Ken Miller’s talks at KU

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Thursday (9-7-06) Ken Miller spoke at the University of Kansas on ““God, Darwin, and Design: Creationism’s Second Coming” as part of a great series we are having this fall entitled “Difficult Dialogues.” (Later we having Judge Jones, Dawkins, Genie Scott and Behe - a busy fall here at KU.) The next day Miller spoke at an extended question-and-answer period as a followup to his speech.

The first two thirds of Ken’s speech was about the state of ID today - an entertaining and substantial discussion centered on the Dover trial, culminating in the two conclusions that ID is totally vacuous as science and that ID has been thoroughly exposed as religious.

Then Ken tackled the difficult topic. I haven’t gone back and listened to the recording (more on that in a bit,) but here is a summary of the issue, taken from Ken’s speech but containing some of my own interpretation and language.

The creationist movement in general associates evolution with atheistic materialism, and thus blames evolution for all the ills of the world. However, materialism and atheism are metaphysical interpretations of science, not science itself, nor necessary conclusions from science. Religious people need to work to break that misconception by arguing for their own theistic interpretation. (Ken used the word interpretation: I don’t think that’s the best word choice, but that’s a matter for further discussion.)

That is, we need to shift the dialogue away from science, which has always been the wrong venue for the discussion of the real issues that motivate the anti-evolutionists, and turn the dialogue to the real issue, which is the subject of how we vary in our metaphysical and religious beliefs. This was succinctly summarized in a comment by Richard Wein over on PZ’s blog Pharyngula today when Richard wrote, “It seems to me that what he [Miller] is saying to creationists is this: if you want to argue against atheism then argue against atheism, not against evolution.”

Several places reported on the speech yesterday morning:

Lawrence Journal World: Biologist says evolution, religion can coexist

Red State Rabble

Paul Decelles

This morning PZ Myers posted a reaction on his blog that has been followed by a very interesting discussion, including both negative and positive things about Miller’s thesis. No matter where one may stand on the issues, it is clear that the subject does engender a “difficult dialogue” that tends to divide us more than it unites us.

We at KCFS recorded both the speech Thursday night and the dialogue session Friday morning, and we have Ken’s permission to distribute these. This morning I sent links to these files to various pro-science groups around the country, holding back from making them fully public in part because NPR plans on broadcasting the speech in early November. But this evening I decided that this subject is so important, and the reports on Ken’s speech has already sparked the discussion, that I ought to make the mp3 files of the speech and the dialogue session publicly available.

Listen to the speeches: So if you are interested in listening for yourself, go here. The sections in the speech folder entitled 04 and 05 and much of the dialogue session contain the religious issues, although the first part of the speech (01, 02 and 03) on ID and Dover are well worth listening to.

There are also zip versions of the files. It would probably be best for my little home server if you downloaded the zip files rather than streamed the individual files, if you would.

I look forward to contributing to this discussion. I think Ken has made a bold step in bringing up some critical issues. I also think that his remarks have been misinterpreted by some based on the news stories. Ken told me at dinner after the speech, and explained publicly at the dialogue session the next day, that he had just added the slides about the issue in question on the airplane coming out to Kansas, and that he is feeling his way about what the issues really are and how to frame them for constructive discussions. I would hope that even if one feels, after listening to the speech, that Ken is really wrong, one will try to add to a civil discussion on the issues rather than target Ken personally.

In fact, at dinner I offered what I think was taken as a contructive comment related to one of the main points in my recent post ID Moving On in Fighting the Culture War. Given (I take it as a given) that we need to frame issues as spanning a spectrum rather than as being dichotomous (lots of shades of grey rather than black-and-white), I think stating the issue as being about theistic as opposed to atheistic views leaves out a whole spectrum of religious and philosophical beliefs, including a wide variety of theistic beliefs which are quite at odds with each other. Replacing the false dichotomy of science or God with an equally false dichotomy of God or no-God will not be much of an improvement (even though it at least moves us in the right direction of addressing the real issues.)

I want to add one personal comment. The anti-evolutionists have a two step argument: science is atheistic, and atheisim leads to “devastating cultural consequences”, to quote the Wedge document. We need to counter both of those arguments, as they are both wrong. The creationists demonize the materialist, the atheist, the secular humanist - and we have to resist that just as much as we have to resist the other side of the creationist argument about evolution and science.

So I think Ken Miller has helped put the cards on the table. We may not agree with everything he said (my guess is that Ken, if he listens to the recordings, might not now agree with everything he said then,) but I thank him for standing up and putting his ideas and his beliefs out there for the public. These are indeed “difficult dialogues.” I hope many of us will be willing to contribute constructively to discussions about these religious issues in the months and years to come. Let’s move the discussion away from science - ID is dead - and onto the real issues of the religious and philosophical beliefs we hold and how we can live well in a society in which there is a wide diversity of such beliefs.

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Update: Jack Krebs has now posted a longer summary of the talk and links to audio files. I haven’t listened to the audio yet, but I don’t see anything in the summary that would alter my view on this. I’m glad Jack and Kansas Citize... Read More

92 Comments

Could we agree with Miller that both faith and science are gifts from God? Why, or why not?

I think that a huge problem with “moving on” to matters other than scienceis that one has to confront the claims of religious evolutionists which we tolerate as meaningless in science, but which cannot be supported by science, philosophy, or epistemology. Science is limited, of course, however it follows the basic evidentiary processes that are just about all that can be considered to lead us to “factual truth”.

And of course it’s true that it isn’t about the science, and ID is “dead” in the Johnsonian sense of attempting to get academia to think well of ID (how long ago did that boat sink?). That’s why ID or some other version of creationism will be with us for a very long time, because the results of all evidence-based investigations, from science to philosophy, fail to support the beliefs of the religionists.

Many know that we’re completely willing to tolerate their beliefs, like we do astrology and alien visitations, which is exactly what they don’t like. Such tolerance is at least somewhat contemptuous, no matter what our intentions are, because we’re simply putting up with nonsense so long as it isn’t directly harmful.

So sure, argue beyond the science. Many of us do that most of the time anyway, and of course those who want science to verify their religion are unreceptive to what we say. UD writers definitely know that the issue isn’t science, which is exactly why they complain about science as atheistic–it doesn’t allow for “God” as the Cause without a good chain of evidence leading up to the “god conclusion”.

Like it or not, science is atheistic (or more broadly, non-theistic)in the sense that UD claims that it is. It doesn’t rely upon God, it doesn’t find God, and it considers the whole “God issue” to be irrelevant. In the traditional sense, this is atheistic, for past cultures did not separate spiritual claims from the rest of life, while science quite obviously does (there being no evidence for these “spirits”).

For more philosophical religionists this can be tolerable. For many Americans, the sense that science is “of God” is their operating “principle”, so that if science finds God to be irrelevant in factual matters, ipso facto this is a strike against this science. Science is judged by its agreement with their religion, and not the other way around.

So they will continue to raise the science issue even if we do not, since they are affronted by the fact that science doesn’t support religion. We will simply be stuck in the same sorts of arguments that we have been in for the last decade or so, arguing on many fronts, but with the same theme of scientifically ignorant people whining about science excluding God simply because it is “atheistic”. The fact that they clearly don’t know what they’re talking about has never stopped them in the past, and it won’t stop them in the future.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

One thing I really liked about his talk was the revised textbook warning sticker warning students that this book deals with science etc. I liked it because often times the ID people tend to try to isolate evolution from the rest of science, as if scientific knowledge is a series of little isolated fiefdoms. For instance I have had students ask me if I believe in God at some point when I am talking about evolution. I point out to them that no where else in science do we expect God or other metaphysical concepts to enter into the discussion-we talk about cellular respiration or protein synthesis and not once is God or the soul or any sort of supernatural causation for life invoked* and if we think of what happens with evolution as an extension of the processes and laws we see here and now, then there is no logical reason to invoke supernatural causation in the past as an explanation about HOW living things came to be in their current form. The metaphysical WHY is a different sort of question.

*students may invoke their favorite deity for help with my exams though.

Almost forgot, more good reporting on the talk is by the angry astronomer at:

http://angryastronomer.blogspot.com[…]-part-1.html

“Let’s move the discussion away from science - ID is dead - and onto the real issues of the religious and philosophical beliefs we hold and how we can live well in a society in which there is a wide diversity of such beliefs.”

One of those “real” issues, indeed the elephant in the room, is the perceived conflict between a literal reading of the Bible and science. And there is much to debate in this regard, as I have pointed out many times in this forum. I am persuaded by recent scholarship that the original Hebrew version of the Bible, as opposed to the popular but demonstrably sloppy and erroneous English translations, can very reasonably be interpreted literally and yet not conflict with any tenet of science, including evolution, the age of the earth and universe, and many other issues.

This must become part of any program to heal the divide between secularists and religionists. Otherwise, it seems to me, we are just going to do more spitting in the wind.

Thanks for making this available. I have boosted the volume slightly using Cool Edit Pro and put all 8 files into one MP3 here

http://www.bringyou.to/KenMillerKS092006.mp3

Lowered the bit rate, final size is about 22 meg. Download at will.

Phil P

The old problem of demarcation between science and religion. I think the idea of separate magisteria is correct, but that people often don’t notice when religions make scientific claims. I don’t like it when children are indoctrinated with religious ideas, but if you can prove that the ideas are false (in the “beyond-reasonable-doubt” scientific sense) then you are dealing with lies.

For example, the Catholic claim that Mary rose bodily into heaven is a scientific claim. By any scientific standards, it’s false. As are water-into-wine, the 6-day creation and any number of flood myths. The fundamentalists in the US would therefore argue that if you teach in a publicly-funded classroom that human beings don’t float in air, that water doesn’t change into wine but is only an ingredient of it, that the world was never submerged in a flood and didn’t come into existence in 6 days, that you are contradicting a religious tenet and therefore falling foul of the First Amendment.

So if Catholic little Johnny asks his science teacher “Did Mary rise bodily into heaven?”, then the teacher should be able to say “no”. It seems to me that the definition of religion for First Amendment purposes must exclude any reference to the possibility of gods/spirits etc having any effect on the physical world. Any such religious claim should be permitted to be contradicted in a science classroom. That includes Christ physically coming to life again after being crucified. Fine, he can live on in our hearts or in heaven or wherever, but did that man really come back to life? No. Is there any contemporaneous evidence for his existence? No.

Does praying help you get better? No. Is Kennewick Man one of our tribe? No. Is science a gift from God? I object to that question as it presupposes God’s existence, but science won’t give you the answer.

A religion shorn of any reference to the physical world has nothing to fear from science.

Roland: “For example, the Catholic claim that Mary rose bodily into heaven is a scientific claim.”

No it is not. It is a historical and faith claim. The Catholic teaching is that she probably died although this part is not explicitly defined (the Latin has expleto terrestris vitae cursu or “having completed the course of her earthly life”), and that she was taken to heaven immediately after her death. It is called the dogma of the Assumption of Mary celebrated August 15. No Catholic claims to be able to demonstrate that using the scientific method. It is not a scientific claim. Yes, I understand Dawkins thinks it is. I have read where he talks about the Assumption in Devil’s Chaplain or his other books and articles.

Roland: “So if Catholic little Johnny asks his science teacher ‘Did Mary rise bodily into heaven?’, then the teacher should be able to say “no”.”

The Catholic science teacher at a private Catholic institution should be able to answer, “Yes, I accept it as a matter of faith. But science can say nothing about such miracles.”

Same with the resurrection of Jesus. It is a historical claim, and argued on historical grounds by folks like William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas. It only presupposes that God exists.

Biologist Darrel Falk explains in Coming to Peace with Science:

“The fact is that Christianity has core beliefs that are not accessible to the scientific method.…The resurrection, existence of the Holy Spirit and immortality are all beyond the realm of scientific testability. Even testing the power of prayer will probably not bring scientists to their knees. The history of life on earth, however, is in a much different category. It has been possible to explore this using scientific methods.…For the past century and a half, thousands of scientists from disciplines as diverse as physics, geology, astronomy and biology have amassed a tremendous mass of data, and the answer is absolutely clear and equally certain. The earth is not young, and the life forms did not appear in six twenty-four-hour days. God created gradually.…We now know more about the nature of divine action. We now know a little about how God created life, and any time we understand something new about the activity of God, it brings us one step closer to God.” (Falk, Coming to Peace with Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology, page 213, 214)

Phil P

Carol Wrote:

One of those “real” issues, indeed the elephant in the room, is the perceived conflict between a literal reading of the Bible and science. And there is much to debate in this regard, as I have pointed out many times in this forum. I am persuaded by recent scholarship that the original Hebrew version of the Bible, as opposed to the popular but demonstrably sloppy and erroneous English translations, can very reasonably be interpreted literally and yet not conflict with any tenet of science, including evolution, the age of the earth and universe, and many other issues.

Right. Whatever. Good for you.

However, most of the people on this forum either don’t believe that the Bible is holy scripture or, if Christian, don’t accept its literality on other grounds. As such, we are precisely the wrong audience to be discussing this with. Why not argue it out with a more relevant audience like Answers In Genesis? If you do, please stick the dialogue up on a website somewhere - I for one would find that argument genuinely interesting.

Jack, what you have made clear, and what is also clear from posts from Brady, Les Lane, et al, at your site, is that the idea that science and religion are compatible is just lip service for the massess.

And it is doubly aburd that you are putting a spin on Kens remarks by saying that “he might not agree with everything he said then”.

Baloney!!! We are supposed to rely on some remarks that “he told you at dinner” and your claim that he just slapped some of this together on the way out here?

I don’t believe it. I lack belief in your claim.

But as far as civil discussions, that is not going to happen as far as most of the atheists are concerned.

Just look at PZ Myers tone over at his site, and the tone of the aforementioned posts at your site.

Although I thought at one time that ther could be accomodation, it is clear that the atheists are the ones who will have no respect for opposing views and that this so called “reconciliation is a joke”.

If the atheists ever get control, they will try to bend us all to their will, just have they have always done historically. Atheism is, in the end, an irrational belief.

Materialism and atheism are not “metaphysical” conclusions that don’t necessarily follow from the nature of science. They’re necessary consequences of the application of logic to our attempts to understand our world.

The scientific concept of ‘material’ extends itself every time a new discovery about the composition of the world is made. Everything that we know about is ‘material’. The things which we don’t know about right now, but that interact with the material world (that is, the things that exist in some way), are material. If a thing exists, we call it material, and thus it is logically impossible for an existant thing to be nonmaterial. One is just another way of talking about the other, and vice versa.

As for god – the traditional conception of gods makes as much sense as an immovable object meeting an irresistable force. The very category is logically inconsistent. Concepts of divinities that do not discard reason are available, and those gods are certainly possible – but there is absolutely no evidence that any of them exist, in the same way that there is absolutely no evidence that the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus exist, despite both being logically permissable, though perhaps not compatible with current physics.

If Miller thinks he can cause his irrational faith to become rational by asserting that it is over and over again, he’s a fool. We need to reject his false arguments as invalid; no matter how beneficial his correct arguments about evolution are to our cause, we cannot value truth while pandering to convenient falsehood.

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To Call me what you want: Panda’s Thumb policy is that “Posting under multiple identities or falsely posting as someone else may lead to removal of affected comments and blocking of the IP address from which those comments were posted, at the discretion of the management.”

You need to pick an identity and stick with it rather than changing your posting name at will.

If the best strategy atheists have come up with to combat 1) intolerance towards scientific theories and 2) intolerance towards atheists, is to stoop to stereotyping and name-calling their Christian pro-science counterparts, then I am afraid this whole endeavor, as embodied by PT, is a complete failure.

PZ wants Ken Millers of the world to tell their fellow religionists that “we’re not threatening to you.” LOL

Come on atheists. Do you realize just how stupid and naive that sound?

Let me ask for a clarification. It is not ok for Ken Miller to redirect the focus of Christians towards combating atheists. It is, however, quite ok for PZ Myers to redirect the focus of atheists towards combating Christians?

To lurker: Several things. One is civility - you need to find a less antagonistic way to express your thoughts if you want to particpate in this thread.

Second, your statement about PT is out of line. PT is a group of people who don’t agree on everything, and we’ve made it very clear that the thoughts of any one poster do not speak for the whole PT group.

Last, of course atheists and theists disagree with each other. Whether any particular person feels threatened by the existence of people with other metaphysical beliefs is an individual matter - it is not a necessary consequence of having different belief systems.

I’ve just listened to Ken Miller’s main talk and, speaking as a Christian, I agree with everything he has said. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again, this is not a debate about whether or not God exists. Those are philosophical arguments. This debate is about science/reason versus religious dogma.

I had no problem with the geology I learned at school, or the astronomy I studied through the Open University. It came as a total shock/surprise to me that many of my fellow Christians believed in young Earth creationism etc. From when I first heard Carl Baugh talking nonsense on TV through to reading anti-science rubbish on the AIG website, I soon realised that YECism was something I could or never will accept. It still mystifies/puzzles me that so many well educated people in the church so willingly accept this (YECism). I am also appalled as to why so few leaders in the evangelical wing of the church cannot see why this so wrong and I am surprised that so few speak out against groups like AIG, ICR etc. Mark my words, the church will lose this battle, in the long run.

In a fairly recent TV series by the BBC, Journeys to the centre of the Earth, Dr. Iain Stewart talked a little bit about the history of science. One of the events that changed the thinking of scientists, apparently, was the great earthquake in Lisbon in 1755:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1755_L[…]implications

Seemingly, every church in Lisbon was destroyed. If phenomena like earthquakes were acts of God, then why did God destroy the very places that were erected to worship him ? It had huge philosophical implications across Europe.

Lurker, to whom are you addressing your comment? Who in this thread has made the statements about it being OK to do X or Y?

My point, and I beleive Ken’s point, is that people of different metaphysical positions need to address those issues directly with each other rather than making evolution the target of the discussion. Discussing things with people is different than “combatting them.”

This thread is not about PZ Myer’s post - it is about my post. If you want to respond to PZ, you should go comment there, I think.

Well, Jack, you wrote regarding defaming atheists:

“We have to resist…”

Who is “we?” That’s quite my point. Why does a Christian have to resist attacking atheists as the scourge of society?

You also had mentioned PZ twice in relation to Ken Miller. Clearly those statements aren’t devoid of context. So why suddenly are we not allowed to discuss the context of this post?

“Second, your statement about PT is out of line.”

What statement? I said that if we condone members of PT bashing, then whole proscience enterprise of PT is doomed to failure.

What is terribly uncivil about that observation, when in the previous post, we had a poster claim that theists were irrational?

Lurker, you make some reasonable points here, and I’ll try to answer.

You wrote, “Well, Jack, you wrote regarding defaming atheists: “We have to resist…” Who is “we?” That’s quite my point. Why does a Christian have to resist attacking atheists as the scourge of society?”

As part of my personal comment I said, and I’m willing to expand on this, that the demonization of materialism and atheism as the cause of all of societies ills is flat out wrong. You may “attack atheists as the scourge of society” if you wish, and you may think that is a Christian thing to do, but I think that doing so is in fact part of the problem, not part of the solution.

You wrote, “You also had mentioned PZ twice in relation to Ken Miller. Clearly those statements aren’t devoid of context. So why suddenly are we not allowed to discuss the context of this post?”

I mentioned PZ blog in passing, but I didn’t discuss his thesis. If you want to respond specifically to what he wrote you should do that on his site.

You wrote, “I said that if we condone members of PT bashing, then whole proscience enterprise of PT is doomed to failure.”

Not at all. People who support science differ on other issues. In fact part of the “proscience enterprise” of PT might in fact be making that clear. Note also the PZ moved all comments to his own site because he thought that was a better place for responses to take place. All of us PT’ers have a life beyond PT: PT doesn’t rise or fall based on any one person or one event.

You wrote, “What is terribly uncivil about that observation, when in the previous post, we had a poster claim that theists were irrational?”

I didn’t make clear what part of what post I was referring to, but I’d like us to move on rather than drag my concerns back up. Your comments are welcome if we can stay on issues.

The rationality of faith is something I find fairly slippery. There are beliefs based on evidence (I believe it’s raining), beliefs based on the inability to prove otherwise (I believe there are precisely 117 gods), and beliefs in flat defiance of all known evidence (I believe evolution never happened). Which of these categories of belief is irrational?

My reading is that nearly everyone here (but by no means everyone) considers the first sort of belief to be rational, and the third sort to be irrational to the point of pitiful (meaning, those trained to actually believe this have been intellectually crippled).

So the real focus is on the category of beliefs inaccessible to science. And the issue then becomes not what posture science should adopt toward such beliefs. They lie outside the scope of science. Instead, the issue should be how helpful, useful, supportive, or whatever such beliefs are to those who hold them.

An effort is being made here, as I read it, to distinguish between non-science and anti-science. And this distinction hinges on the concept of evidence. Does evidence matter? Is the claim that Mary ascended bodily to heaven an evidence-based claim, or a statement of pure faith to which evidence is irrelevant?

Conversely, if evidence both matters and is rejected because it violates faith-based doctrine, this position can only be regarded as irrational. If it is not, rationality itself loses all meaning and utility.

Surely there are many scientists who are not atheists (whether it be Christian, Hindu, Muslim or whatever) ? Conversely, not all evangelical Christians are anti-science/anti-evolution/pro YEC.

In my opinion, a person’s faith is irrelevant (despite what AIG says) in this debate, and a private matter for that individual.

“Instead, the issue should be how helpful, useful, supportive, or whatever such beliefs are to those who hold them.”

And who else should evaluate this sort of beliefs in the manner you propose than the person who holds them?

“if evidence both matters and is rejected because it violates faith-based doctrine, this position can only be regarded as irrational.”

But that says nothing about how this form of irrationality is not “helpful, useful, supportive, or whavever”. Denial is a very human trait, precisely because all of us need time to absorb the impact of a supposed framework shattering piece of evidence. Parents have faith in their children. They want to believe that they will succeed. So, go to a PTA meeting sometime to see how parents act irrationally when told their child is a delinquent, or an underachiever.

Here’s another example. It is not rational to antagonize the majority with an offensive minority viewpoint. It is not helpful, useful, supportive, or whatever. But yet PT members do it all the time. And then they hide behind the escape clause that their views do not represent all of PT. But, how does one rationally deduce this? What is different about the credibility or universality of a PT member’s debunking an ID claim vs. a PT member’s debunking of Christians? Nothing, except for the voice of the commenters who make it explicit. Such vigilance should neither be viewed as uncivil nor as undesired.

Posted by Flint on September 10, 2006 11:14 AM (e)

The rationality of faith is something I find fairly slippery. There are beliefs based on evidence (I believe it’s raining), beliefs based on the inability to prove otherwise (I believe there are precisely 117 gods), and beliefs in flat defiance of all known evidence (I believe evolution never happened). Which of these categories of belief is irrational?

My wife, a non-scientist, points out often (when I’m complaining about the efforts of anti-evolutioners) that we really shouldn’t use the term “belief” when it comes to the first of your statements. “Believing” that it is raining based on evidence isn’t really a belief at all, it’s accepting the evidence. Unfortunately, English language has several different meanings for words dependent upon context (as anyone trying to teach what the word “theory” means to scientists and to the lay public knows). In this case, we should be very careful to be clear about what we mean.

When talking about evolution or the age of the earth, I try never to say that “I believe in” either of those concepts. Instead, I try to put it something like this: “I acknowledge that the evidence supports” or “I accept the evidence for”. We could even say simply “The evidence supports” to get the personal aspect out. I know it’s a bit wordier, but it’s more precise, and we do need to separate the concepts of belief (in the absence of or even contrary to evidence) and acceptance of evidence based knowledge.

Any time we say that we believe that evolution is true, we play into the hands of creationists/IDers who try to portray science as religion. Let’s make it clear that we base our conclusions on evidence.

Richard Wein over on PZ’s blog Pharyngula … wrote, “It seems to me that what he [Miller] is saying to creationists is this: if you want to argue against atheism then argue against atheism, not against evolution.”

So, what is Miller’s argument against atheism?

It would be easier to make that case if he had one. Then we could all have a real argument here instead of dancing around this issue.

In my opinion, a person’s faith is irrelevant (despite what AIG says) in this debate, and a private matter for that individual.

I quite agree.

The basic problem is that we have two groups of people here, the fundie Christians and the evangelical atheists, who not only believe what they believe, but won’t rest until **everyone else** believes it too. And they both mis-use “science” to justify what are, in essence, philosophical opinions.

Much as they fight with each other, under the feathers they are the very same bird, with the very same squawk.

And in the end, none of this has anything to do with creationism/ID, which is a POLITICAL issue, not a scientific or religious one.

Jack Krebs wrote and quoted:

This was succinctly summarized in a comment by Richard Wein over on PZ’s blog Pharyngula today when Richard wrote, “It seems to me that what he [Miller] is saying to creationists is this: if you want to argue against atheism then argue against atheism, not against evolution.”

In his book and slick PowerPoint presentations Miller is saying to the creationists; “Your beliefs that a god specifically created humans and there was no death before the fall have been falsified by evolution.” That’s why Miller’s attempt to placate creationists is really lame on his part. They’re going to continue to see him as an atheist heathen posing as a theist.

Here’s another example. It is not rational to antagonize the majority with an offensive minority viewpoint. It is not helpful, useful, supportive, or whatever. But yet PT members do it all the time. And then they hide behind the escape clause that their views do not represent all of PT. But, how does one rationally deduce this?

It’s quite plain that you’ve not been here for very long.

;)

Go back in the archives and look for all the threads with 500-plus comments. They’re all, um, about the same topic. We have this silly religious war between the hyper-Christians and the uber-atheists every few weeks, and most of us think it doesn’t help.

Just because this is the first one you’ve seen, doesn’t mean it’s the first one.

(And at this point, PZ’s Puppy Dogs will begin barking loudly at me.)

I’d like to pick up on Jack’s point that, “we need to frame issues as spanning a spectrum rather than as being dichotomous.”

Creationists want to frame all evolutionists – indeed all scientists – as atheists. That’s part of their Wedge Strategy. To do this, they are compelled to ignore scientists such as Ken Miller who combine faith with reason.

Unfortunately, some of my fellow skeptics are guilty of conflating all religious belief with biblical literalism, as well.

We non-believers need to recognize there’s a wide range of belief on both sides of this divide. There is a difference – a real difference – between Ken Miller and Michael Behe, Reinhold Niebuhr and Jerry Falwell, John Danforth and Rick Santorum.

For skeptics to do so concedes nothing to faith. This strategy is both consistent with reality and an unanswerable refution of the creationist’s Wedge Strategy.

At bottom, the creationist challenge to evolution isn’t scientific. It’s a political and cultural battle between authoritarians on the one hand, and proponents of tolerance, free inquiry, and democracy on the other.

The art of politics is in uniting your friends and dividing your enemies. To do that, you have to know which is which.

To defeat authoritian fundamentalism, skeptics and believers must find common ground.

PhilVaz Wrote:

Roland: “For example, the Catholic claim that Mary rose bodily into heaven is a scientific claim.”

No it is not. It is a historical and faith claim.

Same with the resurrection of Jesus. It is a historical claim, and argued on historical grounds by folks like William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas. It only presupposes that God exists.

Why would historical claims be outside science? There wouldn’t be much point in learning history or arguing about it if nothing in it could be scientifically verified. Indeed, as Darrel Falk says in the quote you gave, the history of life on earth is quite amenable to scientific investigation.

Certainly the existence of, say, the Holy Spirit would be impossible to prove or disprove–but not so the historical existence of a bunch of people who spoke in tongues, were immune to snakebite, performed healings and so forth, who claimed that the Holy Spirit was responsible for their gifts. Likewise, you can’t do much with the claim that Mary’s soul was taken to Heaven after death, but if she ascended bodily and disappeared from observers’ view, if Jesus physically got up after death and walked around and had people touch his wounds, that’s scientifically investigable.

After all, it’s possible to investigate much less dramatic and smaller-scale historical questions. How intimate was Julius Caesar’s relationship with Cleopatra? What was the nature of Mary Lincoln’s mental illness? We might never answer such questions with 99% certainty, but theories can be formed about them and tested by looking for historical corroboration and refutation. There’s no reason why most of Jesus’ miracles (which often had lots of witnesses) couldn’t be treated similarly.

Lenny, I’ve already asked you to stop the attacks on individuals

I have not attacked any individuals.

Lenny, remarks like “Perhaps you want to wipe the spittle off your computer screen,” are inappropriately aimed an individual as opposed to an idea. I appreciate many of your comments on PT, but these feuds with individuals are not interesting to the rest of us.

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Krebs published on September 9, 2006 10:28 PM.

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