Julian Sanchez has it wrong

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I just read Tim Sandefeur’s post saying that “Julian Sanchez has it exactly right” when Sanchez agrees with Jacob Weisberg’s religion-is-stupid rant, “Evolution vs. Religion: Quit pretending they’re compatible,” up at Slate. Tim didn’t post any arguments in support, and disabled comments – he may have suspected that flack would be coming his way on PT, where many of us do make a point of it to note that there is no necessary conflict between evolution and religious faith. So, I will make a few comments on my own, and then let posters discuss it over the weekend.

Jacob Weisberg and Julian Sanchez, who both want to argue that evolution is incompatible with religious belief, have to explain why the same logic does not also apply to meteorology, germ theory, genetics, atomism, etc. All of these contradict certain literal interpretations of fundamental Judeo-Christian-Islamic holy texts. All of these scientific discoveries have experienced objections from certain religious sects, even though, now, it seems silly to almost every religious person that there would be some kind of religious problem with genetics or meteorology.

Evolution relies on “randomness” in exactly the same way as all of these other sciences. All of these sciences study phenonmenon that are a complex interaction of stochastic and regular processes. Evolution is no more or less “naturalistic” than any of these other sciences. None of these sciences, evolution included, conflicts with the theistic theological view that God creates the universe at every moment of its existence. What makes evolution religiously controversial in modern America is historical: fundamentalists on both sides – atheism and Christianity – have, for the last 100 years, used evolution as a club to beat up on the other side. Darwin himself, and most of professional evolutionary biologists since then, did not do this, and neither did most serious religious people. But campaigners on both sides, appealing to the public in popular books, articles, speeches, and sermons, have been much less careful.

Michael Ruse has been getting flack from certain quarters lately for pointing this out, and perhaps he sometimes does exagerrate the sins of Richard Dawkins et al. in this area. But the very reason that Ruse has to pound the table so hard is that a certain segment of evolution/atheism popularizers stubbornly, and in the case of Jacob Weisberg, defiantly, refuses to separate their science and their religious argumentation. Basically, they take the lazy step of saying “Look, folks, it’s science or religion,” and attempt to force people to chose their favorite, rather than actually arguing for their own religious view of atheism. Make no mistake: arguing for atheism is making a religious argument, just like arguing for theism. Having religious arguments is a grand human tradition and all for the good, but history has shown that it is a Very Bad Thing if governments take sides on these arguments. Atheists insisting that evolution proves atheism make it appear as if teaching standard science in biology classrooms is actually state sponsorship of atheism, and this is what motivates creationists/IDists. It is highly doubtful that the evolution=atheism mixture has ever been a significant component of public education in the U.S., but if people who are ostensibly supporting teaching evolution can’t resist mixing in the religious argument for atheism, then it is understandable why the public will continue to be confused.

Continuing the old science-vs.-religion war isn’t going to change any minds that haven’t been changed in the last 100 years, but it will ensure that the political strife over evolution continues for the next 100 years.

3 TrackBacks

Biblical literalists do not challenge metorology because they think God can be subtley involved in a system that still follows natural laws. Creation, however, is not described in the Bible as involving subtle influence by God. Saying meteorology con... Read More

Ah, poor Panda's Thumb. It's getting hit with the Religious Wars. Don't they know that Pharyngula is the place to battle over atheism and religion? I'm going to side with my compatriots over there who think religion should not be a ... Read More

Those atheists who most strenuously object to Matzke’s claim will in general have the greatest emotional and intellectual stake in that position—and as such will ironically have invested in their atheism many of the very religious sensibilities that th... Read More

141 Comments

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“Atheism is (by definition) not a religion, but rather the absence of religion.”

It is too, if the assertion is a matter of faith.

“Make no mistake: arguing for atheism is making a religious argument, just like arguing for theism.”

Oy, my head. One wouldn’t say that arguing for a-science - for a nonscientific worldview - is making a scientific argument, right? (is ID making a scientific argument?) Perhaps one might say that arguing for atheism is making a _________ argument, just like arguing for theism, with the blank being filled in with a higher category, probably one of those big philosophical words whose meaning I always forget, ending with -ological …

I never got the impression that the militant atheist contingent was very large or loud. Granted, scientific prestige is an amplifying force in many circumstances, but so is religion … I’m just not sure how much of the creationist motivation is specifically “[a]theists insisting that evolution proves atheism” … but I’m sure it isn’t helping. But Weisberg - what’s his involvement in this issue? Dawkins and all, that’s one thing, even long-time newgroup and blog people, but it seems like Weisberg just came outa nowhere and started waving his arms about. Am I wrong?

Just was reading Pennock mentioning that evolution was well-received by “many theologians who are now regarded as the founding fathers of Christian evangelicalism” (Tower of Babel, p. 75; citing Livingstone’s book Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders).

So, what is an argument that evolution is bigger than heliocentrism? Besides the fall/death/crucifixion/salvation one.

ts has a very good point on Neufeld’s post below, though - on a practical level, evolution is just as compatible with religion as germ theory was *only* to the extent* that people realize it. Which is a generous reading of Weisberg’s point. In reality, a whole bunch of people realize this, despite what Weisberg and probably Sanchez claim - but agreed, you got folks on both sides (*cough* if you want to say that a small handful of folks out of an already small group, next to to an entire multi-decade movement is a fair comparison*cough*) who are making them incompatible* in a practical sense …

* watched Kinsey last night - all this talk about compatibility is reminding me of that bit from right after they married … not gonna make analogy, not gonna make analogy … I can fight it …

“Atheists insisting that evolution proves atheism make it appear as if teaching standard science in biology classrooms is actually state sponsorship of atheism, and this is what motivates creationists/IDists.”

That can’t be right, can it? Creationists are merely reacting to atheists when they insist children learn the world is 6000 years old?

I do not think political strife in of itself is good or bad, even if it takes 100 years to resolve. It is certainly an energy drain for those who have vested interests in this debate. On the other hand, people experiencing strife tend to want resolutions. So, to some extent, I am relieved that there are opposite poles at play. If there were not, then I’d be more worried about one side taking over the debate by storm.

I would cast the problem this way. It is the apathy of the citizens towards science that is the key problem – the rampant anti-intellectualism bred by one’s comfort with selective ignorance. Sure, there is nothing *in principle* that requires evolution to be in conflict with Christianity. But the mere existence of a principle does not actually force a person to seek it out and to resolve any perceived conflicts. What does it matter to a Creationist/IDist that the overwhelming scientific facts fly in the face of their beliefs? Nothing… except maybe those pesky fundamentalist atheists that are siphoning potential converts away from their groups.

Thus, unfortunately, it seems the only motivation here to force a resolution is that there is such a conflict of worldviews, each being undetermined by the facts available to us. Thank God, for the atheists, right?

I would turn the problem back to Matzke. If the opinions of Weisberg and Sanchez disappeared, would the problem of IDism and Creationism cease and desist? Conversely, if Dembski or P. Johnson were not around, would atheist find less intellectual fulfillment in evolution?

Some wise individual said:

Atheism is a religion in the same sense that not collecting stamps is a hobby

Arguing for atheism”, on the other hand, could maybe be construed as making a religious statement.

“Does the evolutionary doctrine clash with religious faith? It does not. It is a blunder to mistake the Holy Scriptures for elementary textbooks of astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology.”

– Theodosius Dobzhansky, Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution http://tinyurl.com/befnj

Why is it that, when people’s religious beliefs are challenged, they go ballistic? This has got to be the most tendentious and offensive article I’ve ever read at PT, and seems to be geared toward rankling atheists and driving a wedge between them and theists, precisely what the article purports to complain about.

Saying “The modern understanding of Evolution obviates religious explanations of otherwise deeply mysterious phenomena (like the origin and diversity of life)” is not logically equivalent to “Evolution proves there is no god.”

Thus Dawkins et al and their statements (like the famous “intellectually fulfilled atheist” bit) are simply not saying what fundamentalists say they are.

It’s scriptural literalists who conflate their beliefs with the core of theistic faith who are “insulting our intelligence” to borrow a phrase from the Slate piece.

If atheism is a religion, then it is impossible to have no religion. I think it is possible to have no religion, therefore I think atheism is not a religion. Otherwise, you have to equate an awareness of religion with subscription to a religion, and I can’t see the logic in that.

I support no football team. I have no interest in football. Does that make me a sports fan, sports fans? And if I say that I don’t think that football should be used as the underlying explanation of physics does that mean I’m having an argument about sport or about science? If I was a football fan and made the same statement, would it be materially different?

R

Thus Dawkins et al and their statements (like the famous “intellectually fulfilled atheist” bit) are simply not saying what fundamentalists say they are.

Nor what Matzke says they are: “Atheists insisting that evolution proves atheism”.

Hear. Hear, Nick. Let’s not allow the religious fundamentalists (nor the vocal atheists) to turn discussions about science into a religious debate. There can be no “resolution” when you’re talking about belief (or lack of belief). Saying that anyone who believes in god is stupid is as useless to the discussion as saying that anyone who doesn’t believe in god is going to burn in hell.

We all agree that science is about facts and understanding, not about believing or faith. Our objective should be to help the general public understand how science works. It’s a waste of time and energy to try to change anyone’s belief’s. You won’t succeed, and it will distract from the real issue: defending science in the classroom (and elsewhere).

[BTW, I spent all last evening when I should have been reading about orangutans going through the discussion under the PR post. It riled me up, but special thanks to Lenny and Ed D for injecting reason into the discussion.]

Atheism is a religion in the same sense that not collecting stamps is a hobby

“Arguing for atheism”, on the other hand, could maybe be construed as making a religious statement.

So arguing against stamp collecting may be construed as making a philatelic statement? That looks like a category mistake to me. Notably, arguments aren’t statements, they are arguments. And if one actually examines the various arguments for atheism, one does not find religious statements. But hey, one can construe whatever they like, supporting facts and evidence be damned.

The difference should be clear enough.

As has been pointed out, the claim is not that atheism is a religion.

The claim is that by arguing for atheism one start to make it function as a religion.

It is the difference between IS and OUGHT.

I AM an atheist. That is not to state a religious belief, but rather its lack.

But when I say you OUGHT TO BE an atheist, my statement starts to function as a statement of belief.

Hear. Hear, Nick. Let’s not allow the religious fundamentalists (nor the vocal atheists) to turn discussions about science into a religious debate.

Oh the irony. What sort of blog is this? And what sort of debate has Nick fired up here?

But when I say you OUGHT TO BE an atheist, my statement starts to function as a statement of belief.

So if I say that one ought to stop at red lights, one ought to quit smoking, and one ought to make only non-fallacious arguments, I’m preaching religion?

Drat, I left out the best one: one ought only teach evolution, and not ID, in science classes.

Matzke and Sandefur disagree: teach the controversy!

Bradley or Theodosius Dobzhansky Wrote:

Does the evolutionary doctrine clash with religious faith? It does not. It is a blunder to mistake the Holy Scriptures for elementary textbooks of astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology.

This is utter nonsense. Whether or not evolutionary doctrine clashes with faith depends on the specific nature of that faith. If one’s faith is placed in a genesis-style special creation, then most certainly there is a clash. There are so many religions, so many faiths. To say that evolution does not clash with some of them (e.g. deism) is not to say that it does not clash with any of them.

Nick Matzke Wrote:

Jacob Weisberg and Julian Sanchez, who both want to argue that evolution is incompatible with religious belief, have to explain why the same logic does not also apply to meteorology, germ theory, genetics, atomism, etc.

I think Sanchez made a movement in that direction by invoking the Galileo affair. In that episode, the science of astronomy did indeed clash with certain brands of faith.

Not all religions are deism. Not all religions are Unitarianism. Many religions make specific, testable claims about the natural world. Such religions open themselves up to conflict with science.

Perhaps this is a more appropriate thread to post this in than the one I posted it to before:

This is my goodbye, everyone. I am not even remotely interested in all the dick-waving here. When the loonies leave, someone let me know so I can come back.

In the meantime, anyone who wants to say “Hi” to me can drop in the DebunkCreation list at Yahoogroups. The dicks won’t be following, since religious discussions are OT at DC.

I look forward to the time when PT becomes useful again, instead of just a private forum for certain people to (1) preach their religious opinions and (2) pick fights.

Take care, everyone.

This nonsense is as much a diversion from the “war” on creationism as the war in Iraq is a diversion from the war on terror.

The goal of defending the teaching of evolution is to protect and strengthen the teaching of science in the public school system, not wade directly into the culture wars.

Gerry L Wrote:

Let’s not allow the religious fundamentalists (nor the vocal atheists) to turn discussions about science into a religious debate. There can be no “resolution” when you’re talking about belief (or lack of belief).

Actually, this isn’t quite true. I can believe X = 50 and another can believe that X = 100. Then if we agreed to the bayesian framework we’d modify our initial beliefs via Bayes Theorem as the data became available. Eventually, given enough data our seperate beliefs would move closer and closer toether until they were pretty much the same. The trick is letting the data settle our differences and not becoming dogmatic. With religion it is pretty much about dogma.

Nick Wrote:

Make no mistake: arguing for atheism is making a religious argument, just like arguing for theism.

Dre Wrote:

This is a ridiculous statement. Atheism is (by definition) not a religion, but rather the absence of religion. Your whole post is undermined by this claim

I would argue that agnosticism remains neutral on the concept of religion. Whether or not Atheism is a religion is unclear to me, although it seems to be a faith based interpretation.

PvM Wrote:

I would argue that agnosticism remains neutral on the concept of religion. Whether or not Atheism is a religion is unclear to me, although it seems to be a faith based interpretation.

Thus stepping from one definition problem to another. Faith is usually defined something like: “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.”

Thence we devolve into a discussion whether lack of evidence is evidence…

I would argue that agnosticism remains neutral on the concept of religion.

Huxley coined the word a-gnostic – not knowable; it cannot be known whether there is a God. This is not neutral, certainly not for many people who believe that God is knowable.

Whether or not Atheism is a religion is unclear to me, although it seems to be a faith based interpretation.

There’s weak atheism and strong atheism. Weak atheism is lack of belief in God, the same way we lack a belief that someone named John Karpowsky lives at 25 Dover Lane in Sausalito. It’s possible, but there’s no reason to think so. (Not the best example, I admit, since it’s easy enough to find out). Strong atheism is belief that there is no God. Whether it is faith-based depends on whether there are reasons for the belief. If you actually examine the reasons that strong atheists put forth for their belief (what a concept), you will find that they are generally not faith-based, but are rather based on alleged impossibility proofs or on semantic analysis that allegedly reveals the term “god” to be semantically empty or non-referable. These arguments may be mistaken, but they aren’t a matter of faith: “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence” (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=faith)

Thence we devolve into a discussion whether lack of evidence is evidence…

Sagan famously contended that absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, but that’s a misstatement (i.e., Sagan was wrong). A proper statement is “absence of proof isn’t proof of absence”. But evidence is a different matter altogether, and when you have searched high and low for evidence and have found none, say for WMD in Iraq (Donald Rumsfeld infamously used used the phrase in that context), that’s rather good evidence for absence.

If you are a convinced atheist who is also supporter of science, you need to decide which is more important to you:

* defending and promoting science

* tearing down and destroying religion

‘Cause they aren’t one and the same thing. You may have both ends. However, in doing the latter, you are actually, right now, harming the cause of the former. There are plenty of religious scientist types (who fully accept evolution and a 14-billion-year-old Universe) whom you will tweak off. And you will play right into the hands of the creationists who want to argue against evolution on the basis that the people who support it are trying to destroy religion.

If you think that destroying religion is more important than promoting science, then go right on ahead with your attacks on religion.

On the other hand, if you think that promoting and defending science is more important, you are making a grave tactical mistake by insisting that you have to tear down religion in order to defend evolution. You’re throwing away allies, tilting against windmills, and undermining hard-argued positions.

Decide which is more important to you. If it’s defending science, then for the sake of good tacitcs and good sense, bite your lip on destroying religion until science isn’t in so much cultural peril.

-Rob

Atheism isn’t a religion, but (qua proposition) it is a statement about religion, namely the statement that theistic varieties of religion are wrong.

Is arguing for atheism “making a religious argument”? Matter of definition: it is making an argument about religion; it’s not arguing in a religious mode.

As for schools: Keeping religion out of science classes doesn’t mean that a scientific discovery not dependent on any particular religious position is unmentionable as soon as someone finds a way to use it to support a particular religious or anti-religious position. You can’t keep something out of schools just because it can be used in a religiously partisan way. (Else I can keep anything out of the schools, by starting a new religion based on it.)

Perhaps evolution is evidence for atheism. (Good for atheism, if so.) Perhaps it’s evidence for, say, Hinduism. (Good for Hinduism, if so.) None of that can possibly make a difference to whether it’s right, or to whether it’s scientific, or to whether it’s OK to teach it to children. To disqualify something from teaching in schools because of its consequences if true is stupid.

The reason you don’t see meteorology advanced as a evidence against religion is that theologians never advanced and “Arguement from Rain.” They did, however, advance an “Arguement from Design,” to which evolution is undeniably relevant. And it’s important to see the difference between relevance and proof. Rarely do atheists even come close to saying evolution disproves religion, but they’re right to say it undermies it.

g Wrote:

Atheism isn’t a religion, but (qua proposition) it is a statement about religion, namely the statement that theistic varieties of religion are wrong.

For many people, atheism qua proposition is “I lack a belief in God”.

Perhaps evolution is evidence for atheism. (Good for atheism, if so.) Perhaps it’s evidence for, say, Hinduism. (Good for Hinduism, if so.) None of that can possibly make a difference to whether it’s right, or to whether it’s scientific, or to whether it’s OK to teach it to children. To disqualify something from teaching in schools because of its consequences if true is stupid.

Some people feel that certain beliefs, even if true, are dangerous. Leo Strauss, for instance, held that view toward religion – he argued that the elites should keep the knowledge of the philosophical death of God away from the masses, lest society collapse. And his disciples, Irving Kristol, Gertrude Himmelfarb, et. al., take a similar view on evolution (http://reason.com/9707/fe.bailey.shtml). They weren’t/aren’t stupid, by any means, though I think they are severely deluded.

* defending and promoting science

* tearing down and destroying religion

Tastes great! Less filling!

I’m afraid I think Julian Sanchez is right. The usual emphasis on how compatible religion and evolution is politically seductive but scientifically indefensible. Religion and evolution are “compatible” in the same way that doodling sea monsters in the blank spaces on ancient maps is compatible with cartography - it’s harmless fun as long as nobody takes it seriously. But people _are_ taking it seriously, so it’s regrettably important to be curmudgeonly about it: lack of scientific knowledge is _not_ license to fill the gaps with elaborate speculation. Faith in the apologist’s sense of belief without regard to evidence is _not_ intellectually respectable.

In particular, while liberal Christians are relatively science-friendly in practice because they’re perfectly happy to write off as figurative any scriptural passages that look like contradicting science, that’s not intellectually respectable either, even if it’s a tradition that does date back to Augustine. If you actually read Augustine, it turns out he’s simply raised unfalsifiability to a principle, as when he says, ““Whatever there is in the word of God that cannot, when taken literally, be referred either to purity of life or soundness of doctrine, you may set down as figurative.” That is, cynically but not unfairly paraphrased, if it’s embarrassing, it’s figurative, never mind figurative for what. That’s not compatible with science, that’s anti-scientific at the most fundamental level.

Anybody still here should click that telic thoughts trackback; sample “Where have I heard this before? Oh yes, here it is:

“Naturalistic evolution is consistent with the existence of “God” only if by that term we mean no more than a first cause which retires from further activity after establishing the laws of nature and setting the natural mechanism in motion.” Phillip E. Johnson, “Evolution as Dogma: The Establishment of Naturalism”, First Things (1990)

What’s interesting is how ID critics for years have been talking as if Phillip Johnson’s views on the relationship between evolution and religion are hopelessly wrong, yet here we find Paul the scientist saying the same as Phil the creationist.”

Good job, guys! Thanks a big %^&^& lot.

ts Wrote:

No one, absolutely no one, has said that atheism is a prerequisite for being a good, intelligently respectable, and thoughtful scientist. What you “did [BLEEP] say” — your misrepresentations and misunderstandings of what others have said — is irrelevant.

You really aren’t paying any attention, are you? Not even to what you say yourself? Here are some examples:

Original article: Wrote:

But whatever tack they take, evolutionists should quit pretending their views are no threat to believers. This insults our intelligence, and the president is doing that already.

Mark Barton Wrote:

Religion and evolution are “ccompatible” in the same way that doodling sea monsters in the blank spaces on ancient maps is compatible with cartography - it’s harmless fun as long as nobody takes it seriously.…

In particular, while liberal Christians are relatively science-friendly in practice because they’re perfectly happy to write off as figurative any scriptural passages that look like contradicting science, that’s not intellectually respectable either,

ts Wrote:

So you deeply appreciate “bite your lip” and his question begging false dichotomy? I myself thought that was the worst post of the bunch, short of the top article. You really should get ahold of Tim Sandefur and read what he posted – it goes directly to why Rob’s post is so wrong and so offensive.

I might note that this last post was in response to somebody appreciating an earlier post where I said that supporting evolution and tearing down religion are two different things. Here are you calling it a false dichotomy, and indeed offensive to call it a dichtomoy.

People said these things. YOU SAID THIS THING. Now you want to deny it, for reasons I simply don’t understand. Some sort of moral high ground? Who knows. But, one thing I do one beyond all shadow of a doubt: people like you give both atheists and scientists a bad name, and make it very, very, very difficult for the rest of us to try to convince the world not to repeat the Galileo mistake with evolution.

-Rob

I commented on that in the other thread where Krauze left his intellectually dishonest dropping. He left out a word:

What’s interesting is how [some] ID critics for years have been talking as if Phillip Johnson’s views on the relationship between evolution and religion are hopelessly wrong, yet here we find Paul the scientist saying the same as Phil the creationist.”

“Good job, guys! Thanks a big %^&^& lot.”

Do you know what good faith and intellectual integrity are, Dan? Some people like to tell the truth even if it means you’re going to swear at them and keep moaning “we’ll lose!” like some chicken little.

Rob Knop Wrote:

Here are some examples:

None of which say “that atheism is a prerequisite for being a good, intelligently respectable, and thoughtful scientist” or anything even remotely like it.

YOU SAID THIS THING.

I did not say “that atheism is a prerequisite for being a good, intelligently respectable, and thoughtful scientist” so STOP LYING.

Dan S says: “I’d say the popularity probably relates to specific intersections of cultural wars and political aims - anti-social darwinism the first round, opposition to the “’60s” the rise of right wing fundamentalists, and reaganite right for the second, and now, I dunno - rightwingers again?. But I don’t know what started each going - in that second wave, YEC creation’science’ has its roots in the 50s, I think? So …[shrug]. I have to read some more . .”

You are correct that you need to read more in this area. A good place to start would be Ronald L. Numbers’ book The Creationists. As Numbers shows, creationism was birthed not just by Darwin’s theory, but also by the “higher biblical critcism” that took off in the late 19th century. The latter demonstrated that the Bible also evolved; that, e.g., the Pentatuch was not authored by Moses, but rather was an amalgem, an edited collection indicating clear syncretism drawing on older, pagan mythology.

Fundamentalists in the first decades of the 20th centruy rejected both Darwinism and biblical criticism. These two disciplines powerfully challenged core beliefs about Xianity’s sacred text, and gave rise to the anti-intellectualism seen today in fudnamentalist circles.

The first creationist society was established in the ’30s, and there is a relatively direct line running from the individuals involved in its formation, to the present creationists.

Mona, thanks for the reference! Now I just wish I had the time to read more … Hmm, maybe if I spent a little less time writing blogcomments … nah …

There are plenty of religious scientist types (who fully accept evolution and a 14-billion-year-old Universe) whom you will tweak off. And you will play right into the hands of the creationists who want to argue against evolution on the basis that the people who support it are trying to destroy religion.

I think you’ll find that many pro-evolution people here, particularly the left-leaning ones, are more interested in asserting their intellectual superiority than in actually winning the political debate.

I have [bleep]ed the various naughty words in this thread. Please keep it vaguely civilized if possible.

ts to Rob: “I did not say “that atheism is a prerequisite for being a good, intelligently respectable, and thoughtful scientist” so STOP LYING.”

Rob also quoted two remarks of mine in support of this and I feel misrepresented as well. My point is close to the opposite of Rob’s paraphrase: given the current state of the evidence, (weak) atheism is a _result_ of being a good scientist. Moreover, I don’t think that this conclusion is just me being snarky and pulling a No True Scientist argument because some people disagree with me. Every scientist I’ve ever read or quizzed who was to any extent conventionally religious has been quite cheerfully and openly running a double standard - one standard of evidence for work and one for Sundays (or other holy days).

I would hope the atheist here at Pandas Thumb will comment on this statement by an un-named IDist:

the Darwinist establishment despises (yes I say despises) theistic evolution. They view theistic evolution as a weak-kneed sycophant, who desperately wants the respectability that comes with being a full-blooded Darwinist, but refuses to follow the logic of Darwinism through to the end. It takes courage to give up the comforting belief that life on earth has a purpose. It takes courage to live without the consolation of an afterlife. Theistic evolutionists lack the stomach to face the ultimate meaninglessness of life, and it is this failure of courage that makes them contemptible in the eyes of full-blooded Darwinists (Richard Dawkins is a case in point).

Is that true? Do atheists despise Theistic Evolutionists. Do atheists view Theistic Evolutionists as week-kneed sychophants? I’d be curious to know? Speak your mind. Tell it like you see.

No they don’t despise theistic evolutionists.

Is that clear enough?

vile Sal Wrote:

I would hope the atheist here at Pandas Thumb will comment on this statement by an un-named IDist:

the Darwinist establishment despises (yes I say despises) theistic evolution.

“the atheist” here at Pandas Thumb is not “the Darwinist establishment”. And “the Darwinist establishment” includes theistic evos. Maybe drawing a Venn diagram would help you, Sal.

Salvador asks: “Is that true? Do atheists despise Theistic Evolutionists. Do atheists view Theistic Evolutionists as week-kneed sychophants? I’d be curious to know? Speak your mind. Tell it like you see.”

I don’t know who or what the “Darwinist Establishment” is, that you also wrote of, but it is true that some evolutionary scientists have stated they do not believe theistic scientists who accept the fact of evolution are intellectually consistent. Dawkins, for example. But as an undergrad I was taught Biology 101 – including its evolutionary underpinnings – by an Iraqi-American who was a devout Sunni Muslim. His daughter and I were friends, and he was well-respected by the rest of his dept., evolutionists all.

The mistake I think many make is assuming that because the pitbulls who defend evolution against ID/Sci-Cre often (tho hardly invariably) are non-theists who are ALSO displeased with Xian fundamentlists quite independent of origins issues, that these represent all scientists. Scientists going about their daily work simply are not concerned with the religious beliefs of their colleagues, or for that matter, of anyone else.

Evolution has long been a political issue as well as a fact of science, and politics attracts people with strong views. People who participate in heavily politicized issues are not representative of the whole body politic, including the vast, vast majority of natural scientists who long ago accepted that evolution is overwhelmingly supported by the evidence.

If Dawkins and others like him err in tagging support for evolution with atheism, the IDers and other creationists err in assuming a vast conspiracy in the work-a-day world of science wherein there is purported plotting to foist “materialism” on the world. Its just not that sexy. These guys/gals are just about their science.

Alas, according to people like SEF, ts, and Aureola Nominee, the theistic evolutionists are clearly defective thinkers for failing to acknowledge an evidence of absence of their deity. Of what value are defective thinkers? More importantly, of what value are defective thinkers to the Darwinist Establishment? They are place holders to respond to people like you Salvador T. Cordova.

Sal, let’s talk about bamboo…

And I’m quite sure that Lenny still has some questions for you, that you haven’t come anywhere close to answering.

Oh, and Sal, great timing, I’ve gotta say. Here you had the “evil”utionists all ripping into each other. A smart young IDiot might’ve just sat back on his hands and enjoyed himself. But now they’re all gonna take a breather, just for the sheer pleasure of ganging up on YOU!!

Bye Sal.

And I’ve got one or two for him:

I’ll ask this again, because he didn’t respond the first time: Sancho P. Cordova said: Comment #42729 I mean the author of Origin of Species was really versant in…information theory (NOT), Well, speaking of that, can you direct me to papers in legitimate Information Theory journals which dispute evolution? Or perhaps an Information Theory conference Dembski was invited to present at?

As far as I know, the only recognized Information Theorist who has commented on Dembski’s claims is David Wolpert, who said Dembski’s stuff was junk. Any recognized IT scientists say otherwise, Sal?

Dan S. quoting Mark B.: “They’re perfectly happy to write off as figurative any scriptural passages that look like contradicting science, that’s not intellectually respectable either”

Dan S.: Why on earth not?

Mark B.: I thought I’d already explained, but to repeat: if incompatibility with modern science (or some other problem with “purity of life or soundness of doctrine”) is the _only_ reason advanced for thinking a passage is figurative, then it’s a retreat into unfalsifiablity, which is anti-scientific. There needs to be one or more independent lines of evidence such as textual markers of figurativeness or a compelling suggestion as to what the passage is figurative for.

In particular it can be evidence of figurativeness when a passage is incongruous or physical impossible when literally construed, but only when the incongruity would have been obvious to the author and the originally intended readers. “I am the Bread of Life” is an obvious metaphor. A talking snake is arguable - snakes don’t normally talk, but the circumstances in which the snake supposedly talked were represented as rather unique and not necessarily comparable to everyday experience. Moreover, the significance of the snake is explicitly given and it’s a Just So story, not a metaphor or an allegory. A six-day creation would have been utterly unremarkable as a literal claim. The possibility that the authors of Genesis thought they were in part giving a science lesson and were just plain wrong can’t be lightly dismissed.

Sal, maybe you can explain something else. I’m looking at the website for the 2005 IEEE International Symposium for Information Theory. It will be held in Adelaide, Australia. This is The upcoming conference for IT scientists. Now, I was confused when I saw the list of plenary speakers:

* Richard Blahut (Shannon Lecturer) * P. R. Kumar * David MacKay * Benjamin Schumacher * Terry Speed

Isn’t that weird? No William Dembski. The Isaac Newton of Information Theory, not speaking at the big IT conference? That’s strange. Maybe he’s presenting a paper, though. Is Dembski presenting a paper at the conference? Like you say, Darwin should have known Information Theory to study evolution. Dembski is your big supposed Information Theory guru about evolution. So he should be there, right?

I know. He might have a scheduling conflict. You see, the other big thing going on in September for IT scientists is the workshop in New Zealand. Specifically, the IEEE ITSOC Information Theory Workshop 2005 on Coding and Complexity. Coding and complexity, that’s right up Dembski’s alley, if he’s such an expert at this stuff, isn’t that true? Take a look at the topics covered at the workshop:

Algorithmic information theory; channel coding; coded modulation; complexity, information and entropy; complexity measures; convolutional coding; error-correcting codes; information theory and statistics; iterative decoding; LDPC codes; quantum information theory; quantum-theoretical aspects of coding; randomness and pseudo-randomness; relationships between codes and complexity; rate distortion theory; soft-decision decoding; source coding; source-channel coding; spreading sequences and CDMA; turbo codes.

See that? “Algorithmic information Theory”–“information theory and statistics”–“relationships between codes and complexity”–that’s exactly what you think Dembski is such an expert at. So is he going to be teaching those sections of the workshop? Or will they be discussing any of Dembski’s results there? I mean, it can’t be true that international conferences on Information Theory would fail to discuss revolutionary new results in IT. So if they’re not talking about Dembski, why not?

lurker Wrote:

Alas, according to people like SEF, ts, and Aureola Nominee, the theistic evolutionists are clearly defective thinkers for failing to acknowledge an evidence of absence of their deity. Of what value are defective thinkers?

First, not acknowledging lack of evidence has anything to do with with the complaint against theists; if theists think they have evidence of God, that’s something that can be debated (but not in science class). The complaint is with acknowledging lack of evidence but persisting in belief nonetheless. That’s not how intellectual inquiry works; see http://www.ukpoliticsmisc.org.uk/us[…]rgument.html

Second, I’m a defective thinker, we’re all defective thinkers, at times, about various things. You’re making a false generalization from a defective act or process to a defective whole person. It just doesn’t work that way, except occasionally in overheated rhetoric when someone says “he’s an idiot” instead of “he said a number of things that are clearly confused or false”.

Oops: not acknowledging lack of evidence has nothing to do with the complaint against theists

This person, whoever he may be, corroborates ts’s viewpoint: “the Darwinist establishment despises (yes I say despises) theistic evolution. They view theistic evolution as a weak-kneed sycophant, who desperately wants the respectability that comes with being a full-blooded Darwinist, but refuses to follow the logic of Darwinism through to the end. It takes courage to give up the comforting belief that life on earth has a purpose. It takes courage to live without the consolation of an afterlife. Theistic evolutionists lack the stomach to face the ultimate meaninglessness of life, and it is this failure of courage that makes them contemptible in the eyes of full-blooded Darwinists (Richard Dawkins is a case in point).”

ts would rather use the descriptor “defective thinker”, or someone who does not know how intellectual inquiry works. Oh, I understand that ts is not arguing that the theist is actually a defective person. He excuses this accusation by asserting that everyone is a defective thinker, and thus being in the norm somehow mitigates the deficiency. But, according to those like ts, given the topic at hand, theistic evolutionists just cannot think straight. After all, the complaint amongst atheists like ts is that TEists persist to believe even after acknowledging the evidence of evolution (which as Sandefur explains is synonymous for evidence of absence of evidence). How can the Darwinian Establishment value a defective thinker? Especially, if there is any truth to data cited in the recent posts, that atheists constitute a majority in evolutionary biology? It seems that TEists have an uphill battle all the way being the 2nd class citizen in Atheist country. After all, when one is told he thinks defectively about his own religion, why would he screw up the courage to debate someone like ts, much less think he has any credible voice against Creationists?

It is a good question: how do proponents of evolution science value defectively thinking Christian evolutionists?

A while ago, I noted that the whole present Creation/Evolution controversy is best thought as a solely a religious problem, a Christian problem. I thought Christians should be sorting the message out amongst themselves. I honestly failed to factor in the atheist noise making on the side. No, I am not talking about atheists who are simply defending his belief system – presumably, a defense of atheism does not entail believing Christians are ignorant and defective thinkers. The unfortunate trend, it seems to me, is that those Christians who believe in evolution have simply been reluctant to defend their reconciliation of science and religion to others, be it rabid Creationists or atheists. Maybe they do not feel they have to, but clearly a lack of message control is sending precisely the message that the above cited anonymous poster perceives.

Looking across the recent threads sparked by Sanchez’s post, I have to say that a lot of regular kibitzers on this subject are atheists. I have no hard data. But my initial perception is that the volume of atheist complaints and philosophical viewpoints simply drowns out the Christians. There is a real echo chamber effect here. Does anybody else have evidence I am wrong?

I reiterate my stance I put earlier in this thread that silencing atheists is not the solution, nor is accusing atheists of being the culprit. I was implicitly arguing for an active dialogue such that no one side of the ideological spectrum overwhelms the dialogue. Can we only rely on agnostics like Matzke to do the work of airing dirty laundry?

“It just doesn’t work that way, except occasionally in overheated rhetoric when someone says “he’s an idiot” instead of “he said a number of things that are clearly confused or false”.”

Yes, ts. I am quite positive that you know just how that works.

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on August 13, 2005 1:26 PM.

Inferences was the previous entry in this blog.

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