This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← God and Science Don't Mix

God and Science Don't Mix - Comments

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 1 by Stafford Gordon

The headline says it all!

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 03:49:00 UTC | #373937

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 2 by irate_atheist

A quote from the main article:

Messrs. Harris and Dawkins are simply being honest when they point out the inconsistency of belief in an activist god with modern science.
Spot on. Those who disagree are either being dishonest with themselves, their audiences, or both. Take your pick.

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 03:59:00 UTC | #373939

Vaal's Avatar Comment 3 by Vaal

Perhaps the most important contribution an honest assessment of the incompatibility between science and religious doctrine can provide is to make it starkly clear that in human affairs -- as well as in the rest of the physical world -- reason is the better guide

Good quote. Reason, as we have found with most theist contributors to this site, quickly goes out of the window when one inhabits the world of religious dogma, from the lunacy of David Roberston assigning geological events to sin, to the astonishing revelation that Valjean describes genocide as moral, so long as decreed by his sadistic supernatural despot.

Even looking at the BBC HYS site regarding Michael Jackson's early death, he has been described as a God by some of his fans, one even claiming he will raise himself from the dead?? Sound familiar? Guess Jarvis Cocker will be in trouble :)

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 04:35:00 UTC | #373943

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 4 by Steve Zara

Comment #391256 by Vaal

This could be a fascinating time to watch the possible appearance of a semi-religious movement.

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 04:37:00 UTC | #373945

Vaal's Avatar Comment 5 by Vaal

Don't joke about it Steve :)

We all know that Elvis is the true messiah :-)

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 04:41:00 UTC | #373946

Gregg Townsend's Avatar Comment 6 by Gregg Townsend

This could be a fascinating time to watch the possible appearance of a semi-religious movement.
Personally I'm completely disgusted with all the media hero worship and millions of adoring fans quivering over the passing of a notorious and confessed child molester.

Imagine the catholic priests who've done the same being cheered as pop heroes.

Pardon me while I go puke.

[edit]Added quote that I was responding to.

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 04:48:00 UTC | #373947

black wolf's Avatar Comment 7 by black wolf

Some of the comments at the article's original page are almost nauseatingly vacuous. The tenor seems to be 'sure miracles can occur but my belief that that is so will in no way make me a worse scientist'.
What these nitwits apparently are incapable of grasping is that everytime they encounter something not explicable from their current knowledge, they will, if they are honest with their belief, assume that a miraculous occurence has just happened. What do they do then? Write 'here a miracle occurred' in their paper and carry on? I don't think so. If they do, they aren't scientists, and if they assume that there was no miracle, then they are dishonest with themselves when they say that they do believe miracles happen. But they want it both ways - which pretty much defines sloppy thinking.

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 04:50:00 UTC | #373949

Gregg Townsend's Avatar Comment 8 by Gregg Townsend

It's nice to see Lawrence publicly stating the incompatibility of science and religion...not to mention some support for Sam and Richard's works. I always thought of Krauss as more in the 'I'm an atheist but...' crowd.

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 04:52:00 UTC | #373950

clodhopper's Avatar Comment 9 by clodhopper

Comment #391256 by Vaal

.....he has been described as a God by some of his fans, one even claiming he will raise himself from the dead?


Don't think I'd notice the difference. Could I be killed for that?

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 04:53:00 UTC | #373951

keddaw's Avatar Comment 10 by keddaw

I would suggest that most scientists (especially psychologists if they count as scientists) currently believe in a supernatural phenomena but simply do not think about it - free will.

We either obey physics (classical or quantum or some mix) or we do not. If we obey physics then we have no free will. If we do not then that is supernatural by definition.

Why is there no study to say what percentage of scientists believe in free will but there are studies saying how many believe in the resurrection of Christ?

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 04:55:00 UTC | #373952

AllanW's Avatar Comment 11 by AllanW

Comment #391265 by keddaw on June 26, 2009 at 5:55 am

WTF? Please tell us all;

1. How you 'obey' physics.
2. Your definition of 'free will'.
3. How exercising 'free will' proves conclusively that there is something outside observed reality.

Thanks.

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:02:00 UTC | #373954

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 12 by Quetzalcoatl

Keddaw-

Please tell me how one can go about disobeying physics. I've often thought my life would be easier if I could fly.

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:06:00 UTC | #373956

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 14 by NewEnglandBob

I expected (foolish of me, I guess) a better informed set of comments from WSJ readers. The ignorance, and use of the same old tired arguments which have been soundly refuted, is frightening.

Some of those comments are not even coherent.

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:08:00 UTC | #373958

entreri100404's Avatar Comment 13 by entreri100404

keddaw,

I understand what you are trying to say, I think you just phrased it oddly.

Your argument if I am not mistaken is that given sufficient knowledge of physics, that most basic and fundamental of sciences, one should theoretically be able to predict any decision anyone is going to make (given that all of our decisions are merely the result of neuron interactions in the brain, all of which should be predictable). Therefore how can there be free will if we already know what anyone will decide?

My two-word answer would be 'uncertainty principle'.

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:08:00 UTC | #373957

squinky's Avatar Comment 15 by squinky

Echo Gregg Townsend: From what I've seen of Krause, I too thought he equivocated time and again on accomodationism and seldom appeared to have thought about the philosophical implications of what he says before opening his mouth. Krauss wrote on EDGE:

There is too much ink spent worrying about this question. Religion is simply irrelevant to science, and whether or not science contradicts religion may be of interest to theologians but it simply doesn't matter to scientists. What matters are the important questions science is dealing with, from the origin and future of the universe to the origin and future of life.

All this talk about science and religion gives the wrong impression, as it suggests reconciling them or not reconciling them is a big issue... it isn't. As I once put it to theologians at a meeting at the Vatican: theologians have to listen to scientists, because if they want to try to create a consistent theology (and while I have opinions about whether this is possible, but my opinions about this are neither particularly important nor informed) they at least need to know how the world works. But scientists don't have to listen to theologians, because it has no effect whatsoever on the scientific process.

For which Harris satirically ripped him a new one:
How can a militant secularist atheist neo-dogmatist like Coyne not see the plain truth£ There simply IS no conflict between religion and science. And even if there were one, it would be an utter waste of time to say anything about it. Lawrence Krauss has established this second point beyond any possibility of doubt. Go back and read his essay. It'll just take you five seconds. I've read it upwards of seventy times, and each perusal brings fresh insight.

Since I've seen Richard and Krauss speak together a number of times and Krauss is on the advisory board of the Reason Project, I can't help but conclude that Harris and Dawkins sat Krauss down and waterboarded true reason into his brain. This WSJ piece is the most rational I've ever heard Krauss.

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:10:00 UTC | #373959

keddaw's Avatar Comment 17 by keddaw

Ah, the majesty of free will and the problems atheists have with it:
Religious people do not have this problem at all. They understand that we are all individuals and God has given us the right to choose in any given circumstance, regardless of nature, nurture or situation and only God knows for sure what your choice will be.

1. You do not break any physical law (unless you can show us a better law)
2. Free will as defined by religion (above), except without the god's gift part.
3. If you can exercise free will by not obeying physics you have shown the existence of the supernatural, assuming you have not shown a better law in 1 above.

re: entreri100404
Uncertainty principle simply leads to a statistical likelihood of events, it in no way diminishes the argument merely obfuscates it.


As for the MJ thing, it's okay people, he'll be back on Sunday, isn't that how these things work?

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:14:00 UTC | #373961

Oromasdes1978's Avatar Comment 16 by Oromasdes1978

The day believers finally stop thowing the toys out of the pram because they want their celestial dictator included in science, the world will be a better place.

I am aghast that in the 21st Century we even have to debate this matter, I can't quite think of a more ridiculous obstacle to human learning than the efforts of the religious to have their God shoved in science. Such a pointles waste of time and money.

Tell me again why we should take the religious seriously over this matter?

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:14:00 UTC | #373960

entreri100404's Avatar Comment 18 by entreri100404

keddaw, you really are atrocious at expressing yourself.

I'm not convinced you understand what the uncertainty principle is, but, it states that it is impossible to know the momentum and position of a particle, exactly, at the same time. Therefore we cannot predict every outcome of a system to an exact degree and so there's your free will. 'Statistical likelihood of events' is not the same as knowing the final state of a system exactly, is it? So there is some margin for error. Why is it not possible that 'free will' hides out in that margin for error.

I've thought this exact same scenario through in the past, but it sounds like I came to a more rational conclusion than you did.

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:20:00 UTC | #373962

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 19 by Stafford Gordon

I agree with averything Lawrence Krauss says, so I've no comment to make there, but on the story of the day, if Stevie Wonder could gain his sight, what would he make of Michael Jackson's change in appearance?

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:21:00 UTC | #373963

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 20 by Tyler Durden

Comment #391274 by keddaw

Religious people do not have this problem at all. They understand that we are all individuals and God has given us the right to choose in any given circumstance, regardless of nature, nurture or situation and only God knows for sure what your choice will be.
My emphasis.

Anyone else see a problem with this, ahem, "logic"?

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:23:00 UTC | #373964

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 21 by Steve Zara

Comment #391274 by keddaw

1. You do not break any physical law (unless you can show us a better law)


If you can break it, how is it a law?

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:24:00 UTC | #373965

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 22 by Quetzalcoatl

keddaw-

If you can exercise free will by not obeying physics you have shown the existence of the supernatural


Yes, but how does this help me learn to fly?

Plus laser beams. I want to be able to shoot laser beams out of my eyes.

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:25:00 UTC | #373966

epeeist's Avatar Comment 23 by epeeist

Comment #391270 by entreri100404:

My two-word answer would be 'uncertainty principle'.
It doesn't help.

Assuming a realist interpretation of QM then:
  1. QM doesn't apply to macroscopic objects and decoherence may account for any quantum effects
  2. QM is supposedly a complete theory and tells the whole story of physical events, as such these are not under my physical control
  3. You might not be able to predict in a Laplacian way, but you can still make a prediction with a high probability
  4. To show evidence of free will you would have to show deviation from these probabilities

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:26:00 UTC | #373967

epeeist's Avatar Comment 24 by epeeist

Comment #391277 by Tyler Durden:

Anyone else see a problem with this, ahem, "logic"?
Well, it is as good as Valjean's

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:29:00 UTC | #373969

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 25 by Quetzalcoatl

Tyler-

I decided not to bother with that. I'm just trying to understand what Keddaw is going on about.

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:29:00 UTC | #373970

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 26 by SaganTheCat

keddaw

free will is a very presumptious phrase

the free will we have is set by our own intellectual parameters. We all obey physics becuase there is no choice. our sense of free will may be an illusion

Ah, the majesty of free will and the problems atheists have with it:
Religious people do not have this problem at all.


indeed just like there was a time when religion didn't have a problem with the plague. it was gods will. since then scientists have developed medicine

The only problem I have with free will is that it can't be proved or measured, religites don't have a problem with many things that can't be proved because in order to "have a problem" with a concept one would have to give it some serious thought. An activity discouraged by all religions.

indeed religious people don't have a problem with all sorts of things that atheists do have a problem with just like slaves don't have the same problems job-seekers have

free-will is meaningless unless it's something defined objectively. I could program my computer to have free will just as long as the program is designed to make the computer claim every descision it makes is of its own volition.

I believe I have free will to consider any descision I have to make but even then how much free will I have depends on scientifically measurable parameters. The levels of hormones in my body telling me I need to eat/sleep/fuck/dance/fight/run/hide for one, the environmental limitations on my choices are another, the accumulated experience of my life to date is another

the only reason most people believe they have free will is because they've been told they have it

personally, I don't know. not until someone defines what it is rationally

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:35:00 UTC | #373971

entreri100404's Avatar Comment 27 by entreri100404

epeeist

1.QM doesn't apply to macroscopic objects and decoherence may account for any quantum effects

Don't understand the decoherence bit (long time since physics at uni I'm afraid) but I would say that QM *absolutely* applies to macroscopic objects. It's like comparing relativity and newtonian mechanics and saying relativistic mechanics doesn't hold true on Earth.

2.QM is supposedly a complete theory and tells the whole story of physical events, as such these are not under my physical control

No. QM does not nullify the uncertainty principle. It does not tell 'the whole story'.

3.You might not be able to predict in a Laplacian way, but you can still make a prediction with a high probability

'A high probability' is not enough. The OP needs to show that the outcome of a system can be predicted *exactly*, does he not? We are talking about subatomic particles bouncing around in the brain here, not a game of tennis.

4.To show evidence of free will you would have to show deviation from these probabilities

I'm fairly sure the onus is on the OP to show evidence that it is possinle to exactly predict the outcome of a system ob situation, rather than being on me to show evidence of free will.

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:39:00 UTC | #373972

ColdFusionLazarus's Avatar Comment 28 by ColdFusionLazarus

Epeeist

You might not be able to predict in a Laplacian way, but you can still make a prediction with a high probability

I appreciate you have a lot of knowledge in this area, but your comment prompts me to ask this question: "When do you think this specific unstable nucleus will decay?"

I believe such unstable nuclei are the basis for the Schroedinger's Cat thought experiment, which lead us to the possibility that quantum effects may well lead to macroscopic effects. Perhaps even a quantum nuclear decay event might even initiate cancer in a body?

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:42:00 UTC | #373974

keddaw's Avatar Comment 29 by keddaw

To try to clarify (and probably fail miserably)

Religious types completely understand and are comfortable with free will as it is commonly understood. Atheists (of which I am one) have a great desire to believe in free will which in common usage suggests a consciousness that makes decisions that are not subject to prediction or adherence to natural laws otherwise there is no 'real' choice.

Hence they try to shoehorn free will into places it should not go (uncertainty principle, cheers epeeist) and it becomes a 'god of the gaps' type argument. Also, if you try to fit free will into uncertainty then you are saying it isn't uncertain - people are choosing.

Steve - all physical laws are not laws, simply best fit theories, therefore they are all potentially breakable.

Quetzalcoatl - 2points:
1. All I want is a shark with a frickin' laser.
2. The general point is that while there is a big outcry (and rightly so) about trying to fit in science with one form of broken thinking the free will compatabilism is never mentioned.

Clear as mud?

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:43:00 UTC | #373975

ewaldrep's Avatar Comment 30 by ewaldrep

a couple of things keddaw, as a psychologist I do like to think of myself as a scientist-use existing knowledge and theories to develop testable hypotheses and determine the refutability as well as the certainty of the results that are observed, etc.-as far as the uncertainty principle goes, this relates primarily to subatomic particles, my fallible understanding of it, and unless it is shown to fundamentally affect simple chemical processes-such as the combination of hydrogen and oxygen-then I am not convinced in exactly how this would alter the chemical processes that to some extend determine human behavior.
edit-thank you for clarifying your thoughts about the uncertainty principle

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 05:46:00 UTC | #373976