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Arrogance, dogma and why science - not faith - is the new enemy of reason - Comments

Crazymalc's Avatar Comment 1 by Crazymalc

Must try harder.

Try reading "The Ancestor's Tale" for a blow by blow account of how life arose.

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 20:12:00 UTC | #58513

BAEOZ's Avatar Comment 2 by BAEOZ

The heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition is the belief in the concept of truth, which gives rise to reason. But our postreligious age has proclaimed that there is no such thing as objective truth, only what is "true for me".

No, the heart of Juedeo-Christian tradition is cultivated ignorance. The truth is there is no evidence to support it, therefore it isn't honest to believe in it. The second part, about postreligiousness giving rise to relativism is because people are now told that all views are equal by the politically correct in society. Something I'd attribute to the likes of William James (I'm probably wrong here, but didn't he say it's right to believe in something if you feel it's true?) and similars, not scientists.
It's something christians and muslims like, so that they can keep their faith and have it treated as equal to reason. Not something RD or others have supported.

Moreover, since science essentially takes us wherever the evidence leads, the findings of more than 50 years of DNA research - which have revealed the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life - have thrown into doubt the theory that life emerged spontaneously in a random universe.

Equivocation, every believers favorite form of arguing. First we have DNA research, which shows complexity of genes. Something plenty of time and natural selection can ratchet up. But we jump to abiogenesis, that produced life, and gloss the two into one idea. Evolutions isn't concerned with how life started, and how life started isn't related to how complex life is now.
Do you think this person is an apologist for creationists as well as faith sufferers?

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 20:26:00 UTC | #58515

Goldy's Avatar Comment 3 by Goldy

The truth is that it is the collapse of religious faith that has prompted the rise of such irrationality

Nope, they were there before, during AND after :-) There has not been a rise of irrationality, just a distrust of rationality.
A throw away remark which people will pick up on. I guess belief in drinking water blessed by a bishop or touching a fragment of the true cross or one of John the Baptist's toe bones for an illness was not considered irrational and so doesn't count.

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 20:29:00 UTC | #58516

bruce's Avatar Comment 4 by bruce

The Bible provides a picture of a rational Creator

Yah, when he's not PMSing (sorry for the stereotyping gals).

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 20:35:00 UTC | #58518

german-atheist's Avatar Comment 5 by german-atheist

not knowing which category of paper the daily mail is in,i went through some online articels.
it`s mainly about david hasselhoff being too fat,intelligent women not beeing able to find mr right and britney spears wearing a see-through dress in public.need one say more ?

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 20:58:00 UTC | #58519

Andrew Brown's Avatar Comment 6 by Andrew Brown

Science cannot explain the origin of the universe. Yet it now presumes to do so and as a result it has descended into irrationality.

The most conspicuous example of this is provided by Dawkins himself, who breaks the rules of scientific evidence by seeking to claim that Darwin's theory of evolution - which sought to explain how complex organisms evolved through random natural selection - also accounts for the origin of life itself.

I'd love to see the "evidence" as to where Professor Dawkins has ever said anything so utterly ludicrous.

She really needs to go back and sit her Science GCSE all over again, as it would appear she knows the sum total of bugger all.

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 20:59:00 UTC | #58520

Andrew Brown's Avatar Comment 8 by Andrew Brown

PS how do you get the quotes to appear in those nice little boxes?

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 21:00:00 UTC | #58522

BAEOZ's Avatar Comment 7 by BAEOZ

german-atheist:

david hasselhoff being too fat

Don't use the Hoffs name in vain. Blasphemer!

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 21:00:00 UTC | #58521

BAEOZ's Avatar Comment 9 by BAEOZ

Doh! third try:
type the less than symbol "<" then type the word "blockquote" then greater than symbol ">" then the text you want quoted then the less than symbol "<" then the slash "/" then "blockquote" then the greater than the ">" symbol.....

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 21:05:00 UTC | #58523

Janus's Avatar Comment 10 by Janus

Ugh. So much nonsense it's next-to-impossible to address everything. I'll get started, someone else can finish the job.

Disturbing indeed. But where Dawkins goes wrong is to assume this is all as irrational as believing in God. The truth is that it is the collapse of religious faith that has prompted the rise of such irrationality.

We are living in a scientific, largely post-religious age in which faith is presented as unscientific superstition. Yet paradoxically, we have replaced such faith by belief in demonstrable nonsense.

It was GK Chesterton who famously quipped that "when people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing - they believe in anything." So it has proved.But how did it happen?

The big mistake is to see religion and reason as polar opposites. They are not. In fact, reason is intrinsic to the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The Bible provides a picture of a rational Creator and an orderly universe - which, accordingly, provided the template for the exercise of reason and the development of science.


1) It is true that an uncompromising, fundamentalist belief in Christianity (or Islam or some other similar religion) effectively stops its followers from believing in a lot of nonsense. But it's not because these religions favor rationality. It's simply because the fundie believer sees everything that doesn't fit with his faith-based picture of reality as false by definition. A fundie Christian will believe that Islam, mystical chi energies, and evolution are all false, not because Christianity gives him a rational picture of the world, but because his version of Christianity dogmatically excludes these three things, and more. What Ms Phillips is doing is akin to praising an extremely dangerous and devastating bacterium because it also happens to kill many other pathological bacteria while it is killing its human host.

2) Another point that needs to be made is that, of course, while a fundamentalist view of Christianity does mean that the "natural" universe must behave in a coherent manner, it doesn't make Christianity a rational worldview. All of Christianity is still based on faith, that is to say, belief without evidence, and in order to sustain itself, Christianity elevates faith as the ultimate virtue, making it one of the greatest anti-reason forces in the history of mankind. Also, by explaining everything by appealing to an incomprehensible, unexplainable entity, Abrahamic religion blocks the way to complete understanding, which is why methodological naturalism is such an essential part of science.

3) Unfortunately, as much as I wish that Ms Phillips was right about this, we are NOT living in a "scientific age". Some parts of the world are irreligious, true, but that doesn't mean that a majority, or even a significant part of the population thinks scientifically. To think scientifically means to be sceptical, to only hold falsifiable beliefs, to refrain from resorting to cop-out answers which explain nothing, etc. A scientific age is very, very far away indeed.

4) Ms Phillips seems to think that belief in new age nonsense is somehow worse than religious beliefs because it is _demonstrable_ nonsense. But in truth, it is precisely as demonstrable as religious beliefs. That is to say, it is as demonstrably false as its believers make it. When his belief is criticized, a religious believer will say, "Oh, but my god doesn't _do_ these kinds of obvious miracles", or "Oh, but that was meant to be interpreted figuratively, not literally", or "Oh, but my god works in mysterious ways". Likewise, a believer in new age nonsense will say, "Oh, but my powers only work in conditions X and Y, not in these conditions Z", or "Oh, but that paranormal phenomenon can't be detected by mere physical senses, because it's beyond nature", or "Oh, but Guru Apapablanca works in mysterious ways". It is precisely the same kind of cowardly evasion.


Dawkins pours particular scorn on the Biblical miracles which don't correspond to scientific reality. But religious believers have different ways of regarding those events, with many seeing them as either metaphors or as natural occurrences which were invested with a greater significance.

The heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition is the belief in the concept of truth, which gives rise to reason. But our postreligious age has proclaimed that there is no such thing as objective truth, only what is "true for me".

That is because our society won't put up with anything which gets in the way of 'what I want'. How we feel about things has become all-important. So reason has been knocked off its perch by emotion, and thinking has been replaced by feelings.

This has meant our society can no longer distinguish between truth and lies by using evidence and logic. And this collapse of objective truth has, in turn, come to undermine science itself which is playing a role for which it is not fitted.


This isn't a bad analysis of the post-modernistic attitude which reigns in our societies, but it is profoundly ironic that Ms Phillips simultaneously praises religious moderation, which claims that all the miracles (e.g. the falsifiable parts of Christianity) are only metaphors, and that all religions are different paths to truth, and criticizes the post-modernistic mentality which says that nothing can be learned about objective reality.

Earlier in this post I was careful to say that a fundamentalist view of Christianity is a fairly effective defense against other kinds of irrationality, and so it is. But this doesn't apply at all to this modern form of moderate, post-modernistic Christianity which all "sophisticated" believers like Ms Phillips advocate. Christianity as practiced by fundies is indeed about truth. Christianity as practiced by moderates is about what feels good. It can't be any other way, because if Christianity is the One True Religion, then the two other thirds of humanity is simply wrong and deluded, either by themselves or by Satan. This thought is displeasing to modern intellects, which is why the metaphorical, fuzzy-wuzzy, post-modernistic, moderate version of Christianity came into being.

In order to be able to grant equal respect to all beliefs, so that we can be nice and polite and tolerant and open-minded towards all religious and philosophical beliefs, truth must be done away with. As Ms Phillips says, what matters to moderate religious believers is what is "true for them", which means "comforting and the truth be damned".

If anything is responsible for this departure from the search for truth, it is moderate religion.


When science first developed in the West, it thought of itself merely as a tool to explore the natural world. It did not pour scorn upon religion; indeed, scientists were overwhelmingly religious believers (as many still are).

In modern times, however, science has given rise to 'scientism', the belief that science can answer all the questions of human existence. This is not so.

Science cannot explain the origin of the universe. Yet it now presumes to do so and as a result it has descended into irrationality.


Utter nonsense. Like all religious believers, Phillips attempts to divide reality into two parts, "the natural world", where the rules of evidence, logic, and reason apply, and "the spiritual world", where they think they are allowed to believe anything they like on faith without having to justify their beliefs. In truth, no such division exists. There is only one reality, over which science holds absolute dominion, because science is purposefully designed to know everything that can be known about reality. The limitations of science are pragmatic, not dogmatic. That is to say, the scientific method incorporates all methods for discovering truth that _work_, and discards all methods that _don't work_. If theology did work, it would be incorporated into science. But of course it does not.

If there are things which the human mind cannot comprehend, which is certainly possible, then of course these things are beyond science. That does not mean they are within the reach of theology or of religion in general. All that faith "allows" us to do that science does not is to make ignorant, unfalsifiable, meaningless guesses. A guess, such as "God created the universe", is not an explanation. It is just a guess, and we know from experience that guesses about the nature of reality are almost always false.

There is no evidence for this whatever and no logic to it. After all, if people say God could not have created the universe because this gives rise to the question "Who created God?", it follows that if scientists say the universe started with a big bang, this prompts the further question "What created the bang?"


This is a complete misunderstanding of what the Big Bang theory (and science in general) is about. The ambition of science (and human reason) is to explain complexity down to the level of fundamental, ultimate simplicity. Goddidit doesn't work because it "explains" complexity by positing a Mind as the ultimate explanation, which doesn't explain anything because a mind is complex by definition. The Big Bang, inflation theory, etc, on the other hand, do explain complexity in terms of simpler entities, which is what a real explanation does.

This is why Intelligent Design fails. We are trying to explain complexity. If we "explain" it by appealing to a complex entity, we haven't made a single step forward.

Intelligent design is only a valid explanation when it is an intermediate explanation, not an ultimate one. For example, explaining a watch by saying it was made by a human is fine because,
a) The evidence shows that watches are made by humans.
b) We don't say that humans appeared magically or are timeless or always existed, we explain humans themselves in terms of simpler entities and their coming into being by a simple process.


The most conspicuous example of this is provided by Dawkins himself, who breaks the rules of scientific evidence by seeking to claim that Darwin's theory of evolution - which sought to explain how complex organisms evolved through random natural selection - also accounts for the origin of life itself.


No, he doesn't. This is simply a lie. Evolution starts after the formation of self-replicating molecules, and Dawkins has said this many, many times.

Indeed, if the origin of life were truly spontaneous, this would constitute what religious people would call a miracle. Accordingly, this claim in itself resembles not so much science as the superstition that Dawkins derides.


Spontaneous doesn't mean magical or supernatural. We know that amino acids and many other complex molecules form "spontaneously", but this is because of known and understood laws of chemistry. It is certainly no miracle.

Moreover, since science essentially takes us wherever the evidence leads, the findings of more than 50 years of DNA research - which have revealed the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life - have thrown into doubt the theory that life emerged spontaneously in a random universe.


Ah, so this is what Ms Phillips misunderstands. As I said above, evolution starts with self-replicating molecules, not with fully-formed cells. The complex nano-machinery of cells _was_ formed via evolution by natural selection.

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 21:13:00 UTC | #58524

Damien White's Avatar Comment 11 by Damien White

The author certainly hasn't read TGD very well, has she?
Science does not lay claim to knowing how the universe was created. That information is still unknown. The difference between science and religion is that science admits to gaps in its knowledge. Religion does not.
Science is searching for truth. Religion claims to have found it, but doesn't like us asking how.

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 21:19:00 UTC | #58525

Russell's Teapot's Avatar Comment 12 by Russell's Teapot

It was GK Chesterton who famously quipped that "when people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing - they believe in anything." So it has proved.


Because all these nutters are atheists...Honestly, where do these people get this stuff?

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 21:41:00 UTC | #58527

BAEOZ's Avatar Comment 13 by BAEOZ

Russell's Teapot:

Honestly, where do these people get this stuff?

Christians think that lack of belief in christianity leads people to need to fill the void that christianity supposedly filled. They can't conceive of people not needing to have their hand held and have it all explained. So if you don't believe in god, obviously you'll believe in something equally as silly.

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 21:47:00 UTC | #58528

dancingthemantaray's Avatar Comment 14 by dancingthemantaray

not knowing which category of paper the daily mail is in,i went through some online articels.
it`s mainly about david hasselhoff being too fat,intelligent women not beeing able to find mr right and britney spears wearing a see-through dress in public.need one say more ?


The Daily Mail is one of the dreadful tabloid tosh papers we have in the UK, spouting low brow right wing yellow journalism. If there was a theme to the DM it would be "the Muslims are coming" or "foreigners are coming to our country and taking our jobs/causing crime/spreading disease". I really would discount anything it says as nonsense without having to read it.
Love the quote:
The most conspicuous example of this is provided by Dawkins himself, who breaks the rules of scientific evidence by seeking to claim that Darwin's theory of evolution - which sought to explain how complex organisms evolved through random natural selection - also accounts for the origin of life itself.

confusing natural selection with primogenesis is a classic sign of ignorance (and to ascribe these views to the good professor is surely libelous....)

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 21:56:00 UTC | #58530

Lauregon's Avatar Comment 15 by Lauregon

In fact, reason is intrinsic to the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The Bible provides a picture of a rational Creator and an orderly universe - which, accordingly, provided the template for the exercise of reason and the development of science. - Phillips


Most people today know that dead bodies don't rise from the crypt, and yet, the resurrection of Jesus Christ remains the cornerstone of Christian faith, closely followed by the requirement of belief in vicarious atonement through Jesus' death as the means to salvation and escape from hell. Neither of these are rational concepts, and yet they are the basis of Christian faith. Rational? Not really.

Dawkins pours particular scorn on the Biblical miracles which don't correspond to scientific reality. But religious believers have different ways of regarding those events, with many seeing them as either metaphors or as natural occurrences which were invested with a greater significance. - Phillips


Miracles? When a huge majority of the people in the pews refuse to participate in professing belief in traditional creeds, and rise up and demand that creeds and articles of faith be changed to unambiguously abandon the doctrines of the resurrection of Jesus and of salvation achieved through vicarious atonement and all the other supernatural elements of Christian orthodoxy, Phillips might be taken seriously about this. Until then, no.

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 22:09:00 UTC | #58531

epeeist's Avatar Comment 16 by epeeist

Comment #61782 by german-atheist


not knowing which category of paper the daily mail is in,i went through some online articels.

Unfortunately yes, one of the aims of Lord Northcliffe (the owner of the paper) was to give its readers a "daily hate".

It still aims to do that.

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 22:45:00 UTC | #58533

Apemanblues's Avatar Comment 17 by Apemanblues

Most of this article is a long winded way of saying "My religion is the only true one" and the rest of it is just an example of how little the author knows about science.

Same old same old.

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 23:37:00 UTC | #58535

Wadsworth's Avatar Comment 18 by Wadsworth

There is so much wrong with Melanie Phillipos article; one long Argument from Ignorance in fact. Chesterton was wrong; religious beliefs themselves are so multifarious as to constitute "belief in anything". So-called J-Christian reason is just a closed logical loop of false conclusions derived from false dogmatic premises. Does she actually believe that the Big Bang and the Origin of Life are not scientific questions,--or that the Cambrian "explosion" was an overnight miracle, rather than a 10 million year gradual process which was caused by thoroughly naturalistic environmental processess? Has she not heard of the pre-Cambrian era, or primitive Archaea organisms? Apart from using the insulting term "scientism" to dismiss real science does she actually believe in "spontaneous generation" of life,-disproved long ago by Pascal? She does no better on the philosophical front either; scientists are not relativists, but realists, they assume the existence of a real world of truthful facts (apart perhaps from quantum uncertainty),--otherwise science would be impossible. Nor are atheist scientists moral relativists either , in the sense she means. Universal moral principles can be derived from human society, and does not require a fairy in the sky who has to be specially invented so as to "explain" everything. Phillips says "she does not know"; therefore the best approach would be to avoid making dogmatic ,arrogant anti-science and anti-rational statements in her article.

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 23:43:00 UTC | #58536

Theocrapcy's Avatar Comment 19 by Theocrapcy

next...

Mon, 06 Aug 2007 23:54:00 UTC | #58538

german-atheist's Avatar Comment 20 by german-atheist

if you use the link to the articel in the daily mail you will find a comment by a reader who seems to have learned from the articel that a scientist called richard dawkins developed a theory he called "big bang"!
could someone inform me if this comment is serious or a joke. my english is not good enough
to decide.

Tue, 07 Aug 2007 00:10:00 UTC | #58539

somersetsimon's Avatar Comment 21 by somersetsimon

Disturbing indeed. But where Dawkins goes wrong is to assume this is all as irrational as believing in God. The truth is that it is the collapse of religious faith that has prompted the rise of such irrationality.


What? So what percentage of new-age therapy believers are atheists and what percentage have some religious faith? I know where my money would be.

While there probably are some true believers in these quack therapies, I suspect that most people who use them aren't aware of how false they really are. I wonder how many people who use homeopathy actually understand the wacky concept behind it and are aware of all the studies that have proven it to be useless?

Tue, 07 Aug 2007 00:14:00 UTC | #58540

Jiten's Avatar Comment 22 by Jiten

german-atheist That comment is not a joke but is made by a deeply ignorant person in all seriousness.

He is also confusing Dawkins for Hawking.

Tue, 07 Aug 2007 00:18:00 UTC | #58541

Wadsworth's Avatar Comment 23 by Wadsworth

Correction: In my article above, I meant "Pasteur",--not "Pascal".

Tue, 07 Aug 2007 00:30:00 UTC | #58542

gibodean's Avatar Comment 24 by gibodean

So much crap in this article, but I'm going to pick my favourite:

These findings have given rise to a school of scientists promoting the theory of Intelligent Design, which suggests that some force embodying purpose and foresight lay behind the origin of the universe.

No, emphatically not. What has given rise to that "school of scientists" is that some fundies have gone and got science degrees (somehow) and deliberately chosen to not let any of the information received actually sink in to their brains. They then go and release books and articles that deliberately misrepresent the science to the layman who hasn't got the knowledge to realise.

Tue, 07 Aug 2007 00:38:00 UTC | #58543

MagratGarlick's Avatar Comment 25 by MagratGarlick

"The author certainly hasn't read TGD very well, has she?"


I don't think she's read anything very well.

Tue, 07 Aug 2007 00:43:00 UTC | #58544

nickthelight's Avatar Comment 26 by nickthelight

"This has meant our society can no longer distinguish between truth and lies by using evidence and logic."

Speak for yourself Melanie. You have no right to lump others in with your nonsense comments.

Tue, 07 Aug 2007 00:46:00 UTC | #58545

Robert Maynard's Avatar Comment 27 by Robert Maynard

This has meant our society can no longer distinguish between truth and lies by using evidence and logic.
..Didn't you just say a few paragraphs back that this stuff is "demonstrable" nonsense? So which is it?

Science cannot explain the origin of the universe.
I don't see why not, and I eagerly await the day top physicists can retort with some degree of confidence, "Yes, actually, we can," or, "Hm.. if only it were that simple.. ya douchebag."

Tue, 07 Aug 2007 00:47:00 UTC | #58546

scottishgeologist's Avatar Comment 28 by scottishgeologist

A lot of the faith heads are guilty of new age BS as well. I remember once, about 15 years ago - it was when I had just started "going to church" again (sorry, I apologise, shame....) anyway, I heard this idiot in the pew behind me talking to his wife about how is horoscope had been accurate that week... And I know a lot of christians who use homoepathy and other quack cures.

I dare say the real fundies avoid these things "they are of SATAN!!!" but some of the more mainstream ones are into it.

Of course a lot of the real fundies are into demon possession, fake (sorry faith) healing, "spiritual" warfare and all that crap. I know a woman telling my wife recently that she felt she was "under attack" because of a few domestic disasters - broken washing machine, rain coming in and car had died - all at the same time. A clear sign that the ghosties, ghouls and things that go WOOO WOOO were ganging up on her. All propelled and marshalled by the horny goat with the trident no doubt.....

Tue, 07 Aug 2007 00:50:00 UTC | #58547

jaf's Avatar Comment 30 by jaf

Presenting this article here is giving the crazed Melanie Phillips (Polly Filler) too much undeserved credit for having any idea whatsoever WTF she is talking about.
She clearly has no understanding of the matter, at all.

Tue, 07 Aug 2007 00:54:00 UTC | #58549

scottishgeologist's Avatar Comment 29 by scottishgeologist

Hey, just noticed, 9:52 BST (bullshit time maybe?!!!) this morning, and all 10 comments are on the same article

Ony two possible explanations:

1) An idiot has penned some complete garbage
2) The Flea is on holiday

Or both? :-)))

Tue, 07 Aug 2007 00:54:00 UTC | #58548