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PZ Myers, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Chris Mooney - New Atheism or Accommodation?
Posted: 12 October 2010 04:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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DavidC - 11 October 2010 08:29 AM

P.S. Why was Jennifer Hecht ‘moderating’? It was like having Rush Limbaugh moderate a debate between Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly!

Just finished it today—She did an fine job but she sort of took sides (it wasn’t a formal debate). Now if they had had Jennifer Hecht and Jerry Coyne be joint-moderators that would have been fun!

I think PZ held his own.

I think Hecht needed to keep better focus on the topic since both Mooney and PZ Myers have good points—PZ kept coming back to “what is the point of accomodating” but didn’t really get anywhere with that.

It really seems like he gets sandbagged a lot with the claim that most religious people don’t REALLY believe in God…so why not just accomodate them (?)

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Posted: 12 October 2010 04:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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adrian - 12 October 2010 10:15 AM

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?

(A1)“According to the 2001 census, there were 41 million Christians in Great Britain, making up almost three quarters of the population (72%). This group included the Church of England, Church of Scotland, Church in Wales, Catholic, Protestant and all other Christian denominations. -BBC”

“minority of people” It is in fact a far more substantial number of people. Attacking (all religious people) in a manner like I heard PZ on this podcast (unlike the more witty approach say in the TSGTTU podcast) isn’t winning people over, its getting their backs up - rather than leaving dialog open. Its saying ‘your foolish’ rather than planting a seed and agreeing to disagree for a time.

(A2) PZ has a day job and I think he is in it for the right reasons, Dawkins spends too much time preaching to the converted and isn’t handling his PR as well as I think he could… but that’s my opinion and I’ve never met either man, so I could be wrong in this view.

I agree with Adrian it is a good cop /bad cop routine, my thoughts are that ultimately the good cop will go further. Not answering the question is ultimately better than being wrong and becoming fanatical yourself. I’m surprised that this hasn’t been talked about more here… The best fights at school were never just some kid getting hit by the school bully but when two bully’s had a go at each other… man that got a crowd.

[ Edited: 12 October 2010 04:52 PM by KiwiDon ]
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Posted: 12 October 2010 05:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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KiwiDon:

You’ve committed a non-sequitur. Stating statistics on the number of professed believers does not imply that PZ’s tactics are harmful, nor imply that the religious beliefs of the statistical sample are consistent with science.

Try again.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 06:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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sharkey - 12 October 2010 05:42 PM

KiwiDon:

You’ve committed a non-sequitur. Stating statistics on the number of professed believers does not imply that PZ’s tactics are harmful, nor imply that the religious beliefs of the statistical sample are consistent with science.

Try again.

Hi sharkey, take from what you will but your “non-sequiter” of my alleged non-sequiter is not constructive debate.  It is name calling at best. Can you explain or offer an opinion like I have - rather than just shoot the messenger?

“Stating statistics on the number of professed believers does not imply that PZ’s tactics are harmful” My opinion is that PZ’s approach isn ‘t the best one (That is only my opinion) you are welcome to disagree with it.

“nor imply that the religious beliefs of the statistical sample are consistent with science.” That is disingenuous because that’s not what I said. The issue is what PZ said, and I believe I have demonstrated that what he said was wrong. He himself later contradicted himself by way of a special pleading about Miller. 

What are your feeling about the debate on “Atheism or Accommodation”, were there any further points you feel strongly about or disagree with?

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Posted: 12 October 2010 07:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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KiwiDon - 12 October 2010 06:21 PM

Hi sharkey, take from what you will but your “non-sequiter” of my alleged non-sequiter is not constructive debate.  It is name calling at best. Can you explain or offer an opinion like I have - rather than just shoot the messenger?

KiwiDon, I wasn’t trying to offend, I was only giving a logical rebuttal to your points. However, you inferred “name-calling” from “committed a non-sequitur”, and subsequently took offense.

I hope you see the parallel between this exchange, and similar statements made by PZ and Dawkins. When PZ or Dawkins point out the logical problems with a religious position, it is often considered an attack upon those who hold said position. The simple fact is: much of the “stridency” or “militancy” of Dawkins et al. is simply unfamiliarity with logical arguments.

KiwiDon - 12 October 2010 06:21 PM

“nor imply that the religious beliefs of the statistical sample are consistent with science.” That is disingenuous because that’s not what I said. The issue is what PZ said, and I believe I have demonstrated that what he said was wrong. He himself later contradicted himself by way of a special pleading about Miller.

You haven’t demonstrated that what PZ said was wrong; furthermore, you have been shown the error of your thinking by adrian, George and Bruce, but you still can’t see why you are mistaken. Bringing up Miller isn’t special pleading, it’s an example of the problem: Miller’s religious beliefs conflict with science. As does Francis Collins’ beliefs conflict with science. As does any individual that sees a role for the supernatural in evolution, or in the creation of the world, or in the permanence of a soul.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 07:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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What a farce this episode was!

Jennifer Michael Hecht embarrassed herself on a number of levels.  What kind of “moderator” outs herself as so ridiculously biased that, by the end of the “debate,” the person she’s siding with feels the need to take charge, reel her in, and wrap the debacle up (as Mooney did)?  That’s plenty bad enough already, but she was far worse still.  She didn’t even make an effort to moderate, instead injecting her own opinions and thoughts out of the blue.  She continually brought up various groups of people (those who “interpret” the scientific world as religious, and those who Dawkins scared away from atheism but she heroically re-de-converted) even though Mooney and PZ’s conversation had nothing to do with them.  She was a disaster as a “moderator,” and wouldn’t have been interesting or compelling even if she were supposed to be a direct part of the discussion.

Chris Mooney was good only by comparison to Hecht.  He would throw out a mischaracterization of PZ’s position, and would not respond to PZ’s patient explanation and defense of his actual position.  He (and often Hecht) would just steamroll on to the next mischaracterization.  No progress whatsoever.

PZ Myers walks out of this looking pretty bad himself, since he sounded smug and arrogant.  I don’t entirely blame him, though, since he spent the entire time schooling Hecht and Mooney in the actual ideas and rationale of a position (New Atheism) they supposedly understand yet disagree with.  Also, if PZ’s gut reaction to them (and their straw-manning, and their impartiality, and their question-ducking, etc) was anything like mine, he would’ve been justifiably indignant and annoyed from the get-go.

This episode was just a disaster.  It might take the cake as the worse post-DJ Point of Inquiry episode.  The Bob Price “Christian Atheist” fiasco was at least mercifully esoteric and confusing ... this was accessible, yet all the more awful for it.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 08:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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sharkey - 12 October 2010 07:46 PM

You haven’t demonstrated that what PZ said was wrong

I’m sorry but I disagree… I quoted PZ and supplied the time when he made his incorrect statement in the podcast. Saying I’m wrong doesn’t make it so.

sharkey - 12 October 2010 07:46 PM

furthermore, you have been shown the error of your thinking by adrian, George and Bruce,

Not at all, the only thing I’ve been shown wrong about was I thought George had also seen the contradiction too and asked him to correct me if I was wrong, which agreed he did.

sharkey - 12 October 2010 07:46 PM

but you still can’t see why you are mistaken.

Again I disagree on your logic, putting words into my mouth doesn’t make the mistake mine at all, the discussion has become one of moving goal posts as others have introduced their opinions and arguments.

sharkey - 12 October 2010 07:46 PM

Bringing up Miller isn’t special pleading, it’s an example of the problem: Miller’s religious beliefs conflict with science. As does Francis Collins’ beliefs conflict with science. As does any individual that sees a role for the supernatural in evolution, or in the creation of the world, or in the permanence of a soul.

I think you missed the point between what PZ initially said and later discussed about Miller and what I’m saying that “Science and Religion are not always mutually exclusive.” PZ made the slipper slope logical fallacy.  While Chris didn’t name anyone or any group whose religion isn’t in conflict with science they exist nonetheless. I provided Newton and Einstein as examples and unless your stating all their work was wrong I am correct… there is no other logical conclusion… pointing out some of their errors is not supporting PZ’s or the others argument because I never said that they are always right, just that they were not always in conflict with science because they held a religious belief.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 09:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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I’ve shied away from this but finally broke down and listen to it this evening - and I tell you bro…

I need to jump on the bandwagon here -
that was very disappointing, had to smack my hand away from turning it off more than once.

For me, Hecht deserves every scrap of the aforementioned scathing critique.
A moderator isn’t supposed to attempt making their personal thinking/opinion central to the discussion. Which she did every time she opened her mouth. Totally awful > geez, she seemed incapable of listening. Hell of an example mad

Listen to it, every interjection of Hecht’s went way out of bounds for a moderator, and way longer than justified.  Beyond that she made little sense within her own argument.

PZ made a whole bunch more sense than either Hecht or, I must admit, Mooney.

As for Mooney’s early comment about religion’s varying degrees - To me it seems more a quantum states situation - It is all or nothing for evangelical types (the majority).  Which is exactly why “they” are so tenaciously clinging to every aspect of their dogmas - creationism, lord/savior, godly insight. Once a domino falls, it all crumbles… point goes to PZ.

Occam I would so like to tear into Hecht’s dialogue right about here, but ok, I’ll hold my peace. . .

ps… PZ Myers given this “debate” you get my vote.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 09:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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citizenschallenge.pm - 12 October 2010 09:32 PM

A moderator isn’t supposed to attempt making their personal thinking/opinion central to the discussion. Which she did every time she opened her mouth.

I agree it was poorly moderated.

ps… PZ Myers given this “debate” you get my vote.

Was PZ the winner in your opinion because of his stance and do you think he would have still won had he been more affable?

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Posted: 12 October 2010 09:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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KiwiDon - 12 October 2010 09:46 PM

Was PZ the winner in your opinion because of his stance and do you think he would have still won had he been more affable?

I think he won, because of the substance of his arguments… they made sense to me.
And I can’t say as much for Heckt, or even Mooney’s comments to PZ Myers remarks.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 10:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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macnamae - 12 October 2010 09:55 AM

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.

Has Mooney ever received any death threats?, because PZ did.  I thought that PZ’s comment about not being liked was a little too undignified under the circumstances and hypocritical considering people have threatened his own life.

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Posted: 12 October 2010 10:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
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Aren’t debates fun when opponents just reiterate the same position over and over as a response?

Hmm, hang on, that’s every debate I’ve ever heard…

Was still a good episode. This is my impression.

I understood where each of the panelists were coming from; and actually agreed with them all, but
they never strayed enough from their own turf to explore where their differences lie.

Seemed maybe they weren’t only “arguing tactics”... was there a fundamental difference in their view of religion?

?: One side supposes that religion is essentailly the (or a) root of all (or much) evil and that
therefore the objective should always be to refute it wholesale rather than its “symptoms”. Whereas the other side
supposes that religion through false is not in itself the cause of adverse conditions (but maybe a symptom of them)
and so therefore we should sometimes accomodate it to better address the individual issues (that may be a problem)
in a more piecemeal way.

If that is true, then it’s not tactics that is the difference between the camps, but a complete difference in agenda?

Is “to be rude or not to be rude” the core of the argument or just a surface layer?

?: One side supposes that the scientific method and the right to free speech should
never defer to the “sacred”. The other supposes that the truth itself is sacred and should never
simply defer to the scientific method or the language of science (no matter how valid a tool it is).

Funny how they flirted with rudeness with each other at one point. Jennifers comment about people carrying baggage
from religious upbringings and PZs comment about Chris being seen as insipid. Like they were testing the idea that
even though people can have almost everything in common, one thing could easily make them sworn enemies,
resonating with the earlier points about that religious evolutionist.

Impressions of rudeness often come down to the language we use. I think the New Atheists language
is inherently more pointed and applicable to specifics as PZ pointed out (based on most of it being ported
across from the scientific method). Great when talking about the existance of Noah’s ark as a literal event.
The other side’s language is more prudent and circumspect which is equally as valid when talking about the
unknowns of existance. Call it “fuzzy” or “wishy-washy”; but the points that Jennifer made about there
being room for people to explain the same essential viewpoints in different ways were actually very
subtle and only break down because they get into the vagaries of language; ie the meaning of “religion”
is different to everyone.

My impression is that PZ has a pointed specific way of getting to the truth, but often applies it in a
sweeping manner to make his point whereas Chris and Jennifers thinking is more expansive,
but often focuses in on a specific person as an example. Maybe they were trying to talk each others
language to make their points. Lots of shots fired over the bow.

Anyway, it was an interesting episode from perspective.

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Posted: 13 October 2010 05:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
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KiwiDon - 11 October 2010 03:49 PM

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.

Hello there, first post.

This is an issue of definiton; when PZ said the above, it’s clear to me that by “religious belief” he means “belief in something supernatural”, e.g. rising the dead, walking on water, cracker becomes flesh, etc. These are religious beliefs, as opposed to a historic hypothesis like the location of a locust plague or whether it existed.
By referring to “science” he’s talking about a naturalistic world-view where the supernatural has no place when it comes to explaining things.
What he’s talking about, basically, is that Collins and Miller don’t work in the lab with the expectation that God will intervene in their experiments, and that there probably isn’t an actual scientist that does, as in, the scientific community would laugh at them if they tried to publish a paper about how prayer heals cancer.

So no, PZ didn’t contradict himself. He simply stated that Miller’s head houses two different ways of addressing stuff although they contradict each other, and that listening to Miller is worthwhile when what he says is based on the scientific way and not so if it’s about religious stuff.

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Posted: 13 October 2010 07:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
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Having just listened to this podcast I had to sign up to say that Hecht really doesn’t know how to impartially moderate a discussion. The whole thing was bizarre.

Every so often she would interrupt the debate with a bizarre series of platitudes about the world being more complicated than science understands or to get in her own bit of vague, touchy-feely axe-grinding and then expect PZ to answer.  As an example of platitudes she used her position as “moderator” to get in the last word and say that the only thing was was interested in was the truth.  Who needs to defend this point?  Who in the discussion was taking the opposite position?  Why should the moderator sum up their personal position at the end of a debate anyway?

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Posted: 13 October 2010 07:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
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It strikes me that frame for this debate is miscast. It should not be “science v. religion,” but rather “critical v. non-critical thinking.” Also, much of the debate is ad hominem, e.g., whether or not Ken Miller is a Catholic or a good scientist is beside the point; what is import are the particular ideas he holds. A person can be both religious and scientific, but an idea cannot be.

When viewed through a critical lens, it rapidly becomes clear that all theological arguments are filled with logical fallacies, fuzzy thinking, and a lack of supporting evidence. (Black swan fallacy here; there may be some coherent theological arguments out there, but no one has been able to cite them, so we can provisionally say “all.”) In this sense, religion and science are utterly incompatible because religion and theology are at their core irrational.

Once you proceed using this frame, you rapidly come to the new atheist position that religious belief is silly, but unobjectionable if left as a private matter. But if you take that belief into the sphere of public debate, then it should be subject to the same critical inquiry that any other rationale is subject to. Religion gets no special dispensation when it comes to public policy. This is all that Dawkins, Myers, and the other new atheists are saying. To say otherwise, as the “accommodationists” do, is to say that we should accept irrational thought processes as a means for determining public policy. “Homosexuality is bad because the Bible tells me so” and “Vaccines are bad because the Huffington Post told me so” are equally objectionable statements. Religion, per se, has nothing to do with it. You either proceed rationally or you don’t; there is no middle ground for “accommodation” on this point.

This does not mean that an atheist cannot cooperate with theists when on the same side of a public debate. Take teaching creationism in public schools for example. One can demonstrate the fallacies of young earth creationism without attacking the entire Christian theological edifice. And both atheists and progressive Christians would agree that the state privileging one particular religious viewpoint is both unconstitutional and bad policy and precedent. But this is a tactical choice to mute or ignore the aspects of the debate where they disagree, not a denial that the two views are, at their root, incompatible. And this does not mean that you have to mute or ignore the differences in general and for all time. Libertarians and Democrats, for example, agree that many aspects of the Patriot Act are bad and can work together to change them, but that does not mean that they don’t keep debating each other regarding other policies.

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