Brief Freshwater Update

| 102 Comments

The hearing is scheduled to resume May 7. In the meantime, there’s a very good opinion piece in the Mansfield, Ohio, NewsJournal. Comment here or there as the spirit moves you.

102 Comments

Has the DI broken its silence on this case yet? If the DI is serious about not wanting “creationism” taught, one would expect some sort of disapproval of Freshwater’s actions, even if smothererd by defense of his keeping his job.

As far as I know the DiscoTute has been competely silent on this one.

And why would anyone ever believe that ID/creationism is anything but religion?

Why does it almost always correlate with religious sentiments being expresses, such as in this case? More importantly, why did the IDiots bother to tell us (in the Wedge Document and elsewhere) that “material science” gives us (meaningful, rather than magical) evolution, and that religious underpinnings give us “another science”?

They’re fairly wrong about that, since religion can often go along with good “material” science. Which means, of course, that it’s not only religious, it’s even more narrowly religious, even more narrowly Christian, than are those terms by themselves.

Glen D

http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

Of course, it should have been:

religious sentiments being expressed

Previewed, but didn’t do a very good job, obviously.

Glen D

http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

The situation in Mount Vernon went on for decades before it came to light, after a couple became concerned about cross-shaped burn marks left on their son’s arm by Freshwater’s Tesla coil demonstration. New instances of preaching in classrooms crop up all the time. How many other teachers are out there, injecting religion into instruction? It’s impossible to say…

Please take note all those who insist that the courts will take care of it. There aren’t enough courts in the universe, and no one is going to bring the cases anyway. Like it or not, you can’t equate science education with atheism and expect a good outcome. The political outcome is obvious. If we can achieve a general understanding that science has nothing to say about the validity of religion, and that science education is religiously neutral, then this whole problem will evaporate away and we’ll all have to find other hobbies. Call it framing, or just common sense, but we can’t allow militant atheists who are confused about what they can, and can not, measure be the unchallenged spokesmen for the scientific community.

Glancing at the comments on the article, I see that someone was trying the old “evolution violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics” argument again. Sigh.… Doesn’t AiG keep its “Arguments we think creationists shouldn’t use” page up to date??????

Mike said: [snip] Call it framing, or just common sense, but we can’t allow militant atheists who are confused about what they can, and can not, measure be the unchallenged spokesmen for the scientific community.

The problem with militant atheist scientists is that they almost have to advocate for three valid agendas (a “valid” agenda isn’t necessarily right, but acceptable to fight for in a liberal country such as the U.S.) simultaneously:

  1. Separation of Church and state, making sure that atheist civil rights aren’t infringed;
  2. Logical critiques of religious ideas, i.e. anti-apologetics;
  3. Defense of science (and science education) from pseudoscience.

Unfortunately, it’d be unreasonable in a free country to put #1 and #2 back in the bottle for the sake #3, though it’d be politically expedient. Also, I guess that #1: “my civil rights”, is more important than #3, which mainly concerns other people’s civil rights. And it’s hard to do #1 without #2. Most arguments go like this: “you’re religious practices offend me and infringe on my civil liberties.” C.f. Freshwater’s Bible on his desk.

Mike said:

Call it framing, or just common sense, but we can’t allow militant atheists who are confused about what they can, and can not, measure be the unchallenged spokesmen for the scientific community.

GuyeFaux said:

The problem with militant atheist scientists (snip)

I am a scientist and I also consider myself a militant atheist. I keep the two separate very easily by also being a strong advocate for the “science has nothing to say about the validity of religion” position in defense of science. As for atheism, I can defend that position without invoking science at all. I am not familiar with other religions, but christianity has enough inherent flaws to fall on its own. I find it easy enough to stick to science in defending science.

IMHO, yours is the only reasonable position to take. It’s a pity that other, more prominent, militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers have lost sight of this important distinction:

KP said:

Mike said:

Call it framing, or just common sense, but we can’t allow militant atheists who are confused about what they can, and can not, measure be the unchallenged spokesmen for the scientific community.

GuyeFaux said:

The problem with militant atheist scientists (snip)

I am a scientist and I also consider myself a militant atheist. I keep the two separate very easily by also being a strong advocate for the “science has nothing to say about the validity of religion” position in defense of science. As for atheism, I can defend that position without invoking science at all. I am not familiar with other religions, but christianity has enough inherent flaws to fall on its own. I find it easy enough to stick to science in defending science.

KP said:

I am a scientist and I also consider myself a militant atheist. I keep the two separate very easily by also being a strong advocate for the “science has nothing to say about the validity of religion” position in defense of science. As for atheism, I can defend that position without invoking science at all. I am not familiar with other religions, but christianity has enough inherent flaws to fall on its own. I find it easy enough to stick to science in defending science.

Sure, I can see that it’d be easy for you to defend science in a non-atheistic way. But I find it harder to believe that you can defend atheism in a non-scientific way (not to say that such defenses doesn’t exist). In a protracted argument one eventually gets hit with “but there’s no explanation for X without God(s)”. X can be morality, apparent design of organisms, human spirituality, whatever. And even if one does somehow bend over backwards to avoid mentioning the relevant science, ones gets labeled a militant atheist (ad hominem) anyway when you do defend science. So politically you’ll get the same objections.

KP said: I keep the two separate very easily by also being a strong advocate for the “science has nothing to say about the validity of religion” position in defense of science. As for atheism, I can defend that position without invoking science at all.

That’s fantastic. You’re in the company of Carl Sagan and Jacob Bronowski, two atheist popularizers of science who didn’t find it necessary to frame science education as an attack on religion.

…also: though your restraint in mixing your agendas as a militant atheist scientist is admirable, what if you are confronted by a fellow scientist who happens to be religious who does mix them? And what if you find his/her religious arguments, particularly as they tie into science, deeply objectionable? Since you’re a militant atheist, defending your own civil liberties ought to (or at least might) take precedence over your pro-science agenda, no?

Mike said: If we can achieve a general understanding that science has nothing to say about the validity of religion, and that science education is religiously neutral, then this whole problem will evaporate away

I fear that achievement is impossible.

Religious revelation (regardless of whether it comes from the divine or from your own brain) can be about the empirical world.

Therefore religious beliefs can concern the empirical world, which means they can conflict with science. This is not “religion conflicts with science” but rather “some specific religious beliefs may conflict with some specific scientific conclusions.”

The important thing for kids to learn is that science has rules of evidence that religions don’t. One such rule is that revelation is not evidence. Science adopts this rule for the very practical reason that revelation is not open to confirmation or reproducibility by other scientists. Once they understand this, hopefully they will understand that the observation ‘starting off with different rules will lead to different conculsions’ does not imply that only one set of rules has value.

Glen Davidson Wrote:

And why would anyone ever believe that ID/creationism is anything but religion?

As you probably noticed, the DI hasn’t even been trying to pretend otherwise lately. But they still don’t want YEC or OEC taught - and risk having students critically analyse them. It wouldn’t surprise me if most DI fellows secretly hope that Freshwater loses his job, and that it sends a message to other teacher to be more stealthy.

GuyeFaux said:

But I find it harder to believe that you can defend atheism in a non-scientific way (not to say that such defenses doesn’t exist). In a protracted argument one eventually gets hit with “but there’s no explanation for X without God(s)”. X can be morality, apparent design of organisms, human spirituality, whatever. And even if one does somehow bend over backwards to avoid mentioning the relevant science, ones gets labeled a militant atheist (ad hominem) anyway when you do defend science. So politically you’ll get the same objections.

Well, when fundamentalists have left comments here, I confront them with inherent problems with literal biblical interpretations (one needs look no further than the first few pages of Genesis to find a few). The questions I ask usually go unanswered. There is a whole bible full of defenses for atheism. Even with something like morality, I can point to some of the Lord’s behavior in the Old Testament and argue that I want no part of that sort of morality.

I should say, along those lines, however, that when militant anti-science fundamentalists spout off usually repeating some tired old creationist arguments, I have no problem blasting them for blasting science, but again that is just defending science with science.

GuyeFaux said:

…what if you are confronted by a fellow scientist who happens to be religious who does mix them? And what if you find his/her religious arguments, particularly as they tie into science, deeply objectionable?

I can’t think of any scientist who has a firm grasp on the science who can’t see where the boundaries of science and religion are. Usually the mix comes from people with some background in science who try to use science to prove a literal interpretation of the bible and we fall back to the inherent problems of the bible thing (see above).

Otherwise, I have no trouble with people using God, Allah, the Buddha, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster for their spiritual needs as long as they don’t try to tell me that the bible is historical and scientific fact. I suppose that’s not very “militant” of me, but I can live and let live whenever people treat me the same way.

KP said:

Glancing at the comments on the article, I see that someone was trying the old “evolution violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics” argument again. Sigh.… Doesn’t AiG keep its “Arguments we think creationists shouldn’t use” page up to date??????

Here is a link to Ruminations on Entropy by a David Cavanaugh. It is a masterpiece in obfuscation if one can bring oneself to plow through it.

It starts out like it might be promising; the guy at first seems to dimly grasp the concept of entropy. But as he progresses, he manages to link entropy to spatial order, information, and complexity and then completely tangles up concepts that have nothing to do with each other.

Then he tosses in Genetic Entropy out of nowhere, adds the “Quantum complexity barrier” and a “force due to ‘entropy’”.

And to add to the mix, he wants 14 new laws of thermodynamics to make thermodynamics agree with sectarian dogma because, apparently, the current ones seem to conflict with intelligent design.

This site was apparently updated in February of 1999. The links there also provide the larger context in which these contortions of thermodynamics are being constructed.

The reason I find this interesting (even though I constantly want to vomit as I read it) is that it is a pretty detailed look at how ID/Creationists agonize over changing the concepts of science by bending them to fit sectarian beliefs. I have watch this process take place in real time with some creationists I have known, but usually it isn’t written down.

In this case, you can see the process of gradually stretching the meanings of words and conflating concepts to get what they want. After the process is complete in their minds, then they go out and tell the public that scientists don’t understand science.

The update was about 10 years ago, but we know from the arguments we see by rubes and on current websites, that they are still pushing this junk. Apparently they think by now it is established science. So the propaganda campaigns since the 1970s has been effective in establishing some rather stable pseudo-science memes in the public discourse about these issues. And this makes teachers like Freshwater believe they are really teaching legitimate science.

KP Wrote:

As for atheism, I can defend that position without invoking science at all.

You just have to invoke “Darwinism”, which we all know is not science like ID. ;-)

Sorry, it’s a sick joke, but I couldn’t resist.

KP said: [among other things the following, though I cut out a lot:]

Well, when fundamentalists have left comments here, I confront them with inherent problems with literal biblical interpretations (one needs look no further than the first few pages of Genesis to find a few). The questions I ask usually go unanswered. There is a whole bible full of defenses for atheism. Even with something like morality, I can point to some of the Lord’s behavior in the Old Testament and argue that I want no part of that sort of morality.

GuyeFaux said:

…what if you are confronted by a fellow scientist who happens to be religious who does mix them? And what if you find his/her religious arguments, particularly as they tie into science, deeply objectionable?

I can’t think of any scientist who has a firm grasp on the science who can’t see where the boundaries of science and religion are.

Many noted religious scientists have published books on their religion, which beliefs were bolstered by their understanding of science. Though, as you say, if they’re serious about the science these apologetics do not attack science. But they offend your religious sensibilities, since you’re a militant atheist. After all, as you say, there are plenty of arguments for atheism in the Bible. Therefore, to advance your twin agendas of critique of religion and advancing atheist civil liberties, surely you will not refrain from attacking these religious scientists?

Obviously if you think that advancing science and science education is more important than atheism advocacy, you will check your religious critiques. But would you expect more militant atheists to do so?

If we can achieve a general understanding that science has nothing to say about the validity of religion, and that science education is religiously neutral, then this whole problem will evaporate away…

For too many deeply religious people, such an understanding is impossible: their religion means everything to them, everything has to be about their religion, and their religion has to be about everything. Any thought, idea or reasoning not explicitly connected to their religion, be it big or small, is simply intolerable to them. If it’s not about their God, it’s about the Devil. There’s nothing in between or separate, no second dimension in their scale of measurement.

GuyeFaux said:

Many noted religious scientists have published books on their religion, which beliefs were bolstered by their understanding of science.

I haven’t read any of these, though I’ve been curious to check out Ken Miller’s “Finding Darwin’s God.” With Miller as an example, he gets the science right, so I really don’t care if getting the science right reinforces his belief in god.

I guess in that light, it doesn’t “offend my religious sensibilities,” but Miller certainly doesn’t proselytize or try to insist on the historical and scientific inerrancy of the Bible.

Maybe that means I should have my “militant” card taken away and I guess I can live with that. My “militancy” would more accurately be described as a strong negative reaction to the American equivalent of the Taliban – an intellectually destructive fundamentalist minority – that tries to rewrite science and history in literal biblical terms.

Obviously if you think that advancing science and science education is more important than atheism advocacy, you will check your religious critiques. But would you expect more militant atheists to do so?

That’s a very good question and I can’t honestly answer it without some more thought.

John Kwok said: IMHO, yours [KP’s] is the only reasonable position to take.

Why do you think so, considering that other atheists would reasonably consider 1) atheist civil rights and 2) religious discourse to be at least as important as 3) science education and advocacy?

And in general I continue to be surprised by your continued surprise at PZ. Not referring to your getting banned (which was kind of tragic), but your surprise at his bashing of Dr. Miller, in light of his stated priorities. The Pharyngula is self described as “Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal”. Clearly PZ takes the “godless”, the “liberal”, and hi s ideological opponents’ caricature of him seriously.

GuyeFaux said:

Why do you think so, considering that other atheists would reasonably consider 1) atheist civil rights and 2) religious discourse to be at least as important as 3) science education and advocacy?

I won’t claim to speak for all atheists, but regarding #2, I personally don’t think about religious discourse much. I usually only have it when some fundamentalist claims that the Bible is absolute truth. The “discourse” usually ends when they can’t answer for some biblical canard I’ve pointed out.

Regarding #1, I don’t think there’s a lot of public discrimination against atheists because how do you tell if someone is an atheist? Atheists aren’t forbidden from the lunch counter or forced to use separate drinking fountains. I’m sure there are fundamentalists who would impose such things and worse on atheists if they could, but spotting atheism is not as easy as spotting dark skin or homosexuality.

One final example, about 4-5 miles south of my house is a large foothill on top of which the local evangelicals have erected a giant lighted cross. At night it is visible for miles – almost as far as the horizon allows. Now I could argue that having to look at it violates my right to a crucifiction-free landscape (and I do find it offensive), but even if I went to court and won, what would I really gain? I’d like to think that atheists choose their battles more carefully than that. Rather than get all worked up about it, I use it as an opportunity to illustrate one of the things I find peculiar about christianity: that they use an execution device as their most hallowed icon, the modern equivalent of which would be putting an electric chair on the hillside or steeple of every church. Grim. (N.b., I’m aware that the Mormons are with me on this one)

Of course Professors Myers and Dawkins have every right to advocate atheism, and also to defend good science. The difficulty of doing both is a purely tactical one, and has nothing to do with their rights or the rightness of their position in either case.

That tactical difficulty is that the first of these pursuits has negative impact on their effectiveness in doing the second. Most Americans are deists whose rejection of atheism is less intellectual than visceral. It is they who must remain convinced that only good science should be taught in science classrooms. Associating atheism with that position is only going to undermine it in their minds, which is exactly what fundamentalist loons want to happen.

Such undermining is unreasonable, certainly. Science does not imply atheism. The Theory of Evolution does not imply atheism. Nevertheless, associating them is bad tactics that could lead to disaster. And Professors Myers and Dawkins are having that effect.

I think there are two very different flavors of atheism being mixed together here. The first is the formal dictionary notion of the philosophical position that no gods exist within any meaningful concept of what it is to “exist”.

But the flavor we’re always fighting here is, that atheism is the omission of the fundamentalist’s personal god from playing the critical unavoidable primary role He MUST be accorded. Those practicing this omission are “creationists’ atheists”. Where doctrine is regarded as unambiguous, where it flat out says “our god DID this and that, and here’s HOW he did it, and here’s exactly what it looked like” then you either accept this at face value, or you ARE an atheist. You cannot be neutral. The creationists’ atheist is anyone who does not START by presuming the literal historical accuracy of specific accounts of specific fables, and work from there.

KP said:

GuyeFaux said:

Why do you think so, considering that other atheists would reasonably consider 1) atheist civil rights and 2) religious discourse to be at least as important as 3) science education and advocacy?

I won’t claim to speak for all atheists, but regarding #2, I personally don’t think about religious discourse much. I usually only have it when some fundamentalist claims that the Bible is absolute truth. The “discourse” usually ends when they can’t answer for some biblical canard I’ve pointed out.

Regarding #1, I don’t think there’s a lot of public discrimination against atheists because how do you tell if someone is an atheist? Atheists aren’t forbidden from the lunch counter or forced to use separate drinking fountains. I’m sure there are fundamentalists who would impose such things and worse on atheists if they could, but spotting atheism is not as easy as spotting dark skin or homosexuality.

[really funny example, a lit up execution device on a hill…]

Out of curiosity, why do you think spotting homosexuality is easier than spotting atheism? I mean homosexuals other than Republican elected officials with rabid-anti-gay agendas? (J.k., on the second part, though I’m curious about your purported gaydar, particularly when the area homosexuals are not allowed to have a civil marriage).

Regarding public discrimination against atheists, consider (off the top of my head) 1) the students in Freshwater’s class (the religious discrimination to me seems far more egregious than the bad science education. He only taught bad science when evolution came up: he discriminated all the time), 2) candidates for public office (at best it’s a non-issue, but generally a deal-breaker), 3) the tax-exempt status of religious organizations (atheists get taxed in effect for something they derive no benefit from), and 4) your pick of some of the idiot fundamentalists who frequent PT, blaming atheism for everything from Communism to teenage pregnancy.

IMHO atheists are somewhere between homosexuals and women w.r.t. discrimination. So yeah, it’s not as bad as having to use a separate drinking fountain, but it’s still kind of annoying. So it’s definitely not a non-issue, particularly if you have to deal bigots frequently (e.g. when they think they can teach you a thing or two about Creation.)

So while I agree with Dave Luckett, that pressing this agenda is tactically poor w.r.t. the important goal of improving science education and public understanding of science, you can’t reasonably expect militant atheists to not press this agenda.

GuyeFaux said:

So while I agree with Dave Luckett, that pressing this agenda is tactically poor w.r.t. the important goal of improving science education and public understanding of science, you can’t reasonably expect militant atheists to not press this agenda.

I would agree, if it were not for the unfortunate fact that both of the gentlemen in question have a professional duty to publicly advocate for science and science education. They have a right, in addition, to advocate for atheism (or any other position). If it can be shown that their promotion of atheism detracts from their effectiveness as science educators (and I think it can be so shown) then they need to reassess their priorities. Nobody - well, at least not I - would argue with their rights. Their rights are not in question. But I do question their committment to the public advocacy for science which is part and parcel of their profession, as opposed to their committment to what is essentially a private cause.

Dave Luckett said:

Such undermining is unreasonable, certainly. Science does not imply atheism. The Theory of Evolution does not imply atheism. Nevertheless, associating them is bad tactics that could lead to disaster. And Professors Myers and Dawkins are having that effect.

What’s the “that effect” being referred to? Bad tactics leading to “disaster”? Or arguing that science implies atheism? If the former, have you any data supporting that claim?

I regret not making my meaning sufficiently clear.

I believe that if the same high-profile scientists advocate for both atheism and science education in public, it is likely that these two separate advocacies will become conflated in the public mind, notwithstanding the fact that they are quite distinct. That is, the general public - or a significant proportion of it - will come to associate science and/or science education with atheism.

I believe that from the point of view of science education, (which is a professional responsibility of scientists in general and the two professors mentioned in particular) such an association would be strongly counterproductive - a tactical error. In the US at least, it would have serious effects, given that a strong majority of the US population are convinced and practising deists of various types.

As for evidence, I wonder what would suffice? Such a general association hasn’t happened yet, so it’s hypothetical, although it appears to me to be a reasonable possibility. I know that the whackaloons out on the creationist fringe would be delighted if a majority were to conflate science education with learning atheism. They’ve been pushing that line for decades, and (so far) haven’t gotten far with it. But the two gentlemen mentioned are providing them with at least some ammunition, and I can’t think that this is helping science education.

So, Mike, let me get this straight:

A religious fanatic, in addition to using a government job to proseletyze to a captive audience in flagrant violation of the law, BRANDS A MINOR CHILD WITH THE SYMBOL OF HIS CULT!.

You, in your infinite wisdom, blame “militant atheists” for this.

In your desperate search for ammunition against nonbelievers, you excuse CHILD ABUSE!

And you can’t see how batshit insane you’re acting?

What color is the sky on your planet?

Mike said:

The situation in Mount Vernon went on for decades before it came to light, after a couple became concerned about cross-shaped burn marks left on their son’s arm by Freshwater’s Tesla coil demonstration. New instances of preaching in classrooms crop up all the time. How many other teachers are out there, injecting religion into instruction? It’s impossible to say…

Please take note all those who insist that the courts will take care of it. There aren’t enough courts in the universe, and no one is going to bring the cases anyway. Like it or not, you can’t equate science education with atheism and expect a good outcome. The political outcome is obvious. If we can achieve a general understanding that science has nothing to say about the validity of religion, and that science education is religiously neutral, then this whole problem will evaporate away and we’ll all have to find other hobbies. Call it framing, or just common sense, but we can’t allow militant atheists who are confused about what they can, and can not, measure be the unchallenged spokesmen for the scientific community.

More bullshit, Mike

Mike said:

KP said: I keep the two separate very easily by also being a strong advocate for the “science has nothing to say about the validity of religion” position in defense of science. As for atheism, I can defend that position without invoking science at all.

That’s fantastic. You’re in the company of Carl Sagan and Jacob Bronowski, two atheist popularizers of science who didn’t find it necessary to frame science education as an attack on religion.

Who is “framing science education as an attack on religion”? I’ll tell you who: the creationists. They’re the ones who can’t bear to have children learn about real things in the real world, so they have to steal tax money and convert the schools into indoctrination centers for their cult. They are liars and criminals. Why do you defend them?

The only religion that can’t survive being on the same planet with science is the kind of psychotic religion that denies reality and declares learning a mortal sin. This is the religion of the creationists. This kind of demented cult can no more tolerate the existence of Carl Sagan than that of Richard Dawkins. They can’t stand the very idea that any part of the universe can be understood by any means other than their mythology. In their faith, science itself is anathema.

Flint,

Thanks for taking the time to correspond with me on this topic. My hunch is that our disagreement on natural/supernatural equivalency leads to semantic problems that make us talk past each other somewhat. For what it’s worth, you’ve made me think harder, always a good thing.

During our exchange I’ve been addressing theistic science as you have described it, or at least as I have interpreted your description of it. I read nothing in SWT’s comment to indicate agreement with your description, so your following comment rankled a little.

“But maybe you are far more qualified than I to respond to Dean’s conjecture that your religous faith hobbles your scientific understanding. Or that you are multiplying entities unnecessarily.”

Occam’s Razor is double sided. The deist says that the ultimate cause of the Universe, at least, is Something (and, yes, often goes further to aver that this ultimate cause operates at every level through the action of physical law, and makes various statements as to the supposed attributes of that cause). The atheist says that there is no ultimate cause, no Something. Both are hypotheses, confronting an unknown: we do not know if the Universe has an ultimate cause. We do know that events have proximate causes, and indirect causes, and causes far-removed, in a cascading hierarchy. We do know that causes and effects bootstrap each other; are mutually emergent. But ultimate? No knowledge.

Both hypotheses have one assumption (or two, if you want to be picky, the first being that we could ever know). Arguments over which is more likely can be indulged in, but are not conclusive, on two levels: one, we have no agreed means of assessing the probability of either; two, the best we might derive from this is a statement of probability based on admittedly incomplete data. We are left with deciding between hypotheses with equal numbers of assumptions. Occam’s Razor is of no use to us.

We don’t know.

Dave Luckett said:

We are left with deciding between hypotheses with equal numbers of assumptions. Occam’s Razor is of no use to us.

We don’t know.

At least we seem to know that belief or non-belief in deities doesn’t necessarily have any correlation with the ability to do good science. Good scientists come from all sorts of religious and non-religious backgrounds.

However, there does seem to be evidence that certain beliefs in deities actually stultify scientific ability as exemplified by the ID/creationists’ inability to do research. And we seem to know the reason for that; their beliefs determine their scientific misconceptions, none of which have any purchase in the real universe.

The key seems to be that whatever role the belief in deities has in the lives of individual believers, that it not interfere with their honest engagement with reality.

Dean:

I read nothing in SWT’s comment to indicate agreement with your description, so your following comment rankled a little.

My sincere apologies. I’m not a theistic OR atheistic scientist. I’m an ignoramus. I know you suggested that theists might suffer conceptual burdens in the performance of good science. He seems to be a theistic scientist - I’m sure he’s got more insight than I do into this.

And for all I know, I may be completely misinterpreting what I’ve been told by some theists. As I think we’ve established, these are not easy things to discuss, because of the number and importance of the underlying assumptions we do not share.

Dave:

We are left with deciding between hypotheses with equal numbers of assumptions. Occam’s Razor is of no use to us. We don’t know.

Yes, I agree. when the unknowable is brought in as an assumption, we can’t know whether that assumption adds, subtracts, or leaves unchanged the entities involved.

Mike Elzinga:

You are changing the subject on purely practical grounds! Shame on you. I think we all agree that trying to harness science to false foregone conclusions not to be questioned, is like nailing water to a tree. Why bother to investigate reality if you already know reality is wrong? Which is why few creationists bother with science, and those few pervert it beyond recognition?

Flint,

You are right, I said that theists are burdened in the performance of good science. Actually, my first comment was quite a bit stronger than that. I just had a knee-jerk reaction to the use of the word “hobbles” on my behalf.

There’s no question that having been an atheist pretty much my entire adult life hinders me in trying to understand the theistic mind.

Flint said:

You are changing the subject on purely practical grounds! Shame on you. I think we all agree that trying to harness science to false foregone conclusions not to be questioned, is like nailing water to a tree. Why bother to investigate reality if you already know reality is wrong? Which is why few creationists bother with science, and those few pervert it beyond recognition?

I wasn’t intending to change the subject, and I hope I didn’t offend. Perhaps I didn’t understand the exchange taking place here. I, too, consider myself an ignoramus of sorts.

But I have worked with colleagues from a number of different religions, including Buddhists and Hindus. As I understand their attitudes, they are genuinely inquisitive about the universe. They seem simply happy to attribute whatever they learn about the universe to providing a deeper understanding of their deity or deities. As I understand it, they are not in the business of questioning the judgments of their gods, why things are as they are; just understanding the universe and these deities better. They are fully aware of living in a real world and sharing reality with others.

As far as I and my non-religious colleagues were concerned, it’s all about understanding the universe. Whatever deities may or may not be behind it has no particular relevance to the work and the results.

I personally don’t have any particular problem with either view. It’s the dishonest ones who are sure their deity is dictating what must be, despite the fact that the evidence shows otherwise, who are the problem. These are the ones who manage to always get things wrong.

Mike Elzinga said:

At least we seem to know that belief or non-belief in deities doesn’t necessarily have any correlation with the ability to do good science. Good scientists come from all sorts of religious and non-religious backgrounds.

My point exactly.

Mike Elzinga said: At least we seem to know that belief or non-belief in deities doesn’t necessarily have any correlation with the ability to do good science. Good scientists come from all sorts of religious and non-religious backgrounds.

However, there does seem to be evidence that certain beliefs in deities actually stultify scientific ability as exemplified by the ID/creationists’ inability to do research.

To me, that is the crux of the matter. Its incorrect to say religious belief in general compromises one’s ability to do good science. Religious belief is too broad and too varied for that argument to have any real meaning. Even worse for the hardcore atheist, empirically it just doesn’t seem to be true! Some religious beliefs do compromise one’s ability to do good science. But the flip side of that observation is, some religious beliefs don’t.

eric, Mike Elzinga, and Dave Luckett,

Thanks for your exceptional dialogue here:

eric said:

Mike Elzinga said: At least we seem to know that belief or non-belief in deities doesn’t necessarily have any correlation with the ability to do good science. Good scientists come from all sorts of religious and non-religious backgrounds.

However, there does seem to be evidence that certain beliefs in deities actually stultify scientific ability as exemplified by the ID/creationists’ inability to do research.

To me, that is the crux of the matter. Its incorrect to say religious belief in general compromises one’s ability to do good science. Religious belief is too broad and too varied for that argument to have any real meaning. Even worse for the hardcore atheist, empirically it just doesn’t seem to be true! Some religious beliefs do compromise one’s ability to do good science. But the flip side of that observation is, some religious beliefs don’t.

I am perplexed by militant atheists who seem as committed to their zealous promotion of their “faith” as those who are Fundamentalist Christians, Jews and Muslims.

Appreciatively yours,

John

Mike Elzinga:

At least we seem to know that belief or non-belief in deities doesn’t necessarily have any correlation with the ability to do good science. Good scientists come from all sorts of religious and non-religious backgrounds.

However, there does seem to be evidence that certain beliefs in deities actually stultify scientific ability as exemplified by the ID/creationists’ inability to do research.

eric:

To me, that is the crux of the matter. Its incorrect to say religious belief in general compromises one’s ability to do good science. Religious belief is too broad and too varied for that argument to have any real meaning. Even worse for the hardcore atheist, empirically it just doesn’t seem to be true! Some religious beliefs do compromise one’s ability to do good science. But the flip side of that observation is, some religious beliefs don’t.

So, depending on the individual, religious belief may or may not be a hindrance to one’s ability to do good science. I can’t argue with that.

Dean Wentworth said:

Mike Elzinga:

At least we seem to know that belief or non-belief in deities doesn’t necessarily have any correlation with the ability to do good science. Good scientists come from all sorts of religious and non-religious backgrounds.

However, there does seem to be evidence that certain beliefs in deities actually stultify scientific ability as exemplified by the ID/creationists’ inability to do research.

eric:

To me, that is the crux of the matter. Its incorrect to say religious belief in general compromises one’s ability to do good science. Religious belief is too broad and too varied for that argument to have any real meaning. Even worse for the hardcore atheist, empirically it just doesn’t seem to be true! Some religious beliefs do compromise one’s ability to do good science. But the flip side of that observation is, some religious beliefs don’t.

So, depending on the individual, religious belief may or may not be a hindrance to one’s ability to do good science. I can’t argue with that.

Neither can I!

SWT said:

Dean Wentworth said:

Mike Elzinga:

At least we seem to know that belief or non-belief in deities doesn’t necessarily have any correlation with the ability to do good science. Good scientists come from all sorts of religious and non-religious backgrounds.

However, there does seem to be evidence that certain beliefs in deities actually stultify scientific ability as exemplified by the ID/creationists’ inability to do research.

eric:

To me, that is the crux of the matter. Its incorrect to say religious belief in general compromises one’s ability to do good science. Religious belief is too broad and too varied for that argument to have any real meaning. Even worse for the hardcore atheist, empirically it just doesn’t seem to be true! Some religious beliefs do compromise one’s ability to do good science. But the flip side of that observation is, some religious beliefs don’t.

So, depending on the individual, religious belief may or may not be a hindrance to one’s ability to do good science. I can’t argue with that.

Neither can I!

If my comment seemed a little flippant, it wasn’t my intent. Nor was it my intent to belittle the discussion among SWT, Flint, and Dean Wentworth.

My impression about whether or not belief or non-belief in deities has any particular correlation to scientific ability (if my admittedly brief conversations with people from other religions are any indication) comes down to not so much the belief or non-belief itself, but rather whether the belief or non-belief is psychologically or emotionally threatening to the individual.

I suspect that most of these people have essentially come to the conclusion that they are as qualified as anyone else on this planet to make these determinations about deities for themselves.

If people can’t get objective reality correct, there is no reason to believe anything they tell you about deities is correct either. And looking at thousands of years of bloody warfare among thousands of mutually suspicious sects simply confirms that these sources are not reliable.

So why not leave the question about deities up to oneself? If there is any deity that has any stake in the matter, surely he/she/it would understand what humans, with their finite, contingent lifetimes, are up against.

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