Celebrating Darwin: Religion And Science Are Closer Than You Think

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He looked really uneasy. I’d just finished giving my first lecture of 8.282, MIT’s freshman astronomy course, but this one student stayed behind in my classroom. He nervously explained that although he liked the subject, he worried that my teaching conflicted with his religion. I asked him what his religion was, and when I told him that it had officially declared there to be no conflict with Big Bang cosmology, something amazing happened: his anxiety just melted away right in front of my eyes! Poof!

This gave me the idea to start the MIT Survey on Science, Religion and Origins, which we’re officially publishing today in honor of Charles Darwin’s 204th birthday. We found that only 11 percent of Americans belong to religions openly rejecting evolution or our Big Bang. So if someone you know has the same stressful predicament as my student, chances are that they can relax as well. To find out for sure, check out this infographic.

So is there a conflict between science and religion? The religious organizations representing most Americans clearly don’t think so. Interestingly, the science organizations representing most American scientists don’t think so either: For example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science states that science and religion “live together quite comfortably, including in the minds of many scientists.” This shows that the main divide in the U.S. origins debate isn’t between science and religion, but between a small fundamentalist minority and mainstream religious communities who embrace science.

So why is this small fundamentalist minority so influential? How can some politicians and school-board members get reelected even after claiming that our 14 billion-year-old universe might be only about 6,000 years old? That’s like claiming that 90-year-old aunt is only 20 minutes old. It’s tantamount to claiming that if you watch this video of a supernova explosion in the Centaurus A Galaxy about 10 million light-years away, you’re seeing something that never happened, because light from the explosion needs 10 million years to reach Earth. Why isn’t making such claims political suicide?

Written By: Max Tegmark
continue to source article at huffingtonpost.com

78 COMMENTS

  1. If Mr. Tegmark wants to understand why science education is so bad, he has to acknowledge a basic fact: religion is a cause of poor science understanding because it does conflict with science! How could it not?

    Religion, among other forms of magical thinking, is “pseudo-scientific nonsense,” to borrow a phrase.

    Any scientist who also happens to be religious has to “leave his/her beliefs outside the lab room door” if s/he is also to carry out science. In other words, religious scientists do their science regardless of their religious belief, not because of it. “Therefore God did it!” is not a satisfactory conclusion to any piece of reasoning, let alone a scientific one.

    Yes, such scientists might be “inspired” or motivated to do science by their religious beliefs, but such a belief only goes as far as the lab door and is not necessary to actual scientific work; indeed, it can be positively unhelpful to it.

    So, Mr. Tegmark, If you’re going to solve a problem — scientific illiteracy — you don’t go about it by denying one of its causes. Your student was right — actual scientific work is incompatible with religion.

  2. Tegmark claims, “Religion And Science Are Closer Than You Think”, and his argument is that we should quantify their degree of incompatibility based on leaders’ statements rather than the views of the general populace. This would be like me assuming Tories are eager to see gay marriage instigated in the UK based on the views of David Cameron. (And let’s not forget all the religions which don’t even have a central organisation (Tegmark seems to think a lack of an anti-evolution statement proves his point as well as the presence of a pro-evolution one); is Islam automatically friendly to any idea he wants it to be friendly to just because it doesn’t have leadership? Muslims’ opposition to evolution is almost universal!) But Swedish-American Tegmark in US paper the Huffington Post calls Young Earth Creationists (never mind arbitrary creationists), a majority of US Christians and almost half of the US population, “a small fundamentalist minority”, and expects to be taken sociologically seriously. He doesn’t understand why making scientifically ridiculous claims of a young universe isn’t “political suicide” in the US; might it be because religion and science are less close than he thinks? Because if the voters, who are mostly religious, judged their politicians’ religious stances through a religious lens that was also remotely similar to a scientific one, it would be political suicide, wouldn’t it?

    Interestingly, this isn’t the only belief gap surrounding a science-religion controversy: whereas 0 percent of Americans belong to religions arguing that the Sun revolves around Earth, Gallup reports that as many as 18 percent nonetheless believe in this theory that used to be popular during the Middle Ages. This suggests that the belief gaps may have less to do with intellectual disputes and more to do with an epic failure of science education.

    It’s not a fair comparison. People who say they thought the Sun revolves around the Earth never do that outside of surveys; they don’t push for syllabus reforms, or accuse heliocentrism of being a lie from the pit of hell, or claim secularism and social malaise are largely attributable to heliocentrism. Geocentrism can plausibly be attributed to having limited scientific general knowledge, whereas creationism is a deliberate personal preference of religious literalism over scientific consensus (and, if they know of the data supporting it, that too).

    I feel that people bent on science-religion conflict are picking the wrong battle. The real battle is against the daunting challenges facing the future of humanity, and regardless of our religious views, we’re all better off fighting this battle united.

    But the S-R conflict is a major reason we’re having these problems, and Tegmark would rather we focus on anything else. Such as what? What cause of creationism does he think is more in need of being addressed? Two thirds of Americans say they’d stick by a claim their faith makes if scientific evidence undermined it. That alone proves that he’s missing the elephant in the room.

    There’s actually less conflict between the faith and science communities than you might think. And while there has been no shortage of controversies between the two camps—with disputes about the science curriculum in US public schools a relatively current one—only 11% of Americans belong to religions that openly reject evolution or Big Bang Cosmology.

    Firstly, communities by definition are the people, not the leaders, so be careful which stats you look at; the relevant ones are shocking. Secondly, since their non-religious counterparts show zero conflict (that’s not my opinion; it’s his own pie chart), religion is in conflict with science in the sense of how views are correlated, which is the correct definition. No-one sensible would say cigarettes aren’t in conflict with healthy lungs based on the smokers who don’t succumb to lung cancer.

    I notice the survey is designed in such a way you all but have to imply religiosity to even answer Q1, so I skipped it.

  3. Religion and science do not conflict only when you shut your brain off while you worship. It’s the old blah blah about maybe all the advances of science are God’s way of….etc. But there is a FUNDAMENTAL (forgive all caps) conflict between the two. Religion is based on the assumption of transcendence/supernatural – generally a benevolent one, while science operates on the evidence that there is only the natural, which demonstrably is neither benevolent nor malevolent. All the rest is accommodationism.

  4. In reply to #2 by rod-the-farmer:

    If you go to the original article the circular chart has a “hover” feature that is interesting……..

    Yes…in graphic it looks like there is only a small minority that have heads firmly rammed up a stinky dark wet and warm place.

    And they are more or less regarded as cults by the major delusions.

    But the kicker is that every xtian religion grudgingly gave ground comparatively recently on this point.

    Their default is that for the jeebus and layabout dad oriented flavour of religiously afflicted there is a spectrum from a minority that accept the premise grudgingly to the majority that neither understand or are convinced by the evidence.

    In fact the majority of every single delusion do not even understand the principles of Evolutionary theory because their religion is the ultimate arbiter of their wisdom.
    They have little to no stake in it and any questions are answered easily by stock rote.

    In order to function in a world that places great reliance on rationality a bulk of jeebus drooler head honchos have compromised their stand for that one reason only, to appear clued into and with the undeniable science that offers a more reliable explanation for aspects of life that the religiously dimwitted by tradition avoid.

    They have to sit at the secular table and appearing cogent is a priority, after all tax breaks advantages and perks for the religious do not magically appear, they have to be bargained for and appearing rational in negotiation is a great little trick they have learnt to employ in their dealings.

    The Catholic Church is often held up as a bastion of rationality ‘look they even accept Evolution’, is the claim by the apologists.

    And that is true to extent that publicly they will display the manufactured sensible face of the jeebus legions. but privately and between themselves, not so much.

    JP2 is credited with moving the dogma on to accept Evolution..with severe caveats, that are never mentioned, and Benny has actually criticized him for doing so.
    Even calling into question his faculties, and muttering darkly that JP2 was not in full possession of the facts.

    That is never reported by the media and is certainly not acknowledged freely by the magisterium minions.

    In fact Cardinal Schönberg is a ‘confidant’ of Benny’s and has also had a pop at JP2 in the past while extolling the virtue of ID and appearing to actually want the nonsense integrated into Catholic dogma…ended up getting Benny caught between a rock and a hard place on that one.

    Caused a few ructions cos Benny also bought the pig in the poke quite enthusiastically as well.
    But no one else did, and it cost the Vatican astronomer his job and he got replaced by a fuckin’ barking lunatic of no particular consequence who babbles about ET’s spiritual needs…go figure!.
    The present Vatican Astronomer seems to be the RCC’s Uncle Festus.

    I can imagine the doofus blowing himself up regular like in the dark, musty and dank environs of the Vatican’s attic…only to illicit the slightest of ‘Oh fuck he is at it again’ from the denizens of the holy see.

    Anyway Cardinal Schönberg accepted the Discovery’s institute shilling a long time ago, and he is now in the running for top dog in the magisterium.

    Religion and Science are not compatible…never has been and never will be!

  5. In reply to #3 by Jos Gibbons:

    Muslims’ opposition to evolution is almost universal!

    What do you base that on? The situation actually seems quite complex (as with the self-identification of Christians in the UK, for example) and to be in transition (the wrong way, unfortunately)

    http://www.scidev.net/en/news/complex-islamic-response-to-evolution-emerges-from-study-1.html

    http://www.irtiqa-blog.com/2013/01/the-economist-article-on-islam-and.html

  6. There definetly is a conflict between science and religion. The biggest gap is cosmological and evolutionary time. What was God doing before humans came on the scene? exercising morality over atoms in the cosmic dust.

  7. In reply to #8 by PERSON:

    In reply to #3 by Jos Gibbons:

    Muslims’ opposition to evolution is almost universal!

    What do you base that on? The situation actually seems quite complex (as with the self-identification of Christians in the UK, for example) and to be in transition (the wrong way, unfortunately)

    http://www.scidev.net/en/news/complex-islamic-response-to-evolution-emerges-from-study-1.html

    http://www.irtiqa-blog.com/2013/01/the-economist-article-on-islam-and.html

    Great link, Thanks for that.

    Only had a chance to briefly look at the first one as of yet, but… doesn’t this sort of prove the point? The complex Islamic response to evolution occurs at the educated edges – doctors. And even here it is largely fuzzy with greater rejection of evolution by this group in Islamic countries.

    And Hameed himself says at the end of the article:

    “If evolution gets conflated with atheism, then a vast rejection, even of the basic principles, is quite possible,” he said. Human evolution, though, will likely continue to be a controversial subject — and perhaps be rejected by the majority of Muslims.

    It is quite telling to read the first few comments following the article. It is a science site so one might expect these views to be from people who are at least interested in science:

    Syed ( Pakistan )
    3 July 2011
    It is amusing how the west expects others to chose between religion and science. This essential trait of west is largely absent in Asia. Hindus, Muslims and believers of many religions in Asia do not consider religion and science to be mutually exclusive. The compulsion to chose is essentially a colonial gift from the European powers and is sad to say the least.

    Compartmentalism? Essential trait of the west? Compulsion to choose? This is the application of the scientific method that is being denied here, isn’t it? The essential trait of proof over faith? Islam was compelled to choose once before – it chose badly and ended up with nearly 800 years of backwardness

    Arshi ( Pakistan )
    4 July 2011
    Most important thing is that, what are the guidance available for Muslims from Quraanic scripture and Ah-hadees of Prophet (PBUH) on matter related to evolution of human being and how much literate were the participant of this research from Islamic perspective on evolution? Just mentioning what “I” or “we” feel about a matter may be personal perception or understanding which may be different from Islamic guidance.

    The very reason for the demise of Islamic Science. If God is omnipotent, and your laws say he is not, then your laws are wrong – look, it says so here, in this book.

    Mohammad Bahawi ( Saudi Arabia )
    6 July 2011
    So, can I make sure that the following statement is not true! When “Muslim countries are still negotiating modernity” does not necessarily mean that they will accept modernity in science for example only if they accept evolution! I profoundly believe that advancing science in Muslim world does not start with accepting evolution. We have a lot of better idea to start with, evolution is not one of them at all.

    He profoundly believes this. Let’s hope he’s an Engineer, and not a Doctor – he may have a chance of getting away with his failed negotiation with modernity.

    I had one myself – a negotiation with modernity – modernity won hands down.

    Anvil.

  8. In reply to #1 by RDfan:

    It’s more than that. He simply assumes, according to the responses, that the two fields “living together quite comfortably, including in the minds of many scientists” is genuine reconciliation and not compartmentalizing, which is what a critic could fault it on.

    As for NOMA, it’s superficial. Logically, the premise “a deity exists” does not contradict the premise “the universe began with a big-bang”. Anything that isn’t self-contradictory or that doesn’t contradict an existing and established idea has a non-zero probability of being true, but so what? That opens the floodgates for all kinds of nonsense ideas, and reality can’t agree to all of them.

    Where science and religion depart is in their method of coming to those premises, and here the methodologies of both fields are incompatible because the latter makes no attempt to justify itself on objective grounds and it allows non-epistemic reasons for believing in things, which is simply a poor way of finding out anything about reality. You see this in many apologetics: when they can’t argue that religion’s claims are actually true, they retreat to arguing for pragmatic reasons for others to believe in the stuff.

  9. Jeff Schweitzer gives a strong rebuttal to this article in the Huffpost science section. Just because many christians don’t openly reject evolution does not mean that science and religion are getting along. In reality, the fundamentalists are right when they recognize that evolution and christianity are incompatible. What’s really going on with christians who “believe in evolution” is that they’ve merged their religion and the science together to create a nonsensical and evidence-free hypothesis of intelligent design creationism. In reality, only 16% of Americans actually accept what science has shown: naturalistic evolution. It turns out this is exactly the percentage who claim no religious affiliation.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-schweitzer/science-and-religion-neve_b_2671535.html?utm_hp_ref=science

  10. I think it is quite funny that it is always, and without fail, the religionists and their hand maidens the apologists, that come all bright eyed and fluffy tailed to do the sniffing of the rear end of science with a forlorn hope of getting a purchase and a bit of jolly!

    Looking for gravitas for their utter nonsense never so blatant!

  11. Rubbish! Science cannot associate with religion in any manner, nor tolerate it. Truth, facts and evidence all missing from The Sacred Woo; science accommodating religion is akin to dating the village bicycle- embarrassing!

    (I know this for a fact :-((…)

  12. Tegmark:

    It’s tantamount to claiming that if you watch this video of a supernova explosion in the Centaurus A Galaxy about 10 million light-years away, you’re seeing something that never happened, because light from the explosion needs 10 million years to reach Earth. Why isn’t making such claims political suicide?

    Any candidate in Britain making such ridiculous claims would be highly unlikely to get many votes. S/he would be pilloried in the media, even the more reactionary media, and quite rightly too!

    The difference between science and religion is that science seeks to understand how nature works. Religion just imposes its claims upon it adherents. It just places mumbo jumbo in as an obstacle to knowledge and that’s why it’s got to be opposed, not tolerated quietly. It won’t leave us alone.

  13. Religion: Never mind about truth ; be categorical

    Philosophy: Never be categorical ; seek truth.

    Science: Truth is categorical.

    Here’s your conflict. It’s not about evolution or Genesis. It’s about methods.

    Theologians try to prove other theologians are right ; scientists try to prove other scientists are wrong.

  14. I find the responses here mostly disappointing and annoying. Do you want to improve the reach of science teaching, or do you just want a fight? Insisting that science and religion are incompatible is just agreeing with the rabid fundies who want to teach cretinism and YECcery. I suppose it might be nice to agree with them about something, but it doesn’t feel right.

    I’m happy to see religions and their supporters kicked in the nuts whenever they step out of line and cause trouble (which is a lot of the time, true), but it seems counter-productive to make a fuss when someone finds a way to get more people properly educated in science, without needing to confront their issues of faith head-on.

    Which is more urgent: get more people to learn science, properly, or get more people to question their religious beliefs?

  15. In reply to #22 by endgames420:

    In reply to #21 by OHooligan:

    I find the responses here mostly disappointing and annoying.

    Why are you mad about the different responses to this article?

    Not mad. Disappointed. I use annoyed as meaning nearer the Indifferent end of the spectrum from Indifferent to Outraged. Mad would be a lot closer to the Outraged end. Discontinuous Mind strikes again…

    Dicusssing is good. Just didn’t see much positive reaction to the OP. I’d have thought it was good news, to be welcomed, assuming the data to be reasonably accurate.

  16. Do you want to improve the reach of science teaching, or do you just want a fight?

    We can’t have one without the other, if only because creationists themselves start the fight. While religious moderates may not do the same, they’re not being attacked when we call religion incompatible with science. As I mentioned before, it’s about stats. I’m not picking a fight with people who smoke without getting lung cancer; I’m picking a fight with tobacco companies or anyone who lies about what effects cigarettes have on humans’ health.

    I suppose it might be nice to agree with them about something, but it doesn’t feel right.

    I don’t care about what feels right; I care about what is right. Everything else is a fallacy. Stopped clocks are right twice daily.

    it seems counter-productive to make a fuss when someone finds a way to get more people properly educated in science, without needing to confront their issues of faith head-on.

    They haven’t found a way to do it; they just argue one must already exist because some religious people technically are getting the science right. Except, of course, they’re not; religious evolutionists, for example, believe God had a hand in processes of selection that science says were unguided. God did not, for example, author human intelligence. For all this accommodationist talk, no success in making people more accepting or knowledgeable of science has actually been had.

    Which is more urgent: get more people to learn science, properly, or get more people to question their religious beliefs?

    Can we only have one then? For that to be true, people who question their religious beliefs would have to stop caring to learn science. Quite the reverse is true.

  17. I agree with OHooligan, the responses here are desperately disappointing. Why is there a conflict between science and religious belief exactly? Where is your evidence.

    We have Ken Miller for starters. Referenced in Richard Dawkins book the Ancestors Tale and elsewhere for his tireless work opposing the inanity of creationism and ID. Furthermore referenced in RDs book for finally putting the boot into the ID poster cell organelle the supposedly irreducibly complex bacterial flagellum. And lastly referenced in RDs book for his deep religious faith. Useful because the normal response to any attempts to say ID is nonsense are met with the standard creationists scream of atheist science. How was his science compromised exactly?

    Then there is Francis Collins who sequenced the human genome and said that all science strengthened his beliefs. No compromises on science there. Likewise the person who first postulated the notion of a big bang – based purely on the irrefutable evidence not faith – was a catholic priest. How did his beliefs compromise his science. Or Father George Coyne, published, peer reviewed, astrophysicist, ex head of the vatican observatories. Interviewed by Richard Dawkins (still available on you tube) where he agreed with every single scientific point made and had been let go by pope benny for being vehemently opposed to benny’s attempts to consider ID. How was he compromising his science?

    Then last week on UK tv we had a programme about whether all religion should embrace evolution. On the yes side was one of the worlds leading paleontologists who also happened to be a Christian. He eviscerated the creationist arguments and had the added advantage that they couldn’t scream atheists.

    Or even more interestingly – sat next to him on the yes side was atheist biologist Steve Jones. Steve Jones who said he couldn’t understand why more religious people didn’t embrace real science as providing far more support for their beliefs than the pseudoscientific nonsense the creationists come up with. He didn’t seem to see any conflict at all for people accepting real science and having a religious belief. He was after all sat next to one. And this is the same Steve Jones who said creationists shouldn’t be doctors. I suspect the religious folk sat with him on the yes side would agree.

    As for the godidit stuff. Well if they believe godidit than surely their science is finding out how? No real conflict there either.

    Read the first line of the article. Do you think if the lecturer had said there was a conflict the student would have continued? Probably not. Leaving he/she as fodder for the worst excesses of religious nonsense. Instead they stayed, there was a net increase in scientific literacy and the student may well have then gone on to lose their faith.

    So what is the problem with just accepting that for many folk, believers and atheists, there is no conflict, there is no fight. They aren’t compromising anything and that continuing to persist with the conflict stereotype plays right into the hands of fundamentalists who use it to frighten parents into homeschooling or setting up fundamentalist schools. How does that help exactly? Or is that what you really want?

  18. In reply to #27 by atheistengineer:

    I agree with OHooligan, the responses here are desperately disappointing. Why is there a conflict between science and religious belief exactly? Where is your evidence.

    So what evidence in science supports religion…and which gods get the better of it?

  19. In reply to #28 by Jon Snow:

    In reply to #27 by atheistengineer:

    I agree with OHooligan, the responses here are desperately disappointing. Why is there a conflict between science and religious belief exactly? Where is your evidence.

    So what evidence in science supports religion…and which gods get the better of it?

    I don’t really understand your question. Science does not and cannot support religion any more than it can support politics or fashion or fiction or who decides to fall in love with whom. That is not really what science does – science just works with evidence to discover how the natural world works.

    That was not the point of the article, the point of the article was they are not necessarily in conflict. And that using that lack of conflict would help increase scientific literacy. The evidence is the fact that very good scientists exist that have religious beliefs. Even Richard Dawkins has acknowledged that fact. The other evidence is the fact that many religions and religious leaders have embraced science and said there is no conflict. That is also a fact – whether you like it or not.

    Explain to me how all of the scientists I’ve listed have compromised either their science or religion? Explain to me how science supports atheism particularly?

  20. In reply to #27 by atheistengineer:

    I agree with OHooligan, the responses here are desperately disappointing. Why is there a conflict between science and religious belief exactly? Where is your evidence.

    We have Ken Miller for starters (and) his tireless work opposing the inanity of creationism and ID.

    As opposed to the inanity of…

    his deep religious faith.

    (which is) Useful because the normal response to any attempts to say ID is nonsense are met with the standard creationists scream of atheist science. How was his science compromised exactly?

    His science may or may not be compromised by his faith depending upon the level of compartmentalising (though christian theistic evolution does demand a rather inane reading of evolutionary theory, doesn’t it?).

    His faith, however, is very definitely compromised by his science – and will, I feel, continue to be so. As a Christian he looks for his god in his science but the harder he searches the more he finds just science.

    Then there is Francis Collins who sequenced the human genome and said that all science strengthened his beliefs. No compromises on science there.

    Until we get to the issue of abortion, possibly?

    Likewise the person who first postulated the notion of a big bang – based purely on the irrefutable evidence not faith – was a catholic priest. How did his beliefs compromise his science.

    Well, science certainly compromised his beliefs on that one.

    Or Father George Coyne, published, peer reviewed, astrophysicist, ex head of the vatican observatories. Interviewed by Richard Dawkins (still available on you tube) where he agreed with every single scientific point made and had been let go by pope benny for being vehemently opposed to benny’s attempts to consider ID. How was he compromising his science?

    His science led him to a heretical position which was untenable within the strictures of his faith, so his faith – mainstream as it was – abandoned him.

    Then last week on UK tv we had a programme about whether all religion should embrace evolution. On the yes side was one of the worlds leading paleontologists who also happened to be a Christian.

    And on the ‘no’ side were (more or less) all the religions of the world. And again, the arguments for Christian theistic evolution are as inane as creationism and ID.

    He eviscerated the creationist arguments and had the added advantage that they couldn’t scream atheists.

    Maybe, but they could scream “a lesser Christian” or “not a real Christian” or, more likely, “heretic”.

    Or even more interestingly – sat next to him on the yes side was atheist biologist Steve Jones. Steve Jones who said he couldn’t understand why more religious people didn’t embrace real science as providing far more support for their beliefs than the pseudoscientific nonsense the creationists come up with.

    Did he say what this support was? Certainly not ‘palaeontology, eh!

    He didn’t seem to see any conflict at all for people accepting real science and having a religious belief. He was after all sat next to one. And this is the same Steve Jones who said creationists shouldn’t be doctors. I suspect the religious folk sat with him on the yes side would agree.

    Francis Colin’s is a scientist but his pro life views make me feel he shouldn’t be a Doctor.

    As for the godidit stuff. Well if they believe godidit than surely their science is finding out how? No real conflict there either.

    Read the first line of the article. Do you think if the lecturer had said there was a conflict the student would have continued? Probably not. Leaving he/she as fodder for the worst excesses of religious nonsense.

    This is hearsay. You don’t know this. I could equally offer as evidence that most people on this site were religious but when confronted by science did not embrace religions worst excesses, but instead chose reason and rationality.

    Instead they stayed, there was a net increase in scientific literacy and the student may well have then gone on to lose their faith.

    Again, they may well have gone on to lose their faith earlier giving an earlier net increase on scientific literacy.

    So what is the problem with just accepting that for many folk, believers and atheists, there is no conflict, there is no fight. They aren’t compromising anything and that continuing to persist with the conflict stereotype plays right into the hands of fundamentalists who use it to frighten parents into homeschooling or setting up fundamentalist schools. How does that help exactly? Or is that what you really want?

    Your post, and the examples you use, are interesting, and the debate would be better defined and more useful, I think, by the sentence in your opening para ‘, “Why is there a conflict between science and religious belief exactly”. There are two points I’d like to make here. One is that you presume that the present state of religiosity v scientific literacy to hold some form of harmless equilibrium.

    I would not agree with this statement. I do not believe this to be the case. I believe great (and evidential) harm is done .

    Secondly, that this harm, in the majority, is not done by religions worst excesses, but by the everyday normality of religious belief.

    To take a strategically accommodationist position – as you appear to do – supports the continuation of this harm. There are occasions when we are called upon to adopt this position tactically, but overall I believe the accommodationist position to be untenable.

    Anvil.

  21. Religion And Science Are Closer Than You Think

    There is a unified philosophy called science!

    The fallacy in the title is assuming that there is a unified philosophy called “religion”, or a consensus of religious views about gods or anything else!

    Each Idiocracy has its own conflicts with science and with other Idiocracies, – even if some of them share a few! Each also has usually has a ” No True Scotsman” fallacious definition of itself, and a rosy-spectacles self-image.

    atheistengineer – Explain to me how science supports atheism particularly?

    It debunks a whole load of theist claims, supporting competent historical research. These scientific activities, range from carbon dating etc. identifying fake documents, fake relics, fake “shrouds”, fake “miracles” and fake artefacts, to supporting and verifying dates and details of genuine articles.

    Believing by “faith” without evidence, and insisting that scientific credibility requires evidenced and well tested claims, can never be compatible thinking!

    Sociable discussion should not be confused with fudged reasoning.

  22. In reply to #29 by atheistengineer:

    In reply to #28 by Jon Snow:
    The other evidence is the fact that many religions and religious leaders have embraced science and said there is no conflict. That is also a fact – whether you like it or not.

    Don’t be mislead by mere words…
    It is not ‘embracing science’ it is using the pretext to pretend rationality and when the science finally contradicts their precious nonsense…they just ignore and pretend it is not there.
    Every religion every single theist.

    How can that be embracing science?
    If you accept one part you cannot dismiss an other part cos it don’t suit, but that is tantamount to what they all do…it is called cognitive disassociation!

    Explain to me how science supports atheism particularly?

    I never said it did I asked the question which god or gods or which religion even…does this treatise support best?

  23. So at its best pretending to know things you don’t know–religion is only one of many adherents–is irrelevant and at its worst harmful. Now I’m told that I should celebrate a shift to the irrelevant part of the spectrum by keeping quiet.

    Dr. Tegmark is right that arguments of science vs religion miss the point of the trying to understand the universe. But he misses the point that the only other option is to not voice opinions or be dishonest while voicing opinions. People get understandably a little perturbed when told they should shut up. Or you really should start lying about your opinion, just a little bit. I strongly suspect that is why many on this site have reacted with a little vinegar in their writings.

  24. “We found that only 11 percent of Americans belong to religions openly rejecting evolution or our Big Bang.”

    If true, that just means the other 89% haven’t thought things through very carefully.

    Steve

  25. “I asked him what his religion was, and when I told him that it had officially declared there to be no conflict with Big Bang cosmology…”

    The fact that religions have to come in line or declare they don’t have issues with the findings of science shows you who’s holding the knowledge cards. Religion has always had to conform with society’s dictates or risk perishing all together. Infallible my ass; just really slow at getting with the times.

  26. In reply to #28 by Jon Snow:

    In reply to #27 by atheistengineer:

    I agree with OHooligan, the responses here are desperately disappointing. Why is there a conflict between science and religious belief exactly? Where is your evidence.

    So what evidence in science supports religion…and which gods get the better of it?

    Is this deliberate point-missing or what?

  27. Still disappointed.

    There really does appear to be a dogmatic, fundamentalist form of atheism after all, one that seeks conflict, and isn’t happy to learn that 89% of americans don’t have a faith that contradicts the facts of evolution. One that says you gotta be an atheist to be a worthwhile scientist. One that says – channeling GWB – you’re either with us, or you’re with the creationists.

    Discontinuous Minds once more.

  28. In reply to #36 by Smill:

    Hi Smill, thanks for the comment.

    In reply to Anvil, post 30. You didn’t exactly refute all the points made by the earlier post you referred to. When atheistengineer asked how father coyne (honestly, I don’t even know who this is, but anyway) had compromised his science, you actually pointed out that it was neither his science nor his faith that he compromised but his position in the church. Science and faith, therefore, seem to remain intact.

    George Coyne. A Jesuit priest (meaning the Catholic Church is his faith) and scientist (meaning he is also an empiricist, if not a complete rationalist) who was head honcho at the Vatican observatory in Arizona. He retired, some say after a dispute with the church regarding ID. He has denied this (I think). But if true then he certainly compromised his catholic faith being heretical in his views. And being heretical in his views hardly means that his faith remains intact, does it?

    It may mean he moves toward deism, and the God of Voltaire, but this is a long way from being a Jesuit priest in the Catholic Church.

    It would also be fairly indisputable to say that these heresies were brought about by his science, wouldn’t it?

    I would also imagine that as an astromer who has many peer reviewed papers over the years, Coyne knows full well that biblical creation is a total nonsense – again his science does not leave his catholic faith intact, does it?

    Also, you concede that there are, indeed, occasions when we are called upon to adopt the ‘accommodationist’ position, and I am wondering what on earth these could possibly be?

    No. I simply pointed out the difference between strategy and tactics.

    We all do this – all of the time. To not do so would be dogmatic and often simply rude, or impolite.

    My views, by the way, are contingent and subject to change so I’m prepared to listen to the arguments of most – and encourage them to listen to mine.

    That is what I feel Steve Rose (referenced in the earlier post) was doing. I haven’t seen the particular clip but he may have been practising mere diplomacy. Certainly if it’s the Steve Rose I’m thinking of then he can hardly be accused of accomodationism – atheist, neuro-biologist, dyed in the wool Marxist, and tireless campaigner for an international academic boycott of Israel that he is. Of course. I may have the wrong Steve Rose.

    By the way, an example of my own tactical accommodationism is how I discuss the issue of faith with my eighty four year old Church-cleaning Catholic mother.

    And why do you make the blanket statement that Christians are always looking for god?

    I didn’t. If you meant this line: “As a Christian he looks for his god in his science but the harder he searches the more he finds just science.” I was commenting on how Miller, like Collins, see science as the language of God – indeed, this was the title of Collins’ book (I think?).

    Do you think someone with pro life views isn’t able to provide an effective level of service in the field of obs/gynae, and can’t work within policy guidelines and a legal framework?

    I think you have answered your own question there. I don’t care what your religious beliefs are as long as they do not affect policy in the public square. The problem is, they tend to.

    Also, I notice, after you had your little bit of fun, you go on to then compliment atheist engineer for some small merit, and further give pointers for the improvement of the argument.

    I’m no too sure what you mean by me having my little bit of fun? I merely responded to a considered post with what I thought was a considered response. Much the same as I’m doing now.

    I’ll restate: To take a strategically accommodationist position supports the continuation of evidential harm. There are occasions when we are called upon to adopt this position tactically, but overall I believe the accommodationist position to be untenable.

    I was almost persuaded by you….almost!

    How’d y feel now, any better?

    Anvil.

  29. In reply to #38 by OHooligan:

    Still disappointed.

    There really does appear to be a dogmatic, fundamentalist form of atheism after all, one that seeks conflict, and isn’t happy to learn that 89% of americans don’t have a faith that contradicts the facts of evolution. One that says you gotta be an atheist to be a worthwhile scientist. One that says – channeling GWB – you’re either with us, or you’re with the creationists.

    Discontinuous Minds once more.

    While some movement towards science is welcome, the problem is with the theist redefinition of “Darwinian evolution” as the unscientific -”theistic evolution” in its various ambiguous forms. That is the “evolution” to which they make claim! It’s the old semantic shuffle all over again! – In this case mixing creationism with a lot of real science, to add credibility and disguise its nature from the casual observer.

    See this thread! – http://www.richarddawkins.net/news-articles/2013/2/15/no-belief-gap#

  30. In reply to #40 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #38 by OHooligan:

    Still disappointed.

    There really does appear to be a dogmatic, fundamentalist form of atheism after all, one that seeks conflict, and isn’t happy to learn that 89% of americans don’t have a faith that contradicts the facts of evolution. One that says you gotta be an atheist to be a worthwhile scientist. One that says – channeling GWB – you’re either with us, or you’re with the creationists.

    Discontinuous Minds once more.

    While some movement towards science is welcome, the problem is with the theist redefinition of “Darwinian evolution” as the unscientific -”theistic evolution” in its various ambiguous forms. That is the “evolution” to which they make claim! It’s the old semantic shuffle all over again! – In this case mixing creationism with a lot of real science, to add credibility and disguise its nature from the casual observer.

    See this thread! – http://www.richarddawkins.net/news-articles/2013/2/15/no-belief-gap#

    What exactly is christian theistic evolution. I’ve now asked several Christians and they haven’t a clue. Evolution is evolution as the science says as far as they are concerned – they don’t hold with any creationist nonsense at all. Yes there are some creationists and various other loonies but they tend not to be doing or understanding science. You cannot tar all religious people with the same loony brush.

  31. Anvil in response to some of your comments:

    His science may or may not be compromised by his faith depending upon the level of compartmentalising (though christian theistic evolution does demand a rather inane reading of evolutionary theory, doesn’t it?).

    Well he didn’t seem to think it did at all. And as a leading paleantologist I doubt very much that he’d have any truck with any inane readings of evolutionary theory. He was firmly in the evolution is a fact camp as were all the people on that side.

    I also know of Christian physicists, geologists and biologists. All working with non believers on exactly the same science. Doesn’t the fact he was there and they exist at all falsify your claim that religion and science are in conflict? Some religious people are literalists and for them yes, but from the research quoted on the programme the vast majority in the UK where fine with both.

    “Then there is Francis Collins who sequenced the human genome and said that all science strengthenedNo compromises on science there.
    Until we get to the issue of abortion, possibly?

    True, and I’d agree that should preclude him from medicine – but that is a separate issue. Completely apart from his science and this issue.

    Re Father George Coyne you say:

    His science led him to a heretical position which was untenable within the strictures of his faith, so his faith – mainstream as it was – abandoned him.

    No pope benedict abandoned him by changing the strictures of his faith. His science did not lead him into a heretical position as the RC church has not traditionally held an ID stance. Pope benny did and so he left. He did not abandon his faith rather the leader of his faith moved the goal posts. That can happen with religion – that is why there does not need to be a conflict.

    Re the Big Questions programme on evolution:

    And on the ‘no’ side were (more or less) all the religions of the world. And again, the arguments for Christian theistic evolution are as inane as creationism and ID.

    On the no side were a few Christian creationists and a few Islamic ones. On the yes were non creationist, very scientifically literate Christians and Muslims quoting amongst other Richard Dawkins. And of course atheists like Steve Jones. There were no arguments for ‘christian theistic evolution’ whatever that actually is. The debate started from the premise that evolution was scientific fact and was accepted as such by all scientists and most of the religious people in the UK so was it time for the rest to join.

    And

    Maybe, but they could scream “a lesser Christian” or “not a real Christian” or, more likely, “heretic”.

    They can and probably did on their websites. But I would imagine you’d call him one as well and call me a lesser atheist for not agreeing with you that there is a conflict or for not hating all religion.

    If I could see a conflict I’d agree, but from where I’m standing there can’t be. Science is based on evidence alone and as such is sort of absolute. Religion, like beauty, is in the eye of the believer so if a religious person can’t see a conflict there can’t actually be one can there? That is just a simple fact, like it or not. The majority of Christians I know do not seek to argue or change science.

    Re Steve Jones on same programme

    Did he say what this support was? Certainly not ‘palaeontology, eh!

    At the time the discussion was on real science including the palaeontology, the christian palaeontologist had mentioned the sheer number of transtions I think but can’t quite remember. Steve Jones had just written a book about religion and science and stated quite clearly that he could not understand why religious people did not use the REAL science more often in support of their beliefs. The context certainly suggested palaeontology, evolution, big bang the whole thing as he was very scathing about the creationists. He said that was what he would do in their position though he wasn’t a believer and never would be – which looked to me like stating categorically there is no conflict.
    .

  32. And some further responses to your comments Anvil.
    Re whether or not the student in the original article would have continued his studies if he felt there were conflict – I thought not you said.

    This is hearsay. You don’t know this. I could equally offer as evidence that most people on this site were religious but when confronted by science did not embrace religions worst excesses, but instead chose reason and rationality.

    Maybe you can and maybe you can’t but even if you’re right I would say this is not a random or representative sample of atheists, most of whom I find are secular rather than anti theist (rather like the religious people I know). This is a more self selected sample in a way.

    Plus your hypothesis would also rely on them being confronted by science. If they were first told, or their parents were told that the science would conflict with their religion would that confrontation ever have occurred? That was my point. I felt it wouldn’t.

    The conflict between science and religion boils down to a matter of opinion at the end of the day.

    Again, they may well have gone on to lose their faith earlier giving an earlier net increase on scientific

    Well in the absence of evidence, we can only judge by how likely each of out opinions are. The student went full of anxiety because he thought what he would learn would conflict with his faith. When told it wouldn’t he visibly relaxed. On balance that evidence suggested to me he’d have given up and chosen his religion or tried to mess with the science if he hadn’t been told there was no conflict.

    To support that I would add what I see on the creationist sites which are forever trying to frighten people into avoiding real science lest it threaten their faith. In the UK we have an organisation set up to run private christian schools that teach creationism. They frighten parents by telling them science is in conflict with faith so those parents deny their children an education.

    You may have different evidence to support your view that such a conflict would increase the liklihood of someone being exposed to real science, and accepting it happily. You seem to think that all religious people have to alter their science in some way. I haven’t actually found that – they seem instead to adapt their theology. As god is a product of human imagination and science isn’t that seems to be a perfectly sensible way to approach the problem. And at the end of the day the get out for any remotely sensible religious person is that science is the how things happened.

  33. In reply to #41 by atheistengineer:

    In reply to #40 by Alan4discussion:

    While some movement towards science is welcome, the problem is with the theist redefinition of “Darwinian evolution” as the unscientific -”theistic evolution” in its various ambiguous forms. That is the “evolution” to which they make claim! It’s the old semantic shuffle all over again! – In this case mixing creationism with a lot of real science, to add credibility and disguise its nature from the casual observer.

    See this thread! – http://www.richarddawkins.net/news-articles/2013/2/15/no-belief-gap#

    What exactly is christian theistic evolution. I’ve now asked several Christians and they haven’t a clue.

    Have a look at the other discussion I linked. There are further explanations and links there about fake “theories” of evolution.

    Evolution is evolution as the science says as far as they are concerned – they don’t hold with any creationist nonsense at all.

    “Theistic Evolution” has bendy vague definitions to accommodate varying levels of god-did-it-by magical-intervention. Unlike scientific definitions it is all things to all readers.
    It is not at all unusual for theists well educated in science, to ASSUME that their religion and other followers accept the science as they may well do. Assumption is in the nature of “faith”!

    Yes there are some creationists and various other loonies but they tend not to be doing or understanding science. You cannot tar all religious people with the same loony brush.

    Of course you cannot lump all religions together. They are as diverse as their believers, so we need to look at the actual beliefs. Nobody is suggesting that the members of the present Catholic establishment are YECs.

    I do not doubt that many professional RC science teachers teach science properly, but it should be obvious from population surveys that children learn all sorts of unscientific garbage from the non-scientist believers, who have had anti-science nonsense passed down the generations from the likes of Pope Pius IX.. (see link on the other discussion)
    The creation of humans for example, is NOT the PURPOSE of evolution! Evolution does not have “a purpose”.

  34. In reply to #38 by OHooligan:

    Still disappointed.

    There really does appear to be a dogmatic, fundamentalist form of atheism after all, one that seeks conflict, and isn’t happy to learn that 89% of americans don’t have a faith that contradicts the facts of evolution. One that says you gotta be an atheist to be a worthwhile scientist. One that says – channeling GWB – you’re either with us, or you’re with the creationists.

    Discontinuous Minds once more.

    What do you want? Many have already said that a shift where people believe in and aggressively spread nonsense to where people believe nonsense and believe some sense is good.

    Should we just accept the new data from a small poll that summarizes with only about 10% of believers having a problem with some science whereas all previous polls hover around 50% of the [American] public not accepting evolution? Are we fundamentalists because we want to probe and discuss new findings?

    Should we now finally embrace religion in its new enlightened form? Its OK that its nonsense because its nice nonsense? Do we give up the right to call it nonsense?

    What, exactly, would make you happy?

  35. And more responses to your comments Anvil, though apologies as these were directed at someone other than me. Hope you don’t mind.

    I would also imagine that as an astromer who has many peer reviewed papers over the years, Coyne knows full well that biblical creation is a total nonsense – again his science does not leave his catholic faith intact, does it?

    Biblical creation as a literal account is considered nonsense by just about every thinking person in the world – be they Christians, Atheists or Muslims. The evidence against is overwhelming. Yet we still have religious people! Coynes science seems to have left his faith totally intact. He is still a catholic priest, in his interviews he still clearly believes totally in God. Yet he still agreed with Richard Dawkins on every single fact, and when Dawkins asked about the theory of evolution he’d said something along the lines of preferring to call it fact!

    So his science, and everyone elses, has left his catholic faith intact – that is not in question – so I’m not sure where you are actually coming from. The fact is he is a bone fide scientist with no theistic evolution nonsense allowed – and a priest – and sees no conflict himself. You need to explain that in some way not wonder whether or not he’s moved from a religious position when clearly he hasn’t.

    Yes there are religious fundamentalists, I’ve met them they are vile. But I know far more currently that are nothing like that. Some working in scientific fields including evolutionary biology and the LHC. They do not know what Christian theistic evolution is.

    That is what I feel Steve Rose (referenced in the earlier post) was doing. I haven’t seen the particular clip but he may have been practising mere diplomacy. Certainly if it’s the Steve Rose I’m thinking of then he can hardly be accused of accomodationism – atheist, neuro-biologist, dyed in the wool Marxist, and tireless campaigner for an international academic boycott of Israel that he is. Of course. I may have the wrong Steve Rose.

    It was Steve Jones so maybe you have? But the rest of the description seems right. He was sat next to a Christian palaeontologist and they seemed to be in accord. He certainly was not diplomatic in his responses to the creationists at all. Neither was the Christian though he tried to be nicer in his eviscerating of them. The programme may still be on i player The Big Question, but probably not. Try you tube. It has had RD as a guest in many previous shows, but not this particular one.

  36. Atheistengineer:

    What exactly is christian theistic evolution. I’ve now asked several Christians and they haven’t a clue. Evolution is evolution as the science says as far as they are concerned – they don’t hold with any creationist nonsense at all. Yes there are some creationists and various other loonies but they tend not to be doing or understanding science. You cannot tar all religious people with the same loony brush.

    AFAIC all creationism whether old or young is in conflict with the known facts about reality which science has uncovered. Yes religious scientists can do good science and it would be silly to say otherwise. But to do good science God has to be left out of the equation. As Lawrence Krauss put it, science has to assume the laws of nature are the same everywhere and at all times, and we shouldn’t be holding some supernatural joker up our sleeve, to be played whilst no-one is looking.

  37. Thanks for your comments, Atheist engineer.

    I’m at work all night (I’m in the UK, too) but ill read through your posts tomorrow and respond then if I can. Thoug I’m sure other posters will comment on your post in the meantime.

    Anvil.

  38. In reply to #45 by Northampton:

    In reply to #38 by OHooligan:

    Still disappointed.

    What, exactly, would make you happy?

    ROFLMAO, as the kids say these days. I’m sure the Mods would prefer I don’t answer that one, exactly.

  39. In the more recent comments I see at least some recognition that there can indeed be excellent scientists who also have a religious belief. And if that rattles some hardline atheist’s worldview, well, tough. Reality isn’t what you decide it is. Oh, wait, maybe it is. (See the “cheat-sheet” discussion).

    Everyone posting here agrees, easily, that folks who see a conflict between science and their religion, and therefore denies the science, and tries to deny the teaching of science to others, these folks are lairs or fools or both, and should never be trusted with a plastic fork, let alone be given access to hard liquor, guns, or political office.

    And everyone here seems also to agree that anyone who sees a contradiction between religion and science, and therefore abandons all religion, is acting sensibly, honestly and with integrity, and is to be applauded, and welcomed aboard.

    But the religious folk for whom there is no contradiction – these ones seem to be more troublesome to accept. I’ve met a few, and they’re perfectly sane to all outward appearances. They know the rules of science, and apply them to the best of their (god-given, as they’d say) ability. And they go to their inherited or adopted place-of-worship on Sundays, or Saturdays. or Fridays, and some other days too.

    One told me “Science is What, When, and How. History is Who. Religion is Why.” Therefore, no conflict. It does reveal an interesting point of difference between science and atheism. Science doesn’t attempt to answer “why”, atheism does (albeit negatively), and that puts atheism directly in competition with each and every religion, no surprises there.

    Another trumped even that line with this one: “We exist in God’s Imagination”. Well, that one is as far as I can see unassailable. There’s absolutely no way to get any kind of purchase on it. All the science we do is only exploring the details of this imagined universe. It’s knowingly setting itself outside science, not amenable to the scientific method, not a fit subject for scientific investigation, because there is nothing falsifiable about it, no experiment that could be proposed to test it. But also, it doesn’t place any constraints on scientific investigation, and is, I think, the underlying premise of the faith of many believer-scientists.

    There is one more “philosophical position” that I found entertaining, though it’s a bit off topic here: that Man made God in his own image, but it’s a work in progress. We aren’t done yet.

  40. In reply to #47 by Mr DArcy:

    Atheistengineer:What exactly is christian theistic evolution. I’ve now asked several Christians and they haven’t a clue. Evolution is evolution as the science says as far as they are concerned – they don’t hold with any creationist nonsense at all. Yes there are some creationists and various other loonies but they tend not to be doing or understanding science. You cannot tar all religious people with the same loony brush.AFAIC all creationism whether old or young is in conflict with the known facts about reality which science has uncovered. Yes religious scientists can do good science and it would be silly to say otherwise. But to do good science God has to be left out of the equation. As Lawrence Krauss put it, science has to assume the laws of nature are the same everywhere and at all times, and we shouldn’t be holding some supernatural joker up our sleeve, to be played whilst no-one is looking.

    Yes and that is what all good scientists do. A scientist placing God in the equation would not be doing science. That still doesn’t preclude him or her believing in God though.

  41. In reply to #44 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #41 by atheistengineer:In reply to #40 by Alan4discussion:While some movement towards science is welcome, the problem is with the theist redefinition of “Darwinian evolution” as the unscientific -”theistic evolution” in its various ambiguous forms. That is the “evolution” to which they make claim! It’s the old semantic shuffle all over again! – In this case mixing creationism with a lot of real science, to add credibility and disguise its nature from the casual observer.See this thread! – http://www.richarddawkins.net/news-articles/2013/2/15/no-belief-gap#

    Thanks for the link to the other discussions. However in the context of the original article above, I found the second article very disingenous. The original article is about conflicts or otherwise existing between REAL science and religion. The second article and your comment has shifted the goal posts from real science and hunted instead for pseudoscience and distortions of real science to add into the mix when it wasn’t originally there. Probably, in the case of the other article, to fit a preconceived stereotype that undoubtedly exists but is a) not representative of scientists (or those who understand the science) with religious beliefs and b) actually NOT what he original debate was about.

    Theistic Evolution” has bendy vague definitions to accommodate varying levels of god-did-it-by magical-intervention. Unlike scientific definitions it is all things to all readers. It is not at all unusual for theists well educated in science, to ASSUME that their religion and other followers accept the science as they may well do. Assumption is in the nature of “faith”!

    If so called creation scientists cherry pick and are disingenous about real science to suit there is, rightly, an outcry. Yet introducing pseudoscientific nonsense from religion into a debate about real science as if to imply that that was what was really under discussion is just as misleading. Theistic evolution is not science – anyone buying into it does not truly understand the nature of science and therefore is unlikely to be a scientist. I doubt theistic evolution was in the mind of the original author.

    The debate remains about conflicts between real unadulterated science and religion. As practising scientists exist of various religious faiths – that conflict can not actually exist. The fact that various educated people who are not scientists also accept fully all real science yet still have religious faith also suggest that conflict is not absolute.

    We have all agreed, I think, that there are religious people, who cannot be scientists, who distort science to try and fit it too religion. What this debate was about was religious people who don’t distort science, don’t buy into silly ideas like theistic evolution and are therefore real scientists or accepting of science but don’t see a conflict.

    I’ve shown the theistic evolution to a friend who is a biology teacher and a Christian/catholic. She just said it was a load of old s@@@e and she’d never come across it before. I suspect most other religious people with any understanding of science would say the same. Certainly the man sat next to Steve Jones on the Big Question is highly unlikely to have bought into it. You could not be a leading palaeontologist and buy into various bendy bits of evolution. For all the others on the yes side it was evolution as the science dictates not re-interpretations of it.

    They are as diverse as their believers, so we need to look at the actual beliefs. Nobody is suggesting that the members of the present Catholic establishment are YECs.I do not doubt that many professional RC science teachers teach science properly, but it should be obvious from population surveys that children learn all sorts of unscientific garbage from the non-scientist believers, who have had anti-science nonsense passed down the generations from the likes of Pope Pius IX.. (see link on the other discussion) The creation of humans for example, is NOT the PURPOSE of evolution! Evolution does not have “a purpose”.

    Again you are moving the debate to the assumption that all religious people have distorted evolution. I don’t think that is the case. Nor is there much reason for it to be the case when there are far more ways to reinterpret theology.

    Plus you seem to be forgetting that pseudoscientific nonsense is not exclusive to religion either. I have fiercely atheist friends who refuse to have their children vaccinnated or down copious quantities of expensive water in teeny tiny bottle as they think it remembers some molecule it was unlikely to have ever seen. Anti science nonsense comes from many sources largely in the UK from the media on slow news days.

    I don’t know what population surveys you are referring to so can’t comment on those.

    I

  42. In reply to #52 by OHooligan:

    In the more recent comments I see at least some recognition that there can indeed be excellent scientists who also have a religious belief. And if that rattles some hardline atheist’s worldview, well, tough.

    I don’t think many “hard-line-atheists” dispute that some excellent scientific work has been done by religious people, – but those are religious people who have separated their science from their religion (compartmentalisation), or have worked in specialisms not related to science conflicting with their religion. Some have watered down their religion in the light of their scientific understanding. (Some of us have liquidated it completely) .

    Everyone posting here agrees, easily, that folks who see a conflict between science and their religion, and therefore denies the science,

    This is a wild over-generalisation. It is quite possible to be a scientist in one specialism, and a science-denying a pseudo-scientist in others. Creationists often quote from such compartmentalised people using their celebrity status in one area of science as a badge of authority for their creationist nonsense in another.

    and tries to deny the teaching of science to others, these folks are lairs or fools or both, and should never be trusted with a plastic fork, let alone be given access to hard liquor, guns, or political office.

    There are certainly some who would fit the bill, but again you have extended into over-generalisation. There is a spectrum of views and capabilities.

    And everyone here seems also to agree that anyone who sees a contradiction between religion and science, and therefore abandons all religion, is acting sensibly, honestly and with integrity, and is to be applauded, and welcomed aboard.

    Everyone is welcomed (including theists) – some just need to improve their science and reasoning after they arrive. – That is the “education” aspect of the site.

    But the religious folk for whom there is no contradiction – these ones seem to be more troublesome to accept.

    Usually there is no contradiction in their minds, because they have a very poor understanding or both science and their own religion (let alone anyone else’s religion) Sometimes their grasp of reasoning is so poor that they don’t see contradictions as a problem in thinking!

    I’ve met a few, and they’re perfectly sane to all outward appearances. They know the rules of science, and apply them to the best of their (god-given, as they’d say) ability. And they go to their inherited or adopted place-of-worship on Sundays, or Saturdays. or Fridays, and some other days too.

    Religion and dogmas are “gap-fillers”. Working on real familiar knowledge people look sane – Once they are struggling:- the dogma, mystic gapology and sheeple-herdism kicks in. Then they back dangerous politicians, quacks and preachers.

    One told me “Science is What, When, and How. History is Who. Religion is Why.” Therefore, no conflict.

    This is compartmentalism – with a lack of joined up understanding of reality.

    It does reveal an interesting point of difference between science and atheism. Science doesn’t attempt to answer “why”, atheism does (albeit negatively), and that puts atheism directly in competition with each and every religion, no surprises there.

    Actually there is no ultimate “why” in science or atheism. Atheists tend to point this out more frequently, but the underlying fact is the same. That is where the conflict between theism and scientific laws and theories arises, when theists assert purpose and anthropomorphism in nature.

    Another trumped even that line with this one: “We exist in God’s Imagination”. Well, that one is as far as I can see unassailable.

    It looks like a simple case of backwards thinking, with psychological projection: “We exist in God’s Imagination” = “God exists in our Imagination”.

    There’s absolutely no way to get any kind of purchase on it. All the science we do is only exploring the details of this imagined universe.

    It’s a case for neuroscience and psychology. Being directed to look in the depths of the Universe is a side track.

    It’s knowingly setting itself outside science, not amenable to the scientific method, not a fit subject for scientific investigation, because there is nothing falsifiable about it, no experiment that could be proposed to test it. But also, it doesn’t place any constraints on scientific investigation, and is, I think, the underlying premise of the faith of many believer-scientists.

    Gapology 1.01 – Find a gap beyond falsification! – Make assertion! – (There is nothing to refute – What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence – Even before we ask, “How could they possibly know this?)

    There is one more “philosophical position” that I found entertaining, though it’s a bit off topic here: that Man made God in his own image, but it’s a work in progress. We aren’t done yet.

    Men made all gods! Some of them in their own image, some in the images of animals, some deifying mountains, rivers, trees etc. – But they are all in the brains of the believers – some as original variations – some copied. (Being ill-defined and “bendy”, makes them harder to refute, – so more attractive to “sophisticated theologists”!)

  43. In reply to #46 by atheistengineer:

    And more responses to your comments Anvil, though apologies as these were directed at someone other than me. Hope you don’t mind.

    Not at all.

    I would also imagine that as an astromer who has many peer reviewed papers over the years, Coyne knows full well that biblical creation is a total nonsense – again his science does not leave his catholic faith intact, does it?

    Biblical creation as a literal account is considered nonsense by just about every thinking person in the world – be they Christians, Atheists or Muslims. The evidence against is overwhelming. Yet we still have religious people!

    The evidence is overwhelming that literalism is alive and well. Pew 2005/6 showed that 90% of Americans believed that a god magicked the world into existence. Most Muslims are literalists and this remains one of the main reasons for the level of scientific illiteracy in the Muslim world since its so called golden age.

    Coynes science seems to have left his faith totally intact. He is still a catholic priest, in his interviews he still clearly believes totally in God. Yet he still agreed with Richard Dawkins on every single fact, and when Dawkins asked about the theory of evolution he’d said something along the lines of preferring to call it fact!

    So Coyne understands that evolution is a fact and as a scientist also understand that it lacks teleological substance and so disbars any god making man in his image. He knows that whatever his god looks like, it isn’t us.

    This lack of teleology also then disbars Adam and Eve, and, of course original sin – so no fall.

    No fall means no need for Christ to die on a cross. But then surely as a scientist he can apply such skills to historical methods so we might presume he understands that the concept of a historical Christ is at least questionable.

    Can we also assume that he doesn’t believe in transubstantiation, either?

    We may well ask, what is left of his Christianity that keeps him a Christian?

    So his science, and everyone elses, has left his catholic faith intact – that is not in question – so I’m not sure where you are actually coming from. The fact is he is a bone fide scientist with no theistic evolution nonsense allowed – and a priest – and sees no conflict himself. You need to explain that in some way not wonder whether or not he’s moved from a religious position when clearly he hasn’t.

    Yes, but he has clearly moved, hasn’t he? He was born in a biblically literalist world, he grew up in a biblically literalist world – so much so he gave his life to its earthly manifestation, the Catholic Church. He then studied astrophysics and learned that rather than being created from dust, or ribs, we are comprised of elements forged in stellar furnaces. His whole life has seen his omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent deity being forced into increasingly smaller gaps by science.

    How he deals with this I don’t know? That this happens, is, I feel, beyond question.

    Of course. I may have the wrong Steve Rose.

    It was Steve Jones so maybe you have?

    Yep, that’ll be the wrong Steve Rose, then!

    The question remains: should we take a strategically accommodationist position towards religion? The people asking this fall into two camps according to O’Hooligan (apologies if I’m misrepresenting you here, O’H?) which I suppose we can describe the spectrum of which as mild atheist running through to rabid anti-theist.

    The mild atheist position being the accomodationist one – live and let live, as long as they’re not doing me any harm then science and religion can happily coexist, etc. The anti-accommodationist – religion is anathema to scientific enquiry, it is anti-science, and the quicker all religious thought is extinguished, the better.

    Of course, these are polar extremes – you yourself do not apply your accomodationism to what you call fundamentalists. I take an accommodationist stance when I feel it is tactically of worth or positionally necessary, and believe that people’s personal beliefs are their own business as long as they stay personal.

    I do, though, believe religion is anti-science – I think the evidence is overwhelming, and its claim to truths puts it in direct competition with science – but what positions me firmly in the anti-accommodationist camp is not just that within religion there exists fundamentalists who cause great harm, pain, suffering, and death, or even that the more moderate beliefs in these religions support this fundamentalism, it is that it is moderate religious belief itself that causes the vast majority of harm, pain, suffering, and death.

    Sorry all, overly long post. (Too much coffee, Smill.)

    Anvil.

  44. Alan4Discussion:

    Usually there is no contradiction in their minds, because they have a very poor understanding or both science and their own religion (let alone anyone else’s religion) Sometimes their grasp of reasoning is so poor that they don’t see contradictions as a problem in thinking!

    That is a huge assumption. Is that true of say, George Coyne? Or Ken Miller? What exactly are the contradictions if you take out bilbical literalism? Not evolution or big bang certainly.

    I’m with what Steve Jones appeared to say on this, you can do science independently and not distort it at all, and outside of the lab use it to bolster the majesty of your belief. Or find it irrelevant to your belief as many others do. The palaeontologist on the programme for example had said his faith was based largely on the gospels, love your neighbour, do onto others etc.

    Religion and dogmas are “gap-fillers”. Working on real familiar knowledge people look sane – Once they are struggling:- the dogma, mystic gapology and sheeple-herdism kicks in. Then they back dangerous politicians, quacks and preachers.

    I’m not sure what you mean here in terms of the debate on the preceding comment. How and what evidence can you give?

  45. By the way, a thread concerning grant aid from Biologos to explore the consonance between faith and evolutionary theory has just been posted on the web news front page.

    Biologos was founded by Francis Collins to explore and encourage a dialogue between science and faith.

    Just when you thought you’d got a grip on what theistic evolutionary theory was, along comes a big pile of money to try and produce something a bit more …what …plausible?

    Anvil.

  46. In reply to #57 by atheistengineer:

    Alan4Discussion:

    Usually there is no contradiction in their minds, because they have a very poor understanding or both science and their own religion (let alone anyone else’s religion) Sometimes their grasp of reasoning is so poor that they don’t see contradictions as a problem in thinking!

    That is a huge assumption.

    That’s the problem with trying to sort out generalisations in brief comments. – I was talking about the followers

    Is that true of say, George Coyne? Or Ken Miller? What exactly are the contradictions if you take out bilbical literalism? Not evolution or big bang certainly.

    Unlike science, religious “interpretations are vague and variable. Faith can come up with anything as pseudo-facts. – Even real facts sometimes.

    I’m with what Steve Jones appeared to say on this, you can do science independently and not distort it at all, and outside of the lab use it to bolster the majesty of your belief. Or find it irrelevant to your belief as many others do. The palaeontologist on the programme for example had said his faith was based largely on the gospels, love your neighbour, do onto others etc.

    Once they move from the literal interpretation of words to allegorical interpretations and cherry-picking bits they like, everyone has their own version – usually which varies according to the discussion.

    Religion and dogmas are “gap-fillers”. Working on real familiar knowledge people look sane – Once they are struggling:- the dogma, mystic gapology and sheeple-herdism kicks in. Then they back dangerous politicians, quacks and preachers.

    I’m not sure what you mean here in terms of the debate on the preceding comment. How and what evidence can you give?

    Have you not observed this? Religion fills in the gaps in knowledge with “god-did-it”. The crafty theologians will do their homework and pick real gaps in human knowledge. The simplistic ones like YECs will comically pick gaps in their personal knowledge and make fools of themselves over pontificating blatant errors, which are howlers any educated person can recognise. Of course many historical “gaps” have disappeared as science has advanced. The compartmentalised thinking has problems trying to join the dogma and the science at the edges of the compartments, so keeps trying to find more credible ways to achieve this impossible task!

    Read the threads on abortion, evolution, or climate science, and watch the dogmas spout forth from the ignorant!

    Have a look at this discussion – biologos-announces-grants-to-reconcile-christianity-and-evolution# where supposedly “educated people” are researching Adam and Eve!

  47. In reply to #55 by Alan4discussion:

    Anvil better expressed things better than me with his continuum of atheistic viewpoints. Thanks Anvil.

    But this is a response to Alan4. Usually I find your observations interesting and helpful, but this time I think you’re missing the mark. I did oversimplify by setting up 3 categories of people for us to observe and comment upon, but I still think there’s no real dispute here regarding the first two (those who see a contradiction between religion and science, and choose one at the expense of the other).

    But your apparent dismissal of the 3rd group, the ones for whom there is no contradiction, as “compartmentalized” thinking, and seeming to imply that they cannot possibly be giving their full attention when they do science, well, that seems to be presuming a lot, and a put-down of the sort that I heard in my family growing up: “He’s a very good scientist – for a religious person” carries the same sentiment as “He’s very nice – for a protestant” (said by a catholic). Or vice versa, I’m sure they said that among themselves.

    Sorry, I digress. I wanted to draw you out on the God’s Imagination idea. For me, it was a show-stopper, an unchallengable position. In more modern parlance, it’s saying something like this universe we perceive is like some kind of total-immersion game (think “The Matrix”), and it has a comprehensive physics engine, which is investigated by scientists. But it also has a storyline.

    The “Gods Imagination” type faithful won’t quibble with whatever science finds out about the physics engine, but they also maintain that there is some kind of storyline, and it’s personal. An anthropomorphic stance, I suppose. Their god is not a god-of-the-gaps, as their god actively maintains the physics engine, while each of us plays out our intersecting storylines. They are also very forgiving of our ancestors who wrote down the scripture stuff, of course it’s wrong, it was the best they could make of things at the time. They also, as far as I can tell, have little or no truck with the Old Testament. It’s the New Testament, the forgiveness and turn the other cheek and the stuff Jesus is quoted as saying about being nice to each other for a change. They take all that went before as nothing but tradition, with stories that are at best allegories of some deeper cosmic meaning. Nice and vague, anyway.

    Maddening to one who wants to confront and sweep away all that primitive superstition, I’m not supporting that viewpoint. I am highlighting it, because it appears to be poorly understood round here.

    Whether or not that kind of intellectual theism poses a threat or not, well, that’s another discussion. But for this discussion, I claim to have met some, they aren’t stupid, they’re not trying to subvert science, neither the research nor the teaching, but they still aren’t going to become atheists any time soon.

  48. In reply to #60 by OHooligan:

    In reply to #55 by Alan4discussion:
    Their god is not a god-of-the-gaps, as their god actively maintains the physics engine, while each of us plays out our intersecting storylines.

    A god-of-the-gaps argument is precisely what it is because it places itself into the unknown “area of ignorance” beyond the universe (i.e. that we’re sitting in a computer simulation somewhere). It also violates scientific methodology – that one does not invent ad-hoc ideas, unfalsifiable beliefs, or complications beyond what the data can justify – and therefore is at conflict with the principles of science. The fact that it essentially makes the same predictions as normal science with a superfluous add-on is the hallmark of a god-of-the-gaps argument, or more generally an argument from ignorance. In the absence of any real argument for the conclusion you provided – that the universe is some kind of simulation – the default position is that the conclusion is false.

    To put it briefly, science and religion conflict because, when it comes to finding out facts, scientific methods for establishing facts work and religious ones don’t. That does not mean followers of a religion cannot contribute to science, nor that scientists cannot be religious, and it certainly doesn’t mean their beliefs have to actually contradict each other. But the odds are good that their means of coming to different beliefs will be in conflict because they encourage inconsistency. You can’t use reason and evidence to prop up one idea and then use assumptions, faith, and what your community and its traditions have told you to prop up another idea without resorting to special pleading, which is what the old “science answers how, religion answers why” style of canard is.

  49. In reply to #52 by OHooligan:

    In the more recent comments I see at least some recognition that there can indeed be excellent scientists who also have a religious belief. And if that rattles some hardline atheist’s worldview, well, tough. Reality isn’t what you decide it is. Oh, wait, maybe it is. (See the “cheat-sheet” discussion).

    And I’ll thank you not to take my discussion out of context. That discussion was about how the brain evolved with information built-in by previous evolution. It doesn’t “decide” what reality is; it makes a guess based on information fed to it by generations of genetic evolution. It no more decides to see things than it decides to reject its neurones’ depolarization-repolarization mechanism.

  50. Anvil in response to parts of your post:

    The evidence is overwhelming that literalism is alive and well. Pew 2005/6 showed that 90% of Americans believed that a god magicked the world into existence. Most Muslims are literalists and this remains one of the main reasons for the level of scientific illiteracy in the Muslim world since its so called golden age.

    Nobody is disputing literalism is alive and well. Nor saying it is anything other than dangerous. However that does not alter the fact there are believing people who are totally happy with all science – not creationism, not theistic evolution, not ID or god of gaps. And those people do not find it conflicts with faith. And furthermore those people are equally unhappy with the literalists!

    So Coyne understands that evolution is a fact and as a scientist also understand that it lacks teleological substance and so disbars any god making man in his image. He knows that whatever his god looks like, it isn’t us.

    This lack of teleology also then disbars Adam and Eve, and, of course original sin – so no fall.

    No fall means no need for Christ to die on a cross. But then surely as a scientist he can apply such skills to historical methods so we might presume he understands that the concept of a historical Christ is at least questionable.

    Why exactly? Adam and Eve don’t have to be real, they can be allegory for human nature and human conxciousness. Everything evolves and adapts to survive including religion. Its changed several time in the few thousand years its been around, there is no reason for it to remain static now.

    Can we also assume that he doesn’t believe in transubstantiation, either?

    We may well ask, what is left of his Christianity that keeps him a Christian?

    I don’t know I’d guess yes. However that may be nonsensical but it does not actually fall within the remit of science. I’d guess its far harder to detemine the presence of a supernatural deity in bread than it is to determine whats in a Findus bargain lasagne. Plus there is a hell of a lot in religion that has nothing to do with science. Love thy neighbour, give to the poor etc. Very little rests on the actual how of creation.

    Yes, but he has clearly moved, hasn’t he? He was born in a biblically literalist world, he grew up in a biblically literalist world – so much so he gave his life to its earthly manifestation, the Catholic Church. He then studied astrophysics and learned that rather than being created from dust, or ribs, we are comprised of elements forged in stellar furnaces. His whole life has seen his omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent deity being forced into increasingly smaller gaps by science.

    How he deals with this I don’t know? That this happens, is, I feel, beyond question.

    I’d have to disagree there. I’m not sure he was born into a biblically literal world. I think debates about biblical literalism or methaphor have been raging for centuries. I don’t think the RC church has been biblically literal about genesis since St Augustine. I only know one actual christian who is a biblical literalist to speak to, from my old ante natal group. She is regualarly ripped to shreds by a catholic biology teacher who claims she messes with science and makes religion ridiculous.

    As for god of gaps, a hell of a lot of religious people have spoken out against that. Pointing out, quite rightly, that those gaps get filled and god squeezed out. God of gaps is not a stance taken that can be taken by any scientific believer or indeed remotely sentient one.

    The question remains: should we take a strategically accommodationist position towards religion? The people asking this fall into two camps according to O’Hooligan (apologies if I’m misrepresenting you here, O’H?) which I suppose we can describe the spectrum of which as mild atheist running through to rabid anti-theist.

    The mild atheist position being the accomodationist one – live and let live, as long as they’re not doing me any harm then science and religion can happily coexist, etc. The anti-accommodationist – religion is anathema to scientific enquiry, it is anti-science, and the quicker all religious thought is extinguished, the better.

    Of course, these are polar extremes – you yourself do not apply your accomodationism to what you call fundamentalists. I take an accommodationist stance when I feel it is tactically of worth or positionally necessary, and believe that people’s personal beliefs are their own business as long as they stay personal.

    Now I’m not clear on the accomodationist position with non fundamentalists would be, as I’m not clear what is being accommodated? I think I’ve made it clear that anyone bending and distorting the science (or basic rights like gay marriage or abortion for that matter) for religious reasons is not really scientific and is not the subject of this debate. So if a scientist is not distorting science what exactly are you accommodating. Basically you seem to be saying that no person with any faith should be allowed to do science? Or admit to having that faith?

  51. Thanks for your interest in our survey! The key point I wanted to make is that there are two interesting science-religion controversies: 1) Between religion & atheism (the main topic of this site) and 2) between religions who do & don’t attack science. Forces pushing for creationism in US schools etc. try to conflate the two so that they can pretend to represent the majority, and taunting religious groups that don’t attack science can plays into their hands. The more we can all draw attention to 2), the worse for the anti-scientific fringe.

  52. In reply to #62 by Zeuglodon:

    In reply to #52 by OHooligan:

    In the more recent comments I see at least some recognition that there can indeed be excellent scientists who also have a religious belief. And if that rattles some hardline atheist’s worldview, well, tough. Reality isn’t what you decide it is. Oh, wait, maybe it is. (See the “cheat-sheet” discussion).

    And I’ll thank you not to take my discussion out of context. That discussion was about how the brain evolved with information built-in by previous evolution. It doesn’t “decide” what reality is; it makes a guess based on information fed to it by generations of genetic evolution. It no more decides to see things than it decides to reject its neurones’ depolarization-repolarization mechanism.

    Hi Z. Your excellent discussion deserves to be taken out of context, it’s too good to be left stuck in the context it was born into. Yes, it’s your baby, but it’s left the nest now, and is flying off on its own. You must be very proud of it, I would be if it was mine. We should probably head back over to “cheat sheets” to further the discussion there, instead of digressing from this particular post. See you there, I hope.

  53. In reply to #64 by Max Tegmark:

    Thanks for your interest in our survey! The key point I wanted to make is that there are two interesting science-religion controversies: 1) Between religion & atheism (the main topic of this site) and 2) between religions who do & don’t attack science. Forces pushing for creationism in US schools etc. try to conflate the two so that they can pretend to represent the majority, and taunting religious groups that don’t attack science can plays into their hands. The more we can all draw attention to 2), the worse for the anti-scientific fringe.

    I agree completely. I wish I could be as concise as Max. I suppose the rest of you wish the same.

  54. In reply to #61 by Zeuglodon:

    DISCLAIMER: I am not promoting or defending the religious viewpoint I outline here. It is one that I find impossible to counter, though I don’t believe a scrap of it. But even then, they’ve got me, as I’ve just had to express a belief. Or an unbelief. Damn.

    In reply to #60 by OHooligan:

    In reply to #55 by Alan4discussion:

    Their god is not a god-of-the-gaps, as their god actively maintains the physics engine, while each of us plays out our intersecting storylines.

    A god-of-the-gaps argument is precisely what it is because it places itself into the unknown “area of ignorance” beyond the universe (i.e. that we’re sitting in a computer simulation somewhere).

    So “beyond the universe” is a gap? If you say so, I suppose. But – and I’m extrapolating here – the gap is like the gap between the pixels on your screen, meaning it’s everywhere.

    It also violates scientific methodology – that one does not invent ad-hoc ideas, unfalsifiable beliefs, or complications beyond what the data can justify – and therefore is at conflict with the principles of science.

    That’s just saying it isn’t science. Neither is fashion. Or lots of other things people do. Since it doesn’t claim to be science, there’s still no conflict.

    To put it briefly, science and religion conflict because, when it comes to finding out facts, scientific methods for establishing facts work and religious ones don’t.

    No, there’s only conflict with the religions that try to muscle in on the turf where science works. We got rid of them earlier in the discussion.

    That does not mean followers of a religion cannot contribute to science, nor that scientists cannot be religious, and it certainly doesn’t mean their beliefs have to actually contradict each other.

    Agreement there, though it’s still sounding a bit condescending: (pretty good effort, for a deist)

    But the odds are good that their means of coming to different beliefs will be in conflict because they encourage inconsistency. You can’t use reason and evidence to prop up one idea and then use assumptions, faith, and what your community and its traditions have told you to prop up another idea without resorting to special pleading, which is what the old “science answers how, religion answers why” style of canard is.

    Ah, there it is. The condescending bit. And at last, a conflict to pounce upon. It’s like those pushy interviewers, parodied in Brass Eye for example, trying desperately to achieve conflict, somehow.

    “the odds are good…”

    • a throwaway statement unworthy of you, Z. You know you’re going to be asked to quantify.

    “.. you can’t… without resorting to special pleading”

    Remember, this ain’t rocket science. It ain’t science at all. You end up in a circle, saying only that these folk’s religion isn’t scientific. Well, once again, they agree. So you’re arguing against nothing.

    See, I found this position infuriating, as it was completely unassailable, and so I gave up trying. It’s a hermetically sealed self-consistent delusion, if you like. But I don’t see any of the splendidly rational arguments put forward on this site doing anything to dent the armour of this kind of faith. I’d go so far as to speculate that this kind of faith is impervious to any sensory input that could be devised. Possibly some dose of brain-altering chemicals might do it.

    BTW, please explain how (or why) the “science=how,religion=why” is a canard. I’m reminded of something I read somewhere:

    Skeptic: “How do you know?”

    Guru: “Why do you ask?”

  55. Max Tegmark is right and the stakes are too high to keep joining the creationists and others in manufacturing conflict where it doesn’t seem to exist. The dabate was never about shoving God into gaps, or coming up with theistic takes on evolution or anything else, it was about the fact that there are many religious people who see no conflict between real bone fide science and their belief in whatever.

    So I don’t understand why all the other red herrings, like theistic evolution or god of the gaps or biblical literacy thrown into the mix when they have nothing to do with real science or all religion? Its almost as if the people here were hunting as hard as the creationists to manufacture conflicts and claim science as there own. Science is secular it doesn’t respect any opinions.

    I also don’t understand the screams of accommodationist if the aim is not to distort or water down science? What exactly does accommodationist stance mean? From here it almost looks like you’re saying only atheists can do science and anyone with a religious belief is precluded?

    If you ignore the moderates in religion, the ones who aren’t anti science or anti womens rights or whatever else you are probably ignoring your most effective allies in the fight against extremism. Who is a believer more likely to listen to?

  56. In reply to #69 by atheistengineer:

    Hi AtheistEngineer,

    Max Tegmark is right and the stakes are too high to keep joining the creationists and others in manufacturing conflict where it doesn’t seem to exist.

    I agree the stakes are high, hence my interest in the debate – but what, exactly, are these ‘stakes’? And once identified, what strategy should be adopted in order to resolve them?

    My central point is that Max’s take on the figures is incorrect and suggests an equally incorrect strategy of accommodationism.

    Accommodationism, in my view, denies that conflict exists, and manufactures accord where non exists whilst simultaneously pushing the causes of real discord to the extremes.

    Further, this accord portrays a neutral sum where in actuality vast evidential harm exists – and persists, in part, because of this manufactured accord.

    Further still, this very harm that exists is not caused by radicals or fundamentalists, but by everyday believers who portray themselves as moderates within their religions.

    These are the stakes for me – vast evidential harm. The causes and the persistence of which acts to the detriment of scientific progress.

    Max states:

    ” (…) the gap between personal and official beliefs is so large (it) suggests that part of the controversy might be defused by people learning more about their own religious doctrine and the science it endorses, thereby bridging this belief gap.”

    (and that this ‘diffused controversy’ would show) “…that the main divide in the U.S. origins debate isn’t between science and religion, but between a small fundamentalist minority and mainstream religious communities who embrace science.”

    Lets look at the two previously mentioned monotheisms of Christianity (2.1 billion) and Islam (1.62 billion).

    We can agree, I imagine, that of these two we can discount Islam as being not only literalist but vehemently anti-science. It produces little or no science, and, in effect, sees science itself as a western heresy.

    An interesting aside, given Ridley’s ‘Ideas having sex’ thesis, to imagine the current state of scientific achievement had the Muslim world continued to engage in science from the middle of the 13th century. We may well have been an interplanetary species by now.

    However, to restate: 1.62 billion people. A mainstream religious community – but hardly one embracing science. Rather, in conflict with it.

    As we have mentioned George Coyne earlier, let’s take Catholicism as one example of Christianity. Officially, as Max points out, the church accepts evolution, but this is simply one of the many elements of cognitive dissonance that is forged within Rome. All practising Catholics will repeat the following weekly during the rite of mass (many will repeat it daily) – I still remember it off by heart, but it really is worth reading slowly and carefully:

    I believe in God,
    the Father almighty,
    Creator of heaven and earth,
    and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
    who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
    born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, died and was buried;
    he descended into hell;
    on the third day he rose again from the dead;
    he ascended into heaven,
    and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
    from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
    I believe in the Holy Spirit,
    the holy catholic Church,
    the communion of saints,
    the forgiveness of sins,
    the resurrection of the body,
    and life everlasting. Amen

    The people reading this – believing this – are normal, everyday, moderate, practising Catholics.

    The dabate was never about shoving God into gaps, or coming up with theistic takes on evolution or anything else, it was about the fact that there are many religious people who see no conflict between real bone fide science and their belief in whatever.

    Really? So why is Francis Collins old foundation offering piles of money to do exactly that? Also, when lightening struck the Vatican the moment the pope resigned, did you ascribe this event to the supernatural, as apparently, millions did? Or did you prefer to listen to Franklin, or Maxwell?

    So I don’t understand why all the other red herrings, like theistic evolution or god of the gaps or biblical literacy thrown into the mix when they have nothing to do with real science or all religion? Its almost as if the people here were hunting as hard as the creationists to manufacture conflicts and claim science as there own. Science is secular it doesn’t respect any opinions.

    Yup, science is secular…and religion isn’t.

    I also don’t understand the screams of accommodationist if the aim is not to distort or water down science? What exactly does accommodationist stance mean? From here it almost looks like you’re saying only atheists can do science and anyone with a religious belief is precluded?

    No. What I’m saying is that religion causes immense harm and holds back both secular and scientific progress.

    If you ignore the moderates in religion, the ones who aren’t anti science or anti womens rights or whatever else you are probably ignoring your most effective allies in the fight against extremism. Who is a believer more likely to listen to?

    Where are these moderates of which you speak? Were they listening to science, or woo, during proposition 8? Were they in the British Parliament during the ‘Gay’ marriage debate? Where they sat amongst the american bishops shouting for women’s health?

    If these people – these everyday, normal, moderate people were not listening to science – what were they listening to instead?

    Religion is anti-science. Religion and Science are not ‘closer than you think’. Religion and Science are in conflict.

    Only one of them will bring us to a closer approximation of the truth – of what is real.

    Anvil.

  57. In reply to #69 by atheistengineer:

    Max Tegmark is right and the stakes are too high to keep joining the creationists and others in manufacturing conflict where it doesn’t seem to exist. The dabate was never about shoving God into gaps, or coming up with theistic takes on evolution or anything else, it was about the fact that there are many religious people who see no conflict between real bone fide science and their belief in whatever.

    This really is convoluted wishful thinking. Just because accommodationists and cultural Xtians, don’t look at, or study, the areas of conflict between their religion and science, and are too ignorant to see it, does not mean that no conflict exists.

    God-of gaps, and theistic evolution, is where they paper over the conflicts.

    Both of these are key parts of the Church of England and RCC dogmas. We know that many real scientists shove their religious views which conflict with science, into separate mental compartments. Others are just specialists who are ignorant of the conflicting areas to notice.

    So I don’t understand why all the other red herrings, like theistic evolution or god of the gaps or biblical literacy thrown into the mix when they have nothing to do with real science or all religion?

    Perhaps you should study these to gain understanding. They are not red-herrings.They have a great deal to do with it. The substitution of non-scientific “Theistic evolution” for real science, a god-of gaps hidden from falsification, and the ignorance of biblical history and biblical literacy are the key elements. Many do not even know that the bible is mythology, not history.

    Its almost as if the people here were hunting as hard as the creationists to manufacture conflicts and claim science as there own.
    Science is secular it doesn’t respect any opinions.

    Which is precisely why theist fudged pseudo-science is called out!

    I also don’t understand the screams of accommodationist if the aim is not to distort or water down science? What exactly does accommodationist stance mean?

    Accommodationism means watering down and perverting science to accommodate religious myths – in order to be sociable and avoid upsetting the deluded with “nasty facts they don’t want to believe”!

    From here it almost looks like you’re saying only atheists can do science and anyone with a religious belief is precluded?

    Atheists don’t start with the handicap of confirmation biases and mythological preconceived ideas. Some theists manage to get over theirs in some or all parts of science. Compartmentalism often features.

    If you ignore the moderates in religion, the ones who aren’t anti science or anti womens rights or whatever else you are probably ignoring your most effective allies in the fight against extremism. Who is a believer more likely to listen to?

    Fudgism is not a “moderate position”. Accommodationism is a false posturing of “moderation”. One should not be looking for a middle ground between disinformation and information

    (These theists are talking drivel about science – but let’s not upset them by saying their pseudo-science is wrong!)

    Science does not do “fudged moderate” versions of its laws and calculations. It is either supported by evidence or it is not. That is why “theistic evolution” (which is NOT a scientific theory), where a god fiddles with evolutionary development to create man is his own image as a starring feature of the universe, – is egocentric rubbish! – (It has recently partially emerged from being geocentric rubbish!)

  58. I’m with atheistengineer on this one. Anvil and Alan4 are coming across as hardline take-no-prisoners anti-theists. All religions must be vanquished. No accommodation, no strategic alliances. Let science education be a casualty, we don’t care. Alan, the “theistic evolution” bit is a strawman. Bringing in the entire muslim population of the world as anti-science is also a diversion. The survey was US based.

    And on the other side, a possible strategic alliance to squash the political clout of the anti-science-education nutters, but it means being pleasant to people whose religious beliefs pose no obstacle to their wholehearted adoption, application, and teaching of science. Not “theistic evolution” or “creation science” or any other gobbledegook, the real thing. Actual scientific science (to coin another silly phrase). It doesn’t mean you can’t still call them out on issues such as child abuse, but you do have to stop telling them that “science proves your religion is crap”.

    I recently watched “The wind that shakes the barley”, a film by Ken Loach about the way Ireland fell into civil war in the 1920s, setting – in the film, and also in historical fact – brother against brother, splitting families to the opposite sides of a shooting war. In essence it was “accommodationist” (take the half-a-loaf) versus the “hard line” (we-want-it-all-and-we-want-it-now), with repercussions that still echo to the present day. Both sides had logic, reason, and passion on their sides. They knew they were right, if only the other side would realise. Personal tragedy, of course, ensued.

    Seems to be a similar divide happening in the atheist community (if there is such a thing) as represented on this site. Of course I hope we still have enough in common to remain comrades on other fronts.

  59. I’m too late to edit my last comment, oops. Since I can’t remove stuff, I need to add this:

    Before someone else comes up with Chamberlain, appeasement, peace in our time and so on, I need to add that I saw this historical example as illustrating comrades fragmenting into opposing factions, both sides utterly convinced they have it right. Pleased don’t pile in with examples to bolster one side or the other, and my apologies for heading off down this track, I see now that it probably isn’t helpful. Peace.

  60. I’m with atheistengineer on this one. Anvil and Alan4 are coming across as hardline take-no-prisoners anti-theists. All religions must be vanquished. No accommodation, no strategic alliances. Let science education be a casualty, we don’t care. Alan, the “theistic evolution” bit is a strawman. Bringing in the entire muslim population of the world as anti-science is also a diversion. The survey was US based.

    And the additional problem is that I think Anvil and Alan4s attitudes may well end up as self defeating. I have a friend who was sucked into one of our rare creationist churches. Her personal problems were such that it was not for me to point out what a heap of crap it was peddling – at that precise moment in time. However when it came to individual conflicts on things like science that looked like affecting her daughters education I moved in with the fact that I could see no real conflict. It was really easy, I’d already seen with friends and colleagues that there wasn’t and It was almost what she wanted to hear. It was all she needed to reject their anti science and conflict notions and encourage her daughter to learn. Their are a hell of a lot of believers who don’t think there is a conflict – so why introduce one.

    That was four years ago, her circumstances have changed sufficiently for her to see through a hell of a lot of what her church is saying but more importantly her daughter is going for gcses unhampered by psuedoscientific nonsense. And because the church is so idiotic, she’s rejecting a lot of that as well. If I’d taken the hard line atheist stance that there were huge conflicts she wouldn’t have left her church she’d have abandoned proper science. Her daughters education would have been compromised by hearing from her mum that was she was learning was wrong. Do you honestly think a religiuos believer told by Richard Dawkins that there is a conflict between religion and science will choose science?

    Theistic evolution and god of gaps are strawmen because watering down science to accommodate religious belief isn’t what is being discussed and NOBODY is saying that should be even remotely allowed. You cannot hand on heart say that is what someone like Ken Miller believes, or George Coyne because it isnt’. And they are not rarities.

    I’m saying stop seeing conflicts where non are seen by the relevant people. After all the bible is not real, science is, so if the person that believes it can’t see a conflict how the hell can there actually be one?.

  61. Anvil hi, to respond:

    Accommodationism, in my view, denies that conflict exists, and manufactures accord where non exists whilst simultaneously pushing the causes of real discord to the extremes.

    What conflicts exist? Only manufactured ones. Everything evolves and adapts or dies and that includes religion. We’ve gone from domestic pets as gods in Egypt through to a supernatural deity outside of space and time. There is no real need for conflict unless someone decides there should be.

    As for accord – lack of conflict doesn’t really mean accord. Science isn’t in conflict with voting Labour or liking Shakespeare but it isn’t in conflict either.

    Further, this accord portrays a neutral sum where in actuality vast evidential harm exists – and persists, in part, because of this manufactured accord.

    What vast evidential harm? Creationism causes huge amounts of evidential harm – yet its stance is the one you seem to be supporting. What evidential harm was caused by George Le Maitre or Ken Miller? And what manufuctured accord? what is it. We’ve already stated that theistic evolution and god of gaps have to be rejected
    .

    Further still, this very harm that exists is not caused by radicals or fundamentalists, but by everyday believers who portray themselves as moderates within their religions.

    How exactly. Most religious people are moderates in the UK. It hits the headlines when they aren’t. And all moderates are secular. There is a huge diversity in religion and in believers, belied by the actual denominationst they attach themselves to. Just watch any religious debate to see people from the same faiths ripping each others ideas to shreds and reinterpreting it.

    These are the stakes for me – vast evidential harm. The causes and the persistence of which acts to the detriment of scientific progress.

    How exactly. Gallileo was the last discovery held back by religion. I suspect you might mention stem cell research and you’d be right to but that doesn’t characterise every reilgion or even what every catholic thinks. It is easy to see why they are wrong so that is a soft target.

    But it is also easy to ignore that science exists in a moral vacuum and sometimes discussions are required about what is and isn’t acceptable. There is research that could be done that shouldn’t I’m sure – human over animal experimentation or twin studies. Or even the extent of animal studies. Are anti vivisectionists doing as much harm as religion? How much did space exploration benefit from unethical nazi science?

    You cannot remove atheists from that debate by taking a hard line stance against other voices without listening. Just because you don’t agree with someone on one thing doesn’t mean you don’t agree on all. I think RD is fantastic in fighting the extremes of religion and is a real concise rational voice against, say creationism. In that area many religious believers also agree with him. On many other areas I don’t rate him. That is life.

    We can agree, I imagine, that of these two we can discount Islam as being not only literalist but vehemently anti-science. It produces little or no science, and, in effect, sees science itself as a western heresy.

    No we can agree that some Muslims are literalist and anti science. Some aren’t. The trick is to stop the ones that are anti science affecting the ones that aren’t. And some muslims are onto that.

    Really? So why is Francis Collins old foundation offering piles of money to do exactly that? Also, when lightening struck the Vatican the moment the pope resigned, did you ascribe this event to the supernatural, as apparently, millions did? Or did you prefer to listen to Franklin, or Maxwell?

    Again strawmen. These aren’t the things under debate. As for Francis Collins, he is interpreting religion or looking for things in real science – not distorting the science.

    Yup, science is secular…and religion isn’t.

    Yep, nobody is saying any different. Secular isn’t atheist though. You cannot claim it for your own it means divorced from religious belief or lack of it. Science is divorced from religious belief and lack of it. It just exists.

    No. What I’m saying is that religion causes immense harm and holds back both secular and scientific progress.

    How? Most scientific, secular discoveries were made in religious times by religious men. Extremism holds back human progress.

    Were they in the British Parliament during the ‘Gay’ marriage debate? Where they sat amongst the american bishops shouting for women’s health?

    If these people – these everyday, normal, moderate people were not listening to science – what were they listening to instead?

    I don’t understand how these arguments fit into this debate. Science doesn’t have much to say about marriage and who can get married. As for contraception – it isn’t science that is holding back the American Bishops its misogyny and sexism. That exists everywhere in different forms believe me – its not a preserve of religion and its not dictated by science.

    Religion is anti-science. Religion and Science are not ‘closer than you think’. Religion and Science are in conflict.

    Relgion is beyond the remit of science it doesn’t deal with the supernatural outside of the natural world. They are only in conflict if someone chooses to place them in conflict. God is unlikely to be real, its holy books even less likely to be its words therefore it is really up to the religious people to decide whether or not their imaginary friend likes real science or not.

  62. Hi Alan4Discussion to respond (some of your points I’ve covered in my response to Anvil hope you don’t mind)

    This really is convoluted wishful thinking. Just because accommodationists and cultural Xtians, don’t look at, or study, the areas of conflict between their religion and science, and are too ignorant to see it, does not mean that no conflict exists.

    God-of gaps, and theistic evolution, is where they paper over the conflicts.

    How exactly are you defining religious belief? How is Ken Miller a fan of god of gaps or theistic evolution. How can you say he is a lesser christian?

    Both of these are key parts of the Church of England and RCC dogmas. We know that many real scientists shove their religious views which conflict with science, into separate mental compartments. Others are just specialists who are ignorant of the conflicting areas to notice.

    Most people shove their lives into separate mental compartments. I vote labour, I have to ignore the Iraq war to do so. Ann Widdecome is a tory and has awful views, but I happen to agree with her that fox hunting is cruel. So thats compartmentalising. An every moderate religious person I know agrees with Richard Dawkins about creationism and fundamentalism being crap and every extremist religious person agrees with him about a conflict between religion and science. Thats compartmentalising – we all do it.

    If you don’t compartmentalise and end up taking a stance that religion bad/atheism good you run the risk of ceasing to be relevant.

    For example people here tend to frame the abortion debate purely in religious terms. But I know pro choice believers and atheists who’ve had numerous miscarriages and failed IVF attempts who think it wrong. I have a friend who works in SCBU caring for very prem babies. Shes an atheist but is uncomfortable that the margins between the pre term babies she tries to keep alive and the limit for termination are getting ever closer. Shes cared for babies born at 26 weeks the limit is 24. She wants a larger no mans land between those limits and her opinion is driven by the science that has increased the chance of life not religion. YOu can’t remove atheist voices from that debate.

    Perhaps you should study these to gain understanding. They are not red-herrings.They have a great deal to do with it. The substitution of non-scientific “Theistic evolution” for real science, a god-of gaps hidden from falsification, and the ignorance of biblical history and biblical literacy are the key elements. Many do not even know that the bible is mythology, not history.

    and

    Accommodationism means watering down and perverting science to accommodate religious myths – in order to be sociable and avoid upsetting the deluded with “nasty facts they don’t want to believe”!

    But we’ve already agreed those are not science and therefore not part of the dabate. The debate is about REAL science and does it conflict with religion. NOT psuedoscientific nonsense. Nobody is saying that should be accommodated. And the facts of science aren’t particularly nasty to many people – some of its uses might be but see response to Anvil.

    Atheists don’t start with the handicap of confirmation biases and mythological preconceived ideas. Some theists manage to get over theirs in some or all parts of science. Compartmentalism often features.

    Whoa there!!! Of course they do! You’ve started from the confirmation bias that all religious believers are homogenous. That religious science has to be filtered through some kind of theistic evolution filter. That people like Ken Miller are either poor scientists or Christians.

    Plus read some of the postings on this site. Filtered through huge confirmation bias – and often way wide of the mark in stating what non religious people accept as opposed to religious. That shows real lack of self criticism and is dangerous ground for atheism.

    Science does not do “fudged moderate” versions of its laws and calculations. It is either supported by evidence or it is not. That is why “theistic evolution” (which is NOT a scientific theory), where a god fiddles with evolutionary development to create man is his own image as a starring feature of the universe, – is egocentric rubbish! – (It has recently partially emerged from being geocentric rubbish!)

    And debates are framed on parameters. The parameter of this one was is REAL science in conflict with religon. We agreed long ago that we were discussing REAL science not nonsense dredged up by some religious people to distort REAL science. So this is a repitition of something that was dealt with ages ago and is not part of the debate.

    Is REAL science in conflict with religon. If some people don’t think it is it can’t be. Like the existence of just one transition fossils means creationism can’t be true and a rabbit in the pre cambrian would mean evolution wasn’t true the existence of religious believers doing REAL unadultered science without recourse to stupid nonsense means the conflict cannot be absolute or real.

  63. In reply to #72 by OHooligan:

    Hi O’H,

    I’m with atheistengineer on this one. Anvil and Alan4 are coming across as hardline take-no-prisoners anti-theists. All religions must be vanquished. No accommodation, no strategic alliances.

    You’re thinking this because of your hardline, take no prisoners accommodationism.

    Let science education be a casualty, we don’t care.

    This is hysteria. Unless you can show this, of course. However, I would imagine that Alan4 is as keen, if not keener, on the provision of the best science education that can possibly be achieved, as either you or I.

    Part of our argument would state that ‘accommodationism’ leads to poorer science education, not better (though I would not wish to put words into another’s mouth).

    Alan, the “theistic evolution” bit is a strawman.

    In what way?

    You’ll need to explain this to me? If I’m teaching evolutionary theory to a student who accepts the science then I have as much interest in their personal beliefs as I do in the colour of their skin.

    If they inquire regarding a religious conflict – and I know that it there isn’t one – then I would (as in Max’s example) state as such .

    If, on the other hand, their belief system intervenes and they demand the science be modified to take their belief system into account, I will not modify the science.

    I would not do this in the classroom, and I would not do this in the formulation of policy.

    To do so will give you a poorer science education, not a better one.

    Alan4 put this well in his previous post:

    Fudgism is not a “moderate position”. Accommodationism is a false posturing of “moderation”. One should not be looking for a middle ground between disinformation and information

    Anyway, to return to your post,

    Bringing in the entire muslim population of the world as anti-science is also a diversion. The survey was US based.

    Science is not US based, and neither is this argument. Besides Muslims are a growing percentage of the American population and the religion itself is a prime example of what happens to science when it accommodates religious thought. When facts become subservient to faith, and faith holds sway within the public square.

    Islam – and this cannot be said often enough – was once the very centre of world science.

    And on the other side, a possible strategic alliance to squash the political clout of the anti-science-education nutters, but it means being pleasant to people whose religious beliefs pose no obstacle to their wholehearted adoption, application, and teaching of science.

    Yes but just who are these people who pose no obstacle to the wholehearted adoption, application, and teaching of science?

    Not “theistic evolution” or “creation science” or any other gobbledegook, the real thing.

    Again, who are these people? Do you mean deists? Or do you mean people who believe in the Christian, or Muslim God? For if you mean the latter then you have to acknowledge that their faith, as some point, will conflict with science.

    Actual scientific science (to coin another silly phrase). It doesn’t mean you can’t still call them out on issues such as child abuse, but you do have to stop telling them that “science proves your religion is crap”.

    You do not need to wear a billboard saying ‘science proves your religion is crap’ – good science – actual ‘Scientific Science’ education will do that anyway.

    Before we all agree to disagree let us look once more at the parameters of the debate. Max postulates that his figures show that,

    “(the) debate isn’t between science and religion, but between a small fundamentalist minority and mainstream religious communities who embrace science.”

    Therefore, he concludes, we should embrace these mainstream religious communities who embrace science as these are our natural allies in the struggle against the fundamentalist minority who reject science.

    Okay. To show this to be true you need to show that there are mainstream religious communities who embrace science. The figures (widely available and accepted) do not support this, whether in the States or internationally, and both he, and you, fail to offer any new evidence to say this has changed.

    Further you would need to show that there exists a debate (conflict) between the mainstream religious majority, and the fundamentalist religious minority that could ally you in common cause. You haven’t shown that, either.

    To submit the opposite I have tried to show that mainstream religious communities, rather than embracing science, fundamentally ignore it and rely on myth, hearsay, cognitive dissonance, and nonsense to make sense of the world, their place within it, and their relations with other creatures with which they share it.

    I have also tried to show a lack of commonality of cause between mainstream religiosity, and science and the secular community in relation to the fundamentalist minority – and further tried to expose the myth that fundamentalism is the problem re’ harm, when the real harmful effects occur because of the mainstream religious majority.

    Of course I hope we still have enough in common to remain comrades on other fronts.

    I’m sure we’ll all accommodate each other on that.

    Anvil.

  64. Therefore, he concludes, we should embrace these mainstream religious communities who embrace science as these are our natural allies in the struggle against the fundamentalist minority who reject science.

    Okay. To show this to be true you need to show that there are mainstream religious communities who embrace science. The figures (widely available and accepted) do not support this, whether in the States or internationally, and both he, and you, fail to offer any new evidence to say this has changed.

    What figures? And how do you frame the questions. Half the surveys are confusing in how the questions are framed. And at the end of the day, you need to encourage people into science education before they an actually understand what evolution is and to do that you need the support of religious people who do accept science.

    Further you would need to show that there exists a debate (conflict) between the mainstream religious majority, and the fundamentalist religious minority that could ally you in common cause. You haven’t shown that, either.

    That actually does exist. The Big Questions has had debates pitching the anti science against pro science religious believers. Where priests, vicars and Bishops have declared the teaching of creationism to be a form a child abuse.

    when the real harmful effects occur because of the mainstream religious majority.

    But how exactly?

  65. In reply to #66 by OHooligan:

    In reply to #64 by Max Tegmark:

    Thanks for your interest in our survey! The key point I wanted to make is that there are two interesting science-religion controversies: 1) Between religion & atheism (the main topic of this site) and 2) between religions who do & don’t attack science. Forces pushing for creationism in US schools etc. try to conflate the two so that they can pretend to represent the majority, and taunting religious groups that don’t attack science can plays into their hands. The more we can all draw attention to 2), the worse for the anti-scientific fringe.

    I agree completely. I wish I could be as concise as Max. I suppose the rest of you wish the same.

    By the way, I can recommend a visit to Max’s site. I was happily lost there for over an hour.

    Anvil.

    Link Text

  66. In reply to #76 by atheistengineer:

    Hi Alan4Discussion to respond (some of your points I’ve covered in my response to Anvil hope you don’t mind)

    This really is convoluted wishful thinking. Just because accommodationists and cultural Xtians, don’t look at, or study, the areas of conflict between their religion and science, and are too ignorant to see it, does not mean that no conflict exists.

    God-of gaps, and theistic evolution, is where they paper over the conflicts.

    How exactly are you defining religious belief? How is Ken Miller a fan of god of gaps or theistic evolution. How can you say he is a lesser christian?

    Religious belief is generally a belief in the supernatural – usually with a following of some religious tradition.

    It is possible to avoid IDENTIFIABLE conflicts with science, by specifying some vague deist god (in gaps) – but this is NOT a feature of mainstream religions.

    Both of these are key parts of the Church of England and RCC dogmas. We know that many real scientists shove their religious views which conflict with science, into separate mental compartments. Others are just specialists who are ignorant of the conflicting areas to notice.

    Most people shove their lives into separate mental compartments. I vote labour, I have to ignore the Iraq war to do so. Ann Widdecome is a tory and has awful views, but I happen to agree with her that fox hunting is cruel. So thats compartmentalising. An every moderate religious person I know agrees with Richard Dawkins about creationism and fundamentalism being crap and every extremist religious person agrees with him about a conflict between religion and science. Thats compartmentalising – we all do it.

    That is comparing views of different individuals. It has nothing to do with religious comparmentalisation of conflicting views within an individual.
    Rational scientific thinking tries to consistently join up information into a world view. There was a recent discussion on “The Discontiuous Mind”.

    If you don’t compartmentalise and end up taking a stance that religion bad/atheism good you run the risk of ceasing to be relevant.

    This is the fallacy of the False dilemma – Black and white thinking.

    Perhaps you should study these to gain understanding. They are not red-herrings.They have a great deal to do with it. The substitution of non-scientific “Theistic evolution” for real science, a god-of gaps hidden from falsification, and the ignorance of biblical history and biblical literacy are the key elements. Many do not even know that the bible is mythology, not history.

    and

    Accommodationism means watering down and perverting science to accommodate religious myths – in order to be sociable and avoid upsetting the deluded with “nasty facts they don’t want to believe”!

    But we’ve already agreed those are not science and therefore not part of the dabate.

    That does not appear to be what you are saying. You appear to be trying to redefine accommodationism, from a social compromise (as above) into objective science.

    The debate is about REAL science and does it conflict with religion.

    You have it backwards! It is about REAL religion and it does conflict with science. – Some forms more so than others.

    NOT psuedoscientific nonsense. Nobody is saying that should be accommodated.

    As I said above, it is possible to water-down religions to vague deist gods, token cultural membership, or simply be too ignorant of one’s own religion, the science or both, – in order to remove awareness the parts which visibly conflict with science. But widely accepted mainstream religious dogmas do conflict with science. When discussions ensue, apologists are usually shown to be nearly as ignorant of science and religion as fundamentalists. The conflicts are there – they just can’t see them! (Empirical testing and belief without evidence are not compatible.)

    And the facts of science aren’t particularly nasty to many people – some of its uses might be but see response to Anvil.

    What other reason do they have for disputing well evidenced scientific facts they don’t like?
    I see Anvil has dealt with many of these points.

    Atheists don’t start with the handicap of confirmation biases and mythological preconceived ideas. Some theists manage to get over theirs in some or all parts of science. Compartmentalism often features.

    Whoa there!!! Of course they do!

    What!!!? – Atheists in general, do not have strong beliefs in ancient mythology as a basis for material knowledge. What led you to that belief?

    You’ve started from the confirmation bias that all religious believers are homogenous.

    I said, “Some theists”! That suggests otherwise.

    Oh dear! Back to the False dilemma
    I was only referring myth based religions – That is however a majority of them!

    That religious science has to be filtered through some kind of theistic evolution filter. That people like Ken Miller are either poor scientists or Christians.

    Religious science???? I think I have made it abundantly clear that religious believers CAN be competent scientists, UNLESS they allow their religious confirmation biases to intrude into their scientific thinking. It is quite possible to be a scientist in one specialist area, and a pseudo-scientist in another.

    Plus read some of the postings on this site. Filtered through huge confirmation bias -

    Atheists can have confirmation biases as is illustrated on some thread such as climate change. That does not excuse theist biases.

    Science does not do “fudged moderate” versions of its laws and calculations. It is either supported by evidence or it is not. That is why “theistic evolution” (which is NOT a scientific theory), where a god fiddles with evolutionary development to create man is his own image as a starring feature of the universe, – is egocentric rubbish! – (It has recently partially emerged from being geocentric rubbish!)

    And debates are framed on parameters. The parameter of this one was is REAL science in conflict with religon.

    No!. The argument here is about your redefinition of REAL religion(s) Your argument is backwards. We know what REAL science is!

    We agreed long ago that we were discussing REAL science not nonsense dredged up by some religious people to distort REAL science.

    Did we really?? This looks like begging the question!
    If you remove ALL the mystical claims from most religions, there is nothing left! “Nothing”, does not conflict with science, but “nothing”, is not a religion!

    So this is a repitition of something that was dealt with ages ago and is not part of the debate.

    Not really. It is just pointing out matters which have been skimmed over without dealing with them.

    Is REAL science in conflict with religon. If some people don’t think it is it can’t be.

    Your problem is with this strange concept of “REAL SCIENCE”! There isn’t any other kind of science!
    Religions are very bendy and vague, when they want to pretend they conform with science.
    Even very little bits of “magic” still conflict with science. Science does not do fudged laws, or compromises with mystic magic!

    BUT:- Religious apologists do all sorts of contorted fallacious thinking to pretend to be scientific!

  67. Alan and Anvil, atheistengineer has stated all I wanted to say and more, and I reckon this discussion has receded into the infrared (more heat than light). Alan, you seem to have reached the stage of disputing what it was we were discussing. At least we now know that such a divide exists among the viewpoints displayed on this site.

    Without conceding that you are right about anything whatsoever, I’ve had enough of this one. We’ll meet again on other topics, I trust.

  68. In reply to #68 by OHooligan:

    In reply to #61 by Zeuglodon:

    DISCLAIMER: I am not promoting or defending the religious viewpoint I outline here. It is one that I find impossible to counter, though I don’t believe a scrap of it. But even then, they’ve got me, as I’ve just had to express a belief. Or an unbelief. Damn.

    Interesting. If you find the belief “impossible to counter”, yet “don’t believe a scrap of it”, why is that? What is the difference between a believer and you that means the unassailable belief nevertheless has two conflicting epistemic results?

    So “beyond the universe” is a gap? If you say so, I suppose. But – and I’m extrapolating here – the gap is like the gap between the pixels on your screen, meaning it’s everywhere.

    I do not understand what you mean here. A god-of-the-gaps refers to gaps in our knowledge, i.e. our ignorance, not to literal gaps between objects or pixels. You’re equivocating.

    My point is that the argument makes the same predictions as the null hypothesis i.e. that the universe is not a simulation. The point isn’t that this conclusion couldn’t be true, but that there’s no basis for treating it as such, and therefore we default to the null hypothesis. If a person wants to believe the simulation idea in the absence of a convincing argument for it, he’s not interested in fact-finding.

    It also violates scientific methodology – that one does not invent ad-hoc ideas, unfalsifiable beliefs, or complications beyond what the data can justify – and therefore is at conflict with the principles of science.

    That’s just saying it isn’t science. Neither is fashion. Or lots of other things people do. Since it doesn’t claim to be science, there’s still no conflict.

    It makes claims about reality which, in principle, is science’s domain. Since science is a methodology or set of methodologies for establishing the truth of claims, claiming that it isn’t science is no more convincing than saying that the god hypothesis isn’t science.

    To put it briefly, science and religion conflict because, when it comes to finding out facts, scientific methods for establishing facts work and religious ones don’t.

    No, there’s only conflict with the religions that try to muscle in on the turf where science works. We got rid of them earlier in the discussion.

    NOMA does not apply because religions establish none of the factual claims they are based on. Religion is centred around facts that people take as the justifications for performing rituals, wearing certain clothes, and other cultural activities. There are other reasons why one can do those things – pragmatic ones to do with what individuals do. It is the claims religions make that form their core, and the methods they use to justify those claims, that bring them into conflict with science. A person who goes to church for the atmosphere is not doing religion, he’s doing a secular cultural practice that originally had a religious underpinning. A person who goes to church because he believes god will hear his prayers there is doing religion, and therefore his view crosses over into science.

    That does not mean followers of a religion cannot contribute to science, nor that scientists cannot be religious, and it certainly doesn’t mean their beliefs have to actually contradict each other.

    Agreement there, though it’s still sounding a bit condescending: (pretty good effort, for a deist)

    If I had said the opposite, that would have been condescending. And untrue. Newton himself was incredibly religious, and laid down the foundations for physics over the next few centuries. However, given our current understanding of how compartmentalization and theists’ fallacious arguments work, it’s a safe bet that he was compartmentalizing both faculties at the time. If you’d like to argue otherwise, I’d be very happy to see a convincing case for reconciliation between science and religion.

    But the odds are good that their means of coming to different beliefs will be in conflict because they encourage inconsistency. You can’t use reason and evidence to prop up one idea and then use assumptions, faith, and what your community and its traditions have told you to prop up another idea without resorting to special pleading, which is what the old “science answers how, religion answers why” style of canard is.

    Ah, there it is. The condescending bit. And at last, a conflict to pounce upon. It’s like those pushy interviewers, parodied in Brass Eye for example, trying desperately to achieve conflict, somehow.

    Pot calling the kettle black, much? My point is that, since religion makes factual claims but uses flawed methodologies to support them (faith and assumptions without evidence, for example), they clash with science that demands opposing methodologies (following the evidence wherever it takes you). A person believing both simultaneously is therefore harbouring an internal contradiction, which is resolved by a psychological phenomenon known as compartmentalizing. Unless there is a genuine reason for treating the two differently, to insist on different treatment anyway like this is special pleading.

    Now instead of throwing accusations, would you please make an actual rebuttal to the point I raised? I have no interest in fellow posters who accuse me of being condescending without at least meeting my argument.

    “the odds are good…”

    a throwaway statement unworthy of you, Z. You know you’re going to be asked to quantify.

    Ask any claimed accommodationist you like how they justify the tenets of their belief as opposed to the tenets of their science, and you’ll get consistently fallacious arguments for the former. I’m afraid I don’t have the figures, sorry, but there is the finding of cognitive bias from psychology.

    “.. you can’t… without resorting to special pleading”

    Remember, this ain’t rocket science. It ain’t science at all. You end up in a circle, saying only that these folk’s religion isn’t scientific. Well, once again, they agree. So you’re arguing against nothing.

    Except that they are attempting science without realizing it. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that, because someone claims things are so, therefore things are so. If they’re making factual claims, then their views are hypotheses, and fall under the same methodological and rational procedure as any other.

    See, I found this position infuriating, as it was completely unassailable, and so I gave up trying. It’s a hermetically sealed self-consistent delusion, if you like. But I don’t see any of the splendidly rational arguments put forward on this site doing anything to dent the armour of this kind of faith. I’d go so far as to speculate that this kind of faith is impervious to any sensory input that could be devised. Possibly some dose of brain-altering chemicals might do it.

    It’s not impervious. It’s baseless. Even if reality were such that their claims were true and we couldn’t verify it, that raises the question of how they’re supposed to know beyond a random speculation that happens to be correct. Add in those cases where their claims are indistinguishable from what happens anyway (like a deist whose god does nothing to the world), and they have no case.

    BTW, please explain how (or why) the “science=how,religion=why” is a canard. I’m reminded of something I read somewhere:

    Skeptic: “How do you know?”

    Guru: “Why do you ask?”

    It’s a canard because the how/why distinction is not separate. Why questions come built-in with the assumption that a thing has a purpose, which cannot be verified in the absence of a human-like mind that requires that purpose. The question assumes factual content and is committing the loaded language fallacy. It’s a canard because religious answers are actually in the same arena as scientific ones, but are disguised as being outside of it.

    “How do you know?” is a request for information about the processes the guru went through to come to a conclusion. “Why do you ask?” is a request for information about the purpose of the skeptic in requesting information about said processes. Both can be answered with reference to facts.

  69. Hi Z
    I enjoy your comments, and I didn’t mean to offend. I need to restate that I’m not trying to promote the “gods imagination” or “gods simulation” religious belief. It’s one I was confronted with by someone I knew who was both intelligent and religious, perhaps in an attempt to shut me up. Anyway, it succeeded. All the rest of your case is just water-off-a-duck to this belief, as I said, it’s a hermetically sealed self-consistent delusion. It certainly doesn’t use Occam’s Razor, but it shrugs off scientific/rational argument by – if you will – categorising that as applying only to Maya (to borrow from Hindu – or was it Buddhist – culture).

    I’d like to ask this person “How do you know”, but alas that would now need a working seance. I suspect the answer would have been some kind of Revelation (ie hallucination, composed of components from her religious upbringing). She was of a generation before the widespread recreational use of hallucinogenics, so might have been overly impressed by an unexpected spontaneous disruption of normal consciousness, giving her an apparent insight into the deeper workings of the universe (“more things in heaven and earth….”, sorry can’t recall the exact quote).

    So, I learned that all the rational scientific discourse in the world cannot penetrate this kind of “spiritual” armour. The best response you’ll get is the “smile-and-nod” kind, agreeing with you that all your science and rationality is absolutely correct, as far as it goes. And for the rest of it, just a “knowing smile”.

    I do think that a lot of the “armour” is based on a cheap trick: a person gets the feeling of knowing, of understanding, without having to do the hard work that is the price of genuine (scientific) knowledge and understanding. Religion (opiate of the masses) can give this to the enthusiastic follower, or you can buy a pill to do it. But like artificial sweetener, it might have the taste, but it doesn’t deliver the energy.

    I got into this – and I see I have digressed – because I was aware of at least one kind of religious belief that seems to be impervious to reason/rationality/science while not actually denying any of it. In other words, the religious scientist. Happy to go where the evidence leads in “material” things (ie everything), but – and I suppose it is compartmentalisation after all – having this “inner life” of faith as well, and seeing no contradiction.

    Anyway, these are people who could be allies in the struggle against anti-science, but who still aren’t going to renounce their own core belief in something “spiritual” (and therefore – by definition – not amenable to scientific investigation), and it’s a waste of resources trying to change them, since they aren’t actually doing any harm. Here, I suspect, some will disagree – that by supporting any sect, however moderately, they are still giving aid and succor to the Real Enemy, those faith-cloaked fanatics who want to impose a new dark age upon us all.

  70. In reply to #83 by OHooligan:

    Hi Z
    I enjoy your comments, and I didn’t mean to offend.

    I assure you, I was not offended. :-) I strongly disagree with what was written, natch, but offence never once crossed my mind.

    I need to restate that I’m not trying to promote the “gods imagination” or “gods simulation” religious belief. It’s one I was confronted with by someone I knew who was both intelligent and religious, perhaps in an attempt to shut me up. Anyway, it succeeded. All the rest of your case is just water-off-a-duck to this belief, as I said, it’s a hermetically sealed self-consistent delusion. It certainly doesn’t use Occam’s Razor, but it shrugs off scientific/rational argument by – if you will – categorising that as applying only to Maya (to borrow from Hindu – or was it Buddhist – culture).

    I appreciate that such beliefs have an advantage over those alternatives that can be obviously contradicted. It’s why theism is a poor position, but deism a more subtle one. I also confess that they used to flummox me once or twice too, when I was developing my explicit atheism a few years ago. But I think I have an answer to them.

    The main point you single out is that the different ideas are segregated. To those who believe them, they apply different standards to the different ideas. This is certainly awkward when, as you say, any scientific appeals to them is like “water off a duck’s back”. The interesting question, though, is how exactly do they justify the difference?

    What is it about, say, Mayan beliefs that entitles them to a different treatment to scientific facts? If they try to explain it, then what are they using to justify it (even if they don’t explicitly acknowledge what they’re using to justify it)? If they appeal, say, to a different sense in their heads that detects these other truths, they’re implicitly using the argument from personal revelation or intuition. This means they’re accepting information and yet not identifying an origin for it that makes that information trustworthy. They are also unwittingly making a claim that science can investigate, as a different sense is no more controversial than the ability to see UV or hear ultrasound.

    People can be called to question those assumptions when they contract other information coming in – say, from a skeptic they meet who points out that arachnophobia and the actual danger of certain spiders can be misaligned. Or else, this same skeptic identifies a hallucination from a real thing because he identified when he took drugs or tried to investigate it with the other senses and with his understanding of how the world works. In other words, there’s a contradiction between their experiences in one place and time and in another place and time. They can resolve this based on which side has the most consistency.

    Believers can reject explicit rational principles, but unwittingly are trying to adhere to them without realizing it whenever they attempt to justify the difference, which brings them right back to the tyranny of reality. Also, the main means of reconciling contradictory ideas, whether obtained by personal experience, intuition, or experience of other people who contradict them, is to compare the two for consistency and select the one that seems most consistent overall with other information one has. The discrepancy comes because we can be ignorant of key information, at least at a particular time and place, or can have biases, the rationales of which aren’t adequately explored.

    My apologies if this isn’t entirely well-explained, but I’ll expand a bit more on any particular point if you wish me to do so.

    I’d like to ask this person “How do you know”, but alas that would now need a working seance. I suspect the answer would have been some kind of Revelation (ie hallucination, composed of components from her religious upbringing). She was of a generation before the widespread recreational use of hallucinogenics, so might have been overly impressed by an unexpected spontaneous disruption of normal consciousness, giving her an apparent insight into the deeper workings of the universe (“more things in heaven and earth….”, sorry can’t recall the exact quote).

    I’m sorry your acquaintance is no longer alive. I hoped she died peacefully. :-(

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamed of in your philosophy.” I’ve never entirely liked the quotation’s misuse, especially by those who think it makes them sound humble. It’s a factual claim, if you notice, and requires the same thing all factual claims require.

    So, I learned that all the rational scientific discourse in the world cannot penetrate this kind of “spiritual” armour. The best response you’ll get is the “smile-and-nod” kind, agreeing with you that all your science and rationality is absolutely correct, as far as it goes. And for the rest of it, just a “knowing smile”.

    Then I’d propose this is less a form of intellectual armour and more a form of being mentally fleet-footed. I don’t mean by this that such people are automatically quick-witted, but that they have to avoid some issues, say, by moving around the awkward fact that they’re implicitly using reason to explain, at least in their own mind, why explicitly described reason should be set aside for certain truth claims. Or perhaps it’s like a defensive ink cloud, in that it’s not clear exactly why they hold such and such a view and their reasoning is concealed.

    Armour implies it’s actually a solid case that they have, and made of tough stuff. Science, by this analogy, would be made of diamond, as it’s the most solid substance we know (correct me if there’s a tougher one on the mohs scale).

    Hey, you started the analogy. ;-)

    I do think that a lot of the “armour” is based on a cheap trick: a person gets the feeling of knowing, of understanding, without having to do the hard work that is the price of genuine (scientific) knowledge and understanding. Religion (opiate of the masses) can give this to the enthusiastic follower, or you can buy a pill to do it. But like artificial sweetener, it might have the taste, but it doesn’t deliver the energy.

    Yes, this is what I’m getting at. I think part of the reason it seems otherwise is largely because most of the believers are careful not to probe too deeply at their own views. Also, it’s often down to the attitudes of both parties at the time.

    I got into this – and I see I have digressed – because I was aware of at least one kind of religious belief that seems to be impervious to reason/rationality/science while not actually denying any of it. In other words, the religious scientist. Happy to go where the evidence leads in “material” things (ie everything), but – and I suppose it is compartmentalisation after all – having this “inner life” of faith as well, and seeing no contradiction.

    The problem is that they assume a contradiction is just whether or not the premises cannot be both true at once. They don’t realize that there’s still room for a double standard in getting to those premises, which is called special pleading when there’s no sound justification for it. This is also the basis for an argument from ignorance – it uses our current open ignorance to make a very specific claim within that boundary.

    Anyway, these are people who could be allies in the struggle against anti-science, but who still aren’t going to renounce their own core belief in something “spiritual” (and therefore – by definition – not amenable to scientific investigation), and it’s a waste of resources trying to change them, since they aren’t actually doing any harm. Here, I suspect, some will disagree – that by supporting any sect, however moderately, they are still giving aid and succor to the Real Enemy, those faith-cloaked fanatics who want to impose a new dark age upon us all.

    I don’t want you to think that I consider such people harmful, as though they had a higher-than-chance tendency to attack or insult people. Far from it, I suspect they’re more usually the diplomatic or peace-seeking types who would rather damp down any conflict that stirs people’s emotions. And in principle, it’s not that they can’t help our cause because, as you say, they disagree with many of the things we disagree with, which gives both sides a motivation in being allies.

    But they can just as well undermine the case that non-accommodationist atheists make, because they encourage intellectual double standards. Take BioLogos, for instance, and Templeton, which seek to reduce the conflict between christian dogma and science. They’re potentially excellent allies against biblical fundamentalists who try to pass anti-science laws on education bills. But they end up undermining their own cases by deviating from scientific principles as a sop to the religious side, and as a result, they end up shooting the message. Also, they implicitly support the same methods fundamentalists use when justifying their own beliefs, which Dawkins pointed out when he said that the faith of moderates in the mainstream makes them unntentional hypocrites when they condemn faith-inspired atrocities committed by fundamentalists.

    I may yet be convinced that accommodationists will prove helpful in combating religious and ideological fundamentalism, but on the other hand I think most of the recent increase and acceptance of evolution and irreligion in the mainstream owes more to “hardliners” like Dawkins and Coyne than to accommodationists.

  71. In reply to #84 by Zeuglodon:

    I think we’ve run this one to its natural limit. I appreciate your comments, you’ve homed in nicely on the divergence of opinion on how to interact with the “moderates”. You may be right, that it’s the hard line approach that is bringing the most gains, ignore the middle ground and take on the extremists head-on, let the bystanders come to their senses if they can. Maybe I ought to be more militant. Currently I’m a stealth atheist, don’t bring up the subject first, but happy to push back when someone else starts it.

    Actually, technically, I suppose I’m agnostic, in the sense I lack the faith required to be a true atheist. That’s a joke, btw.

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