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Is there any place for religious faith in science? - Comments

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 1 by Stevehill

Lord Winston is a very eminent scientist who is to some extent playing devil's advocate here... he's not an outright faith-head, but he's saying it doesn't matter - to him - if some eminent scientists like Francis Collins are.

And if you're into the human genome, and that's what you do, and you do it exceptionally well... without coming out with a load of evangelical claptrap about there being no such thing as evolution, well maybe...

The danger is when somebody eminent for being eminent starts evangelising. Someone with a Nobel Prize for Chemistry gets more than a fair hearing on religion for no better reason than he's a good chemist. And that helps perpetuate false (or at least unprovable) claims.

A scientist, because he's a scientist, and for not other reason, needs to take extra care not to lend credibility to unverifiable, probably impossible claims. He has a professional duty to be a skeptic.

Otherwise, he betrays his chosen "faith": evidence-based, rational, demonstrable facts. He forfeits the claim to be called a scientist.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 18:34:56 UTC | #616187

delToro87's Avatar Comment 2 by delToro87

I found it hard to work out what Professor Winston was exactly arguing against. He seemed to have some notion of 'anger' which I have never seen from Sam Harris. All I could really surmise was that he appeared to be against criticism of religion. Its sad to see this view espoused from Professor Winston, I have enjoyed a lot of his programmes before.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 18:36:49 UTC | #616189

MumboJumbo's Avatar Comment 3 by MumboJumbo

RW: I suppose I really wonder why you're so angry.

SH: [laughs] Do I sound angry?

I don't know how people can think that Sam Harris sounds angry! He always seems to me to be cooler than cool.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 18:37:29 UTC | #616191

Mr Blue Sky's Avatar Comment 4 by Mr Blue Sky

Winston is regularly wheeled out to give his "superior moral view" on the BBC and similar. It makes me sick. Yes he has done some good work and is a scientist but as a person he is one that I would avoid and can no longer stand to watch him pontificate.

As for Sam, he was probably unaware of the way Winston is used by the Radio 4 population of mild mannered middle Englanders.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 18:41:45 UTC | #616194

ajs261's Avatar Comment 5 by ajs261

I feel saddened by Robert Winston's view. He came and gave a speech at Churchill College, Cambridge last year and said very much the same thing. That people like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are "absolutist" and put too much faith in science. And I think that is extremely unfair. Both people clearly acknowledge that we cannot know everything and that scientists can easily be flawed. But it is the only real way we have of knowing anything.

It almost seems like Robert Winston attaches the same value to evidence and reason to what someone chooses to believe due to the faith they've been brought up with. And that frustrates me. He's better than that. And his sudden announcement that Sam Harris is angry seems like a bit of a low blow to me.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 18:43:16 UTC | #616197

Andrew B.'s Avatar Comment 6 by Andrew B.

"But the irony is that books like yours and [Richard Dawkins's] God Delusion balkanise the world a good deal more, because they polarise views. The God Delusion has caused very aggressive reactions from [people who] previously weren't aggressive."

Yes, and many white folks were became angry and aggressive by the insistence that schools be desegregated. They saw it as a form of "cultural imperialism" by the Federal Government to impose it's racial preferences on their communities. Even MLK created a lot of tension and provoked a fair amount of hostility by insisting upon protests, sit-ins, etc. But it was NECESSARY.

People often get very angry when we challenge their privilege and the status quo. That's THEIR problem, not ours.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 18:43:27 UTC | #616198

ajs261's Avatar Comment 7 by ajs261

Indeed at a similar talk at Cambridge University in early 2010, I recall Robert Winston saying that Richard Dawkins "had a point." Before going into the whole scientific absolutism speech again.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 18:45:07 UTC | #616200

Mr Blue Sky's Avatar Comment 8 by Mr Blue Sky

Comment Removed by Author

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 18:46:21 UTC | #616201

mohammed13's Avatar Comment 9 by mohammed13

There is only a conflict when science goes against allah, peace be upon.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 18:49:53 UTC | #616204

Andrew B.'s Avatar Comment 10 by Andrew B.

Comment 9 by mohammed13 :

There is only a conflict when science goes against allah, peace be upon.

Ok, you aren't telling use anything we haven't heard before. Just insisting that these magical claims are true won't make them true. Inshallah, one day you will learn the importance of making reasonable arguments instead of bare assertions.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 18:55:14 UTC | #616205

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 11 by Steve Zara

I think that a good response to Winston is this post by Jerry Coyne on the kind of harmful nonsense promoted by mainstream Christianity:

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 18:56:30 UTC | #616207

kantastisk's Avatar Comment 12 by kantastisk

I'm just astonished at how incredibly well articulated Harris is. His reasoning is crystal clear every single time i hear him speak. And he stood up well to the "why are you so angry?"-trick.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 18:56:44 UTC | #616209

RichardofYork's Avatar Comment 13 by RichardofYork

Why are you angry? say that to someone who isnt angry in a discussion or debate and they might become angered , not angry at the topic or at the other view but at being told theyre angry , a very very very cheap shot . Ive read a few of Winstons books and enjoyed them for the most part but that has put me off .

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 18:57:32 UTC | #616211

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 14 by Tyler Durden

Comment 9 by mohammed13 :

There is only a conflict when science goes against allah, peace be upon.


Sat, 16 Apr 2011 19:01:16 UTC | #616213

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 15 by Peter Grant

Oh please, Sam Harris is super cool and self-controlled.

Those who accept Templeton prize money are sell-outs.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 19:06:02 UTC | #616216

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 16 by bendigeidfran

Comment 3 by MumboJumbo

Have you read his account of his wife and the Don Juan? Must be crap rows chez Harris. Even if you pushed him into using both tones.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 19:08:24 UTC | #616217

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 17 by Peter Grant

@Tyler Durden

It's hard to tell isn't it, have you checked out his other posts?

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 19:13:39 UTC | #616218

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 18 by bendigeidfran

Comment 17 by Peter Grant

We can ignore Tyler - he's still miffed he didn't make it into Biola, and had to go to a proper university.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 19:22:45 UTC | #616222

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 19 by Neodarwinian

Why always the " why are you angry " BS from these people. Having heard Sam speak many times on video I have yet to see him angry.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 19:30:37 UTC | #616228

robaylesbury's Avatar Comment 20 by robaylesbury

If masturabation is such a sin why is the Pope such a wanker?

Sorry, that comment lacked nuance.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 19:37:02 UTC | #616231

William33's Avatar Comment 21 by William33

The problem I see is that once we start accepting religious claims on any level we must accept all religious claims as all religious claims have more or less the same 'evidence'.

Why not accept a higher standard of evidence in order to learn as many truths as possible?

I am also suprised the scientist is saying that the 'God Delusion' has caused people to be aggressive or was not aggressive before. What happened to personal responsibility? How can a book, which your not being forced to read can lead to individuals to become aggressive?

I really dislike how certain people try and wrap religion in some type of ball that can never be criticised.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 20:15:14 UTC | #616244

AlexP's Avatar Comment 22 by AlexP

I consider the argument about whether religion or science have a claim to "absolute truth", which is briefly touched in the interview, a red herring.

Neither has such a claim. Of course not. But not only is "absolute truth" unobtainable, it is simply not required. It doesn't matter. We cannot find perfect answers. But should we, as a consequence, accept all answers as equal, rather than trying to find the best answers we can give?

Admitting the limits of science and the shortcomings of the human mind is a sign of humility. But it can lead towards passivity and irresponsibility when it is used to excuse the far more severe limits and shortcomings of other methods to provide us with answers.

We do not excuse the racist, because we cannot absolutely prove that his views are wrong. We do not wait for "absolute" proof before we judge a man guilty of murder. We do not stand idly while a woman is burned because we cannot be sure that she is not a witch.

We do not know for sure. Nor will we ever. And yet we must decide. Yet we must act. Perhaps we will err. But the greatest error is to ignore the knowledge we worked so hard for, because it might be wrong.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 20:20:03 UTC | #616247

superbeanson's Avatar Comment 23 by superbeanson

Not sure Winston really wants to engage his intellectual faculties on these questions- whenever he brings up one of his hectoring points Harris counters with firm and telling rationality. SH answers every single point as fully as he is allowed by Winston who either comes back with a completly different point or engages in irrelevant ad homs.

It's sad to see an intelligent man so hamstrung by his upbringing

btw love the 'my friend' referrences to RD at end- whatever the veracity what relevance is it?

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 20:20:12 UTC | #616248

MumboJumbo's Avatar Comment 24 by MumboJumbo

Comment 16 by bendigeidfran :

Comment 3 by MumboJumbo

Have you read his account of his wife and the Don Juan? Must be crap rows chez Harris. Even if you pushed him into using both tones.

He was cool even then, going so far as to see it not only from his wife's perspective but also the "Don Juan"'s. (The anecdote is in "The Moral Landscape", for anyone wondering what we are going on about!)

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 20:34:53 UTC | #616258

strangebrew's Avatar Comment 25 by strangebrew

About religion and the utter bollocks it actually is... Methinks more anger is required not less and not the invented totally fake anger tag that theists, apologists and accommodationists always but always drag out of the ammunition locker and attempt to tack on to the gnu atheist or the anti woo merchant that has upset the pearl clutcher's amongst the serried ranks of the deluded.

Seems that the same deluded love to spin the supposed anger issue to try and paint the anti's as out control, wild eyed zealots that will eat your babies if the religious were not there to defend them.

I think it is a simple ploy the jeebus droolers developed out of their own lack of self control. They do projection not argument.

Seems that polite and sycophantic conversation are the only conversations the religious can handle. They can control the tempo and the points raised by deferment by smoke and mirror tactics anyway. Of course the politeness is such that points of argument are rarely pressed home on the religious view point or dogma they espouse for some nebulous fear of being branded strident or indeed rude by default even angry!.

I think anger is a perfectly fine emotion to express when confronted by puerile rancid toxic balderdash. It is perfect for conveying the disgust and antipathy that is only now becoming a standard response to religion and the brain dead clowns that profess it. It is perfect for the condemnation of the way the church has lied and covered up for perverse little shits that are beyond forgiveness by humanity....It is perfect for the hateful and degenerate sick attitudes the religious express openly and boastfully towards sections of society and towards children especially.

Anger is a fine really should be exercised much more...and especially towards religion and the memes, the supposed morality, and the scam that it really is.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 20:39:57 UTC | #616260

Mark Jones's Avatar Comment 26 by Mark Jones

After Winston visited Ken Ham's Creation Museum he said:

I admit I was dismayed by what I saw at the Ken Ham museum. It was alarming to see so much time, money and effort being spent on making a mockery of hard won scientific knowledge. And the fact that it was being done with such obvious sincerity, somehow made it all the worse.

Why is he so angry?

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 20:43:51 UTC | #616264

pipsy's Avatar Comment 27 by pipsy

Hey kids we all know Santa is pure fiction, but keep playing along so as not to spoil it for the youngsters.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 21:00:26 UTC | #616275

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 28 by Nunbeliever

RW: I suppose I really wonder why you're so angry. SH: [laughs] Do I sound angry? RW: Yes. You write angrily, too.

Ok, I stopped listening to RW:s arguments right there. He had to go for the angry atheist argument. Sam Harris put forth a legitimate and polite statement. But, instead of giving his view on the topic in question he had to go ad hominem. Pathetic, pathetic... Face it! These faitheists are a dying breed. In the future you are either against science or not. These old farts have rendered themselves useless. Desperate to avoid a conflict that can't be avoided. Remember this confict was not initiated by atheists but by religious people getting loud! The "new atheist" movement is simply a response. These NOMA morons fail to see this simple fact. They surround themselves with religious intellectuals who have nothing in common with religious people on the ground. They get along so well in their ivory towers. They fail to see what is happening outside. There is a very real conflict between religion and science and it is here to stay. They benefit from all rights secular people have fought and died for, but when these rights are being questioned by religious people they still don't want to get their hands dirty. No, they even despise these new atheists who are rude and impolite enough to actually question whether religion belongs to the 21th century. Cowards! Mark my words when I say these people belong to the past.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 21:43:56 UTC | #616285

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 29 by Alan4discussion

Comment 26 by Mark Jones

After Winston visited Ken Ham's Creation Museum he said:

At least Winston can spot the obvious stupidity, but given their previous record, any financial relationship with Templeton must make work suspect.

The question is does he really support science 100% or is the criticism of creation Ham, just criticism of the WRONG sort of woo, which discredits the "RIGHT" sort of woo he is promoting?

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 22:03:10 UTC | #616288

Pom's Avatar Comment 30 by Pom

How ridiculous can you get.

Science involves the search for answers.

Religion involves the assertion that all the answers are already known. (Even though no religious person seems sure what the original questions were.)

Further 'debate' is just a show of egos, the airing of vocabulary, of spin, of posturing, of power and, naturally, of money.

Why do we waste our time and powers of reason 'debating' the un-debatable?

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 22:30:03 UTC | #616298