The AAAS responds to “Expelled”

| 447 Comments

This video from the “American Association for the Advancement of Science, “ (AAAS), a non-profit science society, explains why religion and science need not be in opposition. It is a response to the intelligent design propaganda movie, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” with Ben Stein. AAAS also released a written statement. See AAAS Statement Decries “Profound Dishonesty” of Intelligent Design Movie For more on how AAAS works to promote constructive dialogue between religious and scientific leaders, see this link

Enjoy the video below the fold

A powerful video addressing how science and faith can work together without damage to either.

447 Comments

The AAAS “Statement” is dated 18 April 2008. Why is this being presented as if it were “new” news? What is the date of the video?

Science and religion are incompatible in many ways. It is simply not truthful of AAAS to pretend otherwise.

Take Francis Collins as an example. He believes that we can detect evidence of a Moral Law. He believes that miracles are compatible with science. His position is that science reveals a universe that is fine-tuned for life. And he believes that, “… humans are also unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation and point to our spiritual nature.” I think most of those beliefs conflict with science.

Sure, there probably are religious beliefs that don’t obviously conflict with science but most religions have some core tenets that are incompatible. At the very least the video should acknowledge that there are conflicting views on this subject.

It troubles me that a scientific organization would resort to anecdotal evidence from biased sources to buttress its case. Why didn’t they interview former believers who became atheists after studying science? Wouldn’t that be just as “scientific”?

Did you not like the video?

Larry Moran said:

Science and religion are incompatible in many ways. It is simply not truthful of AAAS to pretend otherwise.

One has to be careful here, science and religion need not be incompatible. This however does not mean that there need not be conflicts between the two positions. Whether it be the Young Earth Creationist who refuses to accept scientific findings which conflict with his biblical faith, or the atheist who believes that science can disprove religious faith, the existence of a God.

Take Francis Collins as an example. He believes that we can detect evidence of a Moral Law. He believes that miracles are compatible with science. His position is that science reveals a universe that is fine-tuned for life. And he believes that, “… humans are also unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation and point to our spiritual nature.” I think most of those beliefs conflict with science.

Perhaps, perhaps not. For instance, let’s assume we can detect evidence of a moral law, what does this have to say about the origin of said law? Is it a God ordained law, or is it a law of nature through which God may have enacted a form of moral law? Can miracles be compatible with science, it depends on the argument presented. Is the universe fine tuned for life, there appears to be some evidence to suggest this, in fact the issue is how to explain this fine tuning.

Sure, there probably are religious beliefs that don’t obviously conflict with science but most religions have some core tenets that are incompatible. At the very least the video should acknowledge that there are conflicting views on this subject.

Why? The video is to show that science and religion need not conflict based on the personal perspectives of various scientists.

It troubles me that a scientific organization would resort to anecdotal evidence from biased sources to buttress its case. Why didn’t they interview former believers who became atheists after studying science? Wouldn’t that be just as “scientific”?

Perhaps you may have missed the purpose of the video. That people have come to reject or accept religious faith because of science hardly helps us understand the nature of science and religion.

So let’s try to understand what motivated the AAAS to release the video. By following the link above we find out that

“We were… especially disappointed to learn that the producers of an intelligent design propaganda movie called ‘Expelled’ are inappropriately pitting science against religion,”

Of course, PZ is not interested in a discussion between religion and science so he can afford sounding more like Dawkins. I have no problem with PZ’s choice although other than making himself and a few others feel good, it achieves little else.

non-practicing agnostic said:

PZ says it best, as usual: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/[…]ing_away.php

PvM said:

“…or the atheist who believes that science can disprove religious faith, the existence of a God.”

Oh, please. How can someone “disprove” that an entity for which no hard evidence exists.…exists?

I know of no atheists who are working to “disprove” the existence of a God. Only atheists who are asking, “Where’s your evidence?, Where’s your proof that some celestial being exists? Prove it!”

You can’t “disprove” something for which there is no hard evidence of its existence – who in their right mind would even bother with “scientific” proof that Santa Claus doesn’t come down your chimney on Dec. 25th carrying presents after disembarking from his flying reindeer-driven sleigh? Or that the proverbial “Invisible Pink Unicorn” doesn’t exist?

As a proud atheist, I really must also take issue with your phrasing…”an atheist who believes”.…that word “believe” really sticks in my craw. The reason I am an atheist is that I choose to utilize hard facts and evidence to make judgments. Not “beliefs.” Not “faith.”

Speaking for myself, I don’t feel that I need to, or should “tolerate” those who choose to be guided by myth, faith, belief, invisible deities, Invisible Pink Unicorns, or any other such nonsense. In this day and age, we need the cold hard truth, the facts and nothing but the facts, more than ever. Therefore, I have about a nanoseconds worth of tolerance for those who suggest we need to “respect” the utter nonsense that “guide” the vast majority of people on this planet. Because letting one’s life be guided by “faith” is perhaps the primary reason why we have so many problems on this planet.

Biomusicologist said:

PvM said:

“…or the atheist who believes that science can disprove religious faith, the existence of a God.”

Oh, please. How can someone “disprove” that an entity for which no hard evidence exists.…exists?

So we agree then that such attempts are foolish at best, although your formulation leaves a lot to be desired, it seems that we both agree with the conclusion

Speaking for myself, I don’t feel that I need to, or should “tolerate” those who choose to be guided by myth, faith, belief, invisible deities, Invisible Pink Unicorns, or any other such nonsense.

And noone is forcing you to tolerate them, although there are many who would disagree with you and who realize that issues of personal faith are actually not only important but also worth being tolerated. In fact, people come to a variety of positions often based on the same evidence but different logic, and while it may be tempting to proclaim that one need not tolerate those who are guided by intuition, experience etc, I find such a position to be rather destructive. And if life is all and only about hard truth, then life may not be with much content. And what is really achieved by a position of intolerance against those with whom we disagree? History does not paint a pretty picture.

I really hate garbage like this. The only way to ensure that science and religion remain compatible, or that they are ‘non-overlapping magisteria,’ is to remove from the repertoire of religion every assertoric statement it makes.

Since the observable world (the world studied by science) is made up of physical objects composed, ultimately, of microphysical particles, we can be certain that the only objects that are capable of interacting causally with the physical world are also physical. This is known as the the principle of the causal closure of the physical. Since there are no physical events that are not causally accountable to physical causes, even if there were a non-physical realm (made of mind-stuff or God-stuff or whatever), that world would not be causally connected to this world. This is the reason that lead (effectively all) philosophers of mind to dismiss the mind/body dualism of Descartes, and to adopt the physicalism that now reigns supreme in modern philosophy and science.

A God that answers prayers is one who violates the laws of physics, and is therefore a God who is scientifically impossible. A God who created the universe and guides evolution is, once again, a God who causally interacts with the physical world, and who is scientifically impossible. The same goes for a God who gives you strength, a God who helps you appreciate Beethoven, or a God who lowers gas prices.

Once we understand that a God who fits into the world that science has revealed to us cannot interact with us, the claims of religion become nothing more than claims of worldview, claims of how you can choose to view the events in the world if you so choose. There are no legitimate questions with factual answers that can be answered by religion. However, religion can tell you that a magic man cares about you, and that might make you feel better. Or it might tell you that God has a plan for you, and that might ease your sorrows. However, these claims are no more true than are the claims of the optimist or the pessimist.

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Chapman said:

I really hate garbage like this. The only way to ensure that science and religion remain compatible, or that they are ‘non-overlapping magisteria,’ is to remove from the repertoire of religion every assertoric statement it makes.

That seems to be a bit rash

Since the observable world (the world studied by science) is made up of physical objects composed, ultimately, of microphysical particles, we can be certain that the only objects that are capable of interacting causally with the physical world are also physical. This is known as the the principle of the causal closure of the physical.

A principle or a known fact? I am not really sure that this is a scientific position.

A God that answers prayers is one who violates the laws of physics, and is therefore a God who is scientifically impossible.

Again this is somewhat circular. Why could laws of physics not be broken? And why would answering prayers require laws of physics to be broken? Your assertions presume more than they should be able to do.

Of course, if you define God to be impossible, as you seem to do based on a metaphysical principle, then of course, God does not and cannot exist. However, one could equally hold a metaphysical position that God can indeed interact with our world and even if this were to require suspension of laws of physics. Either one seems to suffer from the same shortcomings when it comes to science and faith, one asserts that the natural is all there is, a position on which science can not really make any statements, the other one that the supernatural can interact with the natural, another position on which science has little bearing.

Perhaps you should have stopped with your first sentence.

Chapman said:

I really hate garbage like this. The only way to ensure that science and religion remain compatible, or that they are ‘non-overlapping magisteria,’ is to remove from the repertoire of religion every assertoric statement it makes.

That seems to be a bit rash

Since the observable world (the world studied by science) is made up of physical objects composed, ultimately, of microphysical particles, we can be certain that the only objects that are capable of interacting causally with the physical world are also physical. This is known as the the principle of the causal closure of the physical.

A principle or a known fact? I am not really sure that this is a scientific position.

A God that answers prayers is one who violates the laws of physics, and is therefore a God who is scientifically impossible.

Again this is somewhat circular. Why could laws of physics not be broken? And why would answering prayers require laws of physics to be broken? Your assertions presume more than they should be able to do.

Of course, if you define God to be impossible, as you seem to do based on a metaphysical principle, then of course, God does not and cannot exist. However, one could equally hold a metaphysical position that God can indeed interact with our world and even if this were to require suspension of laws of physics. Either one seems to suffer from the same shortcomings when it comes to science and faith, one asserts that the natural is all there is, a position on which science can not really make any statements, the other one that the supernatural can interact with the natural, another position on which science has little bearing.

Perhaps you should have stopped with your first sentence.

I had a reply that apparently went missing as soon as I hit ‘submit.’ I’ll try to be brief in my response.

We know that the observable world is the physical world. Our bodies and minds, trees and rocks, the furniture of the world is physical. In adopting a position of methodological naturalism (a position all scientists adopt), scientists attempt to explain observable phenomena (physical phenomena) through physical mechanisms. Were this impossible, because there seemed to be an explanatory gap between physical ‘effects’ and the phenomena we were trying to explain, it would make sense to introduce non-physical (supernatural, or whatever you please) causes into our ontology. However, science is able to do just fine without such things. The world that we are causal part of can be explained in physical terms.

Why could laws of physics not be broken? While it is, of course, logically possible for the laws of physics to be different, or to be suspended, it is not physically possible. Were the laws of physics physically contingent, they would not be laws. If your argument is that God can interact with the world by breaking the laws of physics, then your argument is that your God interacts with the world only insofar as scientists are dead wrong about their explanations of the world.

I have not defined God as impossible. I am simply saying that were this a world in which non-physical forces interacted causally with the world, it would be a bizarre coincidence that we can explain everything we can without taking them into account. Further, were this that sort of world, physicists, chemists, biologists, and all other scientists all the way up the ladder of supervenience would be completely wrong in almost everything they thought about the world in which we live.

I’m sure I don’t need to point out to you that if your God can only interact with the physical world (read: if your God is only relevant to us physical beings) if scientists are wrong about everything they think, then religion and science are most certainly in conflict, because religion is calling scientists either incompetent or liars.

A small problem:

The laws of nature are not rules that things must obey; they are simply descriptions or explanations of how they in fact do behave. Events that supposedly violate natural laws may injure the vanity of the scientists, but they simply can’t outrage Nature. Which is the problem with PvM’s question above “Why could laws of physics not be broken?” Law is a metaphor, and it’s risky to draw conclusions from metaphors without paying attention to their limits.

What does happen with some regularity is that what we had thought were laws of nature turn out to be inadequate descriptions of the world. When that happens, the proper response is to amend our understanding of natural laws. Of course, although they wouldn’t constitute violations of natural law, events that don’t match up with our understanding of how things work could all turn out to be evidence that a deity were acting in the world, though most garden-variety miracles don’t literally involve exceptions to F=ma or something of that kind but are instead rare or remarkable events such as people recovering from illnesses who were expected to die.

This is actually an old (old on the internet, anyways) video, as has been noted before, and there was a small ‘discussion’ on Larry Moran’s blog where we hashed over much of the points that will surely come up here. While the video is clearly intended to sell compatibility between science and religion, if you actually listen to what the people in the video actually say, you’ll find some interesting generalizations that do *not* mesh with a simple ‘religion and science can be compatible’. I hope no one minds me egotistically quoting myself :) :

First we have Alan Leshner with the comment that most mainstream religions do not have problems with evolution, and then he lists the [much of] Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. This is wrong on its face, of course, as it’s clear that a literal, modern interpretation of many of the holy texts on which these faiths are based conflict with evolutionary accounts and, most importantly, are held to by believers. It’s an untrue blanket statement which is the first bit implying NOMA.

He goes on: “…different domains of the world. Science only has to do with the natural world. Religion of course has to do with a belief in the origins of everything that we have and the questions and the deep meaning of life.”

That was the first very explicit account of NOMA. Next is Francis Collins: ““I believe that science is the way to understand the natural world and the faith is the way to understand questions that science can’t answer like “why are we all here?” “… and does it matter?”[…]”

(end quote)

I’ll add here that I fully recognize that Francis Collins is making a personal statement about his own beliefs, but thought I should include it as he is making claims about what faith is and what science is. It supports the idea that thinking that “why are we all here?” isn’t something science could answer is supportive of science and religion being (sometimes) compatible.

However, it would seem to poison the very subject being discussed by making the idea of ‘science’ even fuzzier. Science clearly answers much of that question already, and at the very least addresses it, beginning with evolution and the origin of the cosmos. Just to head off the rebuttal that Collins was addressing a different sense of ‘why’: 1) He has many ideas that one could call incompatible with science, so this is not necessarily so clear. His insertions of faith-based ideas into recent human evolution, for example, could be seen as reflecting this less compatible viewpoint (God of the gaps, unscientific reasoning that opposes naturalistic exploration). 2) The other sense is not necessarily so obvious to most people, and this is an advocacy/public outreach video. The message again seems blurred to me and poorly executed and I can easily see it giving people the impression that science and religion are compatible in the general sense because they’re in separate domains.

Maybe I should go about my point differently this time, though. Watch this video twice (or three times). The first time, watch it as a list of personal opinions. You’ll find it’s easy to pick out Collins doing so *if* you’re listening for it, not quite as easy for the others. The second time, watch it as an advocacy video advocating an idea of NOMA. You’ll find quite a bit supporting this idea and might (like me) find yourself forgetting that Collins is making purely personal statements and not ones supported *in general* by the AAAS. Maybe even watch it a third time without any special focus and see what you get out of it. I get this: ‘science and religion are compatible because they’re in two separate domains. Lots of religious people accept evolution. (note: we know that this may be an exaggerated point, as there’s also quite a few who like to introduce religiously-based limits on it) Please ignore the fact that our blanket statements about what religion and science are conflict with the viewpoints of a huge number (I’d say a majority) of the religious.’

I won’t link to the discussion on Sandwalk, but you can easily find it by searching that blog for ‘religion aaas’

Evolution and religion look at different questions. Religion looks at the question of whatever evolution doesn’t look at, and evolution looks at the question of the other stuff that’s left over. The two are entirely compatible.

Shirakawasuna said:

Please ignore the fact that our blanket statements about what religion and science are conflict with the viewpoints of a huge number (I’d say a majority) of the religious.’

Why should anybody ignore that! That’s kinda the whole point, isn’t it? Religion can be whatever it wants. “Poof” now it’s a spaghetti monster religion. “Poof” now it’s a blanket statement religion.

Biomusicologist said:

Therefore, I have about a nanoseconds worth of tolerance for those who suggest we need to “respect” the utter nonsense that “guide” the vast majority of people on this planet. Because letting one’s life be guided by “faith” is perhaps the primary reason why we have so many problems on this planet.

I have about a nanosecond of tolerance for people who hold their own opinions in such high esteem that they have convinced themselves that everyone who doesn’t share their opinions is somehow sub-human, that civility is a tool for the weak, and choose to isolate themselves from the one thing that makes life worth living in the first place – other people.

This “discussion” is nugatory in the absence of a useful operational definition of religion.

Very clearly (as PvM surely knows by now), some religious faiths are rather substantially founded on assertions directly testable using real-world techniques and evidence. Those assertions aren’t just false, they are ludicrously false, violating nearly everything known about everything, and all the inter-relationships among all human knowledge. They are absurd.

So if we very carefully extract everything asserted by every religious faith that can actually be tested in the Real World (the magisterium of science), does enough of substantive utility remain of any faith worth even bothering with? Seems to me we’re left with a kind of nebulous preference for extracting some hazy overall pattern of direction and purpose to our lives, even if the effort of projecting such a purpose isn’t easy or straightforward.

But if we’re satisfied with the operational definition of religion as the projection of our preferences onto a reality that doesn’t support them but can’t be proved NOT to have them, they there’s no conflict here. Science can, in this view, tell us in some great detail the Will and approximate methods of the gods (if they exist).

Science can (and does, in spades) document the extent to which we all comfortably kid ourselves, see what isn’t there, remember what didn’t happen, and use confirmation bias to plow our way through life. Maybe we can regard science as the effort to neutralize these “weaknesses”, and religion as the effort to glorify these “strengths”.

Chapman said:

This is known as the the principle of the causal closure of the physical. Since there are no physical events that are not causally accountable to physical causes,

I believe virtual particles are commonly accepted to be uncaused. That is, physical events do not cause virtual particles. And, despite their name, virtual particles are quite real, and can cause further physical events. But, if you simply must believe in causal closure take it up with the physicists who discarded the concept, and not poor little me.

A God that answers prayers is one who violates the laws of physics, and is therefore a God who is scientifically impossible.

I don’t see that you have any scientific basis for making that assertion. As previously stated, modern physics does not have causal closer, and even if it did, there is no scientific theory of metaphysics to tell us whether or not the laws of physics can be bent, changed or violated. The immutability of the laws of physics does not rest on scientific reasoning (that is, there is no mechanistic detailed understanding of why the laws of physics cannot be violated) but a mere inference from past experience, which is significantly weaker than science (but still may be true of course). You argument is simply “because we have never seen this, it is imposible” which, logically speaking, is false. Because we have never seen this, there is no evidence that it is possible, which is a slightly different statement.

Once we understand that a God who fits into the world that science has revealed to us cannot interact with us,

Again, there is no principle of causal closure, so again your argument is based on a false premise.

Moran,

His position is that science reveals a universe that is fine-tuned for life.

The universe being “fine tuned for life” is a an admittedly loaded and poor name given to a philosophically neutral observation: that the habitability of the universe for any kind of life appears to be surprisingly sensitive to the values of various physical constants. This is a well-known scientific problem, whose solution may lie in multiple universes, or perhaps in someone ultimately demonstrating that habitability is not sensitive to the constants. Nevertheless is it established and acknowledged by most as, at the moment, a puzzle. It is quite odd that you should categorize a acknowledged observation of our universe as incompatible with science. But perhaps you have a solution that you have yet to publish.

But that is just an aside.

Science and religion are incompatible in many ways. It is simply not truthful of AAAS to pretend otherwise.

Every time someone makes comment that religion is incompatible with science I go into Lenny-Flank like mode and repeat the same challenge. Perhaps Moran will accept:

I will provide you with ten papers from first-rate peer-reviewed science journals. Five from scientists known to be devoutly religious, five from known atheists. The challenge is for you to

a) Pick out the five believers,

In a controlled environment, the experiment could end there. But since that information would be too easy to obtain by google, we add:

b) Explain the shortcomings of the science of those five papers authored by religious scientists.

The hypothesis we are testing is that if the statement “religion is incompatible with science” has any meaning, then it must be that religion adversely affects a scientist’s work. Let’s see if you can demonstrate it.

If you can’t meet that challenge, the “religion is incompatible with science” is just meaningless bullshit. It is no better than if someone were to claim “my religion makes me a better scientist.” Either you can demonstrate by experiment that religion is incompatible with science, and I have proposed the experiment, or you are just giving us a sermon.

Chapman said:

This is known as the the principle of the causal closure of the physical. Since there are no physical events that are not causally accountable to physical causes,

I believe virtual particles are commonly accepted to be uncaused. That is, physical events do not cause virtual particles.

Clarification: Virtual particles are themselves physical of course, so they physically interact with other particles, but the point remains that their existence cannot be ascribed to any physical cause, they just ‘are’. Since they are uncaused, causal chains can terminate on them without the possibility of relating to any other physical events. So if by ‘causal closure’ you mean a whole bunch of lose threads that cannot in principle be related to any other physical events, then sure, we have causal closure, though I think it would be much more accurately called “causal openness.”

Uh, I beg to differ.

Can we put this baby to rest please? We all know the answer here folks. Some religious claims are incompatible with some scientific observations. In both cases some means some. Not “all.” Not “none.”

Gould was incorrect in implying that religions shouldn’t (or don’t) make empricial claims. They do, and they can. What’re you gonna do, make such beliefs illegal? Tell those believers that their beliefs don’t count as “religious?” Who gets to decide that?

Likewise Dawkins etc… are wrong in thinking all religion is incompatible with scientific empiricism. Notwithstanding the billions of people - of many religous persuasions - who seem to get by just fine with both, you have religious leaders like the Dalai Llama who state point blank that buddhism must change as science discovers new things about the world. How…compatible!

IMO if you want to have a useful and meaningful discussion about religion and science, its best to stick to comparing specific claims. Religion per se is just too broad and elusive a concept to come to produce any general conclusion.

386sx said:

Evolution and religion look at different questions. Religion looks at the question of whatever evolution doesn’t look at, and evolution looks at the question of the other stuff that’s left over. The two are entirely compatible.

It is good that this video was done by AAAS. It is important that the public understand that there are people who agree that religion and science explain two different spheres. One morality, and the other the natural/materialistic world. It has been said that their are 1,000 religions in the world. It is hard to believe that people who understand science would find conflict with their world view. There are people who have not seen this video, and it would be good for them to.

I hope this is not too off topic, but the Creations Science Association for Mid-America has another crazy newsletter that asks “Should Evolutionists Be Allowed to Roam Free in the Land?”

It can be found here: http://www.csama.org/csanews/nws200809.pdf

This one tops the other. Here is the scariest section:

􀁹 Evolutionists are largely incompetent 􀁹 They are largely unproductive leaches on the productive members of society, else they are totally destructive. 􀁹 Where they have achieved, or even sought, political power they have virtually always been extremely dangerous to any opponents of their religion, even while pretending they do not have a religion, or pretending they are Christian. 􀁹 They make it perfectly clear that they are at war and intend to remain at war with Christians and any other opponents of their religion. 􀁹 Even where they have not achieved the power that their philosophical cousins (communists and Nazis) held, if you pay attention, they tend to make it clear that they believe Christians, and any other opponents of their faith, ought to be eliminated. Clearly then, “evolutionists should not be allowed to roam free in the land.” All that remains for us to discuss is “What should be done with evolutionists?” For the purposes of this essay, I will ignore the minor issue of Western-style jurisprudence and merely mention possible solutions to the “evolutionism problem,” leaving the legal details to others: 􀁹 Labor camps. Their fellow believers were high on these. But, my position would be that most of them have lived their lives at, or near the public trough. So, after their own beliefs, their life should continue only as long as they can support themselves in the camps. 􀁹 Require them to wear placards around their neck, or perhaps large medallions which prominently announce “Warning: Evolutionist! Mentally Incompetent - Potentially Dangerous.” I consider this option too dangerous. 􀁹 Since evolutionists are liars and most do not really believe evolution we could employ truth serum or water-boarding to obtain confessions of evolution rejection. But, this should, at most, result in parole, because, like Muslims, evolutionist religion permits them to lie if there is any benefit to them. 􀁹 An Evolutionist Colony in Antarctica could be a promising option. Of course inspections would be required to prevent too much progress. They might invent gunpowder. 􀁹 A colony on Mars would prevent gunpowder from harming anyone but their own kind, in the unlikely event they turned out to be intelligent enough to invent it. 􀁹 All options should include 24-hour sound system playing Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris reading Darwin’s Origin of Species, or the preservation of Favored Races by Means of Natural Selection. Of course some will consider this cruel & unusual, especially since they will undoubtedly have that treatment for eternity.

Larry Moran said:

Science and religion are incompatible in many ways. It is simply not truthful of AAAS to pretend otherwise.

Take Francis Collins as an example. He believes that we can detect evidence of a Moral Law. He believes that miracles are compatible with science. His position is that science reveals a universe that is fine-tuned for life. And he believes that, “… humans are also unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation and point to our spiritual nature.” I think most of those beliefs conflict with science.

I disagree with this assessment. A belief or opinion that there is a findable Moral Law, that the universe is fine tuned, and that humans are unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation is not specifically in conflict with science. Such premises ONLY conflict with science if the person bases and biases scientific results on such opinions, or (worse imho) ignores scientific findings in order to hold such beliefs. I don’t see this as the case with Francis Collins. His work is not directly tied to his beliefs and he does not put down or argue against science outside his domain of expertise. He can certainly hold the opinion that science may one day find Moral Law, but since he’s not ignoring or trumping up science studies concerning such proposition, there’s no conflict. One is welcome to disagree with him and such does not change the nature of his scientific research or other areas of science.

Sure, there probably are religious beliefs that don’t obviously conflict with science but most religions have some core tenets that are incompatible. At the very least the video should acknowledge that there are conflicting views on this subject.

The key to understanding this, I think, is to understand the nuance of what constitutes “science” and “religion”. “Science” is really only a methodological approach to unraveling and understanding how something occurs within the natural world. Religion (in theory) is a faith-based, philosophical approach to unravelling and understanding man’s place and purpose in life. The only conflict, then, is when some people try to use science to define man’s purpose in life or when some people try to use religion to define how something occurred. It’s really that simple.

There is, for example, no actual conflict with science in believing a religious tenet that establishes that there have been people raised from the dead in and of itself. Science cannot establish that people cannot be raised from the dead. Science merely establishes the biological underpinnings concerning how life works. Could there be a natural explanation for some folks apparently coming back to life after having been pronounced dead? Certainly. Can science definitively establish that there is no such thing as the “soul”? No. That “miracles” do not happen? No. Such issues are outside the limits of science.

Problems only arise if one takes either science or religious belief beyond the realm of what they can and cannot establish. For example, if one believes that God created man uniquely and acknowledges there’s no way of knowing exactly how such could be done, that’s fine. But if one believes that God creating man uniquely contradicts evolution, then that person’s religious beliefs are in conflict with science.

It troubles me that a scientific organization would resort to anecdotal evidence from biased sources to buttress its case. Why didn’t they interview former believers who became atheists after studying science? Wouldn’t that be just as “scientific”?

Because switching from literal belief to atheism isn’t really the issue. The issue is one of understanding the boundaries around science and the boundaries around religion.

That’s a good video PvM. I agree with everything that’s been said.

However, try saying this to any YEC. I can predict the response. I know because I’ve tried to say this to this YEC a couple of years ago:

http://www.creationoutreachministri[…]campbell.htm

“If you think Genesis is only symbolic then you may think the resurrection is symbolic as well” etc. etc. etc. his wife quipped. A complete waste of time. This is the problem. As for:

most of Christianity accepts evolution

This is nonsense. In Northern Ireland all evangelical denominations (Baptist, Brethren, Elim Pentecostal, Congregational etc.) along with the various strands of Presbyterianism (i.e. Free, Reformed Evangelical etc.) as well as the free and independent Methodists are all YEC now. Add to that the fact that a sizable proportion of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland are pushing YECism (although the official line of the church is that it accepts other positions i.e. Theistic Evolution all the way to Flat Earth ism) and you can see that a majority of evangelical Christians in the province here do not accept evolution in any shape or form. To date no Methodist or Anglican church here has pushed the YEC line but that is not to say that many members of those denominations are YEC as well. Only the Roman Catholic church accepts evolution universally.

It’s the same in the rest of the UK. Although church attendance is much lower than in NI all evangelical denominations are well and truly YEC. It’s even found it’s way into the Church of England and the Methodists.

I would imagine it’s as bad in the US as it is in NI with all evangelical churches (Baptist etc.) along with the various strands of Presbyterianism being unashamedly YEC.

To say that a majority of Christianity accepts evolution is surely naive. Just look at the opinion polls in the US (and UK) and the numbers flocking to Ham’s museum.

As for PZ Meyers and Jason Rosenhouse, they don’t help matters when they criticise Christians who accept evolution (TEs). See my posts over on the forum as to how I feel about their comments in relation to the clergy letter project and evolution Sunday.

Robin said:

Larry Moran said:

Science and religion are incompatible in many ways. It is simply not truthful of AAAS to pretend otherwise.

Take Francis Collins as an example. He believes that we can detect evidence of a Moral Law. He believes that miracles are compatible with science. His position is that science reveals a universe that is fine-tuned for life. And he believes that, “… humans are also unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation and point to our spiritual nature.” I think most of those beliefs conflict with science.

I disagree with this assessment. A belief or opinion that there is a findable Moral Law, that the universe is fine tuned, and that humans are unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation is not specifically in conflict with science. Such premises ONLY conflict with science if the person bases and biases scientific results on such opinions, or (worse imho) ignores scientific findings in order to hold such beliefs. I don’t see this as the case with Francis Collins. His work is not directly tied to his beliefs and he does not put down or argue against science outside his domain of expertise. He can certainly hold the opinion that science may one day find Moral Law, but since he’s not ignoring or trumping up science studies concerning such proposition, there’s no conflict. One is welcome to disagree with him and such does not change the nature of his scientific research or other areas of science.

Sure, there probably are religious beliefs that don’t obviously conflict with science but most religions have some core tenets that are incompatible. At the very least the video should acknowledge that there are conflicting views on this subject.

The key to understanding this, I think, is to understand the nuance of what constitutes “science” and “religion”. “Science” is really only a methodological approach to unraveling and understanding how something occurs within the natural world. Religion (in theory) is a faith-based, philosophical approach to unravelling and understanding man’s place and purpose in life. The only conflict, then, is when some people try to use science to define man’s purpose in life or when some people try to use religion to define how something occurred. It’s really that simple.

There is, for example, no actual conflict with science in believing a religious tenet that establishes that there have been people raised from the dead in and of itself. Science cannot establish that people cannot be raised from the dead. Science merely establishes the biological underpinnings concerning how life works. Could there be a natural explanation for some folks apparently coming back to life after having been pronounced dead? Certainly. Can science definitively establish that there is no such thing as the “soul”? No. That “miracles” do not happen? No. Such issues are outside the limits of science.

Problems only arise if one takes either science or religious belief beyond the realm of what they can and cannot establish. For example, if one believes that God created man uniquely and acknowledges there’s no way of knowing exactly how such could be done, that’s fine. But if one believes that God creating man uniquely contradicts evolution, then that person’s religious beliefs are in conflict with science.

It troubles me that a scientific organization would resort to anecdotal evidence from biased sources to buttress its case. Why didn’t they interview former believers who became atheists after studying science? Wouldn’t that be just as “scientific”?

Because switching from literal belief to atheism isn’t really the issue. The issue is one of understanding the boundaries around science and the boundaries around religion.

Once you start allowing for miracles where do you stop? If god can just reach in and change things when he wants how can you know that the results of your experiment are real and not god’s thumb on the scale.

Unless you have some insight into the mind of god how can you tell what is miracle and what is not?

“We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.”
H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)

Hey, my wife IS beautiful and my children ARE smart!

Religions change over time and space, and each person’s religion is unique. To say that Christians can not accept evolution and still be Christian is obviously false, whether atheists say it or fundies say it. An important key to all this conflict is that Biblical Literalism is not only illogical in some many ways, it is also quite antisocial.

Shouldn’t “clades” be in the spell checker?

FL said:

You want us to accept all the words of Scripture as literal.

Hey, that’s not quite true. Instead, I share Dr. Hugh Ross’s position. Yeah, he’s an Old Earth Creationist and I’m a YEC not an OEC—but that’s okay, because it’s actually going to take all three forces (YEC OEC and ID) to defeat Darwinism.

Anyway, that position is (briefly):

The Bible must be taken literally unless the context indicates otherwise. – Ross, “Ten Major Simimilarities Between Calendar-Day and Day-Age Creationists.”

So that’s my position WRT “biblical literalism.” It’s NOT a gig of “accept all the words of Scripture as literal” but instead it’s what Ross said.

Btw, here are the rest of those similarities. Doesn’t mean that OEC’s and YEC’s agree on everything (Ross has also written “Ten Major Differences” as well, and there’s more than just ten), but honestly this is some good stuff. At least there’s some worthwhile common ground there for YEC’s and OEC’s to discuss and work on.

The Bible is inerrant in all disciplines of scholarship. The universe was both transcendentally and supernaturally created.

Naturalism cannot explain the origin of life.

Naturalism cannot entirely explain the history of life, nor can theistic evolution.

Naturalism cannot entirely explain the geophysical history of the earth.

Naturalism cannot explain entirely the astrophysical history of the universe and solar system.

Genesis 1 is both factual and chronological in its content.

It describes God’s “very good” creation in the space of six days.

Adam and Eve were a literal couple created by God just thousands of years ago.

All human beings owe their descent to Adam and Eve.

—astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross

Consider accepting these statements in your own study of the Bible and Genesis. You can’t go wrong!

FL :)

FL,

I believe you mean well, but please step into the 19th century and abandon the absurdity that is YEC.

Ooooo! I love it when the OEC nutbags and the YEC nutbags duke it out to see whose bag is nuttier. *goes to get popcorn*

Name calling hardly strengthens one’s argument, although it does help to accentuate one’s position, for whatever that’s worth.

From a less confrontational perspective, the discussion between OEC and YEC has always been interesting to me since the latter one insists on rejecting science when it disagrees with their subjective interpretations of the Bible, while the former attempt to reconcile faith based positions with science. A good example where OEC’ers critize YEC’s science includes the critiques of Humphreys work comes to mind as an example. Work which has been critically analyzed by fellow Christians. The ASA also has provided some useful resources and critiques of YEC’s (ab)use of radiometric dating methods.

Wolfhound said:

Ooooo! I love it when the OEC nutbags and the YEC nutbags duke it out to see whose bag is nuttier. *goes to get popcorn*

FL “argues” that his position is similar to Ross’s namely

The Bible must be taken literally unless the context indicates otherwise. – Ross, “Ten Major Simimilarities Between Calendar-Day and Day-Age Creationists.”

Of course, whether or not context indicates otherwise is largely a very subjective position which in many cases causes religious faith to be unnecessarily at odds with science. FL believes that YEC, OEC and ID are needed to ‘defeat Darwinism’, which seems a rather foolish position since first of all darwinism makes for good science, so why reject it, and secondly Darwinism is but one component of today’s evolutionary science, a science, mostly rejected by Christians not based on scientific but rather religious grounds.

Henry J said:

Dale Husband: Thus I would say that Darwin’s theory of evolution, supported as it is by scientific evidence rather than theological argument, is the main thing keeping our civilization from imploding from religious fanaticism, keeping that evil in check.

Missing preposition inserted where I suspect you wanted it.

Henry

That is correct! Sometimes my fingers are slower than my brain. My apologies!

Robert O’Brien said:

FL,

I believe you mean well, but please step into the 19th century and abandon the absurdity that is YEC.

Look who’s talking! Why don’t YOU step into the 21st century and abandon Creationism altogether! Until you do, you are no better than FL.

I had a laugh when I suggested years ago in a debate that the Young Earth Creationists should also believe in a flat earth, because the Bible teaches that. My opponents insisted that the opposite was true, and referred to Isaiah 40:22, which speaks of the “circle of the Earth”. Since a circle is a two-dimensional form, that actually helped me and proved my opponents to be liars! And how did they answer me? With more lies. Quite simply, a circle is NOT a sphere any more than any two-dimensional form can be said to be the same as a three dimensional form. But I guess accuracy is not relevant to defending three thousand year old myths, eh?

See here how they lie: http://www.christiananswers.net/q-e[…]dn-c015.html

These “Christians” wouldn’t have that attitude if the scripture being critiqued was the Vedas of Hinduism or the myths of ancient Greece or Babylon! But somehow the sayings of the Bible, however rediculous, must always be excused by double standards that would make Joseph Goebbels blush!

You notice how none of the trolls on this thread have made any effort to say whether or not they approve of how “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” promotes the idea that there should be, if not already, conflict between religion and science, and, they haven’t spoken on whether or not they agree with Ben Stein’s statement of “science leads us to killing people”?

Dale Husband said:

Robert O’Brien said:

FL,

I believe you mean well, but please step into the 19th century and abandon the absurdity that is YEC.

Look who’s talking! Why don’t YOU step into the 21st century and abandon Creationism altogether! Until you do, you are no better than FL.

Sorry, but the evidence proffered for common descent is inferior to the evidence for a billions-year-old earth. And the mathematics and statistics I use situates me in the 21st century.

Robert O’Brien said:

Dale Husband said:

Robert O’Brien said: FL, I believe you mean well, but please step into the 19th century and abandon the absurdity that is YEC.

Look who’s talking! Why don’t YOU step into the 21st century and abandon Creationism altogether! Until you do, you are no better than FL.

Sorry, but the evidence proffered for common descent is inferior to the evidence for a billions-year-old earth. And the mathematics and statistics I use situates me in the 21st century.

Both statements, of course, are false and thus prove you have no idea what you are talking about. No wonder PZ Myers banned you from Pharyngula! I would have too! All you do is insult everyone around you and make yourself useless here. Have you REALLY examined the evidence for common descent? I think not. If you think fossils are the only evidence, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Stanton said: You notice how none of the trolls on this thread have made any effort to say whether or not they approve of how “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” promotes the idea that there should be, if not already, conflict between religion and science, and, they haven’t spoken on whether or not they agree with Ben Stein’s statement of “science leads us to killing people”?

Indeed, such statements would discredit them instantly. There is actually as much genocide depicted in the Old Testament as what the Nazis did in World War II. Ever read the book of Joshua? Town after town in the land of Canaan was ransacked and depopulated by the chosen people of God, not by followers of Darwinism!

Dale Husband said:

Have you REALLY examined the evidence for common descent? I think not. If you think fossils are the only evidence, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Ah, yes, there is genetic commonality, endogenous retroviruses, and “nested hierarchies.” Whoopty [expletive] doo!

Robert O’Brien said:

Dale Husband said: Have you REALLY examined the evidence for common descent? I think not. If you think fossils are the only evidence, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Ah, yes, there is genetic commonality, endogenous retroviruses, and “nested hierarchies.” Whoopty [expletive] doo!

Good, then you can no longer claim that the evidence for common descent is “inferior” to that for a billions year old Earth. Indeed, the concept of “inferior” when it comes to evidence is meaningless. You could say the evidence is “insufficient” to establish commen descent beyond a reasonable doubt, but you’d still by lying.

Dale Husband said:

Robert O’Brien said:

Dale Husband said: Have you REALLY examined the evidence for common descent? I think not. If you think fossils are the only evidence, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Ah, yes, there is genetic commonality, endogenous retroviruses, and “nested hierarchies.” Whoopty [expletive] doo!

Good, then you can no longer claim that the evidence for common descent is “inferior” to that for a billions year old Earth. Indeed, the concept of “inferior” when it comes to evidence is meaningless. You could say the evidence is “insufficient” to establish commen descent beyond a reasonable doubt, but you’d still by lying.

I can say it and I will say it. The evidence for theories in the physical sciences is superior.

So, Robert O’Brain: If common descent is not true, how do you explain things like “genetic commonality, endogenous retroviruses, and “nested hierarchies.”” Inquiring minds want to know! LOL!!!

Please tell me you were joking here:

Robert O’Brien said: I can say it and I will say it. The evidence for theories in the physical sciences is superior.

Biology is not a physical science? Some sciences are “superior” to others? OK, I guess you are even dumber than I thought. Either that, or you are mistaking Panda’s Thumb for a comedy club. I am not amused by either ignorance or lies of any kind.

Dale Husband said: If common descent is not true, how do you explain things like “genetic commonality, endogenous retroviruses, and “nested hierarchies.”” Inquiring minds want to know! LOL!!!

Genetic commonality is easy: same designer.

Robert O’Brien said:

Dale Husband said: Please tell me you were joking here:

Robert O’Brien said: I can say it and I will say it. The evidence for theories in the physical sciences is superior.

No, I was quite serious, lunkhead.

Dale Husband said: Biology is not a physical science?

No, it is a life science, lunkhead.

I see you were never taught science in school. Maybe you fell asleep in class too many times. There is NO clear distinction between physical sciences and life sciences, for they grade into each other via transitional fields! Ever heard of organic chemistry, biochemistry and paleontology? Again, you need to catch up with the rest of us in the 21st Century. Your terminology is a joke!

Robert O’Brien said:

Dale Husband said: If common descent is not true, how do you explain things like “genetic commonality, endogenous retroviruses, and “nested hierarchies.”” Inquiring minds want to know! LOL!!!

Genetic commonality is easy: same designer.

With no evidence of a designer? Until you produce any.…

Robert O’Brien said:

Dale Husband said: If common descent is not true, how do you explain things like “genetic commonality, endogenous retroviruses, and “nested hierarchies.”” Inquiring minds want to know! LOL!!!

Genetic commonality is easy: same designer.

Then explain why all of the current proponents of “Designed” life have never bothered to formally identify “Design” in living and extinct organisms, or even formally propose a method to identify “Design” in living and extinct organisms.

Actually, Physics and Chemistry would be classed by me as “parent” sciences that lack a historical element because they deal solely with the scientific laws that define the interactions between matter and energy, not with past events. And all scientific laws must be tested and confirmed by the scientific method. I define Geology, Biology, and Astronomy as “children” sciences that incorporate physics and chemistry and all their laws, but have a historical element. In “natural history” the physical and chemical laws would be applied to deep time to both propose and test hypotheses. Nothing that violates any of the known scientific laws would be accepted as scientific, not even in the historical element of the “children” sciences. So when people claim that “natural history” and “science” are two completely different things, they express only their incredible ignorance. I hope that clears up your confusion, Robert O’Brien.

The evidence for common descent is actually quite strong for those willing to familiarize themselves. But you are right at least to argue that arguing for a young earth is silly. That’s progress. As to using mathematics and statistics which places you in the 21st century, I find that at best ironic.

Sorry, but the evidence proffered for common descent is inferior to the evidence for a billions-year-old earth. And the mathematics and statistics I use situates me in the 21st century

Stanton said:

Robert O’Brien said:

Dale Husband said: If common descent is not true, how do you explain things like “genetic commonality, endogenous retroviruses, and “nested hierarchies.”” Inquiring minds want to know! LOL!!!

Genetic commonality is easy: same designer.

Then explain why all of the current proponents of “Designed” life have never bothered to formally identify “Design” in living and extinct organisms, or even formally propose a method to identify “Design” in living and extinct organisms.

Actually, they have, but their system falls apart whenever things are looked at in biology the designs of which are absurd, such as the eyes of vertebrates with their backwards wired retinas, the human appendix, the female reproductive systems of most vertebrates, and the hind limb remnants in snakes and whales. If that’s design, it’s IDIOTIC design!

That’s a very ad hoc argument since a designer would equally well explain lack of genetic commonality, since there is no reason to believe that designers are constrained as to how they construct life. In fact, that they construct life to match the expectations from an evolutionary perspective seems a bit too coincidental would you not agree? And of course, all these data can still include a designer who set it all in motion. Of course, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that ‘design’ is in any way a scientifically fruitful argument.

Robert O’Brien said:

Dale Husband said: If common descent is not true, how do you explain things like “genetic commonality, endogenous retroviruses, and “nested hierarchies.”” Inquiring minds want to know! LOL!!!

Genetic commonality is easy: same designer.

It’s funny that Robert opposes YEC and fails to apply the same arguments to a position of ID which is far less ‘scientific’ than YEC since YEC makes scientific claims which are just plain wrong, ID fails to make any positive predictions.

I already came to that conclusion, you have failed to educate yourself :-)

Robert O’Brien said:

I don’t teach remedial students, sorry.

Like most Creationist trolls, O’Brain runs away whenever he is refuted by simple logic. Some progress! The entertainment he provides only goes so far before it gets tedious. Please ban him!

Flush.… Clean up cycle commencing Flush.… Clean up cycle completed

Stay on topic please

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on August 24, 2008 8:39 PM.

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