Monday, April 16, 2012

Who's really doing the science?

Is if Francis Collins, or the Gnu leaders? Find out here. 

HT: Bilbo.

61 comments:

mattghg said...

Ha

B. Prokop said...

I see this all the time right on your very own website, Victor. So many of the militant atheist posters here, such as Loftus or Papalinton, have no scientific background whatsoever. Yet they spout endlessly about how they are guided by "science" in their supposedly superior worldview.

When pressed, and it's pointed out to them that there are a multitude of scientists who are also theists (gasp! even Christians!) they dismiss such evidence as "anecdotal".

In my own case, when I devastated Loftus with my own scientific credentials, he could only respond that I was living in "2 parallel worlds". Yet all the time it is Loftus who has needlessly and senselessly divided truth into two non-existent camps, whereas orthodox Christians follow Aquinas in proclaiming that Truth is One.

Matt DeStefano said...

Conveniently, whoever this author is ignores the fact that Dawkins, Harris, PZ, and Coyne are popular authors who don't really attempt to "publish papers" but are far more interested in public advocacy.

It's comparing apples to oranges. Of course, the author knows this, and if they were being fair they would have compared Collins to another "Gnu": Daniel Dennett (400+ articles, 15+ books).

Not that any of this is relevant - ability to publish papers has no bearing on "knowledge contributed to science" (after all, # of papers =/= amount of knowledge), and certainly not on the validity of one's views about the nature of the scientific enterprise itself.

Jake Elwood XVI said...

@Bob

I remember having a series of debates with a guy using the moniker CASEwithScience. The irony was this guy was a lawyer who with no tertiary training in science. Though he did get 1st class bands in Chemistry, Physics, Maths B and Information Processing and Technology during high school.
Also, he does work in the field of research contracts and intellectual property for a University.

@Matt

I think the case can be argued about the value judgement on the contribution made, i.e. "knowledge contributed to science"

I think though there are numerous issues about what is Science. Without more evidence it does look like to me they are not really doing Science anymore. As people like Papa are want to say when a Scientist or Philosopher are make an argument for Theism, they are know in the realm of Apologetics and this is bad. Now as you put it, 'public advocacy' seems to be sounds like evangelism and apologetics for an Atheistic world view. And as such it seems a bit much when the likes of Dawkins, et al have a go at Frances Collins because his Christianity might affect his doing Science. Because the numbers of articles look likes he does a lot more Science then them.

Obviously we can argue about the how much this has contributed to the field of Science.

I think you make a good point about bringing up Dennett. I wonder what he has had to say about Frances Collins?

grodrigues said...

@Matt DeStefano:

"Not that any of this is relevant - ability to publish papers has no bearing on "knowledge contributed to science""

You should tell that to every single funding agency (from private foundations to university departments) as they seem to have not received the memo yet -- published papers, in quantity and quality, is the most important metric to gauge the contribution of a scientist.

"and certainly not on the validity of one's views about the nature of the scientific enterprise itself."

That is also true of Dawkins, Harris, Myers and Coyne. And while the publishing record does not certify the validity of one's views on the scientific enterprise, it certainly does not hurt, so everything else being equal, Collins is still better off.

Victor Reppert said...

To make things worse, the New Atheist figures seem to oppose Collins' appointments to positions of leadership based on his religious views. This is a highly dangerous precedent, in that it is one of the great foundations of the success of science that scientists can get together in the scientific community and do science without having to agree on such things as religion. Why these animadversions should not be identified as anything better than a witch hunt is beyond my comprehension. If you say that only people who should be leading the pursuit of scientific knowledge are those with an adequately "scientific" world view, then science will be hopelessly compromised.

Matt DeStefano said...

"And as such it seems a bit much when the likes of Dawkins, et al have a go at Frances Collins because his Christianity might affect his doing Science. Because the numbers of articles look likes he does a lot more Science then them."

Agreed. Although I can't read Harris's mind, I think we can take his overall point as more of a systemic one: if those in charge of deciding what we research pu some areas of human endeavor off limits (i.e. morality doesn't have a biological basis, etc.).

"I think you make a good point about bringing up Dennett. I wonder what he has had to say about Frances Collins?"

There was a talk between Dennett, Dawkins, Collins and Carson about the relationship between science and faith. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPxGnN7RV1Y)

I don't think he's remarked specifically about Collins being appointed to the NIH.

"You should tell that to every single funding agency (from private foundations to university departments) as they seem to have not received the memo yet -- published papers, in quantity and quality, is the most important metric to gauge the contribution of a scientist."

Of course, if "quality" is one of the assessment metrics they use - then that's fine and dandy. But that wasn't the issue in this blog. They just said "Look how many more papers Collins has published! He's smarter than those Gnus!"

They also happened to chose "Gnus" that weren't actually scientists - but as I pointed out, Dennett has published more than Collins.

"That is also true of Dawkins, Harris, Myers and Coyne. And while the publishing record does not certify the validity of one's views on the scientific enterprise, it certainly does not hurt, so everything else being equal, Collins is still better off."

The whole debate is whether or not "everything else [is] equal". Obviously if we hold constant all other variables besides publishing, then Collins "is better off". But that's trivially true and hardly the point the original blog post was making.

Matt DeStefano said...

Oops - my first response should read:

"if those in charge of deciding what we research pu[t] some areas of human endeavor off limits (i.e. morality doesn't have a biological basis, etc.) , this is a bad thing for science.

Tony Hoffman said...

Firstly,isn’t the better indication of scientific contribution the number of other scientific papers that attribute or refer to your work in their papers? At least I think that’s what scientists are most impressed by when they view a professional legacy.

Secondly, you prove the point against yourself by trumpeting this most unscientific of methods (an arbitrary and meaninglessly small sample) to bolster an argument that your pet group is more scientific.

There are other things here that are funny, but those are the two that leaped out first.

Tony Hoffman said...

Oh, by the way, roughly 93% of the world's professional scientists are atheists. And the vast majority of the population are theists. So, I think that answers the question of who's really doing the science, if you want to draw that line.

Karl Grant said...

Matt,

Conveniently, whoever this author is ignores the fact that Dawkins, Harris, PZ, and Coyne are popular authors who don't really attempt to "publish papers" but are far more interested in public advocacy.

But they do publish papers. Wikipedia has a nice little list of academic papers published by Dawkins. So I think it is a valid comparison.

Tony,

you prove the point against yourself by trumpeting this most unscientific of methods (an arbitrary and meaninglessly small sample) to bolster an argument that your pet group is more scientific.

If this is the case, why don't you speak out when atheists do it? To take just one example on this blog, Papa is a definite repeat offender of using "an arbitrary and meaninglessly small sample to bolster an argument that his pet group (atheists) is more scientific." Yet, I have never seen you once reprimand him. Odd.

Karl Grant said...

Tony,

Oh, by the way, roughly 93% of the world's professional scientists are atheists. And the vast majority of the population are theists. So, I think that answers the question of who's really doing the science, if you want to draw that line.

May we see your source for this percentage? Because according to the Pew Research Center a majority of scientists (51%) say they believe in God or a higher power, while 41% say they do not.

Or a recent study by Rice University sociologist Elaine Ecklund finds that Fully half of these top scientists are religious. Only five of the 275 interviewees actively oppose religion. Even among the third who are atheists, many consider themselves "spiritual."

There are many other polls and surveys that point to half or more of the scientists being religious. So where did you get the 93% from?

Matt DeStefano said...

"But they do publish papers. Wikipedia has a nice little list of academic papers published by Dawkins. So I think it is a valid comparison."

Of course, you didn't look at the one which shows his active publications in popular literature and his books. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_publications_by_Richard_Dawkins) It's not a valid comparison because Dawkins isn't interested in leading studies and writing peer-reviewed articles. He's interested in public advocacy (through books or his foundation, etc.) and making a case for atheism/against theism.

A more apt comparison, as I've already said, is Daniel Dennett who has published much more broadly than Collins. None of this really means anything, though, because the number of publications means nothing in terms of "doing the science".

None of this really matters, of course. Having x amount of peer-reviewed articles published really doesn't have much influence on how much "they're doing science". There are much more useful metrics, and certainly better comparisons even in this useless one.

But why should Reppert care about analyzing bad observations when they score points for his own team?

Walter said...

The 93% atheist statistic is from a 1998 survey of members in the National Academy of Sciences.

http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.html

Papalinton said...

Science works. It is the closest proximate humanity has in discovering the 'truth' in its truest form. Christian theism is a marginal proposition when dealing with truth and reality. Christian theism has no more chance of being right than guessing.

Let's face it, the substance of this OP is just another obscurantist ploy of the bible crazies to muddy the waters. Francis Collins may well have produced 300+ scientific papers, and good for him, I say. At least he has contributed substantially to humanity's story. A little reminder though, almost all, if not all of this work was produced when he was an atheist. It was only very late in his life that he turned to theism. The production of his scientific work has no direct causal link of his beliefs. It is unambiguously clear the circumstances for his 'conversion' was a function of the realisation of his own mortality and the utterly tenuous nature of the supposed grip we have on life, ever so contrary to the illusion that we are so egocentrically special, deserving of perpetual existence. Collins simply did not have the emotional, psychological and mental fortitude to face head-on and vanquish the inner demons of the reality and inevitability of his death. He is emotionally in great need of the salvific placebo of a father figure to assuage his fears. It is a very common feature of the elderly to grasp something, anything, as in their frailty their faculties wane. And surprisingly, I have no issue whatever about this tendency. I say each to their own. But it must be remembered such circumstances can never be regarded as anything other than as a placebo, the mind conjuring a cocoon of stability and steadfastness for those of weaker minds incapable of understanding or appreciating the incomparable nature of their own mortality and the joy of their own short lives. Heaven, hell, god are all figments, a clever mind-over-matter game, a somewhat childish and unsophisticated response, that helps to mask the reality of death. Even the christian celebration and joyousness of imagining living alongside god in perpetuity is just another soft option version of the jejune mind games we play on ourselves, thinking, imagining that we have 'cheated' death.

In response to Collins' scientific opus, the real indication of scientific contribution as Tony Hoffman correctly notes is the number of other scientific papers that attribute or refer to your work in their papers that is the clincher in terms of the impact and seminal nature of the work produced. It is without doubt, Professor Dawkins' contribution to scientific inquiry is without parallel in that for the past 20-30 years, his scientific papers that underpin his book, "The Selfish Gene", has been essential reading and the quintessential bible on genetic inquiry. The book is ubiquitous to an understanding of the role of genes and gene expression in living organisms.

And just a reminder, Collins did all his scientific work well before he became a woomeister.
But he is a brilliant man, no doubt about it. just misguided and a little soft in emotional resolve.

Karl Grant said...

Matt,

Dawkins isn't interested in leading studies and writing peer-reviewed articles. He's interested in public advocacy (through books or his foundation, etc.) and making a case for atheism/against theism.

True, but the fact still remains he has published studies and writing peer-reviewed articles. If those don't count we can also discard Dennett's work because he is, too, interested in public advocacy for his beliefs.

None of this really means anything, though, because the number of publications means nothing in terms of "doing the science"

Oh I agree, I just took issue with the fact that you suggested that these authors don't really attempt to "publish papers" when they do. Dawkins maybe an Evangelist for atheism but I am willing to bet he can tell you off the top of his head how many articles he's had published in peer-reviewed journals.

But why should Reppert care about analyzing bad observations when they score points for his own team?

Did you ever think that Dr. Reppert is trying to force some commentators on this blog to exam their own arguments by using ones similar to what they regularly use against their own positions? Because some atheists on this blog are very prone to count coup when it comes to shoring up their world-view.

Walter,

Thank you for the link. I am curious to know what criteria exactly was used to classify someone as a ''great'' scientist. And I think it's interesting to note the percentages are much close to even when the ''non-great'' scientists are included in the survey.

BenYachov said...

>The 93% atheist statistic is from a 1998 survey of members in the National Academy of Sciences.

>http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.html

But Walter you know how fluid the definition of "Atheist" is among activist Atheist types?

You can be defined as an "Atheist" because you are skeptical about Christianity & revelation.

Agnostics have been counted as "Atheists" if you go by the definition of "Lack of god-belief".

These days to make it easier for Dawkins to debate he has been denying he is an "Atheist" because he rates himself a "6" on a scale of 7.

So I would take the 93% with a grain of salt.

Walter said...

So I would take the 93% with a grain of salt.


According to the survey, only 7% believed in a personal god, but that does not necessarily mean that the other 93% were strict naturalists.

Jake Elwood XVI said...

I think the point needs to come back a little.

There have been accusations that because Francis Collins is a Christian Theist then he is harmful to Science. If we look at his contribution of peer reviewed articles then its seems he has contributed a lot and as such how can he be a harm? Ironically when you look at those making the accusation its from mostly from Public Advocates with a science background that have less peer reviewed articles.

Now we can debate over the scientific worth of said articles, and even their contribution to the field of science, but it seems a little insincere to not highlight these public advocates posturing, about the worth of Francis Collins' scientific work do not look silly when they do so with less peer reviewed article. If they had big well known theory like Singularity Theory or had worked on a big scientific endeavour like the Genome Project they would at least not have the possibility of being charged with hypocrisy.

It seems they do so out of a desire to push there particular atheist world view and use 'Science' to do so.

Now Matt and Tony you are right to point out that the lit review may not be adequate but at an immediate level it does highlight that these people are more as Matt puts it, Public Advocates, then scientist. However the problem then becomes what attitude are we meant to take to that. If a theist is a public advocate they, as Papalinton would say are apologist with nothing to offer.

I guess it boils down to the question. What do you feel about these public advocates proclaiming that Francis Collins is a harm to science?

Victor Reppert said...

That NAS study sure gets a lot of airplay. How the questions were worded might cause quite a variation. Einstein, for example, could fall on either side depending on what he thought you meant by the word "God."

Ephram said...

Dawkins, Harris, Myers, Coyne, and Co. are first and foremost opposed to Collins not because he is "anti-science," but rather because he is simply not an atheist. And since they dogmatically believe that science and atheism are inextricably linked at a conceptual level, they therefore conclude that he must necessarily be against science. In their minds, the only modern scientists truly worth their salt are atheists.

And this - to use their language - makes them the real enemies of Reason.

Matt DeStefano said...

@ Jake

That's a good point. The criticism about Collins' appointment to the NIH was mostly driven by Harris (I'm not sure if the others mentioned on that blog chimed in or not). He originally wrote a NYT Op-Ed piece, and a subsequent longer article which he published on his blog. The full text is here: http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/the-strange-case-of-francis-collins

It's not exactly the witch-hunt that the sensationalism makes it out to be, but Harris clearly has reservations about his ethical stances and his ability to actually discern between religious thinking and scientific thinking.

Matt said...

I didn't see the linked post as an argument against atheism but a response to the critics of Francis Collins. The men who are being compared to him have said very uncharitable things about him and what he may do to science so comparing an actual measurement of what has been done for science from all of those men seemed appropriate to me. Any arguments outside of "Francis Collin's faith has not impacted his ability to do science" are not meaningful. Perhaps this could be used to argue that the Gnu's activism has impeded their ability to do science but I wouldn't bet any money on being able to prove that.

Crude said...

I'm noticing that everyone here is focusing on the statistics that post provides - worthy stuff, certainly - but what prompted Mike to turn to those statistics is worth noting too:

Coyne has accused Collins of being an “embarrassment to the NIH, to scientists, and, indeed, to all rational people” and an “advocate of profoundly anti-scientific beliefs.” Myers calls him a “creationist dupe arguing against scientific theories” and “an amiable lightweight” who doesn’t know how to think like a scientist.

In other words, Coyne, Myers and (as others have noted) Harris opened this salvo on Collins, implying he's a poor example of a scientist.

Another from Mike, commenting in the post previous to the one under discussion:

Me thinks you miss the irony. The guy who leads the movement that seeks to disparage religious scientists has actually produced less new scientific knowledge than the guy they viciously attack. Your ho hum attitude about this suggests you do not truly value scientific knowledge in of itself.

By the way, I love the suggestion that these guys - Coyne in particular - aren't really interested in doing scientific research or 'doing science' much at all, but are more 'popular writers' engaged in public advocacy. I would absolutely love to see them admit this. Coyne in particular, who (compared to the others) only recently really started in on this subject.

But I like that line. These guys are so concerned about science that they hardly ever do it. It's much more important to, uh...

Blog. ;)

Papalinton said...

"I guess it boils down to the question. What do you feel about these public advocates proclaiming that Francis Collins is a harm to science?"

Because there is no possible way of determining whether a decision Collins makes on a matter of public importance, which he is duly charged to do, is made on the basis of the best available scientific evidence or whether his predisposition to superstitious woo was instrumental in or an influence on the determination. The impact on and his responsibility to the broader community is far greater than to arrive at a decision on the basis of personal unreason driven religious proclivities. How would one be assured that such a temptation would not arise? How would one's concern, for those not of Collins' faith, and their attendant fears be assuaged of any conflict of interest in undertaking the commitment to all members of society? How does one ensure no conflict of interest arises? This assurance would be of absolute and fundamental importance, particularly in relation to those emotively charged areas of public policy as exampled through fetal stem-cell research, and matters of women's reproductive health.

Therein lies the harm. One simply can not know on what basis Collins' would make these far reaching decisions, to appease the stultified conscience of the christian theist mind, or to benefit humankind going forward.

Jake Elwood XVI said...

sorry part of my 2nd paragraph should have read the opposite

work do look silly

@Matt
it seems this is a debate over Philosophy of Science, of what science can can't do.
I can see Harris is not arguing without reasons for his position but the amount of weight that he put on having religious beliefs for making Francis Collins a poor choice still seems to me to continue to reflect an attitude that seeks to further a just keeping out religious beliefs from the public square but keeping the the believers themselves out.

Which is frustratingly amusing because returning to my take on the OP these public advocates are as much in to bringing their beliefs, (Well they are no longer doing science) to the public square as those they proclaim against.

Jake Elwood XVI said...

@Crude

Therein lies the harm that Coyne, Myers bring to Science. No longer is a Scientist to be judge by the scientific work they produce but what they believe. They seek to appease the stultified conscience of the fundamental atheist mind, rather then the benefit humanity going forward.

Papalinton said...

"Einstein, for example, could fall on either side depending on what he thought you meant by the word "God.""

No, Victor. This is not it. This is weazel-wording at its worst. The undisciplined looseness of such an utterance does not contribute one jot to maintaining and sustaining one's philosophical credibility. The correct wording is: "Einstein, for example, could fall on either side depending on what YOU thought HE meant by the word "God.""

Einstein never fell on the side of 'interventionist theism', ever. He never equivocated on his stance about christian theism. He made it very plain that his god was a euphemism, an expression of the wonder of the universe or the wonder of physics, not some spectral timeless non-entity that created the universe. The very best that an disingenuous christian can make of Einstein is to accuse him of pantheism, if anything. Such misconstrual is a distinct and identifiable pathology of theist thought patterns.

From: http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Pantheism
"Pantheists such as these [Some notable pantheists include Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Georg Hegel, Plotinus and Alan Watts]
often use the term 'God' as a metaphor for nature, the universe, or for as-of-yet unexplained aspects of physics. Some quotes have been misinterpreted and taken out of context by theists, possibly deliberately, to support an argument from authority.
For example, in support of their beliefs, many Christians quote Einstein when he said, "Subtle is the Lord, but malicious He is not" and "God does not play dice with the universe."
There are three problems with this argument:
In both cases Einstein meant 'Lord' or 'God' as a metaphor for some aspect of nature, not in the sense of a supernatural being.
In using this argument, theists fail to make the connection between Einstein's beliefs and the god they are trying to represent. Einstein was quite clear that he did not believe in a personal god who interferes with or cares about humanity. Saying that Einstein believed in god, when the theist believes in a god with vastly different qualities and intentions, lends no more support to their point than saying Einstein believed in Zeus.
Even if Einstein did believe in a personal God, the same one as the theist quoting him believes in, this would amount only to an argument from authority. What Einstein wrote about any subject, even physics, is not gospel. His views on physics are held by modern scientists only insofar as they are supported by evidence. His beliefs about any god are irrelevant."

Papalinton said...

"Jake Elwood XVI said...
@Crude

Therein lies the harm that Coyne, Myers bring to Science. No longer is a Scientist to be judge by the scientific work they produce but what they believe. They seek to appease the stultified conscience of the fundamental atheist mind, rather then the benefit humanity going forward."

Surely you can garner and rub two moribund brain cells together to create a spark of originality. Or perhaps you relish the resort to defaulting to the theist's predilection for parroting, especially that which amounts solely to an argument from authority.

Christian theism = infantilism

Crude said...

Jake,

Therein lies the harm that Coyne, Myers bring to Science. No longer is a Scientist to be judge by the scientific work they produce but what they believe. They seek to appease the stultified conscience of the fundamental atheist mind, rather then the benefit humanity going forward.

Yeah, we've seen this before too. Lysenkoism, for starters. Y'ever notice how freethinkers tend to be some of the most clannish tribals around?

Though I absolutely love how one of the main defenses of the Cult of Gnu leadership here was 'Well Dawkins, Coyne, Myers and Harris aren't REALLY scientists anyway. They just popularize stuff!' Talk about jumping the freaking shark.

Matt DeStefano said...

Jake,

"I can see Harris is not arguing without reasons for his position but the amount of weight that he put on having religious beliefs for making Francis Collins a poor choice still seems to me to continue to reflect an attitude that seeks to further a just keeping out religious beliefs from the public square but keeping the the believers themselves out."

I don't see this type of criticism leveled at Collins in Harris's post. Could you perhaps quote the sections you feel portray this sort of attitude?

It seems to me Harris is worried that Collins inability to falsify his own religious beliefs (which also influence things like free-will, morality, etc.) will make him bad at differentiating between personal belief and science. He gives concrete examples where he thinks that Collins has already done this (w/r/t fetuses, etc.).

Jake Elwood XVI said...

@Matt D

"I don't see this type of criticism leveled at Collins in Harris's post. Could you perhaps quote the sections you feel portray this sort of attitude?"

No you are right*. I took my conclusion too far for what Harris has said and mixed it up with the quotes I was reading from Crude. No excuses there.

*I want to say in part. Its the last quote and the talk on the resurrection of Jesus. Its chronological snobbery of it. Its other parts but I need to do a more work on it, which I don't have the particular skills for.

Obviously we can disagree on stem cell research and about when life may or may not begin. These seem to philosophical argument that may or not use science to support a particular conclusion.

Jake Elwood XVI said...

@Papa
Surely you can garner and rub two moribund brain cells together to create a spark of originality. Or perhaps you relish the resort to defaulting to the theist's predilection for parroting, especially that which amounts solely to an argument from authority.

Christian theism = infantilism


Papa you seem a little touchy there. I was an engineer, I don't think any brain cells escaped alive from uni.

Maybe I should explain why I am doing it.

I often see your comments as merely blustery verbose bravado. As an Australia who enjoys sport and the psychological minds games of pleasantries* that goes along with it, I appreciate your style. However for the sake of actually arguing for something there not even that good, they are really just your unsubstantiated opinions and they are not even that good. This last part can be seen when by simply quotes it back but changes the target.

Much like
"You're %^#?head"
"No, You're %^#?head"

Yes the reply is childish but so was the original comment.

P.S. Mr Wilson where you an English teacher?

*For our American audience more colloquially referred to as 'sledging' and which I think you guys might see it as trash talk but its so much more.

Karl Grant said...

Dr. Reppert,

That NAS study sure gets a lot of airplay. How the questions were worded might cause quite a variation. Einstein, for example, could fall on either side depending on what he thought you meant by the word "God."

Sociologist Rodney Stark did some writing Leuba's work. He gives the questions that were on the survey and points out that Leuba's standard for belief in God is so stringent it would exclude a major portion of mainline clergy.

Karl Grant said...

Should have been writing on Leuba's work. Doesn't pay to multitask.

Emanuel Goldstein said...

Its hilarious that people like Loftus are always telling us what "science says"...when they have no training in science...and that "science works", when in it fact gives us no guidance on ethics or how to deal with its own procucts, like Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Science works? Depends on what you mean. It has given us the means to destroy ourselves, but not the means to deal with the problems it has created.

Papalinton said...

Jake
"Papa you seem a little touchy there. I was an engineer, I don't think any brain cells escaped alive from uni."

Two things. I like the expressive style of your response and you are correct, no brain cell worth its salt should ever escape alive from uni. But the notion of touchiness is diametric to that of my perspective.

They say that mimicking is a form of acknowledged praise. And I thank you for that acknowledgement. All that I write is only considered unsubstantiated and opinionated by those that are not widely read. The ultra narrow band of christian theism simply cannot reflect the broader and consistent narrative that is emerging, and the synonymity of message emanating from as diverse a range of scholarly disciplines as history, the physical sciences, anthropology, literature, art, the media; from sociology, psychology and the neurosciences, etc etc. Invariably, the state of public debate today unequivocally demonstrates that it is religion, and more particularly though not exclusively, christian theism that is at the cross roads. It is christianity that is playing the odd man out. It is christianity that is self-isolating.

No longer are people prepared to compliantly acquiesce in abject deference, and unwittingly accord the church the thoroughly unearned status of central core around which the community revolves. No longer is this model of society considered or accepted as the standard. Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada among many, are societies that are voting with their feet demonstrating that religion is both an unnecessary and an unwarranted intrusion into good governance and proper civil authority. People have grown mightily weary of the perpetual nonsense that has dominated and ruled lives for millennia. Only through the partnership of scientific inquiry and secular humanism has improvement in and the flourishing of the human condition shown remarkable advance, a period of development that in and of itself is a very recent phenomenon, following the two-millennia moribund hiatus in christian scholarship.

Science has invariably swept away many of the fundamental claims once made by christian theism, about man, about society, about the world, about the universe, and even about gods. Science has invariably stripped away much of the superstition endemic to religion, demon possession now known to be epilepsy or schizophrenia, thunder and lightning now known as a function of static electricity rather than god's anger, tsunamis and earthquakes now known to be a function of plate tectonics rather than the wrath of a slighted god.

Equally, so too has evolutionary biology decidedly consigned Adam and Eve to the backblocks of mythos and allegory, as indeed has physics, astronomy and cosmology consigned the whole of the creation story of Genesis to the shelves of mythology. Increasingly, no longer is the genetic happenstance of homosexuality to be treated as an 'abomination in the eyes of God'. Christian theism has lost bigtime on that one despite the fact that the petulant and misogyny-driven catholic church in Australia is now running a rearguard action to prevent legislative changes allowing single-sex marriages to proceed. It will lose of course, as should all organisations that promulgate institutional anti-social behaviour.

Interestingly, without a literal Adam and Eve, there can be no literal interpretation of 'original sin' as once so openly and fervently understood. And with 'original sin' now but an emaciated and trembling shadow of its former incantatory self, the sublime irony of a jesus dying needlessly on a cross, a killing justified purely on the strength of an allegory, as an act of propitiation for all of humanity's previous sins, is a dog of a myth.

Adherence to such belief is not only irrational and preposterous, it is also symptomatic of psychotypal behaviour.
I wish there were a gentler way to broaching the subject but there is not.

B. Prokop said...

"It is Christianity that is self-isolating."

Really now? And you can say this with a straight face when it is you who have isolated yourself from the inestimable wealth of Christian thought, whilst all those poor, benighted scientifically-literate and culturally-diverse Christians, who espouse (nay, who proclaim) the Oneness of Truth, can joyfully and fruitfully embrace all those disciplines you listed (all branches of the One Truth, every one of them)... plus enjoy the benefits from soaking in the wisdom of Dante, Giotto, C.S. Lewis, Andrej Rublev, Hildegard of Bingen, Dorothy Day... etc., etc.

Just who is the isolated one here? I think the answer is screamingly obvious.

By the way, I applaud you for placing literature and the arts on your list. Could you please help me out here by naming just one or two of these great works of atheist art and literature for us to admire and learn from? (Hint: I provided a list of my own just a few postings back (April 12, 2012 7:49 AM, under the thread A Defense of the First and Second Ways. I'll leave to you to add to that list.)

Emanuel Goldstein said...

Papalinton, what are your academic qualifications in Math and Science?

After all, if you are going to preach that we should listen to science...even though it has reached a point where it threatens as much as if offers...we should know.

After all, maybe you are just talking out of your ass.

Its not like you don't have an agenda, now is it?

Papalinton said...

"Really now? And you can say this with a straight face when it is you who have isolated yourself from the inestimable wealth of Christian thought, ...."

Like what? Like homosexuality is "an abomination in the eyes of god", or "homosex is a cardinal sin"? That pederasty and pedophilia is not a crime but a sin, punishable by penance, a few 'Hail Marys' on the rosary beads, and a reposting to a different and unsuspecting community?
As I noted in an earlier comment: "Christian theism has lost bigtime on that one despite the fact that the petulant and misogyny-driven catholic church in Australia is now running a rearguard action to prevent legislative changes allowing single-sex marriages to proceed. It will lose of course, as should all organisations that promulgate institutional anti-social behaviour."
The inestimable wealth of christian thought, indeed.

There is no doubt christian theism is on the wane in the Western world. The surveys tell us that. Census data tell us that. Statistics tell us that. You may deny the evidence for the quantum shift in public sentiment but you can't destroy it. Truth will always out. The christian lie has been exposed. Christian corporations are not about the truth, they are about power and influence. The Southern Baptist Convention, the Roman Catholic corporation, are similar to Multinational Cigarette Corporations, in the context of the products they peddle. They offer products for which the benefits are both illusory, both addictive, both habitual, both are clinically recorded as exacerbating instability, imbalance and both are injurious not only to the health of the person but to the health of the community and the world, generally.

Many of you will say that religion provides a positive benefit to the person. And yes there are benefits to be had at the individual level. I am sure that those in the inner circle of the al-Basheer regime in Syria also feel the calming effect and the absolute rightness of their personal situation regardless of the rest of the country. And just as the positive benefits of smoking may result in the calming of nerves, a quietening of the mind, a clarity of thought, on balance, the negative effects of organizational christian theism far outweighs, far exceeds, far outstrips the positive effects in the community. And this is on the record and showing up in the research.

Tony Hoffman said...

J Elwood: "I guess it boils down to the question. What do you feel about these public advocates proclaiming that Francis Collins is a harm to science?"

Well, the question of what public advocates we're talking about and the extent that they have done as you describe aside, I absolutely think that the concern regarding Collins appointment as the head of the NIH is valid and important.

The question could be about what kind of beliefs contribute and interfere with science, and whether or not metaphysical beliefs necessarily interfere with one's scientific investigation. I think that everyone should agree that metaphysical beliefs do not necessarily interfere with particular scientific investigations, but that does not mean that some person's metaphysical beliefs have not interfered with the practice of science. And that is the rub. (Any Christian apologist here who denies that some Christians have resisted scientific understanding because they thought it conflicts with their understanding of Scripture, please go rant somewhere else.)

I think that the popularly known atheists wondering aloud whether or not Collins is a good choice to steward the NIH has two parts: do Collins religious convictions interfere with how he chooses to promote scientific investigation in his role as head of the NIH? and does Collins' appointment as head of the NIH open the door to the religious who would like to portray science as subservient to their particular religion? (If the head of the NIH puts what I tell you God says about reality above scientific knowledge, so should you!)

I think the most interesting thing about Collins is that he's kind of like a Trojan Horse or double (might be triple!) agent. I think it's entirely possible (although way too conspiratorial for my tastes) that Collins was made the head of the NIH, and atheists decried the appointment, as a kind of sop and Kabuki theater for the religious who are offended by what it is the NIH actually does.

Papalinton said...

Emanuel Goldstein
"Its not like you don't have an agenda, now is it?"

Of course I have an agenda. Who doesn't? Mine is in the defense of reason and literal truth, that which can best be confirmed by the evidence or that which can be inferred from the evidence. No woo for me, I'm afraid. I had my 20+ year stint as an ardent apologist. I am convinced that it is more likely, on the balance of probabilities, that Naturalism is the foundational precept around which all human activity is conducted.

But of interest to me is that which you seem to have uncomfortably glossed over. What is your argument against the following?:

"No longer are people prepared to compliantly acquiesce in abject deference, and unwittingly accord the church the thoroughly unearned status of central core around which the community revolves. No longer is this model of society considered or accepted as the standard. Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada among many, are societies that are voting with their feet demonstrating that religion is both an unnecessary and an unwarranted intrusion into good governance and proper civil authority. People have grown mightily weary of the perpetual nonsense that has dominated and ruled lives for millennia. Only through the partnership of scientific inquiry and secular humanism has improvement in and the flourishing of the human condition shown remarkable advance, a period of development that in and of itself is a very recent phenomenon, following the two-millennia moribund hiatus in christian scholarship.

Science has invariably swept away many of the fundamental claims once made by christian theism, about man, about society, about the world, about the universe, and even about gods. Science has invariably stripped away much of the superstition endemic to religion, demon possession now known to be epilepsy or schizophrenia, thunder and lightning now known as a function of static electricity rather than god's anger, tsunamis and earthquakes now known to be a function of plate tectonics rather than the wrath of a slighted god.

Equally, so too has evolutionary biology decidedly consigned Adam and Eve to the backblocks of mythos and allegory, as indeed has physics, astronomy and cosmology consigned the whole of the creation story of Genesis to the shelves of mythology. Increasingly, no longer is the genetic happenstance of homosexuality to be treated as an 'abomination in the eyes of God'. Christian theism has lost bigtime on that one despite the fact that the petulant and misogyny-driven catholic church in Australia is now running a rearguard action to prevent legislative changes allowing single-sex marriages to proceed. It will lose of course, as should all organisations that promulgate institutional anti-social behaviour.

Interestingly, without a literal Adam and Eve, there can be no literal interpretation of 'original sin' as once so openly and fervently understood. And with 'original sin' now but an emaciated and trembling shadow of its former incantatory self, the sublime irony of a jesus dying needlessly on a cross, a killing justified purely on the strength of an allegory, as an act of propitiation for all of humanity's previous sins, is a dog of a myth.

Adherence to such belief is not only irrational and preposterous, it is also symptomatic of psychotypal behaviour.
I wish there were a gentler way to broaching the subject but there is not.

B. Prokop said...

"Adherence to such belief is not only irrational and preposterous, it is also symptomatic of psychotypal behaviour."

From Stalinism as a Civilization by Stephen Kotkin, University of California Press, pp. 225-6. "Marxism-Leninism ... spoke the language of science. ... the scientific nature of the ideology remained one of its principal strengths. Marxism-Leninism posited that history was governed by scientific laws and that the existing regime embodied those laws. Thus, it was irrational - even psychopathic - to oppose the regime."

Don't say we haven't been warned.

Karl Grant said...

Tony,

The question could be about what kind of beliefs contribute and interfere with science, and whether or not metaphysical beliefs necessarily interfere with one's scientific investigation.

Good question, let's take a look at some atheist scientists and see if it applies. Well, we have Meyers and Dawkins both on record as saying they would remain skeptical about the existence of God even if a 15ft Jesus stood in front of them and boomed "I exist!" We have Meyers stating thatThere is no valid god hypothesis, so there can be no god evidence, so let’s stop pretending the believers have a shot at persuading us. Futhermore,Dawkins says that if a statue of the virgin waved at you, it would be caused by the extremely unlikely natural movement of the atoms in her arm and not by a divine miracle.

Now Tony, I don't know if you realize this but Meyers and Dawkins only claim to authority is their scientific training on how to rationally and objectively examine and handle the evidence. Yet, we have both on record (and multiple times at that) stating that they are putting theory before evidence. Anybody who knows anything about science or the history of science knows that is a very big No-No. We have plenty of examples of where scientists' adherence to pet theories caused them to preclude evidence (Semmelweis and antiseptic procedures, Wegener and plate tectonics, Lysenkoism, etc...)and every time it bit mainstream science in the ass.

Papalinton said...

"Don't say we haven't been warned."

Absolutely correct. Scientism would be a bad outcome for society as demonstrated by Communist rule in the USSR. Equally, the community is now being warned of the very real downside of religious superstitious supernaturalism. If religion cannot stop wars, fighting, and even the ethics and moral law of catholicism failed to combat pedophilia and pederasty deep within its own ranks, is a testament to the emptiness and desolate

On consideration of the evidence of history and the findings of scientific inquiry, laying the foundation of the broader perspective of naturalism while remaining mindful of the fundamentals and principles consistent with secular humanism, provides the best chance for humanity to flourish going forward. The trend is palpable.

Jim S. said...

Dennett is a philosopher not a scientist. I'm sure some of his stuff crosses over from philosophy of mind to neuroscience since the border can be pretty blurry, but technically he's a philosopher. So I don't think we can just throw a blanket over his numerous publications and say they count as scientific publications in that sense since most of them should be treated as philosophy, not science.

B. Prokop said...

Slippery as an eel (or perhaps the analogy should be "as evasive as a child caught with slingshot in hand next to a freshly broken window"), Paplinton tries to slide out from under the responsibility of his very own words.

It was not some faceless advocate of "scientism" who labeled believers as psychotic, but Papalinton himself. Fresh off of his attendance at a gathering of the successors to the League of the Godless, he imagines he can hide behind a cloak of anonymity in making his charge. But it won't work this time. He cannot escape his culpability, because they are his own unambiguous words.

Indeed, instead of 'fessing up, he boasts of having consorted with people who have advocated bringing charges of child abuse against parents who raise their children in the Faith, with people who raise the spectre of a return to Brezhnev's "Mental Hospitals" for religious beleivers, with people who mistake schoolyard taunts and infantile mockery for logic and reason, with people who endlessly spout off about "science" when they themselves could not integrate e to the x if their life depended on it.

Papalinton said...

Oh Dear
A slide into irrationality and anguished arm-waving. It is somewhat worrying when robust contention is wildly and immoderately characterised as:

'faceless advocate of "scientism"'
'believers as psychotic'
'successors to the League of the Godless'
'hide behind a cloak of anonymity'

'advocated bringing charges of child abuse against parents who raise their children in the Faith'
'with people who raise the spectre of a return to Brezhnev's "Mental Hospitals" for religious believers'
'with people who mistake schoolyard taunts and infantile mockery for logic and reason'

Is this just plain hyperbole or symptomatic of psychotypal behaviour? What is the intent, the motive for such behaviour?

I rest my case.

B. Prokop said...

As do I. We'll leave this one to the jury (or perhaps await the Verdict of History).

Tony Hoffman said...

Me: "The question could be about what kind of beliefs contribute and interfere with science, and whether or not metaphysical beliefs necessarily interfere with one's scientific investigation."

KG: "Good question, let's take a look at some atheist scientists and see if it applies. Well, we have Meyers and Dawkins both on record as saying they would remain skeptical about the existence of God even if a 15ft Jesus stood in front of them and boomed "I exist!" We have Meyers stating thatThere is no valid god hypothesis, so there can be no god evidence, so let’s stop pretending the believers have a shot at persuading us. Futhermore,Dawkins says that if a statue of the virgin waved at you, it would be caused by the extremely unlikely natural movement of the atoms in her arm and not by a divine miracle."

Hmm. Are you suggesting that the God's existence is a scientific fact, or that it is a tenable scientific hypothesis?

KG: "Now Tony, I don't know if you realize this but Meyers and Dawkins only claim to authority is their scientific training on how to rationally and objectively examine and handle the evidence. Yet, we have both on record (and multiple times at that) stating that they are putting theory before evidence."

I don't think you understand scientific theories, nor Dawkins or Meyers, if you imagine that Dawkins and Meyers are putting theory above evidence. In fact, everything they say is pretty much about the importance of, you know, actually having some evidence that confirm one's philosophical musings. So, opposite world, meet Karl Grant. Ah, I see that you two know one another.

KG: "Anybody who knows anything about science or the history of science knows that is a very big No-No. We have plenty of examples of where scientists' adherence to pet theories caused them to preclude evidence (Semmelweis and antiseptic procedures, Wegener and plate tectonics, Lysenkoism, etc...)and every time it bit mainstream science in the ass.

Right, it seems that you are saying that God existence is a scientific theory. How do I misunderstand you if that is not the case?

Karl Grant said...

Tony,

Are you suggesting that the God's existence is a scientific fact, or that it is a tenable scientific hypothesis?

No, I am pointing out that atheist scientists can, and often do, have an ideological bias that prevents them from objectively examining evidence. And as I said earlier, their only claim to authority is their scientific training on how to rationally and objectively examine and handle the evidence. Yet these quotes demonstrate they have no intention to do so. I thought I made that quite clear and it's a little bit of a problem for their credibility, don't you think?

Or in other words, I am talking about double standards. If your going to hold Collins feet to fire for his Christian beliefs and possibility that said beliefs might create an ideological bias that impedes his scientific work you should also hold Dawkins, Meyers, etc... feet to the fire also for demonstrating repeatedly they have an ideological bias and are proud of it.

But something tells me you're not going to.

everything they say is pretty much about the importance of, you know, actually having some evidence that confirm one's philosophical musings.

Really, and how does that square with the fact they are willing to ignore evidence that contradicts there philosophy ("remain skeptical even if a 15ft Jesus stood in front of them and boomed "I exist!"")? So how can you say a sentence like that in the face of the above quotes?

....Oh, I get it. They're your heroes and nothing can tarnish their image.

Karl Grant said...

And, oh Tony, before I forget whither or not I view God's existence as a scientific hypothesis is a moot point (and I don't). What is important is that people like Dawkins, Meyers, Coyne, etc... do view God's existence as a scientific hypothesis. Remember the little quotes like There is no valid god hypothesis in my earlier post? Because you seem to have ignored the implications of that statement because not once do Dawkins or Meyers use the term "philosophical musings" or philosophy anything in said quotes as you suggested. They do use the word hypothesis quite frequently though.

And here we have them proudly proclaiming they will ignore any evidence that supports that hypothesis. Think about that for a few seconds.

Tony Hoffman said...

KG: "No, I am pointing out that atheist scientists can, and often do, have an ideological bias that prevents them from objectively examining evidence. And as I said earlier, their only claim to authority is their scientific training on how to rationally and objectively examine and handle the evidence. Yet these quotes demonstrate they have no intention to do so. I thought I made that quite clear and it's a little bit of a problem for their credibility, don't you think?"

Actually, it's a problem for your credibility that you think that Dawkins et al. should rationally and objectively examine the evidence for something you admit cannot provide it.

It sounds like you're at odds with yourself. I'll leave you to sort that one out.

Jake Elwood XVI said...

@Tony

Wither or not their is evidence is not necessarily the point.

I think your reply to me is salient.


The question could be about what kind of beliefs contribute and interfere with science, and whether or not metaphysical beliefs necessarily interfere with one's scientific investigation. I think that everyone should agree that metaphysical beliefs do not necessarily interfere with particular scientific investigations, but that does not mean that some person's metaphysical beliefs have not interfered with the practice of science. And that is the rub.

Dawkins et al now give the firm impression that their metaphysical beliefs will interfere upon their reasoning and their science and the interpretation that they make from these.

Karl Grant said...

Tony,


Dawkins et al. should rationally and objectively examine the evidence for something you admit cannot provide it.

And where did I say anything about "cannot provide evidence?" I said I don't consider God's existence to be a scientific hypothesis, anymore than I consider your existence or my existence to be a scientific hypothesis. Either way, it's a moot point because as Jake Elwood points out your previous statements have already damned you in this discussion because what you are saying now directly contradicts what you wrote earlier.

Tony Hoffman said...

Jake, how will Dawkins' et al. metaphysical beliefs interfere with their reasoning and their science? Please describe what they are missing and how they are miss it, and how you know they are missing it. Otherwise, to me it just sounds like you are making an unfounded assertion.

KG, I think you should stop trying to write as if you understand science. If you did understand science, you would know that both my existence and yours are completely testable hypotheses. You have, I think, disqualified yourself from further discussion on this topic until you are able to understand the processes by which science works (chiefly, objectivity, reliability, and verifiability).

By the way, I am going to save you the embarrassment of my predicted reply for you, which will be to question my authority to speak on science, and to assert that someone, somewhere, has more authority than me and that I am therefore wrong. But that will, again, show that you don't understand science, and don't understand good argument.

Cheers.

Karl Grant said...

Tony,

Please describe what they are missing and how they are miss it, and how you know they are missing it.

You're either dense or deliberately missing the point. They have already stated their willingness to completely ignore and disregard evidence that points to God's existence multiple times because it would deliberately contradict their beliefs. That's what the links above reference but you can't admit that because that would paint Dawkins and Company in a bad light and the Chosen Ones image cannot be tarnished.

If you did understand science, you would know that both my existence and yours are completely testable hypotheses.....which will be to question my authority to speak on science, and to assert that someone, somewhere, has more authority than me and that I am therefore wrong.

Not really Tony. But since you don't think I understand science-and since I don't want to disappoint your condescending expectations or bruise your predictive ego-I will have Steven Dutch, who is a scientist, explain the problems of trying to scientifically test the existence of a completely natural intelligent being like you and me. Just scroll down to the line:

controlled experiment is out of the question:

if you don't want to read the whole thing. Though I am hesitant to give you that article because your reading comprehensions skills have so far been lacking and it has a lot big words in it.

See I can be a condescending asshole too. Cheers to you too, good buddy.

Tony Hoffman said...

Karl, if you're going to be snide (which I really don't mind), you should try and accompany that tone with being right.

In the article you linked to, and the phrase that you singled out, the writer is testing for " the existence of some rational and extremely powerful supra-human being or beings."

You flatter me.

But thanks for not disappointing me on pulling out the argument from authority (and hat tip for one that doesn't even agree with your argument). I love it when characters play to type.

Karl Grant said...

Tony,

Just trying to be accomadating because when you started making comments like So, opposite world, meet Karl Grant. Ah, I see that you two know one another I figured you wanted a snark fight.

Also the article makes the point that these problems are inherent in trying to test for the existence of any intelligent self-aware being. Steven Dutch makes that quite clear. You flunked reading comphrension didn't you?

And citing an expert to explain the problems inherent in trying to scientifically test the existence of a intelligent self-aware being is not a fallcious argument from athuroity. As this article explains:

As suggested above, not all Appeals to Authority are fallacious. This is fortunate since people have to rely on experts. This is because no one person can be an expert on everything and people do not have the time or ability to investigate every single claim themselves.

In many cases, Arguments from Authority will be good arguments. For example, when a person goes to a skilled doctor and the doctor tells him that he has a cold, then the the patient has good reason to accept the doctor's conclusion. As another example, if a person's computer is acting odd and his friend, who is a computer expert, tells him it is probably his hard drive then he has good reason to believe her.


And I see you are no longer denying that Dawkins and Company have an ideological bias when it comes to handling evidence so thank you for captiluating that point completely.

Anthony Fleming said...

While not having read all the comments I think it important to point out the various cultural influences when it comes to comparing belief systems of scientists.

For example, I love science but I also love theology. When I first became a Christian I learned about this weird false dichotomy between science and religion. When I started taking a real look at the things that science says I found less and less reason for a strict dilemma. Yet, I wonder how many more in the Christian community would strive for the calling of science if this dilemma was not being promoted.

Among the science side, I wonder the same thing. Has it become an attractive thing for atheists? Put another way, has it become an attractive thing for people with certain materialistic metaphysical assumptions?

I read Kenneth Miller's book Finding Darwin's God. I actually learned a lot about evolution I had not previously known and learned to accept certain things with the theory that I had previously rejected. Though I still have similar doubts that Antony Flew had.

Even so, I think that bringing out the 93% of scientists that believe in God does not denote science being "atheistic" but simply "non-theistic." In some ways I think it has become a discipline for the "anti-religious." The sad part is that I think the religious have helped with that.

Things are changing though and I feel there is going to be a new uptick of Christians within the scientific community and yet being devout in their faith.

Anthony Fleming said...

By the way, on such statistics I think it would be good to include doctors and neural surgeons.