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Comments by AmericanGodless

Go to: Atheists should be allowed to argue their case

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by AmericanGodless

I think that someone accurately and concisely summed up the philosophical position that Mr Williamson is confronting here, as the argument from SHUT UP!

Thu, 02 Apr 2009 13:56:00 UTC | #343077

Go to: MUST WE ALWAYS CATER TO THE FAITHFUL WHEN TEACHING SCIENCE?

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 34 by AmericanGodless

What bothers me about the deist foot in the door is that it's not just "Oh, and by the way, I'm going to talk to my ceiling at night and waste every Sunday morning for the rest of my life based on that possibility." It's that, in spite of the supposed limitations of the deist god, some of them will still want to run the world, the country, and your life based on the answers that they hallucinate that their ceiling gives back to them. That's why its a problem that religious moderates give cover for the extremists.

Wed, 01 Apr 2009 15:03:00 UTC | #342652

Go to: WEIT review: Kevin Padian sucks me back into into the religion/science quagmire

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by AmericanGodless

Excellent. I worry when I see Jerry Coyne saying (Why Evolution is True, pg 225) that the question of how we find our meaning, purpose, and moral guidance is outside the domain of science. But I don't think he really could mean that. Jerry, I am sure, uses antibiotics too, and his naturalism, I am also sure, does help him to formulate his own sense of meaning, purpose and morality.

Kevin should talk privately to his colleague, Eugenie, about how naturalism, as a theory, has been shown by science to be almost certainly true. She admitted that to me once, when I had the opportunity to speak to her after she gave a lecture; but she won't say so in public.

Wed, 01 Apr 2009 11:04:00 UTC | #342569

Go to: MUST WE ALWAYS CATER TO THE FAITHFUL WHEN TEACHING SCIENCE?

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 23 by AmericanGodless

Old Sarum is right, that there are a lot of scientists, like Francis Collins, who are willing to be trotted out to support reconciliation. As individuals, that's fine, that is indeed their job. Have you read Collins' book? It's just plain silly. Not only the triune frozen waterfall, but a ghastly misapplication of Bayesian statistics that must make one question his reputation as a competent scientist. That's their job -- to say silly things. But that is NOT the job of professional science organizations, and they should know better.

Wed, 01 Apr 2009 09:36:00 UTC | #342524

Go to: MUST WE ALWAYS CATER TO THE FAITHFUL WHEN TEACHING SCIENCE?

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by AmericanGodless

As I said when the first part of this piece was posted here March 24, I appreciate Coyne leaving the compatibility of evolution (and all of science) with relgious belief to the believers. (I am sure they can accomodate anything).

I would add that whether we support the "accommodationist" approach would depend on your goals. If you think that what is essentially a religious dogma of "old-earth stepwise creation by way of evolution" is a sufficient approximation of the scientific view, then accommodate away! My own concern, however, is for scientific naturalism and its wider implications for how public issues are decided. To foster such a bastardized view of evolution, and give it the imprimatur of organized science, when most scientists know better, is, in my opinion, unethical and injurious to the future of a rational society.

That is why it seriously bothers me when Coyne says, in the last chapter of his book, that it is "unnecessarily alarmist" for believers to worry that evolution may affect how we think about (and, eventually, what we teach about) meaning, purpose, and ethics. "Evolution is simply a theory about the process and patterns of life's diversification, not a grand philosophical scheme about the meaning of life."

So does Coyne really mean that when the subject of discussion moves on from anatomy and biochemistry, to meaning, purpose, and ethics, then evolution (and by extension science as a whole) deserve no place at the table? That sounds an awful lot like NOMA to me, however much he wants to separate himself from that unfortunate concept, and I have to strongly disagree.

Granted, evolution alone may not comprise a "grand philosophical scheme about the meaning of life," but no such philosophical scheme that is to be consistent can ignore it, or the naturalism that comes with it and with all of science. And, granted, evolutionary ethics may not yet be popular, even perhaps among evolutionists. But to pretend that it should never get an airing alongside religious ethics, as Coyne seems to be suggesting, is unacceptable.

Wed, 01 Apr 2009 09:11:00 UTC | #342512

Go to: Happy Birthday Richard Dawkins!

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 192 by AmericanGodless

Very Happy Birthday, Richard Dawkins!

I and my whole family are looking forward to seeing you in San Diego in a couple of weeks.

Thu, 26 Mar 2009 13:07:00 UTC | #339916

Go to: Why Evolution is True

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 69 by AmericanGodless

Thank you Styrer, for your "rant." I think that it raises a valid concern; but Jerry Coyne, I think, is no fan of NOMA. When he says that the question of the compatibility of evolution and religious faith should be left to the theologians, while the biologists just concentrate on showing that evolution is true, I believe he is on solid ground. In a similar manner, the question of the compatibility of orbital mechanics and physical cosmology with astrology should be left to the astrologists.

However, I am troubled by a bit of "NOMA-like" sentiment when, in the last chapter of his recent book, he attempts to calm the misgivings of some who think that if evolution is taught in the biology class, then soon material naturalist ethics will be taught in the sociology class. This, he says,

..is unnecessarily alarmist. How can you derive meaning, purpose, or ethics from evolution? You can't. Evolution is simply a theory about the process and patterns of life's diversification, not a grand philosophical scheme about the meaning of life.
I find it difficult to believe that Coyne really believes this. It is similar to the conceit of Eugenie Scott, among others, that the naturalism of science is no threat to religious belief, because science just makes use of "methodological naturalism," which is distinct from the "philosophical naturalism" that would inform a true worldview, or, shall we say, a "philosophical scheme about the meaning of life."

I once asked Scott (up close after one of her lectures, when only a few people could overhear the conversation) whether it wasn't true that naturalism guides the design of many, if not all experimental protocols in science, and so is one of the cluster of theories that is tested by those experiments. Since those experiments continue to be successful in revealing a universe that needs no non-natural components to our theories, does that not make naturalism a well-tested unifying theory, rather than merely a "methodology" that can be left hanging in the laboratory along with the lab coat. She agreed that, yes, naturalism is a theory with ever-increasing confirmation. But she won't say so publicly.

What Coyne seems to be supporting here is "methodological evolution" (-ism?). The meaning of life and the purposes and ethics that we construct for ourselves cannot help but be strongly influenced by our knowledge of what we are and how we got here, but he is suggesting that those who wish to do so can still pretend that naturalistic materialism need play no part in the cultural discussion. He is welcome to do so, but if that is what he wants to do, that is where I must part company with him. As Dennett has written, "Freedom Evolves," and the mutational force for that evolution is the ever-expanding self-knowledge that we can accumulate. To say that evolution, and the knowledge that it is true, has no bearing on human meaning, purpose and ethics, is to abandon the real cultural progress that must be the long-term goal of science.

Material naturalist ethics in the sociology class? I certainly hope so.

Wed, 25 Mar 2009 11:52:00 UTC | #339311

Go to: Canadian Science minister's coyness on evolution worries researchers

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by AmericanGodless

Eshto: I agree, Obama is a very smooth politician. He just affirms both his belief in God and evolution, ignores any conflict, and lets both the religionists and the scientists think that he is on their side. And, when it serves his political purposes, he indeed is on their side.

Wed, 18 Mar 2009 11:20:00 UTC | #337106

Go to: Canadian Science minister's coyness on evolution worries researchers

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by AmericanGodless

To be fair to the Minister, the question really does put any politician on the spot (in the US, and apparently in Canada, too). It asks, essentially "are you an evolution denialist, or do you accept the evidence that says that the Holy Creator God is an unnecessary just-so story?" It is just that most politicians have smoother ways of ducking the question, or pretending that there is no conflict, or tailoring a hypocritical answer to a particular audience. Mr. Goodyear needs to evolve a better pair of political running shoes.

Wed, 18 Mar 2009 11:11:00 UTC | #337100

Go to: Canadian Science minister's coyness on evolution worries researchers

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by AmericanGodless

Minister clarifies stand on evolution:

On Tuesday, Mr. Goodyear said twice during the CTV interview that he did believe in evolution.

“We are evolving every year, every decade. That's a fact, whether it is to the intensity of the sun, whether it is to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it is running shoes or high heels, of course we are evolving to our environment. But that's not relevant and that is why I refused to answer the question. The interview was about our science and tech strategy, which is strong.”

.. Umm.. Clarifies?

Wed, 18 Mar 2009 10:58:00 UTC | #337094

Go to: Vatican says Evolution does not prove the non-existence of God

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 134 by AmericanGodless

Quine, Bonzai: re Dawkins' "scientism" (as charged by Robert J. Russell in the CNS story linked above).

I don't care if it is Robert J. Russell accusing Richard Dawkins, or Massimo Pigliucci speaking of Paul Churchland, whenever the charge of "scientism" comes up, I expect to be served another plate of nonsense and woo. The term may have once been useful to describe the transformation of an area of science into a dogmatic (even religious) faith, as in the case of Lysenko. But today it is almost exclusively used to try to mark off a portion of the real world where science is supposed to be impotent to provide understanding or explanation. Since science is just a procedure by which we make every effort not to fool ourselves, what we are left with is an area wherein the case is being made that we must be allowed to tell ourselves (and each other) some real whoppers if we are to find the (capital T) Truth. A once useful word has become a tag for supernatural excuse-making or other special pleading.

Wed, 11 Mar 2009 10:31:00 UTC | #334902

Go to: Vatican says Evolution does not prove the non-existence of God

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 28 by AmericanGodless

Of course they misquote Richard. He says there is almost certainly no god. They say that there certainly is a God and they speak for him. They have to misrepresent Richard's claim as a dogma like theirs in order to avoid admitting that, as a hypothesis, their God fails miserably.

So "Catholic doctrine" and/or "the message of the Bible" have once again been declared to be compatible with evolution. Ho hum. Doctrine and the Bible can never be incompatible with any findings of science, because, as the Vatican theologians said, Christians believe that God "created all things". No mere observation or application of reason can ever touch that, since they don't hold it as a theory, but as a matter of faith, carrying a probability of one.

Meanwhile scientists, who understand that no human knowledge has a probability of one, and who are interested in pushing the probabilistic knowledge of science ever further, will continue to find the naturalist hypothesis most fruitful, and will continue to advance our understanding of the nature and evolutionary origins of our consciousness, our sense of morality, and the material mechanisms behind all that the Christians believe that God created. And the Church will (with some indigestion) continue to absorb all of the findings of science, piece by piece. And after each bout of indigestion, they will stagger back, and hold yet another conference to once again declare that it all is compatible with their supernatural beliefs. Their top-down "theory" of origins will continue to be falsified again and again in favor of the bottom-up theories of evolutionary science, and yet they will continue to cling to their mantra that, nevertheless, "goddidit".

But while their theory, transmuted into dogma, is compatible with everything, it suggests nothing, and does not inform any research. Until the Catholic Church and the Discovery Institute publish some research that demonstrates how their theory of an unevolved intelligence has led to the discovery of a new aspect of the physical world that can be most probably best explained in terms of that theoretical intelligence, their theory that "God created all things" will continue to be a failed theory.

Tue, 10 Mar 2009 16:49:00 UTC | #334722

Go to: Vatican official calls atheist theories 'absurd'

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 28 by AmericanGodless

..described as "absurd" the atheist notion that evolution proves there is no God.
Right. And there is also that equally absurd notion that astronomy and interplanetary space probes have proved that the Earth orbits the Sun. Evolution is just the way God makes his miracle of creation appear to atheistic naturalists; and orbital mechanics is just what His created Earth-centered universe looks like to unbelieving materialists.

Science never "proves" anything. But what is probable?

Tue, 03 Mar 2009 16:46:00 UTC | #332614

Go to: How I Learned Not to Fear the Anti-God Squad

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by AmericanGodless

We should be glad that there are people, even deluded theists, who take freedom of expression seriously enough to defend it.

Fri, 20 Feb 2009 15:47:00 UTC | #328264

Go to: Darwinism Must Die So That Evolution May Live

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 122 by AmericanGodless

aquilacane: I don't look at wheels as if they are magic, simply because I don't know who was the first to realize them.
OK -- as long as we understand that fire was a gift from the gods.

Mon, 16 Feb 2009 12:38:00 UTC | #325602

Go to: Darwinism Must Die So That Evolution May Live

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 112 by AmericanGodless

Atheists: "Persons who have noted that no gods or other supernatural forces need be hypothesized to build a coherent understanding of the origins and development of the universe as we see it now, and have concluded that it is highly unlikely that any such invocation of the supernatural will become necessary in the future."

Darwinists: "Persons who have noted that evolution by natural selection, as described by Charles Darwin and as elaborated by many others building on the work of Darwin, Wallace, and others, provides the best explanation for the existence of life as it exists today on Earth, and have concluded that it is highly likely that the further understanding of biology will continue to build on this foundation."

I quite understand why theists and evolution-denialists would want to make the words "atheist", "naturalist", "evolutionist" and "Darwinist" into pejorative slurs; why atheists and evolutionists would want to help them to do so eludes me.

And the argument that we should forget the scientists who first discovered the principles that help us to understand our natural world, and the process by which they convinced themselves that they had glimpsed a bit of the truth about reality, is, to my mind, a dangerous step on the way to turning science into a myth-ridden religion. Of course we have much better evidence for evolution now than Darwin had, but we forget our common intellectual past at our peril. Science is not the world -- it is our very human historical exploration of the world. To pretend otherwise is to invite delusions of a magically perfect worldview.

Mon, 16 Feb 2009 10:15:00 UTC | #325552

Go to: Heat the Hornet

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 185 by AmericanGodless

It's too bad that the review of Coyne's book is being upstaged by someone who thinks it is all unimportant nonsense.

From Dawkins' review:
Coyne is right to identify the most widespread misunderstanding about Darwinism as the idea that, in evolution, “everything happens by chance”.

This is correct as it stands, but is an invitation to yet another common misunderstanding among those who "believe" in evolution and think they understand it, but don't. This is why I want to read this book -- to see if Coyne can actually explain the role of chance in genetic mutation and evolution without repudiating it, as so many popular books seem to do (starting with Philip Kitcher's much praised, but awful book (at least on this point), "Abusing Science" so many years ago -- and abuse it he certainly did!)

Chance is ubiquitous in physical (and hence biological) processes; the trick is in overcoming it and taming it, as evolving DNA does so well. Even Dennett's "Freedom Evolves" has a tedious section where he debates where the randomness called for by the "libertarian" position on free will (not to be confused with political libertarianism) might be "inserted" into neural activity. Dennett is right, I think, that whether the randomness is pseudo-random, or "true quantum" randomness is inconsequential; but "inserting" it is not the problem -- getting it out (or doing useful things in spite of, or with it) is the trick.

All together now: It is chance and necessity, random mutation and natural selection. If natural selection is the wings of evolution, then randomness is the engine. Neither one is going anywhere by itself. Biologists and philosophers who try to pretend that randomness is eliminated in biology are presenting a fiction that will neither fly nor evolve.

Wed, 11 Feb 2009 17:33:00 UTC | #323245

Go to: Let's talk sense about our origins

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by AmericanGodless

...getting cross because some people believe in God - well, what's that got to do with science? No believer can prove that God exists: isn't faith rather the point? And no scientist can prove that He doesn't.


Wrong. "God: The Failed Hypothesis" by Victor Stenger.

How many times do we have to be told that "goddidit" and find that no, it (whatever) can be shown to have happened naturally, before the supernatural god-hypothesis becomes so improbable that to cling to it is just perverse? Right, no scientist can prove that god doesn't exist, and neither can it be proved that a unicorn doesn't exist, but science can indeed prove that a natural world is very probable, and a supernatural world is very improbable. To ask for more than this for the god hypothesis is special pleading. Nothing else in the scope of all human knowledge is known to be absolutely true.

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 17:56:00 UTC | #315085

Go to: Elevating Science, Elevating Democracy

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 20 by AmericanGodless

19. Comment #328642 by YouGottaShowMe:

The best source for a Bronowski quote on science and values is, of course, his short book "Science and Human Values." That is the source of the statement I paraphrased -- we must act in such a way that what is true may come to be known to be true. In "The Ascent of Man" there is the episode on "Knowledge or Certainty," although there his emphasis is the ethical lesson from science that all human knowledge is fallible. He also commented on the connection between science and democracy, or as he said, "the democracy of the intellect," when he talked about Johnny von Neumann, who he said was "in love with the aristocracy of the intellect." I think that is in another episode of "Ascent," but I don't have a copy of the book at hand to look it up right now.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 16:06:00 UTC | #313257

Go to: Elevating Science, Elevating Democracy

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by AmericanGodless

HURRAH! It is very rarely you see anyone debunking the big lie that says science can tell us nothing about values (Bronowski did 30 years ago and more, but most people have forgotten, or never heard of him).

The Big Bang doesn't tell us how to live our lives? It tells us that if we want to know whether the universe carries evidence of such a thing, we need to avoid fooling ourselves. Science provides "scant counsel on same-sex marriage?" It does tell us that if we call same-sex relationships "unnatural" then we must fool ourselves into classifying much of what does exist in nature as "unnatural".

We must act in such a way that what is true may come to be known to be true. That is the ethical imperative of science. Lies and self-deception poison both science and democracy.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 11:20:00 UTC | #313020

Go to: God and Science: An Inner Conflict

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by AmericanGodless

"..the idea that evolution explains biology but God set the process in motion, does not exist in our brains."

So I guess Francis Collins, the Catholic Church, and many other mainstream religions (wherein this idea indeed does exist) have no brains (or keep their ideas elsewhere).

All they could possibly be testing here is an emotional response, not an intellectual weighing of alternatives. It used to be easy (and still is for most people) to make an emotional choice to believe in God and not worry about the details of the science. And why should it be any surprise that priming people with either a positive or negative view might affect an emotional response?

But what does that have to do with the fact that religion (in general) posits a pre-existing intelligence that has created order in the universe from the top down, while science is building on the theory that intelligence is a late arrival that is the result of mutation and selection (chance and necessity) creating order from the bottom up? It is, as Dan Dennett says, the difference between skyhooks and cranes. The conflict is one where the human intellect must decide which is a more coherent and probable story. Neither Galileo nor White had the benefit of Darwin, Mendel, Watson and Crick, and all of modern biology and cosmology to frame the question (and neither does the average undergrad taking part in this kind of experiment).

This article says nothing at all about the intellectual conflict, and nothing of interest about people's emotional response to a perception of a conflict.

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 17:58:00 UTC | #306341

Go to: The Natural Order Of Things

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 16 by AmericanGodless

Living beings are eddies in the stream of entropy.
#10 by Apeseed & #11 by NewEnglandBob: Yes, life is both an engine for general increased entropy and for localized decreased entropy. It is made up of dissipative structures, which utilize a flow of energy and a general increase in entropy to build and maintain themselves as local organized structures, thus doing both. The "eddy" metaphor is quite illustrative, as an eddy in a stream depends upon the flow of the stream to keep those leaves swirling around in its center; but while it is there, more leaves are drawn in, and an organized structure is formed that would not be there but for the energy flow of the stream.

Edit: Apeseed has got it pretty much right in #14: life uses energy to build things, but there is always a loss to inefficiency; so local order is increased (decreased entropy) while total order is decreased (increased entropy).

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 13:44:00 UTC | #302856

Go to: Science can't explain the big bang - there is still scope for a creator

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by AmericanGodless

This argument for opening science classrooms to religious speculation is incoherent and self-defeating.

"Sir Michael Reiss says: 'Some students have creationist beliefs. The task of those who teach science is ... to treat such students with respect'." [Treat the student with respect, yes. Also respect the student's right to have private beliefs. But the science teacher has no business respecting the portrayal of such beliefs as having anything to do with science.]

"..it cannot in fact explain how "something" (the energy of the universe compressed into a volume the size of a golf ball) arose from nothing beforehand." [Victor Stenger, in "God, the Failed Hypothesis", holds that the sum of our "something" may actually all cancel out and add up to nothing. The point is that a creative agent, at this point in our investigation, is not only unnecessary, but a hinderance to further research -- we don't even know yet what all of our "something" is.]

"..life's increasing complexity - including the very recent appearance of modern man - is also consistent with (but not proof of) the possibility of some special creative agent existing." [But a special creative agent is consistent with anything from intelligent design to a moon made of green cheese!]

"..(the reasoning being that, if God is responsible for creating the big bang, then the incarnation and resurrection would be child's play by comparison)." [As I said.]

"This could be used to make a case against outright dismissal of the concept of creationism and intelligent design in the science classroom." [Wrong. It is the very heart of the case for dismissing them from the science classroom.]

"..they cannot be considered science until they make predictions that can be falsified" [then why drag them into science class?]

"And the subject certainly does not warrant arrogance from those who seem to think that scientific materialism is the only logical option for the 21st century." [Scientific materialism is the unifying theory of science, and has no credible counter-examples. Until supernaturalism makes some credible predictions that resist falsification, material naturalism is indeed the only logical option for science.]

Wed, 07 Jan 2009 10:48:00 UTC | #299579

Go to: Is Yahweh a Moral Monster?

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 75 by AmericanGodless

I don't understand why I should give a rats patootie whether the OT's fictional "God" character is morally better or worse than Gandalf or Dumbledore (who are both much better developed by their authors). The whole discussion assumes, contrary to all probability, that such a non-evolved intelligence exists. This author (Paul Copan) can't conceive of a universe in which evolution really happened, and neither can Paul Davies:

Despite naturalists' hijacking the foundations of science as their own, physicist Paul Davies sets forth the simple truth: "Science began as an outgrowth of theology, and all scientists, whether atheists or theists ... accept an essentially theological worldview."
Naturalists do not "hijack the foundations" of science, since science is not foundational, no matter what he and Davies think. Science began, and continues, as an escape from foundational theological certainty into the non-foundational probability of the best explanations that fit the evidence and fit with each other. Davies has never understood that.

Sun, 21 Dec 2008 19:37:00 UTC | #290299

Go to: Religious Ed. rebellion

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by AmericanGodless

* forcing children to learn the content of other religions
* to better know and understand others.
* teaches values that run counter to their religion.
* a right.. to educate one's child in conformity with one's religious or philosophical convictions
* not in the 'relativistic' way...

It appears that the problem is not overemphasizing one religion over another, so much as it is teaching about a wide selection of beliefs without endorsing one as valid and the others as false. It is OK for the kids to know that some other people have strange beliefs; but to let them learn what these heathens actually believe, without the fear of hellfire, risks suggesting to the students that they might be able to question the absolute truth of their own family's religious beliefs. Can't have that. Better to go right to expulsion.

Sat, 20 Dec 2008 16:24:00 UTC | #289894

Go to: Countdown: Palin Wants To Help Special Needs Kids By Doing Away With Science

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 49 by AmericanGodless

Steve & others commenting on a "solution" (to Drosophilistinism?) to be found perhaps in science fiction.. Article today in the Telegraph about Richard & his plans for a book for/about children:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/3255972/Harry-Potter-fails-to-cast-spell-over-Professor-Richard-Dawkins.html

It sounds like Richard wants to comment about "magic" in children's lit, and whether it has a positive or negative educational effect. Unfortunately, he admits to never having read Rowling's works, which (imho) he must read before he can write convincingly on the subject. Says he has read Pullman's Dark Materials books, which he did like (I hated them -- could barely stand to finish the last, where he engineers a totally unnecessary unhappy ending).
(Edit -- I did like Pullman's exobiology, with the biological invention or adaptation to using a wheel)

Sat, 25 Oct 2008 11:49:00 UTC | #257639

Go to: Countdown: Palin Wants To Help Special Needs Kids By Doing Away With Science

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 34 by AmericanGodless

Drosophilistinism -- Marvelous word.

Reminds me of when, 40 years ago, I described to my Mother my doctoral thesis work on the DNA replication in a bacterial virus. "But why would anyone be interested in the DNA of a virus?" she asked. "Because the same mechanisms will probably be at work in the cells of a human being," I answered, "since the bacteria, the virus, and we humans all evolved together from the same original life forms." "So you believe in evolution?" "Mom, of course I do. I am a biologist, and evolution is the most powerful tool we have for understanding how living things work!" "Well. Maybe you're related to monkeys, but not me." I never asked whether she really meant what it sounded like she was saying about my Father.

Sat, 25 Oct 2008 11:04:00 UTC | #257592

Go to: Creationists declare war over the brain

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 97 by AmericanGodless

I think latsot and J.C. Samuelson have pointed out the most telling part of this story:

since God "is" consciousness, "the theist has no need to explain how consciousness can come from materials bereft of it. Consciousness is there from the beginning."

Indeed, no need to explain anything, no need for science. And, after all, there is the argument that materialism is self-defeating, anyway: if human thoughts are material, then they could never be perfect, so we could never really know it was material.. and we know thought is perfect because it comes from God.. and so goddidit, 'cause if he didn't we couldn't be sure goddidit.. and we're sure, so there.

EDIT: -- Hmm.. Now that they've moved the argument from evolution (a historic process of populations) to consciousness (an ongoing process for individuals), perhaps it should be "goddoesit" instead of "goddidit".

Thu, 23 Oct 2008 05:58:00 UTC | #255984

Go to: Religion vs science: can the divide between God and rationality be reconciled?

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by AmericanGodless

That an article about the history of the warfare of science with theology in Christendom could be written without even a nod to the book of that name (A.D. White) is disappointing. But then it missed out on the two authors who shaped my own scientific atheism in the 60's and 70's, Jaques Monod (Chance and Necessity) and Jacob Bronowski (Ascent of Man, Science and Human Values, The Common Sense of Science, etc).

But it also goes to great lengths without ever mentioning the core point of contention between science and religion: supernaturalism versus naturalism. Not "philosophical naturalism" or "methodological naturalism," but the naturalism that is by now the most tested and confirmed unifying theory in all of science. The supernatural claims of religion have by now been shown by science to be highly improbable, and so Richard, among others, points out that this means that "God almost certainly does not exist." How can any historian or commentator on the subject miss this?

In all of us there will always be a struggle between the craving for certainty, purity and closure and the acceptance of mystery, brokenness and provisionality.
Right. And which is which? I expect the author thinks science is on the side of certainty and closure; Wrong. That is religion. Provisionality is the realm of science. The author of this piece needs a good education in modern scientific epistemology.

Sat, 11 Oct 2008 14:35:00 UTC | #250015

Go to: The real difference between liberals and conservatives

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 53 by AmericanGodless

I do wish I had the URL for the study that claimed that contrary evidence made "conservatives" react in a backlash way. As I said, I don't know how much credence to give it, since there was only some sketchy mention of controls, and the report didn't even give a good idea of how "conservative/liberal" was operationally defined. I am sorry that Fanusi Khiyal finds it irritating that I would mention it, but after all I was only saying that the subject needs more research.

Thanks memphis matt for that link to Harris, who might also be interested in seeing (or doing) such research:

[from http://www.edge.org/discourse/vote_morality.html#harriss]
He (Haidt) admonishes us to get it into our thick heads that many of our neighbors "honestly prefer the Republican vision of a moral order to the one offered by Democrats." ... There are names for this type of "preference," one of the more polite being "ignorance."
[and]
We know from many lines of converging research that our feeling of reasoning objectively, in concordance with compelling evidence, is often an illusion.

What Harris says here adds substance to my concern that there is, within our "moral" discussion, room for questioning the validity of the "reasoning" on which it is supposed to be based. I have never felt that the commonly claimed philosophical separation of "ought" from "is" was justifiable, as it seems an invitation to dogmatists to derive their "oughts" from what "isn't". We need to start from a common notion of how we come to call something true (or even likely true), and that's what science has always been about -- how to catch ourselves and shake ourselves loose when we start believing in the illusion of objectivity we like to construct around both our received knowledge and our new conjectures. Science is not independent of moral judgments; to even try to do science IS a moral judgment.

Fri, 19 Sep 2008 09:55:00 UTC | #237239