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PZ Myers, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Chris Mooney - New Atheism or Accommodation?
Posted: 12 October 2010 02:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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KiwiDon - 12 October 2010 12:49 AM
Bruce Gorton - 11 October 2010 11:58 PM
KiwiDon - 11 October 2010 03:49 PM
George - 11 October 2010 03:33 PM

Sorry, KiwiDon, that is not what I am suggesting at all.

So you don’t think that PZ contradicted himself by saying “that Miller’s science was admirable but his religious beliefs were not.” Having categorically stated “Name the person whose religious beliefs does not conflict with science… I would say their aren’t any.” 

I believe the issues are non sequitur and PZ should have known better.  Belief in religion doesn’t make you a bad scientist or vice versa.

Sorry that I misinterpreted, I thought you had seen this too.

People can do good science in one area and hold completely ascientific beliefs in another. Or do you think Peter H. Duesberg’s work on AIDS is good science?

Scientists are perfectly capable of holding views that conflict with science - after all science covers a lot of different things, to the point where calling someone a scientist verges on being meaningless.

Do you seriously not get this?

I perfectly get that they can but unlike what PZ stated I don’t accept that they all are.  That’s my my point that you seem to be making back to me… Did I not express it clearly enough for you? I didn’t use Duesberg as an example so you are being disingenuous with your question by ‘poisoning the well’,  you have also changed the structure to ‘Scientists can do bad science’ from what PZ actually stated regarding ‘religious beliefs being in conflict with science.’ Any reason for this???

Using an example to illustrate a point isn’t poisoning the well.

You see a contradition in PZ saying in one breath that he sees religious beliefs as conflicting with science, and in the next that Miller does good science.

With regards to Ken Miller he is a Roman Catholic. The Catholic Church teaches, as one of its central tenets, that a cracker and a glass of wine become the literal flesh and blood of Jesus when blessed by a priest and consumed by a Catholic. Is such a belief founded on good science? No. Test it and you would find that the wine is still wine, the cracker is still a cracker.

Does this mean that Miller’s work on evolution isn’t good? No, he is still a good scientist.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 02:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Bruce Gorton - 12 October 2010 02:10 AM

I perfectly get that they can but unlike what PZ stated I don’t accept that they all are.  That’s my my point that you seem to be making back to me… Did I not express it clearly enough for you? I didn’t use Duesberg as an example so you are being disingenuous with your question by ‘poisoning the well’,  you have also changed the structure to ‘Scientists can do bad science’ from what PZ actually stated regarding ‘religious beliefs being in conflict with science.’ Any reason for this???

Using an example to illustrate a point isn’t poisoning the well.

You see a contradition in PZ saying in one breath that he sees religious beliefs as conflicting with science, and in the next that Miller does good science.

With regards to Ken Miller he is a Roman Catholic. The Catholic Church teaches, as one of its central tenets, that a cracker and a glass of wine become the literal flesh and blood of Jesus when blessed by a priest and consumed by a Catholic. Is such a belief founded on good science? No. Test it and you would find that the wine is still wine, the cracker is still a cracker.

Does this mean that Miller’s work on evolution isn’t good? No, he is still a good scientist.

Thank you for expanding on what you said Bruce.  In context I did take adding Duesberg into the mix as ‘poisoning the well’ as his example wasn’t inline with what I had stated.

More correctly I see PZ saying ALL religious belief is in conflict with science, which is what he initially said.

I think Miller can tell the difference between wine and blood, crackers and flesh ...the fact he may take communion doesn’t mean he can’t distinguish between them in a lab.  Hence my discussion on the issue. 

My concern with PZ’s approach is that he is alienating all religious scientists, not just those masquerading ID as science.

Going back to the podcast, I’d like hear a debate between someone who is an informed theologian rather than simply a true believer from ID. PZ wasn’t as convincing (my opinion) as I have heard him in other podcast’s, for the reasons stated above.

If I had to pick between PZ and Chris to debate the issue on one side for science, I would pick Chris. But PZ usually has such flair - which I didn’t hear in this debate.

What do you all think, was he as convincing in your opinions?

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Posted: 12 October 2010 03:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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No - but that is more the fault of bad moderation.

While I disagree with Mooney on a lot, I think he should have been moderating between Myers and Hecht in the first place, rather than that end up being how the discussion developed in the end.

It is an important, and far from universal skill moderating an argument where you agree with one side of it and not the other - and Hecht doesn’t have it.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 07:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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Jennifer Michael Hecht stated “I’ve met many people who told me that I turned them into atheists and Richard Dawkins turned them back, and then I had to do it again and that’s exhausting work

This it patently ridiculous.

If a person decides they are an atheist, nothing Dawkins says will convince them that they believe in god again, it might sour them on the “Atheist Movement” whatever that is, but push them back to religion?  No.

Either Hecht was exaggerating, or the people who told her that were lying either about their atheism or their re-conversion.

Hecht was not a moderator in this debate in any sense of the word.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 07:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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PZ’s attitude here was like nothing I’ve heard from him in an interview before.

Dripping with contempt and condescension from the start and never letting up.

When he talks to people like this he should not expect anything other than animosity for the inhumanity he is displaying.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 08:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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KiwiDon - 12 October 2010 02:59 AM

More correctly I see PZ saying ALL religious belief is in conflict with science, which is what he initially said.

I think Miller can tell the difference between wine and blood, crackers and flesh ...the fact he may take communion doesn’t mean he can’t distinguish between them in a lab.  Hence my discussion on the issue. 

My concern with PZ’s approach is that he is alienating all religious scientists, not just those masquerading ID as science.

Well, which religious beliefs are not in conflict with science?  Hecht dodged that question repeatedly and I don’t see it answered here.

We’ve got two problems, first that religious ideas (and ideas in general) are boundless but reality is tightly constrained so the chances of the two matching is very slim indeed.  A bigger problem is that, much like the medicine/alt-med debate, when science confirms an idea it becomes science and stops being a religious idea, so almost by definition “religious ideas” are those which are either not confirmed or actually rejected by science.  That last is a slight exaggeration but not much of one.

So why don’t you try to take his challenge where Hecht could not.  Perhaps the attempt will prove his point, clarify it or maybe even reject it outright.  I’d be interested to see what people come up with.


As for alienating scientists - that seems a little absurd.  Who are these shrinking violets who can’t stand to work with people who don’t agree with them on all issues?  Atheists in the US are outnumbered 10:1 yet they still contribute to political, educational, environmental or ethical causes which almost certainly contain a majority of Christians, many of whom will disagree vocally with them on religious issues.  Do you know how?  It’s because they don’t talk about religion all the time!  Do you think that when Ken Miller worked on the Dover trial he cared about what others thought of his religious beliefs?  Do you think anyone ever mentioned them?  No, because they were focused on a different task.

Am I totally missing your point because it seems so laughable that I think I must be off base somewhere.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 08:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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Ken Larson - 12 October 2010 07:33 AM

If a person decides they are an atheist, nothing Dawkins says will convince them that they believe in god again, it might sour them on the “Atheist Movement” whatever that is, but push them back to religion?  No.

You’ve got to wonder what sort of allies these would be at the best of times.  They sound like the kind of people who are shopping for religious, scientific and philosophical ideas based on celebrity endorsements or which billboard has the most pink in it.  “Ooh shiny candlesticks, I’m gonna be a Jew.  I feel a bit parched, time to be a Catholic.  Eew, Hannity is a catholic, I better be a Baptist.”  If these people do exist, I wouldn’t want their support.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 09:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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adrian - 12 October 2010 08:00 AM

Well, which religious beliefs are not in conflict with science?  Hecht dodged that question repeatedly and I don’t see it answered here.

We’ve got two problems, first that religious ideas (and ideas in general) are boundless but reality is tightly constrained so the chances of the two matching is very slim indeed.  A bigger problem is that, much like the medicine/alt-med debate, when science confirms an idea it becomes science and stops being a religious idea, so almost by definition “religious ideas” are those which are either not confirmed or actually rejected by science.  That last is a slight exaggeration but not much of one.

So why don’t you try to take his challenge where Hecht could not.  Perhaps the attempt will prove his point, clarify it or maybe even reject it outright.  I’d be interested to see what people come up with.

As for alienating scientists - that seems a little absurd.  Who are these shrinking violets who can’t stand to work with people who don’t agree with them on all issues?  Atheists in the US are outnumbered 10:1 yet they still contribute to political, educational, environmental or ethical causes which almost certainly contain a majority of Christians, many of whom will disagree vocally with them on religious issues.  Do you know how?  It’s because they don’t talk about religion all the time!  Do you think that when Ken Miller worked on the Dover trial he cared about what others thought of his religious beliefs?  Do you think anyone ever mentioned them?  No, because they were focused on a different task.

Am I totally missing your point because it seems so laughable that I think I must be off base somewhere.

That’s why “conflict” is being used as a verb without an object… the problem is that PZ made religion inclusive with conflict, I’m saying that isn’t necessarily so. You can’t prove a negative as the saying goes, though Steven Hales disagrees, but examples that disproves PZ on this don’t need to be supernatural, they can be geographical - such as the location of a biblical place, or genealogy - DNA tracing the 12 Tribes of Israel etc… they don’t need examples going all the way to their full conclusion of Adam and Eve unless the “religious person” actually believes that as a literal fact, few christens I know ‘if any’ do, yet that wasn’t the case even 20 years ago.
“As for alienating scientists - that seems a little absurd.” I disagree, its far better to have more people on side than less. Haven’t you ever seen someone who is uninformed accepting the beliefs of another because their ideas are in general synergy?

Pope John Paul II saying that evolution is “more than just a theory” is a great start, we should be encouraging more scientific education and beating ID at its own game rather than just sledding those who aren’t entirely on our side by alienating them from the outset. That is why I think Chris had the better approach.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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Oh god this was painful but bravo to PZ for a fantastic job.

I literally laughed out loud when PZ told Mooney that some people don’t like him very much.

I find it ironic that the accomodationists constantly refer to vocal atheists as arrogant. I think it’s completely the other way around. Mooney and his group are the arrogant ones. They are the ones trying to devise some political/marketing strategy to manipulate religionists.

I find PZ’s approach refreshingly transparent and honest.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 10:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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KiwiDon - 12 October 2010 09:46 AM

examples that disproves PZ on this don’t need to be supernatural, they can be geographical - such as the location of a biblical place, or genealogy - DNA tracing the 12 Tribes of Israel etc… they don’t need examples going all the way to their full conclusion of Adam and Eve unless the “religious person” actually believes that as a literal fact, few christens I know ‘if any’ do, yet that wasn’t the case even 20 years ago.

Would you really call the setting of biblical stories a religious belief?  That seems like an incredible stretch.  I would be impressed if you asked any Christian about the details of their belief and they responded by saying “I believe Bethlehelm was a city.”

“As for alienating scientists - that seems a little absurd.” I disagree, its far better to have more people on side than less. Haven’t you ever seen someone who is uninformed accepting the beliefs of another because their ideas are in general synergy?

Sure, it’s the foundation of racism, sexism and bigotry that humans tend to agree with those people who most resemble them in appearance, behaviour or ideas.  I’m not accusing Christians of being these things, I’m saying that everyone even atheists share these irrational tendencies.

So yes, when we want to promote evolution then by all means bring in atheists, Catholics, Hindus and Mormons and whomever else you can find so that people can get over this barrier and open themselves up to the ideas.  Of course.  Which Gnu Atheist has ever suggested that we don’t ally ourselves with theists on these separate issues?


Questions:

1.  Why do you believe that even a minority of people will reject evolution or scientific ideas because some atheistic supporters make speeches attacking religion in other venues?  Its not like they’re standing up in conferences on Global Warming to ridicule transubstantiation!

2.  What do you believe the ultimate goal is of PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins and which allies do you imagine they’re trying to attract?  When you say it’s better to have religious people on their “side”, which side is that?

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Posted: 12 October 2010 11:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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adrian - 12 October 2010 10:15 AM

What do you believe the ultimate goal is of PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins and which allies do you imagine they’re trying to attract?  When you say it’s better to have religious people on their “side”, which side is that?

Great point adrian. I think the major disagreement between Mooney and PZ is which of them is acting “tactically” and which one is acting “strategically”. Mooney thinks that PZ’s criticism can only affect a small and short-term audience, and accommodating believers will allow the long-term goal of increased rationality to take hold. PZ is diametrically opposed; accommodation is a short-term ploy, and only criticism will succeed over the long-term.

I’m in PZ’s camp for now, but I think Mooney’s approach could be applicable when atheists become a stronger, more cohesive segment of the public sphere.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 11:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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sharkey - 12 October 2010 11:19 AM

I think the major disagreement between Mooney and PZ is which of them is acting “tactically” and which one is acting “strategically”.

I suspect it may be deeper than that.  I think the major disagreement is that Mooney and PZ have completely different goals and target audiences.  I could be wrong because, despite PZ’s repeated questions, Mooney has not clarified these issues.  Listen to the podcast - Mooney keeps saying that PZ isn’t helping and PZ keeps asking who and what goal he isn’t helping but never gets an answer.

Even with different goals I’m still not convinced that Mooney is pursuing it well or that PZ doesn’t help Mooney as a by product but it’s hard to have a rich conversation without these details.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 12:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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adrian - 12 October 2010 11:40 AM

I suspect it may be deeper than that.  I think the major disagreement is that Mooney and PZ have completely different goals and target audiences.  I could be wrong because, despite PZ’s repeated questions, Mooney has not clarified these issues.  Listen to the podcast - Mooney keeps saying that PZ isn’t helping and PZ keeps asking who and what goal he isn’t helping but never gets an answer.

I agree, the ultimate goal was never specified during this podcast, but I assume that the goal PZ and Mooney are working towards is a world where the “correct” answers to questions from controversial fields are widely accepted, not because of authority but because of rationality and critical thinking; controversial fields would include stem-cell research, global warming, origin of species and the role of revelation in truth. During the podcast, PZ made mention of this goal, and Mooney seemed to agree, at least tacitly.

If this is their ultimate goal, then PZ is correct: both approaches will be required at different times and/or directed at different people. If they don’t share this ultimate goal, then PZ is still correct: Mooney has his goal he can work towards, and PZ will work towards his own.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 02:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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sharkey - 12 October 2010 12:39 PM

both approaches will be required at different times and/or directed at different people

A classic bad cop / good cop routine.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 02:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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Who knew a “moderator” could out-Mooney Mooney.

“I’ve met many people who told me that I turned them into atheists and Richard Dawkins turned them back, and then I had to do it again and that’s exhausting work”.

There are so many reasons this doesn’t make sense. First of all, I highly doubt she has converted more religious people to atheism than Richard Dawkins. Secondly, Richard Dawkins by being unafraid to offend has gotten world-wide fame and thus given atheism an awareness which is great for recruitment. This may even suggest that being more “strident” is the best approach since you’re hardly gonna get a lot of notice by being tepid and afraid to offend. It may make the believers offended and defensive but I’m not convinced it’s a bad thing in the long run. When the Pope compared atheism to Nazi’s, I took it as a victory for atheism, because our numbers and voices had grown sufficiently to rattle his cage. Thirdly, how the hell can someone be an atheist and then become a theist just because Dawkins or anyone else said something that for some reason offended them? These people were probably never atheists at all and I think I can say that they were just trying to get atheists to respect them and when they felt that respect was gone they took their ball and went home. Good. They probably weren’t worth it anyway.

I did a lot more face-palming during the course of this episode, but I really don’t want to write thousands of words on it. I think the reason it frustrates me so much is because the accomodationalists just always spew out these nebulous claims that nobody can pin down and that was highlighted near the end when Jennifer said “you’re wrong” followed by a statement to which PZ simply said “be specific…no atheist would disagree with that” ... so I’m always left wondering, what the hell is the point? Getting Templeton cash maybe?

I can’t wait for the next POI trainwreck. This almost topped the “Christian Atheist” episode!

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