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Scientists Know Better Than You--Even When They're Wrong - Comments

Quine's Avatar Comment 1 by Quine

Oh, well, not being an expert astrologist I guess I am not in a valid position to say it is rubbish.

Fri, 09 May 2008 18:04:00 UTC | #168713

JackR's Avatar Comment 2 by JackR

"I believe people like Dawkins give atheism a bad name because their arguments are so crude and unsubtle."

Another lazymind trots it out without offering the slightest justification for it. I'm so tired of the dishonesty of these people.

Fri, 09 May 2008 18:27:00 UTC | #168717

ambymacula's Avatar Comment 3 by ambymacula

They step outside their narrow competences when they produce these arguments.

What could make you more competent to argue against creationism than a background in evolutionary biology? Humorous (but no crude) responses welcome.

Fri, 09 May 2008 18:35:00 UTC | #168722

mikecbraun's Avatar Comment 4 by mikecbraun

Yeah, where's your sophisticated, subtle rebuttal of religion Dr. Dawkins? They have such subtle and refined proofs on their side, like Leviticus and Revelations, and kill all of the infidels, etc. We can't hope to win any arguments against high class stuff like that. /sarcasm

Fri, 09 May 2008 18:41:00 UTC | #168724

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 5 by Diacanu


If you see the space shuttle crashing, you can see that these guys in the white coats don't always get it right.


Scientists didn't break the fucking space shuttles, beurocracy did.

I can read no further.
Puke.

Fri, 09 May 2008 18:41:00 UTC | #168725

EvidenceOnly's Avatar Comment 6 by EvidenceOnly

2 things come to mind:

1. You don't have to become an expert in tooth fairies before stating that the existence of tooth fairies is extremely improbable. You can replace tooth fairies with anything for which no evidence exists. Keep doing this Richard!

2. When I get in an airplane, I don't argue with the pilots that I can fly the plane myself because I don't want to risk my life nor that of the other passengers. However people who believe things not based on any evidence (IDiots, GodDidIts, etc) keep pushing policies onto society based either on pseudo science or on bogus morality claims that jeopardize the life of many people. Examples are (a) the Pope's opposition to condoms which every year kills 1.6 million from HIV in Africa (the equivalent of 1.5 NINE-ELEVENs each and every day), (b) the opposition to stem cell research, (c) I could go on for a very long time here!

Fri, 09 May 2008 18:48:00 UTC | #168727

Don_Quix's Avatar Comment 7 by Don_Quix

If you take scientists at their word, human-induced climate change is well underway
Depends on which scientists you talk to. I don't think any scientist would disagree that "climate change" is underway (it always is, always has been, and always will be). However, I think a significant number of scientists, especially climatologists, are not entirely sure that climate change is 100% due to humans, and believe that we must immediately enact a huge number of draconian global initiatives to counteract it or we will all die a horrible death in the next 20-30 years (and even if we do change our sinful ways it might not help...and coincidentally the global initiatives seem to only punish developed nations). Smells suspiciously like religion to me :)

Just a thought. Not trying to make this an AGW debate ;)

Fri, 09 May 2008 19:08:00 UTC | #168738

Zappi's Avatar Comment 8 by Zappi

Ok, unfortunately I'm not a theologian, so I cannot express any opinion whatsoever related in any way with religion. That's sad. If I only knew, I would have spent years taking Theology in a reputable institution, just to make sure nobody would complain if I say that religion is rubbish.

Regarding the Pope, It's easy to notice that he steps out of his field quite often, tackling human reproduction, morality, and recently even genetic engineering. Not to mention when he starts talking about cosmology or about charity. Oh well. Double standards everywhere.

Regarding the bad name given to atheism by Richard Dawkins, I would rather be associated with it. Strangely Mr Ratzinger did not give his religion a bad name when he defended quite recently the condemnation of Galileo.

Fri, 09 May 2008 19:20:00 UTC | #168742

Janus's Avatar Comment 9 by Janus

Please. As if theology has anything to do with religion as 99% of people practice it.

Fri, 09 May 2008 19:45:00 UTC | #168751

robotaholic's Avatar Comment 10 by robotaholic

If you see the space shuttle crashing, you can see that these guys in the white coats don't always get it right.
that sentence makes me sad -

oh and ambymacula:
What could make you more competent to argue against creationism than a background in evolutionary biology?
- That was AWESOME! -

Fri, 09 May 2008 19:47:00 UTC | #168752

mmurray's Avatar Comment 11 by mmurray

Once scientists move outside their scientific experience, they become like a layperson. I'm not a religious person, but if I want to talk religion with someone, it won't be a scientist; it will be with someone who understands theology (who might be either an atheist or a believer). I believe people like Dawkins give atheism a bad name because their arguments are so crude and unsubtle. They step outside their narrow competences when they produce these arguments.


Maybe he should talk to the Cardinal ?

I keep wondering why nobody ever writes a popular account of this wonderful, marvelous, subtle theology we have been hearing about ever since TGD came out ? Sure it's going to be tough for people like us to understand but people like Richard do a wonderful job of explaining science to the lay person. Surely someone can bring down theology to a level we can understand?

I can't decide if the reason they don't do this is because they really don't have anything to say or because they don't want to admit to the lay religious person that the theologians idea of God and Richard's are not that far apart.

Michael

Fri, 09 May 2008 19:48:00 UTC | #168753

WilliamP's Avatar Comment 12 by WilliamP

I believe people like Dawkins give atheism a bad name because their arguments are so crude and unsubtle. They step outside their narrow competences when they produce these arguments.

Yes, it's quite crude to point out that belief in a creator based on the premise that complex life requires an intelligent designer is contradictory because it would require the designer to be more complex than the complex life that it seeks to explain. It's also quite unsubtle to argue that the concept would violate Ockham's Razor.

If an outsider to a subject can show that something within that subject is logically falacious, then he has a valid criticism of it. This especially goes for theology, because it's based entirely on fallacy.

Fri, 09 May 2008 19:52:00 UTC | #168755

Don_Quix's Avatar Comment 14 by Don_Quix

I believe people like Dawkins give atheism a bad name because their arguments are so crude and unsubtle.

I really wish people like Dawkins would stop pointing out how utterly ridiculous it is for anyone to be a "professional theologian" with his constant tiresome appeals to common sense, fact, and reason.

There, I fixed it for him.

WTF is a "sociologist of science" anyway? That sounds like a fake degree he just made up.

Fri, 09 May 2008 20:43:00 UTC | #168770

hoops mccann's Avatar Comment 13 by hoops mccann

By making claims about the physical world, claims which are testable, creationists open themselves to scientific challenge. Richard isn't stepping outside of his "narrow field", the creationists are stepping into it (so to speak).

Fri, 09 May 2008 20:43:00 UTC | #168769

SteveO's Avatar Comment 15 by SteveO

WTF is a "sociologist of science" anyway? That sounds like a fake degree he just made up.


professional fanboy by the sound of it.

Fri, 09 May 2008 22:02:00 UTC | #168785

bucketchemist's Avatar Comment 16 by bucketchemist


I keep wondering why nobody ever writes a popular account of this wonderful, marvelous, subtle theology we have been hearing about ever since TGD came out ? Sure it's going to be tough for people like us to understand but people like Richard do a wonderful job of explaining science to the lay person. Surely someone can bring down theology to a level we can understand?


I would agree with this, apart from the necessity to dumb down theology (since much of it is dumb enough already). There is a valid criticism to be made, I believe, that some atheist writings treats religion as if it aspired to the same epistemological status as the empirical sciences, which it could never do, and most 'thoughtful theologians' rightly join atheists in criticising efforts such as I.D. for taking this line. Theology can obviously make no contribution at all to a practice which is based on falsification and the ideal scientific method, and it is unfortunate to say the least, that theologians do feel at liberty to weigh in on issues that are better addressed using evidential methods. Empirical science isn't the only game in town though, and there are many areas of human activity which overlap with spirituality and religion. Personally I try to look at theology as a branch of the creative and performing arts, with all of the triviality and profundity that comes with that. I suspect also that large parts of sociology, psychology, philosophy, ethics, poetics, aesthetics, etc would also be incomplete without a recognition of this weirdness. I suppose what I am saying is that when theologians say that the god criticised by atheists is unrecognisable to them they may have a point, although in bringing their god to the debating chamber, the laboratory or the school science classroom they have joined us in this misrecognition.

Fri, 09 May 2008 22:28:00 UTC | #168788

History_Junky's Avatar Comment 17 by History_Junky

...So apparently only theologians can talk about religion. Well then I guess that discredits the majority of religious people seeing as how you have be a theologian to discuss religion.

The incompetence of these morons.

Fri, 09 May 2008 22:29:00 UTC | #168789

maton100's Avatar Comment 18 by maton100

This article has a high level of tardensity.

Fri, 09 May 2008 22:32:00 UTC | #168790

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 19 by Chrysippus_Maximus

I didn't think the article was that bad... I don't know why some have found it necessary to jump on every criticism as if they MUST be unfounded...

They're criticisms and they may be justified or not, but they ought to be dealt with rationally and calmly, or else you end up looking crazy.

... The knee-jerk defensiveness of some people on this site confuses and saddens me.

Fri, 09 May 2008 22:55:00 UTC | #168794

adonais's Avatar Comment 20 by adonais

Comment #177904 by Spinoza

The knee-jerk defensiveness of people on this site confuses and saddens me.

I'd be inclined to agree, I mostly thought it was an interesting article until I arrived at that Dawkins paragraph. Collins has really missed one of the MAJOR points that Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens et al have been trying to make: that religion has for millennia enjoyed absurd measures of undeserved respect, and that it is highly questionable whether theology is a subject at all in any other sense than a historical one. Collins seems to saying that things should rather stay as they are, let's keep pretending that theology is a subject and let's respect their academic and scientific pretensions. For that he deserves to get flamed :-)

Fri, 09 May 2008 23:21:00 UTC | #168802

PaulJ's Avatar Comment 21 by PaulJ

Once scientists move outside their scientific experience, they become like a layperson. I'm not a religious person, but if I want to talk religion with someone, it won't be a scientist; it will be with someone who understands theology (who might be either an atheist or a believer). I believe people like Dawkins give atheism a bad name because their arguments are so crude and unsubtle. They step outside their narrow competences when they produce these arguments.
There's no real point in discussing religion with theologians, because they nearly all argue from the point of view that God exists. If a theologian accepts that the question of God's existence is moot, then he or she has nothing left to say.

Fri, 09 May 2008 23:30:00 UTC | #168803

Barry Pearson's Avatar Comment 22 by Barry Pearson

Are evolutionary biologists like Richard Dawkins fanning the flames in the way that they engage creationists?

Probably they are. It is inevitable that they will anger the creationists, but they probably also worry or anger some religious people too.

Here is an 88 minute video of Dr Eugenie Scott, who has been engaged in the battle with creationists for over 20 years. As usual, she speaks with intelligence and clarity. She makes the point that some scientists appear to be saying that scientific positions are incompatible with religion. She stresses the importance of getting religious people vocally on the side of Evolution so that religious parents need not fear science, especially Evolution.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=PE3Qvfm8jU0

Here are two excellent videos about Evolution by a Christian who believes that creationism damages Christianity. His aim is to convince Christians that they need to accept Evolution because it has been overwhelmingly validated, and that there isn't the dichotomy claimed by creationists.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=zBoqKF52FU8
http://youtube.com/watch?v=vBaOFKoLlZk

The "problem" with Richard Dawkins is that he has become relatively-independently well known for 2 topics, evolution and atheism, which causes them to be linked too strongly in the minds of many religious people.

Once scientists move outside their scientific experience, they become like a layperson. I'm not a religious person, but if I want to talk religion with someone, it won't be a scientist; it will be with someone who understands theology (who might be either an atheist or a believer). I believe people like Dawkins give atheism a bad name because their arguments are so crude and unsubtle.

This in largely a non sequitur. It may take a lot of knowledge of religion to make significant advances in religion. But it doesn't take a lot of knowledge to realise that religious beliefs are nonsense! (And too many theologians appear to fail to address the issue of "many gods / many religions", which was of major importance to me when I was wondering whether God existed 20 years ago. I think they are too close to the subject).

In fact, of course, what Richard Dawkins mainly (not entirely) discusses in TGD is the (non-)existence of God/gods, not religion. I think a lot of religious people get confused about this. Many atheists, perhaps most, are not atheists because we are reacting against problems with religion, but simply because we see no evidence for God/gods and/or think the idea is pretty silly.

Fri, 09 May 2008 23:36:00 UTC | #168804

bucketchemist's Avatar Comment 23 by bucketchemist

A quick follow-up to my previous post. I think it is interesting that the article cites a kind of golden age of scientific authority, located in the white coated fifties. That was also around the time that C.P. Snow was drawing attention to what he saw as 'Two Cultures', in which traditional intellectual activity (with the inherited authority that comes with it) was grounded in the humanities, with science and technology having a more menial role in culture and thought. It may be that science at that time was 'allowed' to have dominion over its own area of authority because there was less insecurity within the ranks of the traditional intellectuals that their own areas might be marginalised. That is much less the case today, when empiricism tends to be the default setting for not only scientific authority but credibility in all areas.

Fri, 09 May 2008 23:39:00 UTC | #168806

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 24 by Chrysippus_Maximus

let's keep pretending that theology is a subject


... Adonais (btw, that's quite the ironic moniker!), the thing is, there's no reason NOT to call theology a "subject" in the same way that there's no reason not to call "women's studies" a "subject".

Being a theologian does not require one to be religious... the two are quite separable... it just happens to be the case that most theologians are religious (but NOT ALL!).

You MIGHT want to call it "philosophy of religion" or even "meta-analysis" or "metaphysics of religion", but I suppose for historical reasons Theology has retained the name it has always had (there's no really pressing reason to change it).

In fact, I'd prefer it if every member of every religion were forced to take theology at an undergraduate level.

There would far more sane theists (that is to say, the majority would likely end up as some sort of deist, or near-deist).

Fri, 09 May 2008 23:40:00 UTC | #168808

MPhil's Avatar Comment 25 by MPhil

Whoa, Spinoza

-Did you just write that? Philosophy of Religion and Theology are totally different things. Mainly for one reason: Theology is as far from philosophy as possible, because it is dogmatically bound. Finding out the truth, loving wisdom - philosophy wouldn't be possible if dogmatically bound.

It's not even "Metaphysics of the Catholic/Protestant Worldview", because that - if it were to be philosophy would imply completely critical assessment even of the basic tennants, and not with the explicit goal of affirming it in the end.

They have a position they are required to hold, philosophy hasn't.

Michael Martin, Graham Oppy, Richard M. Gale, John Leslie Mackie - all these work(ed) in philosophy of religion, so do Swinburne, Plantinga and Craig. But not every theologian does that, and none of the four people I mentioned first were theologians.

Theology - you might as well say "Finding the metaphysical attributes of the FSM" was a subject.

Sat, 10 May 2008 00:14:00 UTC | #168817

mrjonno's Avatar Comment 26 by mrjonno

There is a whole culture of everyone can be an expert brought on by the mass media and in particular by the internet. And for once I actually think atheists and rationalists can be worse than religious people in this regard.

An example how do you determine the possibility that global warming is man made and a genuine danger?

The only sensible answer is spend 20 years studying climatology at a University. Looking it up on google or having an online debate simply doesnt cut it. 'Free thinkers' simply dont like fact, that you can't study the evidence if you don't have the educational background. They don't like relying on the opinions of others as they want to be independent (which is a complete illusion no human being can survive in the modern world without relying on 1000's of others). Fundamentally if comes down to if you don't have a high level degree in a related subject you simply don't have a remotely valuable opinion.


Sometimes I hate the corruption and the attempts to try to democracise science even more than religion. I think it comes down to that there seems to be some innate part of human nature what wants easy answers.

Anyway I'm Jon with a degree in Physics but have no absolutely no idea on the science of global warming but if the vast majority of climate scientists say its happening then I wait for it TRUST them :)

Sat, 10 May 2008 00:57:00 UTC | #168820

Dune010's Avatar Comment 27 by Dune010

I think people here are unnecessarily hard on theology as a subject. Yes, it is not the same as philosophy of religion, but the two overlap more than you think. From my experience, theology seems a lot like an English literature degree crossed with a history degree. It involves a lot of critical analysis of the texts. However, in the course at my university at least, they deal with the psychology of religion and the philosophy of religion as well.

In my opinion, a theologian can be one of the most formidable allies in any religious debate.

Sat, 10 May 2008 01:08:00 UTC | #168822

Darwin's badger's Avatar Comment 28 by Darwin's badger

Sociology is the science of telling people what they don't need a degree to know already. *rolly eyes emoticon thingy*

Sat, 10 May 2008 01:15:00 UTC | #168823

MPhil's Avatar Comment 29 by MPhil

Dune010,

you're right - but still theology is dogmatically bound. It's not rational investigation.

A theologian might be an ally, but he is still confessionally bound. A philosopher of religion still makes the most formidable ally and opponent in a debate.

Sat, 10 May 2008 01:34:00 UTC | #168825

Corylus's Avatar Comment 30 by Corylus

Spinoza

They're criticisms and they may be justified or not, but they ought to be dealt with rationally and calmly...
Okay, dude, I'll give it a bash. :)
-----
Setting aside the question of 'lay' contributions for a second (those discussion tend to get emotional with accusations of intellectual snobbery flying around), let's look at whether this article works on its own terms. I don't think it does for one simple reason.

There is a danger here that the author does not seem to have considered (maybe because he has shut himself up into a very specific area of physics), that his dichotomy between 'lay' and 'expert' is not just applicable to scientists and non scientists, but also between scientists of different fields.
How do you distinguish the people who can and can't contribute to a specialized field?
The key to the whole thing is whether people have had access to the tacit knowledge of an esoteric area;tacit knowledge is know-how that you can't express in words. The standard example is knowing how to ride a bike. My view as a sociologist is that expertise is located in more or less specialized social groups. If you want to know what counts as secure knowledge in a field like gravitational wave detection, you have to become part of the social group. Being immersed in the discourse of the specialists is the only way to keep up with what is at the cutting edge.
Well, I can understand Collins' admiration for people with specialized knowledge and can see why specialisation is necessary. If you look at the history of science over the last 200 hundred years what you see is the increasing and astonishing amount of specialisation. This is understandable, no one can learn everything; this concentration on one specific thing can be hugely productive.

However, and this is a huge 'however', by this statement he appears to rule out the possibility of cross-disciplinary dialogue and knowledge sharing. If one professional tells another that their particular pet theory will not work because of evidence from other fields are they to be dismissed merely because they cannot 'walk the talk'?

People need to be able share knowledge without being forced into written tests. That is the way they can work towards coming up with ideas that work in both fields. The question is not whether they can bullshit their way through a test. The question is whether or not they are right.
What you have to do is not sort out the people who are right and wrong; what you have to sort is the people who can make sensible contributions from those who can't.
Umm... Isn't being right making a sensible contribution? By definition?

Too narrow.

Sat, 10 May 2008 01:49:00 UTC | #168828