Gert Korthof reviews Behe: “Either Design or Common Descent”

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Gert Korthof reviews Behe’s latest book “The Edge of Evolution” and shows a level of internal contradiction one has grown accustomed to from ID proponents

Common Descent is based on genetic continuity in the history of life on earth. Design, according to Michael Behe, is based on genetic discontinuities in the Tree of Life. Therefore, Design and Common Descent are not compatible. Make your choice: it is either Design or Common Descent. Contrary to Behe, both cannot be true.

Korthof shows how Behe’s book does little to explain ‘Intelligent Design’, leaving it once again scientifically vacuous.

More recently I listened to Behe talk about intelligent design, suggesting that the design instance could very well be moved to the moment of ‘creation’. Such a self defeating move was in fact predicted by such visionaries as Wesley Elsberry and others. If natural law and chance can in fact explain the evolution of life after the instance of ‘creation’, then ID has made itself irrelevant and yet ID also argues that there are ‘edges’ which evolution cannot explain and which would require some intervention. However at the same time it also suggests that such interventions may not be needed but then there are no edges left to evolution. This fascinating self contradiction is what lies at the foundation as to why Intelligent Design has remained scientifically vacuous.

81 Comments

Korthof is odd but I don’t think he is an ID supporter per se. Note for example how he has included explicitly on his page a variety of different ideas about origin of life and the source of life’s variety that are not creationist but are cranky.

“Korthof is odd but I don’t think he is an ID supporter per se. Note for example how he has included explicitly on his page a variety of different ideas about origin of life and the source of life’s variety that are not creationist but are cranky.”

Korthof is odd? No. You are odd. You can’t even distinguish a noted and smart anti-IDist (Korthof) from “not an ID supporter per se”.

Korthof’s reviews have since long by my favorites. ID supporter? Or science supporter?

Gert Korthof’s 1997 (with a 2007 update) detailed review of Michael Behe’s ‘Darwin’s Black Box’ is at http://home.wxs.nl/~gkorthof/korthof8.htm.

More recently I listened to Behe talk about intelligent design, suggesting that the design instance could very well be moved to the moment of ‘creation’.

You can imagine that he doesn’t concede that point when he’s talking at churches about his, “scientific” book (wink, wink) that has nothing to do with religion whatsoever.

PvM Wrote:

If natural law and chance can in fact explain the evolution of life after the instance of ‘creation’, then ID has made itself irrelevant and yet ID also argues that there are ‘edges’ which evolution cannot explain and which would require some intervention. However at the same time it also suggests that such interventions may not be needed but then there are no edges left to evolution.

Behe’s position seems to be that there is common descent AND that life has (guided) evolutionary history.

Why genetic discontinuities couldn’t be compatible with the idea of common descent?

(If it were, then for example the idea about any new genetic material would not be compatible with the idea of common descent…)

I wonder - is Behe drifting back towards the mainstream? Will he eventually find that his position is the same as Ken Miller’s?

Bob

An excellent review, pinpointing some of the peculiarities of the IDC business. But aren’t these implicit in creationism generally?

Leading IDist Dembski has complained that evolution doesn’t give God credit for his alleged actions. These actions include designing dread diseases; bacterial flagella are involved in many diseases of both animals and plants. Dembski simply refers this to the theological problem of evil. Evolution has the theologically desirable effect of somewhat mitigating the problem (Darwin’s Gift).

Meanwhile something that was long implicit is now explicit: the “common descent” accepted by some creationists is an endless series of immaculate conceptions. But who is the immaculate conceiver? Cthulhu?

Gert Korthof … shows a level of internal contradiction one has grown accustomed to from ID proponents.

That sentence parsed awkwardly for me as well. Until I read further, it left the impression that Korthof was an ID proponent. Just Sayin’.

a no-nothing blathers: But come on, you don’t want that! Crusading against creationists gives importance to teachers like Jack Krebs and “graduate students” like Josh Rosenau here in Kansas! (although Rosenau has actually abandoned the state for the San Francisco area) Or the whole crowd at KCFS. What would they be known for if not for their anti creationist zeal? And when the issue finally dies down, they can go on with their anti religious rants like half of the “science” bloggers, taking PZ Myers as the finest example.

It won’t happen that the ignorance peddlers like behe and dembski will ever die away. Crusading against evil materialism, science, and most particularly evolution is what gives them their importance. As long as there are christian rubes they can pull a dollar from (a la PT Barnum) they will continue to shill for jesus.

And yet the materialism evident in the extraction of dollars from rubes never seems contradictory to them.

Make your choice: it is either Design or Common Descent. Contrary to Behe, both cannot be true.

Actually, I think this one is true. Design and Common Descent can’t both be true, and theistic evolutionists must come to grips with this.

Make your choice: it is either Design or Common Descent. Contrary to Behe, both cannot be true.

Actually, I think this one is true. Design and Common Descent can’t both be true, and theistic evolutionists must come to grips with this.

This is an example of the confusion that is caused when defense of science and human rights is mixed with an urge to attack the undefined (and almost invariably oversimplified) concept “religion”.

The whole discussion degenerates into semantics and stereotypes.

Plenty of religious scientists, including the likes of Ken Miller and Francis Collins (with apologies for using only Christian examples, this is off the top of my head) accept the theory of evolution, and do not at all suggest that magical “design” was necessary. I don’t know or particularly care whether they describe their views as “theistic evolution”.

Of course, one of your next moves may be to invent a strained, post-hoc, made-up-on-the-spot straw man definition of “theistic evolution” and claim that said definition of supports your prior point.

You may then move on to claiming that someone you acknowledge as an authority figure, either Dawkins or another, declared “all religion” to be “delusional” or some such thing, and that Collins and Miller are therefore delusional (by appeal to authority).

You may also bring up the point that some repulsive actions have been done in the name of religion (the sack of Jerusalem in 1099 or Aztec human sacrifice, for example, or the repeated attempts by creationists to violate the rights of US high school students, for a less dramatic but valid example). This will imply that Collins, Miller, the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Mohandas Ghandi, and any other figures who can be described as “religious” are are as unethical as those who committed the repulsive actions you refer to.

All of which will be done with the underlying objective, a rather defensive and insecure one, perhaps, of showing that anyone who self-identifies as having an opinion on “religion” that differs from yours is inferior, irrational, unethical, etc.

Apologies if my predictions are inaccurate, but they are based on extensive observation of this site. I suspect that they are not inaccurate, and are about to be proved out.

Once again Gert has done a great piece of work.

(Joshua Zelinsky is reacting to the measured and scholarly tone that Gert uses, and misunderstands that as not being “an ID supporter per se.” This is an interesting reflection on the level of discussion generaly found on internet BBs).

harold:

I’m afraid the confusion is all yours. Mats is a well-known theist troll.

Basement Activist -

But come on, you don’t want that!

Of course I do. I want Behe, Dembski, etc, to admit they were lying or mistaken, and stop. I’d be delighted.

Crusading against creationists gives importance to teachers like Jack Krebs and “graduate students” like Josh Rosenau here in Kansas! (although Rosenau has actually abandoned the state for the San Francisco area) Or the whole crowd at KCFS.

Deservedly so. However, it would be even better if they didn’t have to waste their time fighting against lies.

What would they be known for if not for their anti creationist zeal?

Their scientific work, perhaps.

And when the issue finally dies down, they can go on with their anti religious rants like half of the “science” bloggers, taking PZ Myers as the finest example.

True enough. Although I respond to overgeneralized “anti-religious” posts, and although PZ Myers is a relatively poor example because he devotes 99.9% of his time to discussing real science, it’s a free country and people can say anything about religion that they want to. The same rights that allow you to post this trollish rant allow them to post as they please.

Actually, I think this one is true. Design and Common Descent can’t both be true, and theistic evolutionists must come to grips with this.

I can conceive of a situation where Common Descent is true for most of the present and previous species, but every now and again the Des_gner miraculously intervenes to alter the path of evolution in time - a sort of Punctuated Creation.

Mind you I think the idea is most unlikely and even if you use it to show that the Des_gner could have created Homo sapiens miraculously, you have also adopted the notion of a Des_gner that ‘tinkers’ and can’t or won’t get it right first time. The concept would be even more tricky to prove scientifically than straight forward Creationism (even if you were inclined to do so). The concept would also challenge Dr Dembski’s ideas about CSI etc - how could you discriminate between what was ‘natural’ and what had been ‘tinkered’ with?

More recently I listened to Behe talk about intelligent design, suggesting that the design instance could very well be moved to the moment of ‘creation’.

That’s not self-defeating unless there’s an exact definition of “moment of creation.” If I know Behe he’ll be vague enough to have various members of the audience assuming it to mean “beginning of the universe,” “beginning of life - ~4BYO,” “beginning of life - ~6KYO,” “beginning of modern H. sapiens,” etc.

I have asked several times, here and on Talk.Origins, if Behe in “Edge of Evolution” committed to any other design events other than the “beginning of life - ~4BYO” one that he half-heartedly proposed in “Darwin’s Black Box.” No one who read the book found anything specific.

Anti-evolution activists are getting better than ever at evasion. The worst for ID I can see anytime soon is a possible voluntary evacuation of hard-core YECs from the big tent. But with AIG’s internal disputes and YECs and OECs increasingly recognizing the rhetorical value of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the big tent still looks like the best haven for anti-evolutionists.

Korthof’s wrong in the same way that it is true that it could (in the range of infinite unfalsifiable “possibilities”) be that the devil planted all of the fossils to make it look like evolution occurred and to test mortals’ faith.

That is, of course it could be that God designed everything to look like it evolved, but it was either that or life evolved. Behe’s doing whatever he can do to make it sound as if design and evolution make the same predictions (except for his rubbish about IC) but of course, if they really do make the same predictions, God is superfluous and ID isn’t science. And of course IC won’t save Behe for any number of reasons, the most prominent and simple one being that the default to design is a false dichotomy and (for that reason and others) unscientific.

If Behe were serious about making ID a science he’d do his best to find a way of differentiating between evolution and design (other than his ignorant calculations). For in the scientific sense, Korthof’s certainly right, Behe would need to show how design explains what evolution doesn’t. Behe doesn’t and can’t do this, rather he tries to say that actually it is evolutionary mechanisms which cannot be responsible for the fulfilled predictions of evolutionary theory, hence it is the designer that steps in to make “naturalistic” evolution’s predictions come true.

What’s stunning is that the relatively genuine creationists, and true believers in design, are willing to put up with such rank swill in the hope that it will make them appear more scientific. Sweet dreams, dearies.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

Aureola Nominee -

I’m afraid the confusion is all yours. Mats is a well-known theist troll.

You need a scorecard to keep track of them (and they tend to use multiple different names).

To some degree it’s just mirror image. The old “Acceptance of evolution = ‘atheism’ “ thing. Some are arguing that the theory of evolution must be valid (at least they get that part right), so everybody must define themself as an atheist (with which I don’t agree). Some are arguing, far more irrationally, that it’s unthinkable to be an atheist, so the evidence for evolution must be ignored.

At any rate, my post dismissed the idea that “theists” can never accept the theory of evolution.

Plenty of religious scientists, including the likes of Ken Miller and Francis Collins (with apologies for using only Christian examples, this is off the top of my head) accept the theory of evolution, and do not at all suggest that magical “design” was necessary. I don’t know or particularly care whether they describe their views as “theistic evolution”.

Bunjo -

I noticed the same thing. ID is harmful claptrap, but maybe not for this reason.

The FSM could simply wait until a sperm cell fertilized an egg cell and then poof some new mutations into the genome. Common descent plus design. (No, that’s not what I think happened.)

Obviously, this is no defense of ID; ID is still -

1) Untestable 2) Unneccessary 3) Based on the premises of the “Paley watch analogy” and “irreducible complexity”, both of which are transparently false. 4) Motivated by a nefarious social and political agenda rather than sincere scientific or philosophical conjecture and 5) Charaterized by activities that are virtually diagnostic of disingenuous machinations, for example quote mining, censoring of criticism from forums, failure to note criticisms when repeating the same disproved arguments in later published works, use of extreme verbosity and irrelevant or flawed “mathematical formulae” to “bamboozle” lay readers, etc.

Bob O'H Wrote:

I wonder - is Behe drifting back towards the mainstream? Will he eventually find that his position is the same as Ken Miller’s?

What Behe personally believes, in terms of what the designer did, when, and how, probably is and has been, identical to what Miller believes.

The radical difference, which I don’t expect to change any time soon, is that Behe is committed to misrepresenting evolution and the nature of science. He wants his audience to believe that he found a designer, one that may or may not be God, but there’s no indication that he ever personally believed that either. But, despite apparently stronger statements of accepting common descent, Behe seems more evasive than ever, as to when those design actuation events occurred, let alone how they occurred, if not by evolution.

Behe seems committed to peddling pseudoscience, possibly from a belief that the “masses” need to deny evolution, and believe that God has been caught red-handed, in order to behave properly. He can’t say “God,” either because it would be harder to sell the designer-free “teach the controversy,” or because he doesn’t really think that he found God in the gaps. Of course he won’t correct his audience if they infer God, that is, unless they criticize ID too.

If he ever admits that ID has been a scam all along, then his position will be the same as Ken Miller’s.

harold:

I see your (admittedly partial) “mirror image” concept as a pernicious strawman.

I’ve never seen ANY atheist claim “…that the theory of evolution must be valid (at least they get that part right), so everybody must define themself as an atheist…”.

By far, prominent atheists argue instead that the theory of evolution fits exceedingly well in a rational world view, and that, although a vaporous god can never be ruled out as a theoretical possibility, it is not needed and has no supporting evidence, so any special pleading can safely be dispensed with.

Of course you are free to criticize atheism and atheists as much as you please; but try to do so on the basis of what we actually think and say, and not of misunderstandings and misrepresentations. Thank you.

I first noticed Korthof’s unusual position on common descent in “Why Intelligent Design Fails.” There he was criticizing Paul Nelson, who is one of the few IDers who explicitly rejects common descent. But even Nelson can’t commit to which lineages originated independently, because he knows that there’s no evidence to support one scenario over the other. That might be OK in a classic creationist outfit, but as an IDer, it puts him in a bind; either he remains vague or there’s trouble in the big tent.

Korthof’s approach, AIUI, is that, considering only the evidence at hand - specifically a historical account and a mechanism to explain it, it must be common descent. Saltation, or front-loading, whether design based or “naturalistic,” aren’t considered because they lack a mechanism. I may be wrong, but Korthof’s faulty logic seems to be that if “design” denies the basic mechanism behind species change, then if “design” were right, everything about evolution would fall apart, including common descent.

That’s especially puzzling because Korthok is one of the few people who reviews Schwabe and Senapathy, who propose a “naturalistic” alternative to common descent. So Korthof is very aware that ID vs. common descent is a false dichotomy.

Mats Wrote:

Actually, I think this one is true. Design and Common Descent can’t both be true, and theistic evolutionists must come to grips with this.

If by “design” you mean the increasingly postmodern “a designer did it, so why bother to speculate, let alone test, the whats whens and hows of design actuation,” then this TE is completely at ease that only one is true. The evidence shows that it is common descent, and that “design,” as peddled by anti-science activists, with it’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” nonsense and and unnamed, possibly deceased designer, can safely be thrown in the same waste basket as the mutually contradictory creationist fairy tales.

That’s especially puzzling because Korthok is one of the few people who reviews Schwabe and Senapathy, who propose a “naturalistic” alternative to common descent. So Korthof is very aware that ID vs. common descent is a false dichotomy.

That Korthof would review a different mechanism for CD than RM+NS+ is hardly the same thing as noting that ID and CD are dichotomous—in the scientific sense.

Did you read Korthof’s review?

The short (my) argument is that there is no explanation for the patterns of common descent existing in ID, and there is in RM+NS+. You really can’t displace a useful and explanatory theory of CD with a bunch of incredulity over the mechanisms of that theory and convincingly claim to accept the implications of the evidence for CD. IOW, you can’t replace an explanation with a non-explanation and a lot of pathetic criticisms of the scientific explanation.

It’s context. For alternative explanations of CD and its patterns have to be considered to be theoretically possible, while non-explanatory appeals to magic really do not have to be considered at all—except as they impact the populace.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

I’ve never seen ANY atheist claim “…that the theory of evolution must be valid (at least they get that part right), so everybody must define themself as an atheist…”.

Nonsense, false, rubbish. Go to PZ’s blog and claim that one can believe in god and accept evolution and reality and even be a scientist.

What will follow will be 10-20 derogatory posts calling you all sorts of names and claiming that anyone who understands science and evolution and is a practioner thereof has to be an atheist or they are a deluded idiot who believes in demons and magic. I’ve done that experiment too many times lately and no longer bother.

About all I got out of that is: 1. Atheists can create quasi-religions that are every bit as intolerant and fundie as any moslem or xian sect. They get real upset if you point this out.

2. It is possible to be an atheist and be a moron, troll, bigot, or all of the above.

*This is BTW, a fact. The percentage of believers might be lower in the sciences, but it is nowhere near zero. At one time when science was getting started, many or most scientists were religious, i.e Newton, Maxwell, etc..

And most xian sects are OK with evolution, catholic, mainstream protestant, etc.. The creo movement is part of the fundie cults from south central USA mostly. Point this out on atheist blogs and watch the predictable torrent of abuse. They easily conflate the cults with the whole religion, a simple category mistake.

The attack on science by the cults is a serious business and part of an attempt to take over US society, one that is very close to success. But it is a mistake to fight back by lumping all xians in as the opponent. Most of them are much more likely to pass on the opportunity to set up a new dark ages.

raven:

More strawmen, I’m afraid. PZ and Dawkins (the two most quoted atheist boogaboos) are well aware that one can be a theist and a scientist… via compartmentalization.

You know what? When they criticize fellow scientists for their theism, it is for their theism (d’oh!), not for not being scientists.

I read PZ’s blog regularly, and I have missed all these derogatory posts about the claim you make. I’ve seen people trying to smuggle special pleadings riding on the coattails of that claim, and being promptly called on that; but this is something else, I hope you’ll admit.

As far as your two numbered points are concerned, I am among those who get upset when a theist claims (1), because it is false and slanderous; and the sneaky rhetorical trick - of pretending that people getting upset at being lied about, somehow, lends credibility to the lie - is very intellectually dishonest. As to (2), it is trivially true and has no bearing whatsoever on the matter.

As I told harold, I have no problem with theists criticizing atheists, provided they criticize them for what they really think and say. The same holds for you.

Nonsense, false, rubbish. Go to PZ’s blog and claim that one can believe in god and accept evolution and reality and even be a scientist.

What will follow will be 10-20 derogatory posts calling you all sorts of names and claiming that anyone who understands science and evolution and is a practioner thereof has to be an atheist or they are a deluded idiot who believes in demons and magic. I’ve done that experiment too many times lately and no longer bother.

About all I got out of that is: 1. Atheists can create quasi-religions that are every bit as intolerant and fundie as any moslem or xian sect. They get real upset if you point this out.

2. It is possible to be an atheist and be a moron, troll, bigot, or all of the above.

However boring it is to just agree, I have to agree on all of that.

Frankly, I thought it was absurd for Hitchens to bring up that old and untenable notion that for good people to do evil they need religion. He’s more than a little aware of the atrocities committed by communism, and no, saying that communism is religion makes little or no difference to the claim, since the ability of atheists to make intolerant little quasi-religions was the point of those of us who think that reasonable religionists and reasonable non-religionists are not all that different (which may be an argument against religion’s claims, but also one against the claims that religion is inherently evil, even if it’s arguably anachronistic).

Perhaps the major point to be made is that people divide into quasi-tribes and clans, and may do so on the basis of religion and also of non-religion and its varieties of intensity and desires (or not) to make gains over others (religionists or non-religionists).

In other words, the competition and desires for dominance are not destroyed by gaining a theology, an anti-theology, or an ideology. All three may be vehicles for controlling others.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

raven and Glen:

I’m ready to admit I’m wrong. Go on, quote a post by PZ Myers that says that people cannot be theists and scientists.

If you cannot find one, will you be as ready to admit that you are wrong?

Laser -

I agree, and it’s largely my fault.

Just to add to my points above, I said -

“3) However, just because many reasonable people are atheists does not mean that all atheists are reasonable people. Sometimes, unreasonable arguments are offered in defense of atheism, and sometimes, intolerant attitudes are displayed by self-proclaimed atheists”

That’s true, but it’s not really my business, or my problem.

I guess the reason I bother to comment on it is that I’ve been arguing against the creationist/ID political/public schools agenda, which is my business and my problem (and everyone’s), since 1999.

Creationism/ID/fundamentalism wouldn’t really be my business or problem, either, if they didn’t have enough of a political agenda to, if not outright teach creationism in public schools, significantly mess with government policy in other ways.

I think we can all agree, without any controversy, that “evolution = atheism” is a commonly used creationist canard. That probably causes me to argue against what I perceive as variants of it.

But at the end of the day, I’ve got my scientific education, I’ve got my private philosophical or religious or whatever beliefs, and it’s a free country. Other peoples’ private beliefs are not really my problem, unless they behave in a way that makes it my problem. So far, right wing fundamentalists are the only ones doing that.

harold:

I read your words as a way of alleging an equivalence between “some atheists” who (supposedly) make a totally idiotic and easily refuted claim and “some fundamentalists”. Once pressed, you could not find any atheist making said idiotic and easily refuted claim. This means that you were committing a strawman fallacy, as I said all along.

Now, you are instead saying that sometimes, some atheists say stupid things, and in support of this you quote… something which is not stupid at all, but rather a mere restatement of atheism itself.

First, let me point out that this is known as “moving the goalposts”; the very fact that you try to change the terms of your claim speaks louder than your half-hearted concession.

Second, it is obvious that, if someone does not believe in gods, and sees no evidence being offered for the existence of gods, that someone will tend to regard theists as deluded, i.e. clinging to a false belief despite its lack of evidence. This is in no way irrational, or fundamentalist; it is a logical consequence of the lack of evidential support for the claims of theism.

The only way to show that theists are not deluded would be… to show that their belief is not false, which would require some evidence.

Note also that I never said you were a theist, and atheist, or anything in between. I am merely addressing your fallacious claims about atheism.

Areola -

I’ll have to reply briefly to this one.

Now, you are instead saying that sometimes, some atheists say stupid things, and in support of this you quote… something which is not stupid at all, but rather a mere restatement of atheism itself.

Apparently, this is Areola’s idea of a “something which is not stupid at all, but rather, a restatement of atheism itself” -

There is no difference whatsoever in religious fuckwittery of any denomination.

All religious followers are deluded, slightly or entirely. There are no exceptions.

“There is no difference whatsoever in religious fuckwittery of any denomination.” So there’s no real difference between the stated beliefs of Mohandas Ghandi and those of Reverend Moon, for example. All equivalent fuckwittery. Those are the man’s words.

First, let me point out that this is known as “moving the goalposts”; the very fact that you try to change the terms of your claim speaks louder than your half-hearted concession.

I’ll leave it to objective readers to decide whether I’ve done anything of the sort.

Second, it is obvious that, if someone does not believe in gods, and sees no evidence being offered for the existence of gods, that someone will tend to regard theists as deluded, i.e. clinging to a false belief despite its lack of evidence. This is in no way irrational, or fundamentalist; it is a logical consequence of the lack of evidential support for the claims of theism.

This is awfully familiar looking. I’m sure I’ve seen it before. Is it from a source?

This is logically wrong on a variety of levels, and obviously so.

Within the context of offering support for Warren’s quote (or similar views), his quote deals with “religion”, while this very familiar-looking refrain deals with “gods”. Not only does it thus oversimplify “religion”, it ignores the possibility that not everybody has access to the same evidence at all times.

More importantly, in order to use the insulting word “deluded”, and thus produce a hostile and superior tone, it twists this word’s meaning. In normal parlance, “deluded” would mean clinging to a belief for which there exists evidence AGAINST, not merely holding a belief which can be neither refuted nor supported by physical evidence.

If you want to change it to mean “holding any belief for which there is no evidence”, be my guest, but by that standard everyone is always deluded all of the time.

The only way to show that theists are not deluded would be… to show that their belief is not false, which would require some evidence.

No, that would be the only way to convince you that they are correct (and in that, your view is perfectly reasonable).

However, it’s utterly ridiculous to use the term “deluded” to refer to people who hold beliefs that you cannot offer evidence against.

Ultimately, your entire argument is nothing but a strained justification for referring to people as “deluded” if they hold an opinion on relgion that differs from yours.

I think my original point has been supported by this final exchange.

harold:

I think instead that you have shown Popper’s Ghost’s harsh opinions of your intellectual honesty to be justified.

You are the one straining definitions beyond their breaking point (need I remind you that “theism” and “atheism” are defined on the basis of belief in “gods”, or lack thereof, for instance?), and this is readily apparent from this overlong attempt to defend your indefensible claim; and very clearly, trying to argue civilly with you leads nowhere, fast.

So I’ll stop here. Feel free to keep inventing convoluted reasons why “some atheists” say whatever you want them to say, despite your inability to find any real-life, flesh-and-blood atheists substantiating your allegations.

In a fallacy bingo game, you would have won.

Harold:

You haven’t supported this, not by a long shot, your equivocations not withstanding:

Go to PZ’s blog and claim that one can believe in god and accept evolution and reality and even be a scientist.

What will follow will be 10-20 derogatory posts calling you all sorts of names and claiming that anyone who understands science and evolution and is a practioner (sic) thereof has to be an atheist or they are a deluded idiot who believes in demons and magic.

and you haven’t disproved this:

I’ve never seen ANY atheist claim “…that the theory of evolution must be valid (at least they get that part right), so everybody must define themself (sic) as an atheist…”.

Look, it’s easy. Find some writing that * is written by an atheist, and * which claims that the validity of the ToE logically excludes non-atheism (aatheism?), * or at least claims that non-atheist acceptors of the ToE are “deluded idiots who believe in demons and magic.”

I’m not saying you can’t do this; just that you haven’t.

I suspect that your search is proving more difficult than you anticipated because you conflate * The charge that theistic acceptors of the ToE are deluded (i.e. have compartmentalized minds) and * The charge that acceptance of the ToE is tantamount to atheism.

The former is what many atheists say and think (and, btw, it’s no more insulting to theists than an analogous theistic position is to atheists). The latter is what you claimed “some atheists” to have said. Prove it.

Sorry, that should read “theist acceptors of the ToE”. No excuse for bad usage.

One example of a poster from PZs blog claiming incompatibility between any religion and science. The bolded emphasis added by me.

#41This debate will be won by those who can explain why there is no incompatibility between faith, a belief in God and the spiritual and science Unfortunately, your premise is just plain, conservative, old-fashioned wrong. Science is founded on logic, rationality, evidence, and observation. Faith and a belief in God and the spiritual is founded on illogic, irrationality, lack of evidence and ignorance of obseravtion.

There can be no compatibility between those things. They are polar opposites. Faith and unfounded beliefs are not scientific. Basing thought on logic, evidence and observation, and more importantly, the ability to reshape those thoughts when they don’t hold up to evidence and observation leaves no room for faith.

If a person comes along who manages, somehow, to meld faith and science, then we all - believer and sceptic - lose.

Posted by: Evolving Squid | July 26, 2007 12:28 PM

harold-

I was mainly being glib. You are not solely to blame. Aureola, raven, Popper’s Ghost, among others, have kept the “discussion” going.

More christians are hostile and/or incompatible with science stuff. Most directed at me. The point I was trying to make is that all xians are not the same as fundie cultists and it is a mistake to combine the two. It is possible to be a xian, accept reality, and even be a scientist. Don’t post that on PZs blog. It can get real ugly real fast. It works out well. No point in wasting time on hopeless troll threads.

[Raven]”The vast majority of xians and other religions are perfectly OK with science and reality.”

Most Christians believe in miracles and the power of prayer. Most Christians in the US don’t believe in evolution. A large portion don’t believe the earth is more than 10,000 years old. How does this translate into “perfectly OK with science and reality”?

“This isn’t a popular statement on a fundamentalist atheist board*, but science and religion are compatible as shown by the fact that both have coexisted for 2,000 years.” Because religions have never persecuted scientists that promoted ideas contrary to their beliefs. Posted by: Tulse | July 26, 2007 12:13 PM

“raven:

Most mainstream protestant, nonchristian, and catholic sects are OK with science.” You can continue to assert that, but the evidence is far to the contrary. Again, most Christians believe in the efficacy of prayer, in miracle, and don’t believe in evolution. That’s not being “OK with science”. I also think it is arguable that, worldwide, most non-Christian sects are also profoundly anti-science.

“If US religion and science weren’t coexisting, none of the above would have happened.”

Surely you are familiar with the huge attack on science during the recent US presidential administration, largely based on religious grounds. Look at funding for stem-cell research, look at the fight over HPV vaccine, look at the fight over global warming, look at the attempt to get creationism in schools, and then tell me science isn’t under attack by religion. Posted by: Tulse | July 26, 2007 12:54 PM

“Raven said:

The vast majority of xians and other religions are perfectly OK with science and reality. This isn’t a popular statement on a fundamentalist atheist board*, but science and religion are compatible as shown by the fact that both have coexisted for 2,000 years.”

Ignoring for now the fact that science has not existed for 2,000 years, co-existence is not evidence of compatibility. Both aggression and pacifism have co-existed for even longer, yet they are clearly polar opposites. A mobster can be a sweetheart to his family and a sadist to his victims. Just because people are capable of holding contradictions doesn’t mean they aren’t contradictions.

*You know the drill. Issue a fatwa, declare heresy, put on the Jihadi hat, and go crusade. It is amusing how fast nonbelief takes on the resemblance to a religion. Is this supposed to be funny? Because you’ve just listed everything that differentiates religion from non-religion. Even if you were just throwing around hyperbolic metaphors in the case of atheists, the fact that these things aren’t merely metaphors when it comes to religion is extremely telling.

Posted by: H. Humbert | July 26, 2007 01:19 PM

#52”The vast majority of xians and other religions are perfectly OK with science and reality. This isn’t a popular statement on a fundamentalist atheist board*”

Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. AHEM.

Sorry, I think I need some orange juice, and maybe a little fresh air.

Posted by: Blake Stacey, OM | July 26, 2007 01:26 PM

“The majority are smart enough to realize that the benefits of science are for everyone. Longer life spans, better health, improved technology, a 21st century lifestyle instead of a 16th century one.”

Raven, you have successfully shown that christians are inconsistent and hypocritical, hostile to applying the scientific method to their own mythology yet more than willing to reap the benefits of science. And you think this proves what again?

Posted by: H. Humbert | July 26, 2007 03:36 PM

Guye Fauxe -

Go to PZ’s blog and claim that one can believe in god and accept evolution and reality and even be a scientist.

What will follow will be 10-20 derogatory posts calling you all sorts of names and claiming that anyone who understands science and evolution and is a practioner (sic) thereof has to be an atheist or they are a deluded idiot who believes in demons and magic.

Raven said this and either you or Areola could have tested it, but alright then, I’ve posted the exact words “one can believe in god and accept evolution and reality and even be a scientist” on PZ’s blog, and asked for the opinions of others. I’ll follow up and see what happens.

Look, it’s easy. Find some writing that * is written by an atheist, and * which claims that the validity of the ToE logically excludes non-atheism (aatheism?), * or at least claims that non-atheist acceptors of the ToE are “deluded idiots who believe in demons and magic.”

I’m not saying you can’t do this; just that you haven’t.

This borders on being fair except for the continued use of concrete hyperliteralism (“no, he only said that the theory of evolution ‘makes all religions look ridiculous’, that’s not what you said” - this is a made up example of a possible future resonse). You’re basically demanding that I “prove” my exact words to super duper exactly true right down to the letter, rather than acknowledging the gist. Nevertheless, I’ll keep trying.

As I said, I will keep an eye out for drive-by posts in the future.

Meanwhile, here’s some stuff…

http://www.slate.com/id/2124297/

This one merely claims that “modern cosmology” proves atheism…

http://www.infidels.org/library/mod[…]atheism.html

I don’t have all day to devote to this, but I’ll remember this thread, and keep my eyes open.

Thank you Raven, I think your first post counts. In particular:

…the ability to reshape those thoughts when they don’t hold up to evidence and observation leaves no room for faith.

I read that to mean that there’s not even room for compartmentalization.

However, the remainder of the posts you cite (I’m guessing here, I don’t have context) pertains to whether the prevalence of Christianity in the U.S. is the cause of the miserable level of scientific understanding in the U.S. So it’s not relevant to the question of whether or not atheists are claiming that the acceptance of the ToE (or scientific thinking) necessarily excludes theism. It is this strawman characterization of their position which is offensive to some atheists (though, as you demonstrate, it’s not a strawman in specific cases).

This borders on being fair except for the continued use of concrete hyperliteralism (“no, he only said that the theory of evolution ‘makes all religions look ridiculous’, that’s not what you said” - this is a made up example of a possible future resonse).

What is “concrete hyperliteralism”?

You’re basically demanding that I “prove” my exact words to super duper exactly true right down to the letter, rather than acknowledging the gist. Nevertheless, I’ll keep trying.

Yes, because the gist isn’t accurate in this case. The gist of your charge is that atheists impugn the intellectual honesty of theists, especially if that theist is a scientist. Well, that’s hardly surprising, and while you can argue about the meaning of “impugn”, the gist of your argument would be uncontroversial. (If atheists didn’t at least question the intellectual honesty of theist scientists, I don’t see how they could remain atheists).

If, on the other hand, you charge that atheists claim that scientific thinking excludes theism, or that they claim that the acceptance of the ToE is tantamount to atheism, then you would be saying something controversial and intentionally harmful, as has been pointed out.

Guye Fauxe -

No-one has replied at PZ’s site, but there’s also an uber-troll creationist post sitting unanswered, so it just may not have gotten much traffic yet.

Yes, because the gist isn’t accurate in this case. The gist of your charge is that atheists impugn the intellectual honesty of theists, especially if that theist is a scientist. Well, that’s hardly surprising, and while you can argue about the meaning of “impugn”, the gist of your argument would be uncontroversial. (If atheists didn’t at least question the intellectual honesty of theist scientists, I don’t see how they could remain atheists).

Why do they need to impugn, question, debate or otherwise cast negative aspersion on the intellectual honesty of theist scientists, if on the other hand, they do not claim that scientific thinking in some way excludes theism?

If, on the other hand, you charge that atheists claim that scientific thinking excludes theism,

I did more or less charge that some, by no means all, atheists make this claim.

Again, if this isn’t the case, why do you say above “If atheists didn’t at least question the intellectual honesty of theist scientists, I don’t see how they could remain atheists”? If both are compatible with science, then there’s no logical reason to impugn anyone’s intellectual honesty, at least not on the grounds of atheism/theism.

or that they claim that the acceptance of the ToE is tantamount to atheism, then you would be saying something controversial and intentionally harmful, as has been pointed out

Although Jacob Weisberg seems to be saying this in the Slate article I linked, or coming very close. I’ll continue to look for other examples. I didn’t mean to suggest that it’s a big hairy deal if someone makes this kind of claim.

The issue seems to be that, while on one hand, you think it’s natural for atheists to question the intellectual honesty of theist scientists, on the other hand, you deny that any atheist has ever specifically argued that the ToE, specifically, is compatible with atheism but not theism.

I’d gladly concede the point at this stage, except that I have a nagging feeling that I have seen that argument before, and will again, and probably not just from Weinberg.

You may mean to say that while theism is potentially compatible with science, atheism is in some qualitative way even more so, but no so much so that any specific scientific theory can be said to strongly exclude theism. That’s perfectly reasonable, although not my exact take. Again, I defend, for now, my point that others have made the stronger argument.

I don’t have a problem with atheism, nor with any other philosophical position that doesn’t involve interfering with my rights or the basic functioning of the society I live in. I have never impugned the intellectual honesty or rationality of atheists as a group. It would be ridiculous to do so. Atheists are clearly over-represented among scientists and others who value intellectual honesty.

Here’s a very exaggerated example of what I mean by concrete hyperliteralism, with “Person B” as the concrete hyperliteralist -

Person A: Ever since Christopher Columbus first landed in the Americas on Oct 16, 1492, Native Americans have suffered discrimination. Person B: Columbus first landed on Oct 12, 1492, you lying sack of pig excrement. Person A: Okay, but my point is that since Columbus landed in early October, 1492, Native Americans have suffered discrimination. Person B: You truly are an obscenely dishonest pile of month old used cat litter admixed with outdated fishing bait and nuclear waste. Both Oct 16, your original outrageous lie, and Oct 12, the true date, are in mid-October.…

It’s perfectly alright for person B to notice the trivial (in this context) factual error and correct it in a collegial way, in fact that’s beneficial, but dwelling on it to unfairly attack Person A’s honesty and ignore his underlying argument is incorrect. By no means am I suggesting that anyone here remotely came close to resembling this exaggerated, illustrative example.

Harold:

Again, if this isn’t the case, why do you say above “If atheists didn’t at least question the intellectual honesty of theist scientists, I don’t see how they could remain atheists”? If both are compatible with science, then there’s no logical reason to impugn anyone’s intellectual honesty, at least not on the grounds of atheism/theism.

Harold is right again. If an atheist questioned the intellectual honesty of a “religious” scientist at work for that reason alone, he would be shown the door and given the name of a shrink. That believing scientist could be a coworker, a boss, department head, world famous scientist, dean, and so on.

It is illegal to discriminate against people on the basis of religion in work life in the USA. It is also considered morally reprehensible and just plain low life tacky.

To give an example of how important most scientists consider religious beliefs, I’ve worked with dozens of scientists over the years. No one has ever asked me what my beliefs are and I have never asked anyone what theirs are. It isn’t considered polite to even ask, but mostly, no one cares even a little bit. It is not relevant, it is not important, it isn’t interesting.

This must be part of theory that xians are from another planet. Nonsense. The USA is self identified as 82% xian and the numbers in science are probably lower. But they aren’t going to be that much lower.

And BTW, who pays for science. The NIH budget this year is $28 billion. Answer: The taxpayers. Who are all atheists, reflect the US society at large, 82% xian.

Why do they need to impugn, question, debate or otherwise cast negative aspersion on the intellectual honesty of theist scientists, if on the other hand, they do not claim that scientific thinking in some way excludes theism?

If I reasonably conclude proposition A, and you say that you reasonably conclude not A, I will question your intellectually honesty and if I feel like it might impugn it publicly. That’s all I’m saying; and, as I predicted, we’re arguing about the meaning of “impugn”.

I did more or less charge that some, by no means all, atheists make this claim.

I understand. And you seem to realize that it isn’t a representative position.

The issue seems to be that, while on one hand, you think it’s natural for atheists to question the intellectual honesty of theist scientists, on the other hand, you deny that any atheist has ever specifically argued that the ToE, specifically, is compatible with atheism but not theism.

I haven’t argued or denied any such thing. I meta-argued that you (or apparently, not just you, because I mis-attributed something to you) have failed to back up your charge against some atheists. Raven has since done so with her first example.

The point needs belaboring because as Aureola Nominee, FCD has pointed out, the atheists : fundamentalist analogy isn’t at all sound if the atheists are merely stating their disagreement with the theists by impugning their intellectual honesty. It’s not enough that these atheists bash theist scientists for their theism; they have to claim that science, the ToE, etc., logically excludes theism.

Now, if a particular atheist says that the ToE logically implies atheism, I wouldn’t object to the “fundamentalist” label. But you’d have to show me.

harold,

That example was freakin hilarious. I hope you don’t mind if I borrow some of those nice insults to use in my own posts.

It is illegal to discriminate against people on the basis of religion in work life in the USA. It is also considered morally reprehensible and just plain low life tacky.

You misunderstood. I don’t suggest acting contrary to the tenets of a free state, and it is tacky to do so.

But there are many ways to impugn someone’s intellectual honesty based on their religion, some of which are neither tacky nor reprehensible.

I would have fallen asleep whist trying to skim this thread if it hadn’t been for harold. Congradulations.

But there are many ways to impugn someone’s intellectual honesty based on their religion, some of which are neither tacky nor reprehensible.

followed this bit by 12 minutes:

you […] have failed to back up your charge

Myself, I prefer to base a claim of intellectual dishonesty upon an actual action rather than a mental state alone. Your mileage may vary.

Myself, I prefer to base a claim of intellectual dishonesty upon an actual action rather than a mental state alone. Your mileage may vary.

The evidentiary standard to which I’m holding Harold and Raven are higher than the standards I would have them hold for the atheists they charge for acting like fundamentalists. And the mileage varies accordingly. With these two, I learned to my satisfaction that there is at least one atheists who’s acting like a fundamentalist. The people who impugn this or that theist’s intellectual honesty based on their theism alone, on the other hand, are less convincing. Nevertheless, theirs is still not a fundamentalist position and arguing it is not reprehensible. (I personally think that attacking a person’s theism is kind of tacky, but no more tacky than the profession of theism itself.)

Phatty -

Be my guest.

Guye Fauxe -

I understand. And you seem to realize that it isn’t a representative position.

Absolutely.

Look, the only reasons I even have a problem with creationists are…

1) they have an obnoxious poltical agenda - they try to violate rights and promote bad public policy (and succeed), and 2) somewhat less importantly, that they prominently publish grossly incorrect things about mainstream science on the internet and elsewhere, which, although it is their legal right (as long as they don’t cross the line and commit libel against individual scientists or the like), is potentially harmful. 3) and oh, yeah, I almost forgot, they rip people off for cheezy books and videos and that type of stuff.

As I’ve pointed out, there are some people who happen to have beliefs that overlap with what we call “creationism”, for example certain traditional Protestant denominations or some Orthodox Jewish congregations, but who don’t actively engage in the stuff I just described. Although I obviously don’t agree with these people, either, I really don’t have an issue with them, since they mind their own business. If they want my opinion, they’ll ask for it.

When I started “getting involved”, that is to say, posting stuff on blog boards, it was because of the Kansas 1999 incident, when creationists took over the school board. I happened to be in a neighboring state at the time.

Arguing with atheists was the furthest thing from my mind. I’ve never had an issue with atheists or atheism in general, to put it mildly. I would usually think of myself as somebody who defends the ethics and rights of atheist against religious bigots, in most contexts.

Furthermore, arguing with creationists allows me to review and learn about science, especially biology, which I like. I am much less into haggling about other peoples’ personal, private spiritual practices or religious beliefs or whatever you want to call it.

Although I personally do think it’s usually annoying to run down the private relious beliefs of other people (unless they are using said beliefs as a justification of actual harmful behavior), I’m the first to admit that, while some individual atheists are not necessarily the least offendors in this regard, the creationists are by far the worst offendors here, as well. I hate to state the obvious, but the constant creationist comparisons of anyone who doesn’t support their nuttiness to eugenecists, nazis, etc, etc, etc, is far beyond calling someone else “deluded”.

However, you’ll note that this is not one of the reasons I have a problem with creationists. It’s a free country, kind of, and if some guy wants to say “My belief is better than somebody else’s belief”, even in very strong and obnoxious terms, fine, the same rights that allow him to do that allow me to express myself as I choose.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on July 29, 2007 6:35 PM.

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