Generals who don’t know the nature of war

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Once again the issue of whether science and religion are ‘compatible’ has arisen in the science blogosphere. Jerry Coyne, seconded by PZ Myers, Russell Blackford, and Larry Moran among others, has written a critique of the “accommodationist” position taken by the National Center for Science Education, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Coyne characterizes those organizations’ positions as meaning that NCSE “cuddles up to [religion], kisses it, and tells it that everything will be all right.” John Wilkins, who AFAIK does not second Coyne’s motion, even has a multiple-choice question on the issue going. This post grew out of a comment I made there.

I think Coyne has made a surprisingly confused argument against a straw man, and I’ll outline why below.

First, let me make a couple of disclaimers. Recall the Panda’s Thumb policy regarding contributors (which is currently not visible for some reason). Basically, posts on Panda’s Thumb are the views of the post authors and not of some corporate “Panda’s Thumb.” We all differ on one or more issues, and we argue about them publicly and privately, sometimes with great vigor. This is one of those issues. What I post is from me, not other PT authors.

Second, I am an atheist. On the late (and by some, lamented) Internet Infidels Discussion Board where I was an administrator, my sig said I was 6.5 on the Dawkins scale on which Dawkins himself laid claim only to a 6. (I’m now consigliere to the administrators of The Secular Cafe.)

With that out of the way, I’ll first describe one plain fact: people exist who are both religious (Christian) believers and competent, even distinguished, scientists, in the sense of actually doing standard science in a context like a secular university or industrial laboratory and publishing in the peer reviewed scientific literature. Those people (excluding the presuppositionalists of the AIG, ICR, and Disco ‘Tute sort) do not in their scientific work invoke supernatural entities as causal or explanatory variables. If one reads their scientific papers one finds that they address genuine scientific issues without reference to angels, demons, gods, or intelligent designers. Their papers in Nature and Science and Cell are indistinguishable from the papers of scientists who are not religious believers. So it follows that individual scientists can make some sort of accommodation with their religious beliefs that does not impact their science. It is quite obviously the case that one can be both a religious person and a working and productive scientist: they exist and in at least some cases (Kenneth Miller, Francisco Ayala) flourish in a scientific environment.

The question is what Coyne is arguing against, and there he’s confused. Reading his post one actually sees that he’s making a false claim. Let me illustrate it by a representative quotation:

When a professional organization makes such strong statements about the compatibility of science and faith, and ignores or gives but a polite nod to the opposing view, that organization is endorsing a philosophy.

The “strong statements” are apparently such radical claims as this quoted by Coyne from the NAS:

Acceptance of the evidence for evolution can be compatible with religious faith.

Many [religious denominations] have issued statements observing that evolution and the tenets of their faiths are compatible.

And then Coyne quotes this from NCSE:

In public discussions of evolution and creationism, we are sometimes told that we must choose between belief in creation and acceptance of the theory of evolution, between religion and science. But is this a fair demand? Must I choose only one or the other, or can I both believe in God and accept evolution? Can I both accept what science teaches and engage in religious belief and practice? This is a complex issue, but theologians, clergy, and members of many religious traditions have concluded that the answer is, unequivocally, yes.

Coyne adds

You can’t get much more explicit than this. To those of us who hold contrary views, including the idea that religion is dangerous, this logic sounds like this:

We are sometimes told that we must choose between smoking two packs a day and pursuing a healthy lifestyle. Many cigarette companies, however, hold unequivocally that no such choice is necessary.

How on earth is it a “strong statement … endorsing a philosophy” to make existence claims that are so easily defended? Those denominational statements exist, just as individual scientists who are religious believers exist. Coyne is here tilting at a windmill of his own making. What “opposing view” is there – that those denominational statements and individual scientists don’t exist? Bah. NAS has not taken a “philosophical” position that I can see. (I pressed Francisco Ayala on this a few months ago. He mentioned that Steven Weinberg was on the drafting committee that wrote the statement. Weinberg is not particularly soft on religion.) The NAS statement points out two plain facts: some good scientists are believers and some denominations do not see a conflict between their version of Christianity and evolution. That Coyne believes that religion is dangerous (a sentiment that I largely share: it can be dangerous to self and society to listen to voices inside one’s head or to those whose only claim to authority is a private pipeline to one or another god) is irrelevant, a non sequitur. The question is whether people can both hold some sorts of religious beliefs and do good science, and as I noted above, that is a plain fact, and it is not endorsing a philosophical position to observe that they exist.

Then after a bit of diversionary fluff claiming that he “enormously admires” NCSE and its current leaders, Eugenie Scott and Kevin Padian, Coyne specifically attacks NCSE’s approach. He writes

The pro-religion stance of the NCSE is offensive and unnecessary – a form of misguided pragmatism.

Baloney. Pure unadulterated knee-deep baloney. First, of course, NCSE’s statements are not pro-religion; they are restatements of the facts I noted above: Some good scientists have religious beliefs, and some Christian denominations publicly aver that their theological views and science do not conflict. Now, they may be mistaken – Coyne would say they are – but that does not say anything about the existence of their claim.

So Coyne has constructed a straw man, that NCSE and NAS and AAAS endorse particular religious views, and rants against it. He is in this respect not all that different from Larry Caldwell and his wife, who brought suit against the University of California Museum of Paleontology’s and NCSE’s Understanding Evolution site because it claims, like NCSE, AAAS, and NAS, that science and religion can be compatible, again, a plain statement of fact: those people exist.

I’m one of the foot soldiers in this battle, a sergeant operating in a conservative rural county far from the ethereal heights of the University of Chicago. I’ve been at it (off and on, mostly on for the last 6 years) for more than 20 years. I published my first article on the political nature of the evolution/religion conflict in 1987. I am engaged at the local and state levels, the former on a weekly basis (search this blog on “Freshwater” for local stuff and see here for just one example of State BOE stuff). My political experience goes back to 1968, when I was a big city Democratic party ward officer. I have a hell of a lot better view of what’s pragmatically necessary and what is effective at the level of the local school board and the local church than Coyne can even imagine. Coyne (and Myers and Moran and Dawkins) are not engaged at that level on anything approaching a regular basis. They lead their congregations from high pulpits. They sit above the choir preaching a message that is disconnected from – indeed, sometimes antithetical to – the reality on the ground. They’re the generals who argued against air power, courtmartialed Billy Mitchell, and then watched ships sink at Pearl Harbor. Coyne wants to argue philosophy in a political war. That’s not a tactic, it’s a politically lethal red herring.

I value Coyne’s contributions to science and I like his book a whole lot – I bought it and I use its arguments and information where they’re appropriate. But he’s tactically ignorant and apparently doesn’t know the nature of the battle on the ground. Dueling OpEds in the NYTimes are not the venue in which this war will be won or lost. Political battles are not won by generals; they’re won by foot soldiers on the ground, often in spite of the diversions of the generals. The creationists know that approach; we scientists don’t, by and large. They know it’s a political war. We haven’t done so well at realizing that political wars are won one household, one school board, one church at a time. NCSE knows that, and knows what it takes on the ground. To win those battles we don’t need generals who are ignorant of the nature of the issues on the ground. We need advocates who are not hampered by generals who divert and hamper them with ill-advised philosophical and tactical sermons.

I did a 3-Sunday series of talks on religion, evolution, and morality in a local Protestant church recently. Had I walked in there and opened with “OK, folks, in order to understand and accept evolution as I’ll present it today, you have to deconvert” I’d have lost my (overflow) audience in the first five minutes. That would have robbed me of the opportunity to introduce religious people to the power and breadth of the theory and to describe the misconceptions that the fundamentalist Christians have been feeding children and adults in my community. And that’s a losing strategy, Jerry.

5 TrackBacks

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Let me try again ... from The Panda's Thumb on April 27, 2009 10:24 PM

… with (a little) less snark, fewer red herrings, and the admission of a change of mind in one respect, thanks in part to reading contrary posts here and elsewhere and comments on my previous post. In my original post I wrote Jerry Coyne, seconded by P... Read More

Allow me to recap. Jerry Coyne set a few people on fire with a post arguing that national science organizations have gone to far in blithely conceding the compatibility of science and religion. He strongly suggests that they stick to... Read More

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237 Comments

What you said.

“On the late (and by some, lamented) Internet Infidels Discussion Board …”

Hell yeah, it’s lamented. Back in the day, it was awesome. For awhile it looked like rantsnraves.org would fill the gap, but the trolls took over there. For awhile, there were some great posters there, PZ was there for awhile, Per Ahlberg(!) was there for awhile. Boro Nut was there. :) But the trolls wrecked the place, and everybody worth reading left, for the most part. I feel bad for Matt, the guy that runs the place. He’s a great guy, and the idealistic rules he set up were taken advantage of by the trolls. rantsnraves could have been so much more than a hangout for trolls. Too bad.

Hear, hear, Richard! I have argued against this straw man a few times:

Jerry Coyne’s blog

Russell Blackford’s blog

John Wilkins’ blog

Enough of this, I would now like to see Coyne et al. present their opinion about what the AAAS, NAS, and NCSE are actually stating. I’m all for hearing from the loyal opposition, but this line of argument is just a huge fallacy.

I think you aren’t taking the issue on as directly as I think Coyne and Myers are.

“that science and religion can be compatible, again, a plain statement of fact: those people exist.”

I think one problem that others are pointing out is that in the text, NCSE neglects to point out that these existent people are a minority within the scientific community… and a small one at that. Further, the NCSE neglects to mention that scientists who think the two are incompatible even exist at all!

To make an analogy, this is like saying “being gay and Republican are compatible; it’s a plain statement of fact: those people exist.” Well, they do… but I think you’ve got a thumb on the scale if you are pushing one side of the issue more than the other. And they are.

When the NCSE puts together a document about many different ways to read the Bible:

http://ncseweb.org/religion/how-do-[…]e-count-ways

They’re wading into theology. They’re attempting to persuade people to read their Bible less literally. They’re offering up their interpretation of what the Bible is, what it’s for, how to read it, what the ancients decided it was written for… etc.

Now I’m not going to say that it’s not politically expedient… it may be. And Hess couches his choices of arguments he makes with plenty of attribution and going out of his way to make it seem like he’s presenting nothing but a survey of what others believe without going too far out on a limb asserting any particular thing himself.

But one cannot get around the fact that the NCSE is trying to steer people’s faith, not with science, but with religious opinion. No matter the attribution, or that “these people do exist” Hess chose what arguments he presented. He chose which people to trot out as existing. He did not choose your Dawkinses or your Myerses, to be sure. He also didn’t trot out any believers that think the literalist view is the proper way to read the Bible. He knows exactly what side of Biblical interpretation he wanted to highlight, and it’s the side where the Bible is full of *deeper meanings* than mere literalism.

Now, I may do that as an individual, and indeed I have. I’m an atheist, but I’ve frequently written online with Christians and given as examples people like Ken Miller. Miller can do some great science education, and he is free to go on about how he sees evolution as being part of the glory of God in his books and lectures.

Just as Dawkins can do the opposite, if he so chooses.

But I’m wondering about the NCSE wading into this NOMA territory. Because to say that science and religion are non-overlapping magesteria, one must carefully define religion in such a way that it makes no claims that ever contradict science. I would argue that six-day-creationism IS an overlapping mageteria with science. It proports to explain exactly the same things science does: by what process did life on earth begin, and when?

Now, I have no problem with science saying it’s false. And I have no problem with religious people or religious bodies saying that this isn’t a good way to look at their religion. What’s weird is when a scientific body puts on a clerical collar and makes a *theological* point on how believers should look at their Bibles.

But to go farther, as Hess at the NCSE does, and quote Cardinal Baronius’ “the Bible is intended to teach us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go,” is to begin making a theological argument that religion shouldn’t intrude on describing the physical world.

My problem with NOMA is that it’s essentially a theological redefining of religion down to something that religion may not agree with: a territorial and philosophical limitation. It’s like them saying they know what “proper religion” is, and it’s a religion that knows its place, and never makes a testable or falsifyable claim about the physical world. I’m fine with theologians making that argument. I’m fine with individuals including scientists making that argument. I’m not so fine with scientific bodies or scientific advocate groups making that argument. Because essentially it’s a religious argument.

Now you may think strategically, footsoldiers and all… one needs to make nice-nice with church groups. And that may be the case. I say make those alliances, but leave the theology to them.… link to the Clergy Letter Project, and Darwin Sunday… but let the believers push the theology away from literalism and just stick to the science.

Thoughts?

Good post. I’m sure that this is not the last of it on PT. I see an exchange of posts in the near future.

This whole affair reminds me of when Stephen Hawking met Pope John Paul II. Hawking writes how the Pope informed him that he could study anything that happened after the Big Bang, but nothing before it, for that was the instant of Creation and was God’s domain. Hawking wrote that he was glad the Pope didn’t know that he was working on that at that very moment!

That was an arrogant and fruitless proscription for the Pontiff to make. And Hawking didn’t accede to his request. (Popes reserve the right to limit scientific inquiry in orbital dynamics, cosmology, biomedical research… etc… every few years or so.)

As out of place as it is for Popes to decide what cosmologists should and should not study, similarly it is out of place for science organizations to tell people how to read their bibles. The Pope does not constrain science, nor should science organizations limit religion to its most deistic and non-overlapping forms.

I will admit that compatibilism prefers deism. And as such, I’m sure every science education advocate in the land would prefer a deist church to the ones we nevertheless have. But it is not religion’s job to take marching orders from scientists, nor is it science organizations’ job to tell people to get more deistic lest they get their pet beliefs trampled.

Why doesn’t the NCSE re-form as a Faith and Science organization like Templeton, and bring on a crew of believers who can make faith statements ingenuously?

Siamang said: He also didn’t trot out any believers that think the literalist view is the proper way to read the Bible. He knows exactly what side of Biblical interpretation he wanted to highlight, and it’s the side where the Bible is full of *deeper meanings* than mere literalism.

If he did that, it would almost literally be “preaching to the choir.” Part of the target audience to reach are those that hear anti-evolution sermons every Sunday, might tune into The Christian Network, or were raised by Creationists and just never questioned the Literalist party line. I’m sure another segment simply grew up accepting this science/anti-science religious dichotomy and just never gave much thought to it, especially when comes to what “evolutionists” believe.
People already know that a lot of religious figures have a beef with evolution, and some of those figures make it seem as though “evoltutionists” are atheists, non-believers, Secular-Darwin-Marx-Dawkins-Stalin-Hitlerists or whatever. The entire point of the anti-evolution movement, their whole message, is that evolution is incompatible with religious faith (implied to be the only correct religious faith).

THAT is what’s being addressed by the NCSE here, and I don’t think it’s inappropriate for an organization devoted to the furtherance of science education. In fact, I think it’s highly topical.

What I rambled on too long about, basically, is that the people to whom the NCSE are reaching out already know that there are religious people who reject evolution and scientists who reject religion. It’s basically trying to ensure that people don’t come away with the impression that there are only those two, polar extremes from which to choose.

Reed A. Cartwright said:

Good post. I’m sure that this is not the last of it on PT. I see an exchange of posts in the near future.

:)

“We are sometimes told that we must choose between smoking two packs a day and pursuing a healthy lifestyle. Many cigarette companies, however, hold unequivocally that no such choice is necessary.” — Jerry Coyne.

Coyne’s analogy is correct. Totally inescapable and irreconcilable conflicts exist between evolution and Christianity.

You must rationally choose either one or the other, but it’s NOT rationally possible to choose both at the same time. If you are a rational person at all, you honestly have to choose one or the other. Coyne’s right.

***

For example, evolution clearly denies that humans are created in the image of God. That’s a killer, right there.

“(A) central tenet of Christian theology: Humans were created and designed in the image of God. Darwinism denies this.”

—-Dr. Jonathan Wells, Yale Daily News, Jan. 2007.

“With all deference to the sensibilities of religious people, the idea that man was created in the image of God can surely be put aside.”

“Evolution and the Brain”, Nature science journal, June 2007.

“The image-of-God thesis does NOT just go with any brand of theism. It requires a theism in which God is actively designing man, and the world as a home for man.”

—evolutionist James Rachels, Created From Animals, pp 127-28.

***

Nor is that the only killer incompatibility between evolution and Christianity. Here’s another huge one.

“To the question, ‘Is there a divine purpose for the creation of humans?’ evolution answers no. To the question, ‘Is there a divine purpose for the creation of any living species?’ evolution answers no.

—Monroe Strickberger, Evolution 3rd edition, p. 60.

“Evolutionary theory does NOT admit conscious anticipation of the future, i.e. conscious forethought.”

—Douglas Futuyma, Evolutionary Biology 3rd ed, p. 342.

Of course, this directly and totally denies God’s teleology and conscious forethought which is clearly expressed in both the Old and New Testaments (Genesis 1:26-27, Colossians 1:16, Ephesians 2:10). No way to reconcile that enormous clash.

***

Here’s a classic from evolutionist Jason Rosenhouse’s blog, a profound insight:

“Evolution by natural selection, you see, is an awful process. It is bloody, sadistic, and cruel. It flouts every moral precept we humans hold dear. It recognizes only survival and gene propagation, and even on those rare occasions where you find altruism and non-selfishness you can be certain that blind self-interest is lurking somewhere behind the scenes. All of this suffering, pain and misery, mind you, to reach a foreordained moment when self-aware creature finally appeared.

“What theological purpose was served by all this bloodsport? If humans were inevitable why didn’t God simply fast-forward the tape himself, thereby sparing all of those animals that died horrible deaths in the preceding hundreds of millions of years? Problem of evil, indeed.

“Reconciling evolution and Christianity is not as simple as theistic evolutionists often try to pretend.”

***

And finally, an equally classic, equally powerful insight from the Christian writer Ellen Myers:

“If God consigned his work to destruction and death before Adam (the Bible denies this, Romans 5:12), then what is the meaning of Adam’s ‘fall’?

***

When you look at the facts, evolution is clearly incompatible with Christianity. Theistic evolutionists like Ken Miller, John Haught, and Francis Collins have NO resolution, NO reconciliation, for these giant areas of incompatiblity. Atheistic evolutionists like Richard Hoppe do not have any resolution / reconcilation for these specific issues either.

Nor does Eugenie Scott and the NCSE. Nor do the compromise-clergy and their compromise-churches. No answers for these monster issues.

Coyne is correct. Evolution and Christianity are incompatible. A choice has to be made.

FL

Hi Wheels,

I take your point, and I don’t argue that it’s not a political message that is needed.

But what I would say about it is that personally, I’m a nonbeliever. If I were to attempt to give religious arguments to my neighbor about why he should read the Bible differently in order to square church with his visit to the Grand Canyon, that would be in effect a lie on my part. I don’t care how the heck he reads his Bible, and I could not presume to give him religious instruction, because I do not believe in his religion.

When i have online discussions with Christians about the science of evolution, I DO point out that there are excellent scientists who work with evolution and are Christian believers. I even point people to Ken Miller’s books. But I shrink from telling them the proper way to read their Bible. Because, honestly, I don’t think there IS a “proper” way, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. Sure, for me, I don’t think there’s anything for me in there that I believe. But also, speaking culturally, there’s something about religious texts that are to be approached in many different ways… so “properness” doesn’t enter into it.

Anyway, I don’t tell people how they should read their bibles. I wouldn’t presume to.

If there are people who are believers, and they honestly have a point of view on how to approach Christianity from their spiritual point of view… let them do that from their own organization, and not put the stamp of science on it.

And if you were too rambly in your reply, what the heck was I ??!?! ;-)

Richard B. Hoppe Wrote:

That would have robbed me of the opportunity to introduce religious people to the power and breadth of the theory and to describe the misconceptions that the fundamentalist Christians have been feeding children and adults in my community. And that’s a losing strategy, Jerry.

There you go. Those poor people don’t know that their authorities are making up fake baloney. They don’t know who is full of BS and who isn’t. The problem is ignorance.

FL Wrote:

Coyne is correct. Evolution and Christianity are incompatible. A choice has to be made.

No, a choice doesn’t have to be made even if they are incompatible. Religion can be perfectly, uhhhhhhhhh, “flexible” in according with scientific evidence because religion is made out of thin air and imaginary dialogues with their pretend friend “beings”.

I don’t mind a scientific organization endorsing a philosophical viewpoint. Really, it’s impossible for a scientific organization to NOT endorse a philosophical viewpoint, as the origins of the scientific method are grounded in philosophy, and it has its own philosophy.

Christianity is not hard to resolve with evolution – there are rationalizations one can make to accept them both. Even more importantly, as science only makes claims of the natural world, and does so better than any other philosophy to date, it is a theistic problem, and not a scientific problem, to resolve the conflict between the universe one lives in and the God one believes in. But, given the state of science education, it’s understandable that a scientific organization would start taking a stand on biblical matters, as biblical organizations have started taking a stand on scientific matters. The stand taken by NCSE is so far from a stand, I don’t understand the objection. Specifically, the line opening the last paragraph in “How Do I Read the Bible?” :

“Rather, the Bible can be read as a record of one particular people’s developing moral relationship with the God in whom they placed their trust.”

The keyword is “can”. It’s not a stand in the least. Rather, it’s pointing out what others have said, and stating that one may choose to read the bible in such a way that it does not make claims about the natural world. I don’t know what scientist would object to that – it’s encouraging individuals to stop looking for supernatural explanations to understand natural phenomena.

To me, the battle is not as political as it is philosophical. Attempts at applying the scientific method to metaphysical problems are limited, and in some sense, silly. There are a lot of assumptions one makes in using the scientific method that don’t always apply to all philosophical questions, and recognizing the limits to the scientific method is paramount to understanding it. And without understanding of the scientific method, it seems to me that the scientists would be feeding the flame of indignant Christians who claim that scientists make the same faith-based assumptions as they, only in different directions. (which is also false, but it doesn’t hurt to know what you’re talking about, especially in something as political as this mess of a battle)

Acceptance of the evidence for evolution can be compatible with religious faith. …

Many [religious denominations] have issued statements observing that evolution and the tenets of their faiths are compatible.

I have no problem at all with the second of these statements, taken out of any context. It’s an uncontroversial fact.

But the first statement does not say the same thing. In any event, even if it is strictly true (for example if we interpret “religious faith” widely enough to include deism) it is objectionable. Whether or not the evidence for evolution is compatible with religious faith depends on what propositions it is most rational to accept in order to explain that “evidence”, what propositions are taught by the “religious faith” concerned, and whether, when combined with other plausible propositions, the two sets are logically coherent. If we’re talking about orthodox Abrahamic theology, rather than deism or some other historically unorthodox doctrine, then I want to argue that the two sets of propositions are NOT compatible in that sense.

Sure, lots of scientists disagree with me. We know that. But lots of other scientists agree with me. Even if, at the end of the day, I am wrong (along with Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, and the rest) and people such as Ken Miller are right, the claim that “Acceptance of the evidence for evolution can be compatible with religious faith” is not simply an uncontroversial fact that we all recognise. It’s a highly contentious philosophical conclusion that many philosophers and scientists are going to dispute. The simple fact that we all recognise is the sociological datum that many scientists do agree with the proposition and achieve their own personal accommodation with religion. They may do this, for all I know, by not looking too closely, by adopting an unorthodox theological position, by denying certain commonsense assumptions that help produce the tension, or in other ways. But should that simple sociological datum then be inflated into the claim that these people - and not, say, PZ Myers - are philosophically correct?

Even if you can convince me that it’s politically astute for American organisations to say so, given the special circumstances of American religiosity (which I realise I don’t have to put up with here in Australia), do you really find nothing distasteful at all in this? I suppose, from what you’ve said, that your answer is that you don’t find any of it morally distasteful. Oh well, each to their own …

Jerry Coyne Wrote:

Given that many members of such organizations [e.g., NAS] are atheists, their stance of accommodationism appears to be a pragmatic one.

And this is a problem how? If we can’t count on the NCSE and NAS to be pragamatic, we might as well give up and go home. As Mr. Hoppe wisely points out, ivory tower philosophical purity is not going to win this war. Pragmatism surely seems like a better strategy.

Jerry Coyne Wrote:

…the accommodationist position of the National Academy of Sciences, and especially that of the National Center for Science Education, is a self-defeating tactic, compromising the very science they aspire to defend.

This is the same tired “slippery slope” argument that my fellow Christians try to foist on us. Many Christians insist that taking a non-literalist view of Genesis will result in having to abandon the entire Bible and the entire Christian faith. Likewise, Coyne insists that allowing those with religious faith into the scientific tent will somehow contaminate or damage science. Can anyone out there come up with any examples of how an “accomodationist” position damages or compromises science?

Thanks for this post. As a former high school biology teacher in a very religious, conservative town, I understand the battle on the ground all too well. Too many people are convinced that accepting evolution means accepting atheism. Some of them hear that at church, some of them hear that from prominent scientists. That was also my understanding, until the age of 17. I’d taken Honors Biology and AP Biology, passed the AP test, and still didn’t accept evolution because of religious reasons. But an AP Environmental Science teacher, one of may favorite teachers, and also a man I happened to know was religious, decided he had enough time in the class to discuss evolution. He told us that he accepted evolution, and that it was not a threat to his faith. With this new understanding–that it was possible to both believe in God and accept evolution, I was able to look at the evidence for evolution in an unbiased way–and quickly accept it.

I’m not sure if my efforts as a high school biology teacher led anyone to accept evolution that otherwise wouldn’t have. I do know that, because of my efforts, I now have a number of friends who either accept evolution or who, although they don’t accept evolution, accept that evolution can be compatible with religion. In a country where public acceptance of evolution is as low as it is, that’s a start.

Jesus, Russell, every intellectual position on religion is a highly contentious philosophical issue that many philosophers would dispute. Philosophers are pins in a world full of balloons.

But what philosophers would argue among themselves is irrelevant, no matter what their distaste pro or con any position. They’ll never come to a consensus anyway - or if they did, it’d be the first in three thousand years.

No, it’s what working scientists think about religion, and it’s what the general public thinks about it. If they think that religious faith is compatible with good science, and prove it by having such a faith and doing good science (in the former case) and supporting it (in the latter case), then it is compatible, and you and I and everyone else from P Z Myers and Richard Dawkins on down can put a sock in it. Who are we to tell the people on the ground different? Some sort of Authority? Don’t know about you, but nobody appointed me to be one.

And - here’s the point - why should we tell them that, when we would be merrily pissing in our own well? For I can’t think of a better way of getting the general public of the US off-side with evolution than to tell them you’ve got to be an atheist to accept it.

There is a battle going on over science education and a battle going on over religion. To those fighting the battle over religion, the battle over science education simply rides on its coattails.

To those fighting the battle over science education, the battle over religion is working at cross purposes. The opposition has a totally ridiculous case in the science education battle, so they are only too happy to turn the battle into one over religion – which can be argued endlessly and gives their side a weight in the court of public opinion that it otherwise shouldn’t have.

I’m an apatheist – religions neither particularly interest nor bother me. I don’t even really care if people want to bash religions, the religious can take care of themselves in that battle, ya’ll can feel free to fight. But as far as I’m concerned, the sciences have as much to do with religion as does, say, pro sports, and there’s no logical necessity for the sciences to bother with the matter. If scientists want to attack or embrace religion on their own time, fine, but that’s a private matter.

Early in the US Civil War, Secretary of State Seward had the idea that the USA should start a war with Britain to unify North and South against a common enemy. Mr. Lincoln replied: “One war at a time, Billy.”

MrG http://www.vectorsite.net

Thanks very much for writing that - I think you’re right both about NCSE’s position and about the practial view from the trenches.

Coyne is correct. Evolution and Christianity are incompatible. A choice has to be made.

Well FL, that’s not what Richard Dawkins said the last time he appeared on BBC Radio Ulster. When asked if it was possible for someone to be a Christian and accept evolutionary science, Dawkins unequivocally pointed the listeners in the direction of Ken Miller and Francis Collins, stating that these were well known scientists who had done just that.

Unless of course, Dawkins has since changed his mind since then (a year and a half ago during the flare up in Lisburn Co. Antrim).

Richard B. Hoppe Wrote:

Second, I am an atheist.

I thought you were a polytheist. ;-)

BTW, if you copy your article on Talk.Origins you’ll get at least one nomination for post-of-the-month. TO can use a break from the 2 trolls who have dominated it lately.

FL Wrote:

When you look at the facts, evolution is clearly incompatible with Christianity. Theistic evolutionists like Ken Miller, John Haught, and Francis Collins have NO resolution, NO reconciliation, for these giant areas of incompatiblity. Atheistic evolutionists like Richard Hoppe do not have any resolution / reconcilation for these specific issues either.

Where do you fit Michael Behe into that? His “theory” for the origin of species is as irreconcilable with your “theory” as evolution is. Even his approach to science (discouraging consulting the Bible for evidence) is more like the TE’s (except of course for the standard tactics of crank science) than like yours.

FL said:

Coyne is correct. Evolution and Christianity are incompatible. A choice has to be made.

I trust I’m not the only one here who appreciates the Zen endorsement given to RBH’s comments here. I would be DELIGHTED with a rejection from someone – let’s be tactful – whose integrity of thinking and argument is not greatly respected in this forum, and who more importantly has a big neon sign with BLINKING ARROWS over his head that reads: UP TO NO GOOD!

Of course, there’s no particular objection to the statement above one way or another. If indeed the sciences have as much to do with religion as does pro sports, then whether a religion claims it’s incompatible with evolution or not is entirely up to the religion. The question of whether there is a conflict between science and religion is not really an issue to the sciences.

For me to personally argue the statement one way or another would require that I learn the theology, and having better things to do I wouldn’t bother. I can truthfully say that the devout do seem to have a difference of opinion on evolution. So go ahead and argue it out among yourselves and tell me the conclusion … well, actually, the conclusion is a matter of indifference to me.

MrG http://www.vectorsite.net

Frank J said:

I thought you were a polytheist. ;-)

I wasn’t familiar with “Multiple Designer Theory” but I find MDT a very appealing idea. Given any uncertainties about the nature of the Designer, it seems elegant to simply posit an infinite range of Designers and cover all the bases. Think of it as the “big tent”, depicted by M.C. Escher or Jorge Luis Borges.

MrG http://www.vectorsite.net

I was enjoying this article up ’till this point;

Coyne (and Myers and Moran and Dawkins) are not engaged at that level on anything approaching a regular basis. They lead their congregations from high pulpits. They sit above the choir preaching a message that is disconnected from – indeed, sometimes antithetical to – the reality on the ground.

Can this discussion continue without the ad hominems? I think there is an important pragmatic/philosophical issue that we have to deal with. I personally think the people who hold the ‘compatibility’ argument are deluded. But people like Ken Miller etc, show that despite their delusions, they can make good contributions. My memory of Coyne’s article wasn’t so much that NCSE shouldn’t be stating that people are able to hold religious and scientific ideas compatible, but rather that they appear to be squashing that there are people holding the dissenting view (not sure if they are really doing that or not). Do both or stay out of the argument is what I got out of his article. I would hope that people that hold the science/religion compatibility position would be able to handle comments from people like me who would say “I think you’re a nut, but I respect you as a person and a scientist who has made great contributions”. But I fear this is a case of the religious hypersensitivity issue again. Thou shalt not criticize religion, even if you do it respectfully.

Another thing that bothers me about this is there seems to be an implication that to ‘win the war’ we must compromise the truth a little. Make those slightly nutty ones happy, as long as they accept evolution, then everyone can be happy. I don’t agree with that approach. I can respect someone, be polite to them, even if I think they are a little nutty. They should be grown up enough to accept that, else they don’t deserve my respect. I know that I can certainly handle someone thinking I’m off base on a subject as long as they treat me with respect while doing it. The religious should be capable of the same.

FL said: Totally inescapable and irreconcilable conflicts exist between evolution and Christianity. You must rationally choose either one or the other, but it’s NOT rationally possible to choose both at the same time. If you are a rational person at all, you honestly have to choose one or the other. Coyne’s right.

“Rational” persons may be rational when dealing with evolution and biology and other sciences (which are based on proof), but these same “rational” persons have to compartmentalize or set aside rationality when they deal with religion (including but of course not limited to Christianity) which is based on faith - belief without proof. It’s like the reptilian brain can do religion while the mammalian brain does science. Most are comfortable with this - some are not.

Richard said: If one reads their scientific papers one finds that they address genuine scientific issues without reference to angels, demons, gods, or intelligent designers.

…nor do they invoke scriptural quotations, as in the recent ICR legal filing in Texas.

The NCSE may be politically accomodating, but I doubt that applies to the NAS or the AAAS. What else can they do?

People are just People. There are extremists and people that lose track of the real issues on both sides. When you start living in a reality that places you on par with what you think that you are against you likely end up like Flew. When you have looped back far enough to be staring your opposition in the face, using their same types of “evidence” it is likely easier to stumble and step over to the other side.

The plain and simple fact is that there is a sliding scale. Everyone finds the place for their own opinions. The trouble is that the scale isn’t flat and linear, but more of a circle that loops back onto itself in some dimensions. It is evident that the atheists that vehemently argue that there is no god or gods end up using the same type of stupid arguments of their opposition. They could stick to the science, but they end up realizing that they can’t get to where they want to go with it. They can nick off bits and pieces and rag on the incompetent, but they have to face reality. If anyone could demonstrate what they claim why isn’t that person world famous and known to everyone? Where is that killer, rational, and scientifically validated argument? If others are just blind, why are there so many agnostics and more rational atheists that are not convinced in organizations like the NAS and AAAS?

That should give them pause, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Where does that same type of irrational thought confront us everyday? Look at the Intelligent design creationist scam. They ended up depending on junk that had never amounted to anything in the history of science. The extreme atheists would end up in the same boat if they wanted to teach that there is no god. They could nit pick peoples theology, but none of their arguments have amounted to what they require, ever. If they have, they should be able to demonstrate it without using the bogus reasoning of their opposition.

Science just has limits. No one can wave a magic wand and get it to do something that it was never designed to do whether you believe in a god or not.

Philrt said: I know that I can certainly handle someone thinking I’m off base on a subject as long as they treat me with respect while doing it. The religious should be capable of the same.

Some of the more fundamentalist religious are quite incapable of treating evolution / evolutionists with any respect whatsoever - because in their worldview, evolution (as FL pointed out earlier) thoroughly disrespects their beliefs. They are returning like for like.

Fundamentalist religionists are deeply frightened that secular education involving evolution will consign their children’s souls to burn in hell. They are attempting to protect their children from this terrible fate by disrespecting evolution and sneaking creationism into the classroom at every opportunity. It’s not sabotage - they’re doing it for the children.

Where do you fit Michael Behe into that?

Dr. Michael Behe is not an evolutionist, nor are you guys claiming that he is an evolutionist. Nor is Behe claiming to be a theistic evolutionist, nor are you guys claiming he is a theistic evolutionist.

Behe’s position is:

“It is at the level of macroevolution – of large jumps – that the theory evokes skepticism. Many peole have followed Darwin in proposing that huge changes canbe broken down into plausible, small steps over great periods of time.

Persuasive evidence to support that position, however, has not been forthcoming.”

— Behe, Darwin’s Black Box.

“There is no evidence that Darwinian processes can take the multiple, coherent steps needed to build new molecular machinery, the kind of machinery that fills the cell.”

***

“How do Darwinists explain the flagellum? In the same way as thy explain the cilium – usually by a tactful silence, occasionally by Just-So stories.”

— Behe, The Edge of Evolution.

And so, Michael Behe is consistently labeled as an “anti-evolutionist” by you guys, not a penny less.

In fact the very link you provided, from Jerry Coyne, specifically identified Behe in that manner. According to your link, Behe is “an academic anti-evolutionist” who “shares several features with religious creationists.”

Can’t be an evolutionist and an anti-evolutionist at the same time, y’know.

Therefore your question is now answered, Frank. Behe is no evolutionist.

****

Btw, Behe has responded to Coyne’s particular accusations that were given in the link you provided.

Interested readers should check it out. Click on the link below, and scroll down a little.

http://www.discovery.org/a/47

FL

Pierce -

On the contrary, Wesley was doing such a great job in arguing my position that I decided not to step in. Sadly, I must concur with his assessment of your “cherrypicking”:

Pierce R. Butler said:

Wesley R. Elsberry said:

… [1] Did I not “concede that the cherrypicking here is primarily by Hess”?

About [1] above… your original comment cannot reasonably be claimed to be other than accusing John of “cherry-picking” a quotation to make his argument easier to make. Reviewing the record …

The quote from Hess that John used was not “cherry-picked”, as he was using precisely the same quote that Coyne was using to make Coyne’s argument for science advocacy organizations to shut-up-already on this topic.

You have not retracted this accusation of bad behavior that I have seen, but rather go on to make rather hysterical sounding claims that “cherry-picking” must be going on somewhere by somebody, apparently in order to make it appear that you are not responsible for a false accusation of bad behavior on the part of a correspondent here.

I conceded (admitted, acknowledged, yielded, confessed, surrendered for crysake) that it was someone else (Hess) who was the cherrypicker here. John Kwok doesn’t seem to have taken lasting offense at this screw-up of mine - why are you having a cow about it? Is it necessary for me to rend my sackcloth & ashes as I abjure and detest my errors all along the rocky pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela?

About [2] above… As you insist, I will take them up. If your following paragraphs may be labeled as [a,b,c] then (a) makes the case that people are offering opinions (which would include yourself), which is true enough, if rather banal. One completely sufficient reason to post such opinions is that they are actually responsive to the commonly-made assertion that, as Charles Hodge put it, evolution *is* atheism. (b) offers a comparison which seems to me not to lead to the conclusion that you think it does, as I don’t see that there is any basis for the claim that NCSE is “lying” to anyone in what they have said. It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to revisit your (a) again at this point. (c) might actually have a glimmer of utility in analogy, but, again, I don’t think it leads to your favored conclusion. The analogous situation is that both Israeli and Palestinian extremists may agree with the proposition that it is impossible for the two groups to collaborate, in which case there sure are plenty of incidents that document the two groups not getting along. But the assertion is undermined by documenting those instances where more-or-less long-term tolerance and collaboration actually play out, and when responding to the original exclusionary assertion it makes all kinds of sense to concentrate on the points that substantiate the rebuttal. Of course, that class of case is likely far less widespread than the corresponding point on the other side of the analogy, where a broad range of mainstream Christian denominations (including mine) have explicitly stated that they are just fine with accepting the findings of evolutionary science.

First, the points that I felt were neglected include my initial observation that faith and science have a fundamental epistemological conflict, and my more recent complaint that “NCSE’s approach is ‘consistent with’ (i.e., indistinguishable from) that of the ‘religiously devout’” - not just those in that specific comment.

Back to (ahem) abc’s:

(a) … One completely sufficient reason to post such opinions is that they are actually responsive to the commonly-made assertion that, as Charles Hodge put it, evolution *is* atheism.

It would be “responsive” to your recent messages to point out an element of emotional overreaction therein, but it would not be (wholly) accurate, nor adequate, would it? Likewise, NCSE’s approach of denying the major disagreements between widespread beliefs and accepted science is - even if factually (to whatever degree that word applies to theology) correct - so selectively incomplete as to merit the criticisms delivered by Coyne (from the science side) and FL (from the religious).

(b) … I don’t see that there is any basis for the claim that NCSE is “lying” to anyone in what they have said.

To return to my earlier example: imagine a travel agent who tells you about the Palestinian Strings of Freedom youth orchestra performing for Jewish events, and Israeli volunteers helping West Bank villagers plant olive trees, and how the Wailing Wall is right next to the Dome of the Rock, from which you can see the Garden of Gethsemane… to sell you a package tour to the “peaceful” Middle East. All those examples are true - but would you consider that travel agent to have described the situation honestly?

The analogy above is somewhat hyperbolic, agreed: Mirecki aside, the evo-creo conflict hasn’t become violent even to the level that other fronts in the US “culture war” have. Nonetheless, to point at areas of limited agreement while denying the wider clash is, at best, too selective to stand very long.

(c)… The analogous situation is that both Israeli and Palestinian extremists may agree with the proposition that it is impossible for the two groups to collaborate, in which case there sure are plenty of incidents that document the two groups not getting along. But the assertion is undermined by documenting those instances where more-or-less long-term tolerance and collaboration actually play out, and when responding to the original exclusionary assertion it makes all kinds of sense to concentrate on the points that substantiate the rebuttal.

Hmmm - my points were not intended so discretely, so the overlap causes formatting problems here, and the analogy gets strained as well. It’s worth mentioning, however, that leaders on both (multiple) sides of the Middle East struggle have suggested terms on which peace might be reached, even if those different packages have vanishingly slim overlap: I am unaware of any comparable proposals on the evo/creo table.

Some might say the accommodationist theology offered by Hess, Borgeson, and the NCSE bookshelf are such “peace proposals” - and the metaphor by now is so stretched that perhaps a comparison to, say, Carter’s or Putin’s recommendations might apply.

The problem there is that the NCSE is now trying to play the role of an outside mediator - and, dammit, they’re supposed to be representing the science side!

Since, as you say, “a broad range of mainstream Christian denominations (including mine) have explicitly stated that they are just fine with accepting the findings of evolutionary science”, why not ask the Nat’l Council of Churches or suchlike ecclesiastical body to haul the theological water here?

In my view, you are seriously misinterpreting Coyne’s arguments. Nothing makes me believe that Coyne is blind to the evidence that accommodation of religious views and the scientific pursuit does exist - and even successfully so - both in academia and the clergy.

His point, and I fully agree with him, is that these views are intrinsically contradictory. True belief in religious dogma is simply incompatible with the pursuit of answers through the scientific method. I will always defend an individual’s right to add contradiction to their own lives, but I would never defend the right of associations representing the scientific trade to advocate that the quest for verifiable answers is limited by what one feels comfortable with.

If we consider the practicability of accommodating both views, you may very well be right. The scientific trade may have more to gain by attempting to be conciliatory. The data is on your side, scientists are outnumbered and have less political strength. Advocating a direct contraposition of ideas is clearly a result of “not knowing the nature of war”. But that’s simply not science, that’s curve fitting.

It is Coyne’s main point that major scientific and science advocacy groups like NCSE, NAS and AAAS, among others, should not note that there can be compatibility between science and religion:

Joao said:

In my view, you are seriously misinterpreting Coyne’s arguments. Nothing makes me believe that Coyne is blind to the evidence that accommodation of religious views and the scientific pursuit does exist - and even successfully so - both in academia and the clergy.

His point, and I fully agree with him, is that these views are intrinsically contradictory. True belief in religious dogma is simply incompatible with the pursuit of answers through the scientific method. I will always defend an individual’s right to add contradiction to their own lives, but I would never defend the right of associations representing the scientific trade to advocate that the quest for verifiable answers is limited by what one feels comfortable with.

If we consider the practicability of accommodating both views, you may very well be right. The scientific trade may have more to gain by attempting to be conciliatory. The data is on your side, scientists are outnumbered and have less political strength. Advocating a direct contraposition of ideas is clearly a result of “not knowing the nature of war”. But that’s simply not science, that’s curve fitting.

I strongly doubt that a number of us, including, for example, myself and Wesley Elsberry, are misinterpreting Coyne’s arguments. Regrettably, it seems as though Coyne, like Myers, wants only the militant atheist view to prevail, and such an attitude doesn’t seem to be working in the United Kingdom, judging from recent polls indicating that nearly 40% of the British population reject Darwin’s work and accepting evolutionary biology as valid science.

Normally, I am firmly in the camp of Richard Hoppe and Chris Mooney. (When MY ox is being gored, I am a little less frame-oriented and PR-oriented, admittedly - climate science denialism vs. evolution denialism).

That being said, can we all agree as an example that Nisbet’s attacks on PZ are wretched, stupid, and discrediting for the overall position he’s allegedly representing? If people like PZ (who doesn’t set my teeth on edge the way people like Dennett do, let alone actual scientific ignoramuses posing as savants like Penn Jillette) are said to be discrediting their desired position, how much more so the people who are claiming expertise? PZ is way better at cephalopods and evo-devo than Nisbet, e.g., is at framing.

Wheels said:… And I’ve already described what they’re doing, answering a false dilemma presented by anti-evolutionists. … What they are doing, as I see it, is simply explaining that the lie peddled by anti-evolutionists, “you can’t be a Darwinist and a Christian,” is false. … the anti-evolutionists are attempting to persuade fence-sitters, and the NCSE is countering their claims to the same audience … That doesn’t constitute an attempt at compromise on the part of the NCSE.

A worthwhile goal, when stated in those terms: one better accomplished by a list of pithy quotes from pro-evolution religionists and links to statements on evolution & science in general from prestigious “authorities”.

Highlighting detailed sermons from a few (apparently) minor figures and listing a few dozen books leaves NCSE in effect giving special privilege to one perspective, allying itself with a given subset of believers. Historically, that kind of move tends not to work out well for long, y’know?

Allow me to allude to my first comment in this thread, saying that the basic conflict here is between faith (credulity) and the scientific method (questioning). Please don’t accuse me of missing the point without addressing that first.

I really don’t see how that’s of immediate rather than abstract relevance to the NCSE’s tactics, except insomuch as certain polemical parties involved seem to have decided that the issue is the incapability of accepting science while being religious.

By “certain polemical parties” are you hinting at the old “atheists are just like fundamentalists” schtick? If so, that’s twice you’ve slipped into creo spin.

Moving the question from evolution to the scientific method per se defuses much of the anxiety/hostility/whatever of the believer by raising the level of abstraction. An introduction to actual science (and why religious scientists dedicate their lives to it) shifts the conceptual focus and transfers verbal leverage (the “framing”, much as I regret the term) into a pro-science direction. I certainly wouldn’t use this as the sole or even primary strategy of a statement to fence-sitters, but in the NCSE’s position, and with careful wording, it would beat the hell out of “How Do I read the Bible? Let Me Count the Ways”. (Not to say the latter may not deserve a prominent link on the Center’s website - but moving it in-house goes too far.)

… what I was trying to do earlier was have Blackford explain his puzzling, apparently useless, terminology before getting into that.

.

As I tap this he seems to have declined the gambit, so ‘tis moot.

Isn’t it the point here that accommodationists (by which I mean NCSE and, yes, Hoppe) demur?

Demur how? By not letting anti-evolutionists dishonestly frame the nature of the debate in pretending that you cannot accept evolution and be a Christian (or a Muslim)? …

Most of this repeats the point addressed in my first quote/response above, so I’ll just wave at that. I suspect we have an undefined-term problem in the question as to whether NCSE &/or Hoppe demur from (e.g.) Stenger’s arguments of how theism in many forms “conflicts with certain scientific conclusions.”

Blackford used the term “orthodox monotheism” in claiming a conflict between that and “certain scientific conclusions.” …

Take it up with him, then. It seems to me irrelevant to science and to the vast majority of prospective ncse-web.org readers.

[Eastern Orthodox churches have] decided that their interpretation of Scripture doesn’t put them at odds with the conclusion that life on Earth (including humankind) evolved, as I’ve pointed out.

Rather surprising, in view of the reactionary politics reported of certain patriarchs. Eastern Europe doubtless presents them with other priorities, and that may be just as well.

A quick search for “Greek Orthodox” on the NCSE web site yields only two hits, one a letter-to-the-editor. “Russian Orthodox” produces ten. Zero (0/12) of these come from the /religion area. Somebody is tactically and ecumenically inept here, if the Eastern churches are as pro-evolution as you say.

…So what I’m getting at is that Blackford’s assertion that “orthodox monotheism” being incompatible with “certain scientific conclusions” makes no good sense and is, in fact, wrong.

Why you repeat this in a comment addressed to me continues to baffle.

strident evangelical atheist mode:

Please do consider reading V. Stenger, God: The Failed Hypothesis, for one physicist’s whack at that concept.

/strident evangelical atheist mode

I’ll have to read Nisbet’s recent comments carefully, but, as far as I am concerned, Myers demonstrated how much he’s on the fringe via his inane criticism of Roman Catholic ritual (“cracker incident”) last summer (And I reached this conclusion long before I had my recent contretemps with him over at Pharyngula.). I strongly suspect that Nisbet may do a much better job at philosophy than Myers does in evo - devo (Let’s be realistic, shall we? If Myers was really a first-rate scientist, wouldn’t he produced work of the caliber of say, noted evolutionary developmental biologist Sean Carroll?):

Marion Delgado said:

Normally, I am firmly in the camp of Richard Hoppe and Chris Mooney. (When MY ox is being gored, I am a little less frame-oriented and PR-oriented, admittedly - climate science denialism vs. evolution denialism).

That being said, can we all agree as an example that Nisbet’s attacks on PZ are wretched, stupid, and discrediting for the overall position he’s allegedly representing? If people like PZ (who doesn’t set my teeth on edge the way people like Dennett do, let alone actual scientific ignoramuses posing as savants like Penn Jillette) are said to be discrediting their desired position, how much more so the people who are claiming expertise? PZ is way better at cephalopods and evo-devo than Nisbet, e.g., is at framing.

John Kwok said:

It is Coyne’s main point that major scientific and science advocacy groups like NCSE, NAS and AAAS, among others, should not note that there can be compatibility between science and religion…

I strongly doubt that a number of us, including, for example, myself and Wesley Elsberry, are misinterpreting Coyne’s arguments.

Wesley doesn’t seem to have misinterpreted Coyne - but you have.

Try: It is Coyne’s main point that major scientific and science advocacy groups like NCSE, NAS and AAAS, among others, should note that there can be incompatibility between science and religion.

Since that’s the position of at least half of leading scientists, whose interest does it serve for NCSE to attempt to conceal that?

… in the United Kingdom, judging from recent polls indicating that nearly 40% of the British population reject Darwin’s work and accepting evolutionary biology as valid science.

Please try again, or explain how they all “reject Darwin” while “accepting evolutionary biology”.

John Kwok said:

It’s not just NCSE. There’s also AAAS and NAS and other institutions such as the American Museum of Natural History. Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Science and Religion is an institute dedicated to the proposition that science and religion are compatible:

The Columbia CSR (or whatever) is a great example of who SHOULD do this advocacy. Their goals are even in their name. The AAAS, not so much. I laud the advocacy of Columbia’s center but will be writing to the AAAS my dissent. I do not want my name (and implicit assent) to lend weight to a position which I disagree with. If it continues, I’ll withdraw my assent by refusing to publish my work in Science and will refuse to be a member of AAAS.

Again, my question isn’t whether or not somebody should do that. My question is, why these organizations? The compatibility issue is a theological issue, and science is a secular endeavor, even for scientists who are religious. Why does science and science education need to be polluted with taking stances on theological grounds. Until the NCSE is renamed the NCSRE (R = religion) then I’ll argue against their advocacy.

Wesley Elsberry said (several pages back).…

FL obviously is unfamiliar with this page.

I just wanted to express appreciation for offering me that webpage to look at. Assuming that the webpage accurately reflects what YOU believe wrt that particular topic (original sin), I will save it and print it off for further study.

I see some major problems with your webpage already if the intention was to use it to deflect or avoid Mary’s important question (from several pages back) about that huge incompatibility between evolution and Christianity. But, those specifics can be discussed at another time and place.

As I mentioned in PZ’s thread, this is a most interesting and instructive series of PT threads. Well worth reading.

FL

FL said:

Wesley Elsberry said (several pages back).…

FL obviously is unfamiliar with this page.

I just wanted to express appreciation for offering me that webpage to look at. Assuming that the webpage accurately reflects what YOU believe wrt that particular topic (original sin), I will save it and print it off for further study.

I see some major problems with your webpage already if the intention was to use it to deflect or avoid Mary’s important question (from several pages back) about that huge incompatibility between evolution and Christianity. But, those specifics can be discussed at another time and place.

As I mentioned in PZ’s thread, this is a most interesting and instructive series of PT threads. Well worth reading.

FL

Your claim was that nobody could point to any biblical content that is problematic for the doctrine of original sin. The linked webpage demonstrates that you are obviously ignorant of the discussion of the doctrine of original sin and problems for it that arise from within scripture. It does not need my personal imprimatur of its conclusions to serve that function, nor have I said any such thing.

Read a book. You could start with the bible.

Wesley doesn’t seem to have misinterpreted Coyne - but you have.

Try: It is Coyne’s main point that major scientific and science advocacy groups like NCSE, NAS and AAAS, among others, should note that there can be incompatibility between science and religion.

Coyne:

Am I grousing because, as an atheist and a non-accommodationist, my views are simply ignored by the NAS and NCSE? Not at all. I don’t want these organizations to espouse or include my viewpoint. I want religion and atheism left completely out of all the official discourse of scientific societies and organizations that promote evolution.

Coyne’s main point is that science advocacy organizations should shut-up-already, not that they should publicly take note of something.

FL said:

Coyne’s analogy is correct. Totally inescapable and irreconcilable conflicts exist between evolution and Christianity.

You must rationally choose either one or the other, but it’s NOT rationally possible to choose both at the same time. If you are a rational person at all, you honestly have to choose one or the other. Coyne’s right.

You still haven’t answered my question on why you are a Christian and reject the scientific case for evolution, FL. Because any rational person would do exactly the opposite. Your position is not only irrational, it is downright false. And not just because of evolution. The Bible also teaches that the Earth is flat and stationary, too. So why not reject all of modern astronomy and geography?

The answer is obvious: The Bible is NOT the infallible Word of God, and it was a lie for anyone to claim that. It was written, edited, translated, copied and interpreted by MEN! Men who knew nothing of science. When you grow up and look at the Bible as it is, you will know why so many accept both Christianity and evolution.

You were doing fine until all the ad hominems about foot soldiers and generals.

FL said:

Coyne’s analogy is correct.

No, it clearly isn’t, because while there are no smokers leading a healthy lifestyle, there are religious people who accept evolution, and there are even religious people doing good evolutionary research.

For example, evolution clearly denies that humans are created in the image of God. That’s a killer, right there.

No, all it means is that those Abrahamics who accept evolution must have a contorted theology. But all theology is contorted.

Or it means that “image” may be understood to mean something other than “physical similarity”. An image may be simply a reflection. The words might be understood to mean that Man reflects the nature or reality of God.

It really would get contorted if we had to posit that God has a set physical appearance. Long white beard, maybe?

Popper’s Ghost said:

For example, evolution clearly denies that humans are created in the image of God. That’s a killer, right there.

No, all it means is that those Abrahamics who accept evolution must have a contorted theology. But all theology is contorted.

Or it could simply be that those people of Abrahamic faiths who also accept the reality of Evolution see that there is no conflict between simultaneously accepting reality and salvation, primarily because “descent with modification” actually has very little to do with accepting salvation.

On the other hand, insisting that salvation only lies within reading the Bible literally (even though the Bible, itself, never implicitly states this), while simultaneously not calling for the public execution of people who eat pork, scaleless seafood, cheeseburgers, wearers of polyester and rowdy children strongly suggests a grotesquely contorted theology.

Wesley R. Elsberry said:

Coyne’s main point is that science advocacy organizations should shut-up-already, not that they should publicly take note of something.

Point well taken, though perhaps more precisely phrased in Coyne’s closer:

Leave theology to the theologians.

or,

… science advocacy organizations should shut-up-already about accommodationism.

Dale Husband said:

FL said:

Coyne’s analogy is correct. Totally inescapable and irreconcilable conflicts exist between evolution and Christianity.

You must rationally choose either one or the other, but it’s NOT rationally possible to choose both at the same time. If you are a rational person at all, you honestly have to choose one or the other. Coyne’s right.

You still haven’t answered my question on why you are a Christian and reject the scientific case for evolution, FL. Because any rational person would do exactly the opposite. Your position is not only irrational, it is downright false. And not just because of evolution. The Bible also teaches that the Earth is flat and stationary, too. So why not reject all of modern astronomy and geography?

The answer is obvious: The Bible is NOT the infallible Word of God, and it was a lie for anyone to claim that. It was written, edited, translated, copied and interpreted by MEN! Men who knew nothing of science. When you grow up and look at the Bible as it is, you will know why so many accept both Christianity and evolution.

The totally inescapable and irreconcilable conflict only exists between evolution and biblical literalism. A rational person can come to only one conclusion regarding this, which does not preclude him from believing in a God. He may even delude himself that this God is one who’s motivation and purpose is detailed in one or more of the Abrahamic religious texts, and that this God would be a nice guy to spend eternity with.

Dave Lovell said:

He may even delude himself that this God is one who’s motivation and purpose is detailed in one or more of the Abrahamic religious texts, and that this God would be a nice guy to spend eternity with.

However, if FL and his cohorts are the kinds of people found there, I would think it would be indistinguishable from Hell.

Sorry Pierce, but as Wesley has stated, Coyne wants major scientific organizations and scientific advocacy groups like NAS, AAAS, and NCSE to “shut up” with regards to telling the public that science and religion can be compatible:

Pierce R. Butler said:

John Kwok said:

It is Coyne’s main point that major scientific and science advocacy groups like NCSE, NAS and AAAS, among others, should not note that there can be compatibility between science and religion…

I strongly doubt that a number of us, including, for example, myself and Wesley Elsberry, are misinterpreting Coyne’s arguments.

Wesley doesn’t seem to have misinterpreted Coyne - but you have.

Try: It is Coyne’s main point that major scientific and science advocacy groups like NCSE, NAS and AAAS, among others, should note that there can be incompatibility between science and religion.

Since that’s the position of at least half of leading scientists, whose interest does it serve for NCSE to attempt to conceal that?

… in the United Kingdom, judging from recent polls indicating that nearly 40% of the British population reject Darwin’s work and accepting evolutionary biology as valid science.

Please try again, or explain how they all “reject Darwin” while “accepting evolutionary biology”.

As for your second comment, you misread my quote. I noted that nearly 40% of all Britons reject both Darwin’s work and the fact that evolutionary biology is valid science.

J. J. E. -

The fundamental problem with your assessment is that Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Science and Religion is designed primarily to act as a research institute, NOT as a science advocacy group:

J.J.E. said:

John Kwok said:

It’s not just NCSE. There’s also AAAS and NAS and other institutions such as the American Museum of Natural History. Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Science and Religion is an institute dedicated to the proposition that science and religion are compatible:

The Columbia CSR (or whatever) is a great example of who SHOULD do this advocacy. Their goals are even in their name. The AAAS, not so much. I laud the advocacy of Columbia’s center but will be writing to the AAAS my dissent. I do not want my name (and implicit assent) to lend weight to a position which I disagree with. If it continues, I’ll withdraw my assent by refusing to publish my work in Science and will refuse to be a member of AAAS.

Again, my question isn’t whether or not somebody should do that. My question is, why these organizations? The compatibility issue is a theological issue, and science is a secular endeavor, even for scientists who are religious. Why does science and science education need to be polluted with taking stances on theological grounds. Until the NCSE is renamed the NCSRE (R = religion) then I’ll argue against their advocacy.

When creationists have been claiming that “belief in evolution EQUALS denial of GOD”, especially under the guise of such “scientific” organizations like the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture and the Institute for Creation Research, then it’s well within the rights of professional scientific organizations like AAAS and NAS (and not just them too, but I might add as well, organizations like the Society for the Study of Evolution and the Paleontological Society, among others) and NCSE to contend otherwise, by noting not only the writings of such prominent religiously-devout scientists like Francisco J. Ayala, Francis Collins, Ken Miller and Mike Rosenzweig, and prominent theologians like the Dalai Lama, but also organizations such as the Clergy Letter Project.

Dave Lovell said:

The totally inescapable and irreconcilable conflict only exists between evolution and biblical literalism. A rational person can come to only one conclusion regarding this, which does not preclude him from believing in a God. He may even delude himself that this God is one who’s motivation and purpose is detailed in one or more of the Abrahamic religious texts, and that this God would be a nice guy to spend eternity with.

No one is truly a Biblical literalist. Try reading the totally different birth and infancy accounts of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and you will experience a case of cognitive dissonance at least as bad as someone who is devoutly Christian and supports evolution too.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

So FL’s criticizing people for not making a clear choice between Christianity and evolution is hypocritical. Unless and until he can state which birth account of Jesus he considers to be valid and rejects the other one as wrong, he is just being dishonest to say one can accept both of them as equally valid. You CANNOT!

J. J. E. -

You can find out more about Columbia University’s Center for the study of Science and Religion (CSSR) here:

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/cssr/

One of its board of directors is Columbia University religious studies professor - and devout Buddhist - Robert Thurman (And yes, for those who are in the know, he is actress Uma Thurman’s father.). On its advisory board are faculty from Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University Medical Center, and Columbia’s main campus in Morningside Heights. These include physicist Brian Greene and philosopher Philip Kitcher.

Again CSSR is not set up as a science advocacy group, but instead one which does research and sponsors interdisciplinary conferences and lectures.

Respectfully yours,

John

John Kwok said:

J. J. E. -

The fundamental problem with your assessment is that Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Science and Religion is designed primarily to act as a research institute, NOT as a science advocacy group:

Making comments and undertaking research regarding “science and religion” is clearly within its purview, just as undertaking purely theological research is acceptable for the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. Just because a an institute is devoted to “research” doesn’t mean that it can’t undertake research or advocate for positions that ultimately have a supernatural component. However, SCIENCE institutes should avoid this sort of thing like the plague, period, end of story. Endorsing any view that even remotely implies that supernatural explanations are compatible with science is poison and breaks down the fundamental advantage of scientific research. Also, it requires no supernatural implications to say that “many religious people are also members of the NAS and have done excellent scientific work”. That’s a bald fact, and entails no supernatural implications. On the other hand, endorsing Ken Miller’s explanation of WHY science is compatible with his faith (in a mysterious perfect god who created humans he knew would mess up, damned them to a mortal life of suffering when they did mess up, then saved them by offering himself as a sacrifice to himself, but only if they would believe without evidence that such fantastic events did in fact happen) does sorta start trading in supernatural beliefs.

Engaging even in implicit, backhanded (and outright disingenuous in the case of the NAS, which has a highly areligious membership, if not downright atheistic) endorsements of supernatural belief is corrosive to science, and as a result should never be given the official imprimatur of an official science or science education organization. Every actor in the scientific endeavor is flawed and makes mistake (my mistakes just don’t happen to be of the variety where I try to insert god’s will into biology via quantum mechanics, for example; my mistakes are of a different nature), but science as a community ideal should never endorse such flaws that are inevitably found in many of its practitioners.

And regarding your, “organizations have every right to note that Ayala and Miller beg to differ with the DI fellows”, what part of “They should acknowledge, officially, the very important point that there are religious people who would simply LOVE to tell anyone who will listen why religion is compatible with science.” did you not understand? The NCSE does in fact do this. And in my world, that’s O.K. But when they start having staff publications treating the reconciliation of particular flavors of supernatural belief with science (which they do) and give a LOT of lip service to the reconciliation position and NONE to those who dissent (which they do), then there is clearly a problem.

Again, in the very narrow context of rebutting an explicit claim, the following is acceptable and encouraged:

Q: My pastor tells me evolution is false because it entails a belief in atheism. I don’t want to give up my Jesus. Why should I accept the theory of evolution?

A: Your pastor is wrong. For a factual counter-example of his claim, consult Ken Miller or Francis Collins.

It. Is. That. Simple. Leave the apologetics to the believers.

No, all it means is that those Abrahamics who accept evolution must have a contorted theology.

Like the android said to Captain Kirk, THAT, is the equation!!”

You’ve nailed down an inevitable result of the inherent incompatibility between evolution and Christianity, Popper-G. No joke. You get it.

(I think some other folks around here get it too, but don’t wanna admit to it ‘cause they got something to lose.)

But all theology is contorted.

Which, even if that statement was true (don’t worry, it ain’t), would not cancel out your previous statement.

FL :)

FL said:

You’ve nailed down an inevitable result of the inherent incompatibility between evolution and Christianity, Popper-G. No joke. You get it.

Actually, the people who have a problem from the outset are those who think they can believe the creation accounts in Genesis 1, Genesis 2, and the Gospels literally all at once! The Bible - it’s not a science textbook!

J. J. E. -

You are completely missing the point that it is not among the objectives of Columbia University’s Center for Science and Religion to be a science advocacy group promoting reconciliation between religion and science, since if it was, then it’s fundamental purpose would more closely resemble, for example, the Clergy Letter Project.

I am delighted that you mention the University of Chicago’s Divinity School, since I have had far more rational discussions with one of my uncles - a retired Methodist minister who earned his Doctor of Divinity degree from that very school - about the relationship between religion and science than I have had online with the militant atheist crowd:

J.J.E. said:

John Kwok said:

J. J. E. -

The fundamental problem with your assessment is that Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Science and Religion is designed primarily to act as a research institute, NOT as a science advocacy group:

Making comments and undertaking research regarding “science and religion” is clearly within its purview, just as undertaking purely theological research is acceptable for the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. Just because a an institute is devoted to “research” doesn’t mean that it can’t undertake research or advocate for positions that ultimately have a supernatural component. However, SCIENCE institutes should avoid this sort of thing like the plague, period, end of story. Endorsing any view that even remotely implies that supernatural explanations are compatible with science is poison and breaks down the fundamental advantage of scientific research. Also, it requires no supernatural implications to say that “many religious people are also members of the NAS and have done excellent scientific work”. That’s a bald fact, and entails no supernatural implications. On the other hand, endorsing Ken Miller’s explanation of WHY science is compatible with his faith (in a mysterious perfect god who created humans he knew would mess up, damned them to a mortal life of suffering when they did mess up, then saved them by offering himself as a sacrifice to himself, but only if they would believe without evidence that such fantastic events did in fact happen) does sorta start trading in supernatural beliefs.

Engaging even in implicit, backhanded (and outright disingenuous in the case of the NAS, which has a highly areligious membership, if not downright atheistic) endorsements of supernatural belief is corrosive to science, and as a result should never be given the official imprimatur of an official science or science education organization. Every actor in the scientific endeavor is flawed and makes mistake (my mistakes just don’t happen to be of the variety where I try to insert god’s will into biology via quantum mechanics, for example; my mistakes are of a different nature), but science as a community ideal should never endorse such flaws that are inevitably found in many of its practitioners.

And regarding your, “organizations have every right to note that Ayala and Miller beg to differ with the DI fellows”, what part of “They should acknowledge, officially, the very important point that there are religious people who would simply LOVE to tell anyone who will listen why religion is compatible with science.” did you not understand? The NCSE does in fact do this. And in my world, that’s O.K. But when they start having staff publications treating the reconciliation of particular flavors of supernatural belief with science (which they do) and give a LOT of lip service to the reconciliation position and NONE to those who dissent (which they do), then there is clearly a problem.

Again, in the very narrow context of rebutting an explicit claim, the following is acceptable and encouraged:

Q: My pastor tells me evolution is false because it entails a belief in atheism. I don’t want to give up my Jesus. Why should I accept the theory of evolution?

A: Your pastor is wrong. For a factual counter-example of his claim, consult Ken Miller or Francis Collins.

It. Is. That. Simple. Leave the apologetics to the believers.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on April 25, 2009 9:33 PM.

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