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PZ Myers, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Chris Mooney - New Atheism or Accommodation?
Posted: 13 October 2010 08:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]
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dwilton - 13 October 2010 07:10 AM

It strikes me that frame for this debate is miscast. It should not be “science v. religion,” but rather “critical v. non-critical thinking.”

Good point.

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Posted: 13 October 2010 09:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]
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KiwiDon - 12 October 2010 04:49 PM
adrian - 12 October 2010 10:15 AM

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!

(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.

Kiwi,

I think we had some genuine miscommunication there.  When I said “minority”, I wasn’t talking about whether they accept or reject evolution - I’m well aware that in the US a majority of people reject evolution and while it’s still a minority in England the numbers are growing.  What I tried to ask is: of those people who reject evolution, is it because of a reaction to outspoken atheists or because of a prior religious commitment, because their church preaches YEC or because some Creationist has persuaded them?

I can’t imagine that even 1% of those who reject evolution do so because of Dawkins or PZ, in fact I’d bet their work writing and speaking has led many to question their faith or at least shift to accept more of evolution.

The reason I’m asking is this constant refrain from accomodationists that being outspoken doesn’t help.  Where’s the data?  Who are these stubborn, weak-minded people who evaluate claims based on personality?  The only reason anyone finds Dawkins offensive is if they are already religious - he is about as mild-mannered and inoffensive as a person can be otherwise.  And if questions are offensive then frankly accomodationists don’t have a chance, not without people working to shift the zeitgeist.

(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 realize it sounds repetitive and that it seems like it’s only to the converted but because of their efforts, atheism and secularism has remained a hot topic in the media for over five years.  Opinions and beliefs need a lot of time to shift so this sort of repetition is vital and they’re doing a much better job than any passive accomodationist has ever done.

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Posted: 13 October 2010 11:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]
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I don’t think Jennifer H. understands the meaning/role of ‘moderator’. I also thought PZ did a good job of holding his own.

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Posted: 13 October 2010 11:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]
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cheglabratjoe - 12 October 2010 07:57 PM

PZ Myers walks out of this looking pretty bad himself, since he sounded smug and arrogant…..

Have you ever sat in on one of his lectures?? That’s just the way he normally talks. I don’t know why people take his tone of voice as ‘smug and arrogant’. Every time I have heard him speak, he hasalways sounded like that!

[ Edited: 13 October 2010 02:53 PM by asanta ]
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Posted: 13 October 2010 11:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]
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Khris - 13 October 2010 05:33 AM
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.

Hi Khris, that is not the case as I heard it and certainly not what PZ actually said, “religious beliefs” plural. I would have been happier had PZ based his argument on the supernatural more in lines with what you believed he meant but listen to his debate again he didn’t! I quoted some comments that appeared purely fanatical earlier with the times they can be heard in the debate.

PZ rather than tactfully and amiably debating the issues was intolerant and rude.  He acted unlike I have ever heard him before and as an educator I’m sure he wouldn’t act like this lecturing students, treating all religious people with contempt, so why promote “new atheism” differently… is he trying to educate people or grandstanding?  I admire his educating people, and to be fair this is only one debate that I have heard him sound seething rather than witty and articulate.

[ Edited: 13 October 2010 12:10 PM by KiwiDon ]
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Posted: 13 October 2010 12:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]
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adrian - 13 October 2010 09:30 AM

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?

I think I conveyed my view by saying to Kris that if its about education then use what works best in the classroom. If its about grandstanding and keeping the issue in the media then being controversial will probably get more attention. 

The reason I’m asking is this constant refrain from accomodationists that being outspoken doesn’t help.  Where’s the data?  Who are these stubborn, weak-minded people who evaluate claims based on personality?

Look at education statistics. Can I ask you how many teachers you ever respected who taught antagonistically?

The dumb guy in my classroom never learned when he was repeatedly berated for ‘not getting it’, it was only ever through situations of nurture that his grades improved.

Beliefs are powerful things, rightly or wrongly they are held through cognitive dissonance were logic is dismissed telling someone they are ‘foolish’ for having religious beliefs (in my opinion) isn’t going to win them over.

Opinions and beliefs need a lot of time to shift so this sort of repetition is vital and they’re doing a much better job than any passive accomodationist has ever done.

Thanks for your explanation Adrian, I think we agree it takes time and can agree to disagree about the best method.

[ Edited: 13 October 2010 01:40 PM by KiwiDon ]
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Posted: 13 October 2010 12:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]
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KiwiDon - 13 October 2010 11:32 AM

Hi Kris, that is not the case as I heard it and certainly not what PZ actually said, “religious beliefs” plural. I would have been happier had PZ based his argument on the supernatural more in lines with what you believed he meant but listen to his debate again he didn’t! I quoted some comments that appeared purely fanatical earlier with the times they can be heard in the debate.

KiwiDon, I’m not sure if you’re being deliberately obtuse, or there is a genuine miscommunication, so I’ll proceed upon the latter assumption. Kris’ appraisal is the correct one, and is borne out by PZ’s earlier articles: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/03/sins_of_omission.php, http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/07/only_a_theory.php, google for more.

PZ respects Miller’s science work, but castigates Miller’s religious beliefs for being in conflict (read: inconsistent) with science. It’s what he said the in the podcast, it’s what he said in the blog articles, and it’s what he’ll continue to say. You have latched onto a single interpretation of PZ’s words, refuse to listen to those that correct you, and equate forceful statements with intolerance. This is not ‘name-calling’: this is simply fact.

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Posted: 13 October 2010 12:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]
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asanta - 13 October 2010 11:27 AM
cheglabratjoe - 12 October 2010 07:57 PM

PZ Myers walks out of this looking pretty bad himself, since he sounded smug and arrogant…..

Have you ever sat in on one of his lectures?? That’s just the way he normally talks. I don’t know why people take his tone of voice as ‘smug and arrogant’. Every time I have heard him speak, he hasalways sounded like that!

Yeah, I’ve seen him in person once, and I’ve heard him interviewed a few times.  I don’t normally find him “smug and arrogant,” I only did in this instance.  Just my opinion, of course, and even then I gave him a pass on it because I’m sure he was exasperated with being caricatured and having to explain himself over and over to people who should know better.

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Posted: 13 October 2010 12:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 69 ]
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sharkey - 13 October 2010 12:22 PM

KiwiDon, I’m not sure if you’re being deliberately obtuse, or there is a genuine miscommunication, so I’ll proceed upon the latter assumption. Kris’ appraisal is the correct one, and is borne out by PZ’s earlier articles: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/03/sins_of_omission.php, http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/07/only_a_theory.php, google for more..

I’m being deliberately obtuse, just like PZ… I’ll win you over by telling you your foolish and I know better as an atheist wink

Thanks for the links, I will go and take a look.

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Posted: 13 October 2010 12:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 70 ]
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KiwiDon - 13 October 2010 12:47 PM
sharkey - 13 October 2010 12:22 PM

KiwiDon, I’m not sure if you’re being deliberately obtuse, or there is a genuine miscommunication, so I’ll proceed upon the latter assumption. Kris’ appraisal is the correct one, and is borne out by PZ’s earlier articles: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/03/sins_of_omission.php, http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/07/only_a_theory.php, google for more..

I’m being deliberately obtuse, just like PZ… I’ll win you over by telling you your foolish and I know better as an atheist wink

Thanks for the links, I will go and take a look.

Fair enough smile

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Posted: 13 October 2010 01:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 71 ]
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It’s fun to read the different takes, kinda makes me wonder do people have genetically different ears or what. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I incline to agree with Myers; Tuesdays Thursdays and Saturdays with Hecht and what’s that other guys name ah yes I remember Mooney. On Sundays I keep my opinions to myself realising I can argue myself out of any pigeonhole others want me in.

Joking aside I thought: Hecht did not chair the “debate”, she elbowed Mooney aside, All three came across as reasonable and civil human beings, All made interesting and valid points, Its possible their views could be reconciled, but they just weren’t listening attentively enough to each other, Their goals came out as slightly different, which would explain why they kept repeating their own points, Its very hard to listen to others when you have so many clever things of your own to say.

I owe it to the debate to listen at least one more time; who knows I might learn some more stuff.

The standard of debate here is better than RD.net

I enjoyed this podcast notwithstanding its many imperfections.  Metaphorically speaking I would like to knock heads together and make people pay better attention to the other speaker.

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Posted: 13 October 2010 01:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 72 ]
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Just FYI: according to some rather reliable information, Hecht did not know she was to “moderate” this episode until Mooney mentioned it during the show.

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Posted: 13 October 2010 02:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 73 ]
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junkmotel - 13 October 2010 01:43 PM

Just FYI: according to some rather reliable information, Hecht did not know she was to “moderate” this episode until Mooney mentioned it during the show.

I suppose it was “during the show” but it was just about the first thing he said in his introduction and Hecht picked it up without hesitation or apparent surprise and asked a question.

Additionally the text which describes the podcast states:

“The moderator was Jennifer Michael Hecht, the author of Doubt: A History. The next day, the three reprised their public debate for a special episode of Point of Inquiry, with Hecht sitting in as a guest host in Mooney’s stead.”

Nevertheless if what you say is true about it being dropped on her out of the blue then it suggests rather haphazard organisation.

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Posted: 13 October 2010 03:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 74 ]
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KiwiDon - 13 October 2010 11:32 AM

PZ rather than tactfully and amiably debating the issues was intolerant and rude.  He acted unlike I have ever heard him before and as an educator I’m sure he wouldn’t act like this lecturing students, treating all religious people with contempt, so why promote “new atheism” differently… is he trying to educate people or grandstanding?  I admire his educating people, and to be fair this is only one debate that I have heard him sound seething rather than witty and articulate.

Actually Kiwi, PZ showed remarkable restraint in the face of some barefaced stupidity, especially from Jennifer.

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Posted: 13 October 2010 03:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 75 ]
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kennykjc - 13 October 2010 03:13 PM
KiwiDon - 13 October 2010 11:32 AM

PZ rather than tactfully and amiably debating the issues was intolerant and rude.  He acted unlike I have ever heard him before and as an educator I’m sure he wouldn’t act like this lecturing students, treating all religious people with contempt, so why promote “new atheism” differently… is he trying to educate people or grandstanding?  I admire his educating people, and to be fair this is only one debate that I have heard him sound seething rather than witty and articulate.

Actually Kiwi, PZ showed remarkable restraint in the face of some barefaced stupidity, especially from Jennifer.

To be fair there was fault in the structure of the debate and it became two against one, though (I) didn’t hear any “restraint”.  Thanks to Sharkey I will go and read PZ’s blog and see what he say’s there. As has been suggest - what I heard from the debate may not be a totally accurate account of his views.

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