will be perceived by those who are not fully in the pro-evolution or anti-evolution camps - and there are a lot of such people.

Last point: conduct on this site has no direct demonstrable impact on what the general public thinks about this issue. Nearly everyone hear (I would guess 95% conservatively) has already made up their mind on this issue and will not be persuaded otherwise – it happens but extremely rare. To say that my conduct or anyone else’s conduct on this site will reflect poorly on science among the general public is not true and you know that.

Sure, there’s some truth to that. But it is a public forum dedicated to discussing evolution & creationism, and people do read & quote from PT. Also, you don’t know how many people read the site but don’t post here, or what their views are. Like I said, I’ve had several people tell me they were turned off by the rabid anti-creationist or anti-religious rhetoric they’ve seen on sites like PT.

This discussion has actually been one of the more fun ones for me. Thanks.

You’re welcome, and I concur.

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Like I said, I’ve had several people tell me they were turned off by the rabid anti-creationist or anti-religious rhetoric they’ve seen on sites like PT.

Geez, those folks must burst into tears when they read the comments in an anti-creationist thread on Eschaton, DailyKos or Washington Monthly, not to mention Pharyngula.

And the combined readership of those four blogs surely dwarfs that of Pandas Thumb, for better or worse.

The anti-fundamentalist anti-creationist bloc is alive and growing and getting more ticked off every day. Changing the “tone” is out of the question. Get used to it.

A policy of appeasement will never bring us peace because the Creationists are more upset by tut-tutting condescention than active hostility. Most of us are not village atheist types who think it is a priority to denounce Christianity. We’ve simply noticed that traditional religion is irrelevant to understanding nature. Since our indifference arouses more anger than any overt opposition, it hardly helps to keep repeating the mantra about the compatibility of religion and evolution. Religion is compatible with evolution in the same sense that Hopi rain dances are compatible with meterology.

Steve Wrote:

I thought the administration of PT was a little wacky, but suspending the Bathroom Wall just takes the cake.

What can I say, except that as far as the Bathroom Wall goes I agree? I was going to say that PT is run by committee, but actually PT is run more like a colonial organism. Suspending the Bathroom Wall wasn’t discussed, it just happened. It certainly wouldn’t have been my choice of action.

But it isn’t like discussion can’t continue at the discussion board. That’s not run by committee, and I have no intention of closing it down.

I simply point out that politically I am to the left of Che Guevara (WAY to the left) …

You need a better example of a leftist - Guevara was just a thug, and a not particularly intelligent one. At least Castro has the advantage of being a somewhat intelligent thug.

Well heck, that’s *WHY* I am to the left (WAY to the left) of both of them. :>

Alas, the people who are closest to my views are people no one ever heard of — Pannekoek, Gorter, Korsch, Makhno. The Leninists *shot* most of them.

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I humbly apologize for the double post, I promise I wasn’t pulling a George W.…

Re “What do you think about these people who don’t believe that just because science seeks natural explanations it’s inherently materialistic and atheistic?”

One thing I don’t get is people making an argument that could hold only if a vast majority of the (enter number of currently working biologists) biologists have somehow managed to go years overlooking obvious factors that the arguers think would change the basic assumptions. Seems to me the odds of an entire field being dominated by that level of incompetence is so low that it makes that kind of argument absurd even without considering the content. How can people manage to not realize this obvious implication of their arguments? (well, it’s obvious to me, anyway - or is that a case of hindsight?)

Henry

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Actually, the second half of this thread hasn’t been too pertinent to my opening post, as Biblical literalsim is not a major part of Calvert’s position, nor of the overt Kansas situation. I think it will be time to close somments on this thread soon, so maybe those of you involved recently can wtap things up.

Thanks.

Jack,

Well, here’s how the thread opened;

There are millions and millions of people who from a religious point of view do not buy your argument that science is antithetical to theism. I would hope that you would respond to that.

Jeff-Parado responded. He made the valid and relevant point that, essentially, science is antithetical to many parts of the Bible - and, thus, for many people, it is antithetial to their particular version of theism. Now, I agree with this. I just happen to disagree with Jeff’s particular example.

If we condemn creationists for making what they believe are valid points using bad arguments then should we not also speak up when what we think are bad arguments are being made in the opposite direction, no matter how valid the overall point might happen to be?

Of course you can close the thread - but given that it started out by raising the topic of science versus religion I find it odd that discussion of a particular point of Biblical scientific errancy or inerrancy should somehow be off-topic.

I’d hate to think that PT is turning into a gang of groupspeakers as JAD is always saying :-)

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jack Krebs published on March 26, 2005 11:48 AM.

Report #1 on Questions to Calvert was the previous entry in this blog.

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