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Are Science and Religion Compatible?
Posted: 15 July 2010 05:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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So it is OK to teach Creationism in science classes? I’m glad our Supreme Court disagrees with you. Teaching mythology as science in public schools is not OK.

And I notice you did not address the grievous harms religion perpetuates, such as regarding gays as second class citizens, thereby denying them basic civil rights the rest of society enjoys. Discrimination is not OK.

Religion teaches intolerance. Maybe not every professing believer practices intolerance, but you cannot deny the evils contained within religious texts.

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Posted: 15 July 2010 08:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Gnostikosis - 15 July 2010 05:31 PM

I suppose I don’t even care if my kids believe in creationism. They have to make choices for themselves. I don’t think it is up to me to dictate what my kids believe. Only that they know how to question everything and they get as informed as they can before they make a decision.

I, on the other hand would be very upset if my children were to believe in creationism. While it is not up to me to dictate what my kids believe, it is my job to teach them to critically examine the evidence before making up their minds, and if they still believe in creationism, I have failed. Schools and teachers are operating from a position of authority, I would no more want them to teach creationism than I would want them to teach that unicorns and leprechauns were real. Unless I put my child in a religious school, they shouldn’t be teaching religion in the class.

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Posted: 16 July 2010 09:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Religion need not be incompatible with science, providing religion makes no factual claims.

This means that it can make no claims about the origin of the Universe, the Earth, life or humans. Nor can it make any claims that allow god(s) to intervene in the running of Universe. Intercessory prayer and miracles would be out for example, so no virgin birth or resurrection.

It should not take much to see that a god that cannot in anyway intervene in the Universe is not much a god at all. Such a religion ends up being a very weak form of deism and it is not a form of religion that is commonly practised.

So in answer to the question, are science and religion compatible, the answer in the overwhelming majority of cases is no.

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Posted: 16 July 2010 09:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Have you seen this “incompatibility” comic strip on Coyne’s blog? (See the attachment.) It pretty much says it all; and it says it so eloquently, too.  cheese

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Posted: 16 July 2010 09:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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I am now a bit confused. You did not argue that science and religion are compatible, but that we should not hurt the feelings of people who believe in religion.

This is not really what I am saying, and I think it is conflaing the issues I tried to carefully separate, about the types of compatibility and the somewhat separate issue of strategies for promoting science. It’s difficult to substantively answer a response such as this that is condensed to the point where it doesn’t accurately represent any of the things I was trying to say.

I do think deliberately and knowingly pissing people off is rarely helpful or productive, and I do think suggesting we be nice to people even when we disagree with them is not really some awful heresy. But that’s not the sole substance of my argument.

What parts of the Judeo/Christian/Islamic mythic structure are compatible with science?

Whatever parts the believers choose to see as compatible. The notion that God created the world in 6 days may be untrue, but it doesn’t keep the overwhelming majority of people from taking their antibiotics or vaccinating their kids or riding on airplanes. Again, you seem to be ignoring most of what I said and trying to act as if the issue wre as simple as “If it’s not true then believing in it is incompatible with any and all belief in science” or something like that. And yet science has made great progress and been accepted by the vast majority of human beings without most of them giving up certain myths they find comforting. Yes, there are specific points of conflict, such as teaching creationism in schools, but even a relatively conservative and theist judge is able to recognize the nonsense involved their and make what we agree is the Doesn’t that suggest that the irreconcilable differences are, in practice if not alwas in theory, the exception and the province primarily of extremists rather than the end-all and be-all of the relationship between religion and science?

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Posted: 16 July 2010 09:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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George,

It’s cute but it hardly “says it all.” Do you really believe this fairly and accurately represents how oridnary religious people approach the practical, real-world truths of science? Big generalizations and charicatures are the enemy of reason here, I think.

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Posted: 16 July 2010 09:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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mckenzievmd - 16 July 2010 09:41 AM

I do think deliberately and knowingly pissing people off is rarely helpful or productive, and I do think suggesting we be nice to people even when we disagree with them is not really some awful heresy. But that’s not the sole substance of my argument.

I’ll get back to some of your other points later, but I would like to know who is “deliberately and knowingly pissing off some people”? And who are the “some people?”

If you say we should not deliberately piss off people who accept science as well as religion, I agree. But I have seen no examples of anyone doing that. If I have missed them please point them out. If you say we should not mock Ray Comfort, then we disagree. He deserves ridicule.

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Posted: 16 July 2010 10:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Well, I’d rather not get into talking about specific writers and speakers since it’s likely to get one tarred and feathered around here, not to mention leading down Byzantine byways in which we argue over who said what and exactly what they really meant in context and so on. I think, though, that one could easily find examples of deliberately insulting references to religion and religious believers, without any distinctions between the various approaches to religious belief and science, in most of the prominent books and blogs commonly identified as “New Atheist.” It would surprise me if such articulate and intelligent public intellectuals were unaware that such language angers and offends, and in fact many of the defenses of this kind of language specifically acknowledge this and consider it fair game. The issue is 1) whether such style of criticism is useful, and sufficiently so to justify it’s agonist nature, and 2) whether it is fair to criticize such language without falling prey to histrionic charges of censorship, supporession of free inquiry, and so on.

I’m happy to disagree on the value of mockery and ridicule. It is entertaining and satisfying, but I think of it as the rhetorical equivalent of the donuts I so dearly love to eat: unhealthy in all but the most limited quanitity.

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Posted: 16 July 2010 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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mckenzievmd - 16 July 2010 10:02 AM

I’m happy to disagree on the value of mockery and ridicule. It is entertaining and satisfying, but I think of it as the rhetorical equivalent of the donuts I so dearly love to eat: unhealthy in all but the most limited quanitity.

I agree with that statement 100 percent. I also understand why you do not want to get into specific writers and speakers.

I believe directly confronting religious beliefs is useful. True, most people will discount facts and hide behind the shield of their beliefs when confronted, but you cannot reach those people no matter how you try. The confrontational (and I don’t mean “in your face” confrontation, I’m talking about empirical evidence versus supernatural claims) style does reach the fence sitters; the people who are honestly seeking answers but confused about where to find truth. Carl Sagan was the master at this, and his book “The Dragons of Eden” influenced me greatly. Mocking people such as Ray Comfort will reach the fence sitters. Ray Comfort himself is a lost cause; he is too far gone into craziness for any amount of discussion, however polite, to reach him.

The issue is ... 2) whether it is fair to criticize such language without falling prey to histrionic charges of censorship, supporession of free inquiry, and so on.

That right there pretty much summarizes why people have so little patience with accommodationists. Anyone who argues accomodationists are suppressing speech is “histrionic”? Not everyone. I believe there is room for accomodationism, confrontation and mockery in this debate. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to opening people’s eyes to evidence-based reasoning. Let me give a family story as an example.

Two of my cousins, brothers, are Christians. The older brother is a moderate Christian who believes in evolution, is fascinated by astronomy, and realizes doctors are far more effective at combating disease than any amount of intercessory prayer. We get along fine, even though we hold vastly diverging religious views. The younger brother is a born-again evangelical Christian who acts exactly like the cartoon George posted. Every time I try to discuss science with him his retort is “You can’t prove that!” Talking with him is an exercise in frustration,. He is arrogantly ignorant, and I have told him so put of exasperation. No amount of reasoned discussion is going to change his mind about Creationism or his beliefs that Satan placed dinosaur fossils in the rocks to confuse us. I feel no need to change the older brother’s mind, because he has bent his religious views to incorporate science. The younger, brother? He’s hopeless. He takes the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, and believes anything that contradicts the Bible is the work of Satan. I do not mock his views in person, but I see nothing wrong with publicly mocking the views of Ray Comfort and his ilk. Doing so will save a few people from falling into the clutches of literal Biblical belief.

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Posted: 16 July 2010 10:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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mckenzievmd - 16 July 2010 10:02 AM

Well, I’d rather not get into talking about specific writers and speakers since it’s likely to get one tarred and feathered around here, not to mention leading down Byzantine byways in which we argue over who said what and exactly what they really meant in context and so on. I think, though, that one could easily find examples of deliberately insulting references to religion and religious believers, without any distinctions between the various approaches to religious belief and science, in most of the prominent books and blogs commonly identified as “New Atheist.” It would surprise me if such articulate and intelligent public intellectuals were unaware that such language angers and offends, and in fact many of the defenses of this kind of language specifically acknowledge this and consider it fair game. The issue is 1) whether such style of criticism is useful, and sufficiently so to justify it’s agonist nature, and 2) whether it is fair to criticize such language without falling prey to histrionic charges of censorship, supporession of free inquiry, and so on.

Ok, so your position seems to be, don’t deliberately insult believers. But you have no proof that your approach is efficacious or even possible. We don’t have control over what believer’s find offensive. Some believers find the mere existence of non-theists offensive, much less their writings advocating for objective science. Even Bio Logos, the religious Accomodationist organization, can’t avoid offending a plurality of believers since science clearly shows the universe to be billions of years old and humans to be far, far older than the 6,000 years old that many litteralists believe in.

So, we have to start out with the issue that a plurality of Americans believe the bible is literally true, and can’t be soft peddled into comfort with science that directly contradicts their religion. So, that leaves you trying for the hearts and minds of a much smaller subset of people who are less set in their ways. Will the soft sell work with them? Or will soft peddling science, watering it down, saying it is a compatible way of knowing along with religion, merely give the hardcore litteralists a nice playing field to get creationism and ID into schools and into people’s minds as valid. I think that once you say, falsely, that science and religion are compatible ways of knowing then you give legitimacy to creationists. If religion is a valid “way of knowing” then how can you provably argue that creationism is false? You can’t, you just gave up. And I think that is one of the primary points of the New Atheists, that we mustn’t water down science to appease theists.

So, please don’t water down science to meaninglessness by soft peddling it and claiming that science and religion are “compatible” in an epistemological sense. They aren’t. Science can test truth claims. Religion can’t. It is not a valid way of “knowing.” It is just a way of **asserting**.

mckenzievmd - 16 July 2010 10:02 AM

I’m happy to disagree on the value of mockery and ridicule. It is entertaining and satisfying, but I think of it as the rhetorical equivalent of the donuts I so dearly love to eat: unhealthy in all but the most limited quanitity.

I disagree, and so does Thomas Jefferson:

“Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.”


—Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp July 30, 1816,

There is value to ridicule. Sometimes an argument is better demonstrated through ridcule than just through rational argument, especially when the other side has no rational argument. That doesn’t mean I think mere ridicule is sufficient, but I think it can be a valid adjunct. Related, the logical argument, Argumentum Ad Abusrdum can and does work as proof by contradiction. And likewise, ridicule can contain a rational and just argument. It is not necessarily the “donut” you claim it to be.

[ Edited: 16 July 2010 11:03 AM by Skep ]
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Posted: 16 July 2010 11:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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mckenzievmd - 16 July 2010 09:43 AM

George,

It’s cute but it hardly “says it all.” Do you really believe this fairly and accurately represents how oridnary religious people approach the practical, real-world truths of science? Big generalizations and charicatures are the enemy of reason here, I think.

No, not the ordinary religious people; I don’t think ordinary religious people care either way. But anytime the religious try to justify their beliefs they usually end up reasoning like the baseball guy.

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Posted: 16 July 2010 11:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Darron,

Well I agree that presenting the scientific facts on matters that religion (or any other faith-based world view, such as that behind alternative medicine) is useles for the true believers but very useful for the fence-sitters, so there’s no controversy there. I wouldn’t characterize that method as “confrontational,” so it wasn’t something I meant to include in my concerns about strategy. I certainly have no concerns at all with presenting the facts about the world as science finds them, and my “accommodationism” doesn’t include not reporting the facts. Evolution is clearly a fact, and I would never suggest we shouldn’t say so. My concerns are more about what you call “in your face” rhetorical styles.

Anyone who argues accomodationists are suppressing speech is “histrionic”?

Well, kind of yeah. I mean “supressing speech” is a hefty charge with a huge emotional resonance and images of book burning and government anti-sedition laws and the like. Critisizing someone for speaking in a way that you believe is unwise, unkind, or excessively inflammatory doesn’t suppress their speech, it simply offers a contrary perspective on it. If I write a book saying “Joe Atheist should stop insulting the religious because it just polarizes debate and impedes attempts to marginalize extremists,” how am I suppressing Joe’s speech? Now, if enough people agree with me and Joe starts to feel social pressure, or falling book sales, as a force discouraging his style of rhetoric, that isn’t censorship it’s the natural course of the “marketplace of ideas.” It’s exactly what we hope will happen when we criticize racist speech or religious speech in public life, that it will succeed in persuading people it is unacceptable and it will be marginalized. How is that censorship or suppression?

This is, I think a key issue. I too believe there is room for lots of different styles and strategies, but part of accepting that is accpeting that people will advocate for theirs and against that of others. I get why people who favor a confrontational style would disagree with me if I suggest it’s not helpful, and I respect that we have different positions on the issue. But I don’t get why they seem to get so angry and start tossing around words like censor and suppress.

[ Edited: 16 July 2010 11:50 AM by mckenzievmd ]
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Posted: 16 July 2010 11:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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mckenzievmd, I’m not sure you and I disagree so much, but I do like the Thomas Jefferson quote Skep used.

As long as you allow me to ridicule Ken Hamm and his Creation Museum we’ll be fine.

(Edited to correct name of Creation Museum founder.)

[ Edited: 16 July 2010 12:58 PM by DarronS ]
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Posted: 16 July 2010 12:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Skep, as I said in a different thread: Post #138 I don’t believe the issue of which style of public rhetoric is the most productive has been empirically decided either way. I find the existing literature on human psychology more inclined to support the position that aggressive, inflammatory styles are more often counterproductive, but lots of different styles may work in particular circumstances. The lack of definitive empirical evidence is a feature of both positions, so while it is lamentable it isn’t a point that necessarily supports either one.

I don’t find deliberately insulting people has every had any benefit in convincing them my position is correct and theirs incorrect. It makes me feel better, it generally leads to more emotional and less rational debate, but I don’t see the objective value of it in promoting a pro-science agenda. Obviously, offeding someone by youre mere existence is not “deliberate” and not what I’ve been talking about at all, so it’s not really relevant. I haven’t said that we should never say things that somebody somewhere will take offense at. I have said that it disturbs me that the most prominent, visible representations of my world view concerning science and religion tend to be people who promote that world view in ways which are often, in my opinion, unecessarily inflamatory and hostile. I think there are ways of making our case that are more likely to be effecive, and as unpopular as it is around here I think being polite, civil, humble, and considerate even to ones opponents is undervalued.

All the stuff about “watering down” science and the like is stuff you are attributing to my position based on your perceptions of it and not really anything I have argued for at all. It’s a bit of reductio ad absurdum that I don’t think gets us anywhere. I will repeat what I said to Darron, which is that I have no objection to explaining the facts as science shows them to us regardless of whether people wish to hear them. That is something entirely separate from the issue of whether deliberately insulting or inflammatory rhetoric is productive.

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Posted: 16 July 2010 12:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Darron,

Not really in my power to allow or disallow anything you want to say, but I tend to share your feelings on that particular subject. As always, I’ll express my agreement or disagreement with what you say and how you say it honestly and respectfully. I tend to think that your participation in this forum is actually a good example of the civil, mature, substantive kinds of debate I think are most useful, so I’m a bit surprised you feel so strongly about the value of ridicule since I don’t see you use it here very often. That’s more Occam’s thing, and we’ve gone a few rounds over it before. grin

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