The Thumb in Cinci

| 16 Comments

This week is the ninth quadrennial meeting of the North American Paleontological Convention in Cincinnati, and Thursday the 25th is “Evolution and Society” day. There are plenary talks in the morning by several people including Genie Scott and Ken Miller, and several parallel discussion panels around noon. One of the discussion panels is “Countering Creationism” with Jason Rosenhouse, Art Hunt, me, and Professor Steve Steve from the Thumb all free associating to the topic title. If you’re at the convention we invite you to participate: we need all the help we can get! Public school educators in the area have been specially invited to the day’s talks and discussions, and we enthusiastically welcome them.

16 Comments

I noticed that of the two afternoon sessions open to science educators, the one on science literacy should be of special interest to PT visitors. There will be two talks - including one by invertebrate paleontologist Keith B. Miller (no relation to Ken Miller, but like Ken, a devout Christian; in Keith Miller’s case, an Evangelical Protestant Christian) on methdological naturalism - that will be discussing some of the issues related to recent criticism of so-called “accomodationist” stance towards religion that are “practiced” by notable science advocacy and professional scientific organizations like NCSE, NAS and AAAS.

The Catholic church has been moving toward a more accommodating position with science. A couple of years ago, Pope Benedict bascially accepted the theory of evolution and called it absurd not to believe in it. (http://www.findingdulcinea.com/news[…]aders-Debate–Can-Evolution-and-God-Coexist.html)

Of course, he added that God cannot be left out of the equation. I guess science and religion will always be uneasy bedfellows, but getting some kind of acceptance of evolution from the Church is better than the outright rejection of protestant fundamentalists.

It seems to me that in a large, free society a bewildering variety of memes are going to exist, not because of any intrinsic merit, but simply because some people find them appealing. No matter how much one may dislike either Dembski, Dawkins, or anyone in between, none of them are going to go away, because they are free to hold whatever opinion they like and to share it with anyone who’ll listen. Thus I have concluded that the only views of objective reality worth considering are those for which empirical evidence exists. This excludes the imaginary world of religion, which is mostly wishful thinking, while recognizing that people are not going to give up the memes they are comfortable with. I won’t join with Dawkins and Hitchens to preach atheism to the devout, but I’m not going to criticize them for doing so. In the land of the free, allow all memes to be freely expressed!

KyCobb said:

It seems to me that in a large, free society a bewildering variety of memes are going to exist, not because of any intrinsic merit, but simply because some people find them appealing. No matter how much one may dislike either Dembski, Dawkins, or anyone in between, none of them are going to go away, because they are free to hold whatever opinion they like and to share it with anyone who’ll listen. Thus I have concluded that the only views of objective reality worth considering are those for which empirical evidence exists. This excludes the imaginary world of religion, which is mostly wishful thinking, while recognizing that people are not going to give up the memes they are comfortable with. I won’t join with Dawkins and Hitchens to preach atheism to the devout, but I’m not going to criticize them for doing so. In the land of the free, allow all memes to be freely expressed!

The difficulty with this proposition is that it treats actual fact, evidence or rigour - even consensus reality itself - as though they were irrelevant. Of course the argument is not about the right to hold opinions, no matter what opinions they might be. (There is, it is true, argument elsewhere about the right to hold some given opinions, but that is not the argument we are engaged in, on this blog.) This argument is about what opinions are supported by actual evidence, or, somewhat more weakly, what opinions are best supported by actual evidence.

Opinions are either attested by conclusive evidence, or else they are not. If not, they are either falsified by conclusive evidence (as is the opinion that the Earth was created some thousands of years ago, in a single week) or there is no conclusive evidence (as with the opinion that there is a God, or that there is no God).

It is the task of rational people to defend propositions for which there is conclusive evidence. In this place, we specifically defend the propositions that the Earth is very ancient, that evolution operating through descent with modification explains the origin of the species, and that hence all life is commonly descended. The evidence for these propositions is overwhelming. Attacks on them are frequently seen here, but they are invariably based on ignorance, irrational rejection of evidence, or false or perjured evidence. Such attacks are to be refuted. The question of whether the people making them have a right to an opinion does not arise. They have; it’s just that their opinions on the subject are demonstrably false to fact.

However, it no less becomes rational people to recognise that when no conclusive evidence exists, reasonable opinions will differ. More: that such a difference is unexceptionable.

Dave Luckett said:

.….

The difficulty with this proposition is that it treats actual fact, evidence or rigour - even consensus reality itself - as though they were irrelevant. Of course the argument is not about the right to hold opinions, no matter what opinions they might be. (There is, it is true, argument elsewhere about the right to hold some given opinions, but that is not the argument we are engaged in, on this blog.) This argument is about what opinions are supported by actual evidence, or, somewhat more weakly, what opinions are best supported by actual evidence.

.…

It is the task of rational people to defend propositions for which there is conclusive evidence. In this place, we specifically defend the propositions that the Earth is very ancient, that evolution operating through descent with modification explains the origin of the species, and that hence all life is commonly descended. The evidence for these propositions is overwhelming. Attacks on them are frequently seen here, but they are invariably based on ignorance, irrational rejection of evidence, or false or perjured evidence. Such attacks are to be refuted. The question of whether the people making them have a right to an opinion does not arise. They have; it’s just that their opinions on the subject are demonstrably false to fact.

.…

I think that at least as important a “task of rational people” is to make sure that only the “propositions for which there is conclusive evidence” are taught in schools, as well. I know lots of people, some good fiends of mine, who believe in what I think are weird ideas or have different opinions than I do. As long as these are not taught to unsuspecting students as anything approaching valid ideas, I have no objection to that (although we have some interesting discussions…). And by and large, my friends do not demand that their (what I think are) weird ideas be taught. They recognize the difference.

I agree with both yours and Dave Luckett’s observations, but I do have one important caveat (see below):

GvlGeologist, FCD said:

Dave Luckett said:

.….

The difficulty with this proposition is that it treats actual fact, evidence or rigour - even consensus reality itself - as though they were irrelevant. Of course the argument is not about the right to hold opinions, no matter what opinions they might be. (There is, it is true, argument elsewhere about the right to hold some given opinions, but that is not the argument we are engaged in, on this blog.) This argument is about what opinions are supported by actual evidence, or, somewhat more weakly, what opinions are best supported by actual evidence.

.…

It is the task of rational people to defend propositions for which there is conclusive evidence. In this place, we specifically defend the propositions that the Earth is very ancient, that evolution operating through descent with modification explains the origin of the species, and that hence all life is commonly descended. The evidence for these propositions is overwhelming. Attacks on them are frequently seen here, but they are invariably based on ignorance, irrational rejection of evidence, or false or perjured evidence. Such attacks are to be refuted. The question of whether the people making them have a right to an opinion does not arise. They have; it’s just that their opinions on the subject are demonstrably false to fact.

.…

I think that at least as important a “task of rational people” is to make sure that only the “propositions for which there is conclusive evidence” are taught in schools, as well. I know lots of people, some good fiends of mine, who believe in what I think are weird ideas or have different opinions than I do. As long as these are not taught to unsuspecting students as anything approaching valid ideas, I have no objection to that (although we have some interesting discussions…). And by and large, my friends do not demand that their (what I think are) weird ideas be taught. They recognize the difference.

I have no objections at all in teaching a little about the great myths of religions like those of the ancient Romans and Greeks or Hindus, since they are, in themselves, the sources of some of the greatest literary tales known to humanity. But these should be taught only in relevant courses such as philosophy, religious studies, history and literature, not in those pertaining to the sciences and mathematics.

Ummm, that should be “good friends” of mine.

;-}

I agree absolutely. In fact, when discussing the origins of scientific thought, I think it can be appropriate to discuss how religion affected scientific thought and its history. But of course that’s different from teaching the religious beliefs as fact.

John Kwok said:

I agree with both yours and Dave Luckett’s observations, but I do have one important caveat (see below):

I have no objections at all in teaching a little about the great myths of religions like those of the ancient Romans and Greeks or Hindus, since they are, in themselves, the sources of some of the greatest literary tales known to humanity. But these should be taught only in relevant courses such as philosophy, religious studies, history and literature, not in those pertaining to the sciences and mathematics.

Dave Luckett said:

KyCobb said:

It seems to me that in a large, free society a bewildering variety of memes are going to exist, not because of any intrinsic merit, but simply because some people find them appealing. No matter how much one may dislike either Dembski, Dawkins, or anyone in between, none of them are going to go away, because they are free to hold whatever opinion they like and to share it with anyone who’ll listen. Thus I have concluded that the only views of objective reality worth considering are those for which empirical evidence exists. This excludes the imaginary world of religion, which is mostly wishful thinking, while recognizing that people are not going to give up the memes they are comfortable with. I won’t join with Dawkins and Hitchens to preach atheism to the devout, but I’m not going to criticize them for doing so. In the land of the free, allow all memes to be freely expressed!

The difficulty with this proposition is that it treats actual fact, evidence or rigour - even consensus reality itself - as though they were irrelevant. Of course the argument is not about the right to hold opinions, no matter what opinions they might be. (There is, it is true, argument elsewhere about the right to hold some given opinions, but that is not the argument we are engaged in, on this blog.) This argument is about what opinions are supported by actual evidence, or, somewhat more weakly, what opinions are best supported by actual evidence.

Opinions are either attested by conclusive evidence, or else they are not. If not, they are either falsified by conclusive evidence (as is the opinion that the Earth was created some thousands of years ago, in a single week) or there is no conclusive evidence (as with the opinion that there is a God, or that there is no God).

It is the task of rational people to defend propositions for which there is conclusive evidence. In this place, we specifically defend the propositions that the Earth is very ancient, that evolution operating through descent with modification explains the origin of the species, and that hence all life is commonly descended. The evidence for these propositions is overwhelming. Attacks on them are frequently seen here, but they are invariably based on ignorance, irrational rejection of evidence, or false or perjured evidence. Such attacks are to be refuted. The question of whether the people making them have a right to an opinion does not arise. They have; it’s just that their opinions on the subject are demonstrably false to fact.

However, it no less becomes rational people to recognise that when no conclusive evidence exists, reasonable opinions will differ. More: that such a difference is unexceptionable.

Don’t misunderstand me-I agree that facts are highly relevant, and as for me, personally, I try to test my own beliefs to see if their are supportable or merely comfortable to hold. What I was primarily getting at is that on this board one will occasionally see wars erupt about whether or not PZ and Dawkins advocacy of atheism threatens the goal of good science education. I have come to realize the futility in a free society of telling people to keep their opinions to themselves-they aren’t going to. Of course, public school science teachers aren’t “free” in the sense that they can accept taxpayer money to spout any nonsense they want in the classroom instead of actual science-I fully support the good fight against creationism and other pseudosciences.

I saw in the news that some scientists attending the conference visited the Creation Museum. Does anyone who went have any comments about their visit?

Maybe NCSE and Prothero et al could get some space in the “ads by Google” at the bottom of that link?

I just got back from NAPC in Cincinnati. I attended nearly the entire Thursday session on evolution, science, and society, and many of the talks were outstanding. Genie and Ken did great that morning, as usual. A number of devout paleontologists (Daryl Domning, Peter Dodson, both Catholics like Ken Miller) got up and argued for theistic evolutionism, and there wasn’t much discussion at all about Coyne’s attack on accommodation (compared to all the web chatter). I didn’t go to the Creation Museum with the official NAPC tour on Wednesday, but they told me about how the security people shadowed them and they were constantly filmed, and the reporters hounded them outside. I went on Friday afternoon, incognito, on my way to the airport, and the lines were much shorter although the place was still crowded. They make $24 a pop on every adult, and push hard to get people to become members, buy 2-year passes, buy memberships for their grandkids, etc. It’ scary to see how much money they are raking in right now! The museum itself was much as the previous web accounts have described it. Sure, there were the high-tech dinosaurs and talking Noah, but the bulk of the museum was the same kind of religious stuff you’d see at Bible World–basically, a Fundamentalist Disneyland. There were just two areas that pushed hard on flood geology, all with the same flaws that I pointed out in my book. But the big message, repeated over and over, is that “science is evil” and “reason is evil” and that “everyone who doesn’t agree with us is going to Hell.” I’d love to see them renounce modern medicine and electronics if they REALLY believed this! They put on the costumes of scientists, but they openly condemn science and reason, so it’s not even as subtle as “scientific creationism”. And there are the usual moments of unintended hilarity, both on the weird-looking robotic Noah’s and Methuselah’s, the discretely covered Adam and Eve, the claim that T. rex ate coconuts, and the fact that MANY of the fossils they bought from rock shops are misidentified or have outdated names! But since they scorn science and never bother to check things for accuracy, that’s no surprise… One other surprise: the bookstore had a mixture of Ken Ham’s crap, lots of home schooling science materials, many of the other YEC authors–but NO Duane Gish! Is he out of favor, or just an embarrassment to them (they are pretty shameless, so that’s hard to imagine them shunning him). AND they had a bunch of the ID books–don’t the ID people reject them as primitives?

As I recall from our PT field trip a couple of years ago, Eve was a hottie. :)

Hey Don,

Heard from Ken Miller that he had a great time there on Thursday. Were the talks by Domning and Dodson persuasive on behalf of theistic evolution? Am surprised that Coyne’s “accomodationism” critiques didn’t get much attention.

As for the Creation Museum, thanks for your concise report. I always thought that it was one vast “Flintstones” exhibit, and your comments have reaffirmed my harsh, but accurate, judgement.

Cheers,

John

I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned this yet. It’s been up for a few days now. The New York Times has a good write-up about the Creation Museum field trip.

Paleontology and Creationism Meet but Don’t Mesh

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on June 23, 2009 2:39 AM.

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