PZ Myers, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Chris Mooney - New Atheism or Accommodation?

October 8, 2010

Recently at the 30th anniversary conference of the Council for Secular Humanism in Los Angeles, leading science blogger PZ Myers and Point of Inquiry host Chris Mooney appeared together on a panel to discuss the questions, "How should secular humanists respond to science and religion? If we champion science, must we oppose faith? How best to approach flashpoints like evolution education?"

It's a subject about which they are known to... er, differ.

The moderator was Jennifer Michael Hecht, the author of Doubt: A History. The next day, the three reprised their public debate for a special episode of Point of Inquiry, with Hecht sitting in as a guest host in Mooney's stead. 

This is the unedited cut of their three way conversation.

PZ Myers is a biologist at the University of Minnesota-Morris who, in addition to his duties as a teacher of biology and especially of development and evolution, likes to spend his spare time poking at the follies of creationists, Christians, crystal-gazers, Muslims, right-wing politicians, apologists for religion, and anyone who doesn't appreciate how much the beauty of reality exceeds that of ignorant myth.

Jennifer Michael Hecht is the author of award-winning books of philosophy, history, and poetry, including: Doubt: A History (HarperCollins, 2003); The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism and Anthropology (Columbia University Press, 2003); and The Happiness Myth, (HarperCollins in 2007). Her work appears in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, and The New Yorker. Hecht earned her Ph.D. in History from Columbia University in 1995 and now teaches in the graduate writing program of The New School University.

Related Episodes

Jennifer Michael Hecht - Doubt
November 28, 2008

Comments from the CFI Forums

If you would like to leave a comment about this episode of Point of Inquiry please visit the related thread on the CFI discussion forums

Chris Mooney pretty much summarized the argument that accommodationists use against new atheists when he accused new atheists of “yelling loudly at” the pushers of religious beliefs. PZ Myers was correct to immediately call him on that statement.

When I read, watch, or listen to any of the accomodationist-proclaimed “new” atheists, what I see and hear is eloquent prose, insurmountable evidence, and expert presentation of facts. Even Christopher Hitchens, the most vitriolic of the vocal atheists, does not “yell loudly” at his opponents.

If the alternative to this fantasized loud yelling is to shuffle one’s feet, proclaim, as Jennifer Hecht did, that “we [and religious believers] mostly believe the same things”, and make excuses for peddlers of lies, then I’ll throw my lot with the loud-yelling New Atheists.

How about, on a future podcast, you interview some of these people that Richard Dawkins supposedly converted from atheism to theism?

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 2:17am by 1000 Needles Comment #1

What this debate boiled down to:

Chris Mooney: “I think you are a bit rude.”
PZ Myers: “Maybe, but sometimes we need rude people.”
CM: “But as you can see, I am not rude. But you are quite rude.”
PZ: “Perhaps, but we need rude people and not rude people.”
Jennifer Hecht: “I once met someone who was put off by how rude you are”
PZ: “Well, I once met someone who liked how rude I was.”
CM: “....you’re rude.”

THE END

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 7:36am by Tufty Comment #2

What this debate boiled down to:

Chris Mooney: “I think you are a bit rude.”
PZ Myers: “Maybe, but sometimes we need rude people.”
CM: “But as you can see, I am not rude. But you are quite rude.”
PZ: “Perhaps, but we need rude people and not rude people.”
Jennifer Hecht: “I once met someone who was put off by how rude you are”
PZ: “Well, I once met someone who liked how rude I was.”
CM: “....you’re rude.”

THE END

lol. I’ve not listened to it yet, but given what I know of the protagonists that is a perfect summary. PZ speaks bluntly and eloquently - for which many, many people admire him - and Mooney wrings his hands about being “rude”.

I’ll take plain-talking types like PZ Myers any day of the week over the “can’t we all just agree to disagree” wishy washiness of the accommodationists.

P.S. Why was Jennifer Hecht ‘moderating’? It was like having Rush Limbaugh moderate a debate between Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly!

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 8:29am by Davito Comment #3

POI has really gone downhill.  DJ was remarkable for being able to allow his guests to express their views even when he doesn’t agree.  In fact, he uses questions to give them the best opportunity of explaining themselves not fighting them.  Contrast this with Hecht who interrupts PZ and spends her time attacking him when she’s supposed to be a moderator!

Who is managing this train wreck?  Someone needs to get this back under control because it’s going off the rails.

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 8:38am by adrian Comment #4

P.S. Why was Jennifer Hecht ‘moderating’? It was like having Rush Limbaugh moderate a debate between Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly!

I love the end where it’s Mooney who has to rein Hecht back in, remind people that the time is closing and call for closing statements.

By this time, Hecht has so totally lost the plot that she even gives her summary position!  Not only was she opinionated but yeah, like Limbaugh she didn’t even try to appear objective.

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 9:00am by adrian Comment #5

To be honest, I don’t understand why we keep having debates like this. Here, I’ll summarise the conclusion of every single one of them.

Polite people dont like rude people. Rude people are sometimes necessary to deal with certain types of idiots. Polite people are sometimes necessary to deal with other types of idiots.

Luckily we have both rude people and polite people and, as such, can respond to a wide variety of the various types of idiot.

But still, polite people dont like rude people.

Herp Derp.

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 10:01am by Tufty Comment #6

I have admired PZ’s tenacity in the past and who can forget his ID phone in, but what was he thinking… why go down the path of arrogance and ad hominem debate against all believers? Science and Religion are not mutually exclusive, famous scientists from Newton to Albert Einstein have expressed belief in God in some form or another - as well as being scientists.

Well according to what I’m hearing from PZ they must be “fools” and therefore in context are unworthy of intellectual debate - had they still been alive today. PZ is no fool, but he’s no Einstein either! 

Dawkins has been equally guilty of many logical fallacies lately. Why give away the high-ground by diluting the effect of the message by acting arrogant and using logical fallacies? 

Both PZ and Dawkins seem to be preaching to the converted or just setting out to poke fun at religious extremists in a manner that does neither any credit, because they don’t respect an opposing opinion. 

Bring us a real debate, lets hear a debate amongst equals like Dawkins vs Stephan Hoeller. I hate saying it but I think Hoellor would wipe the floor with both Dawkins and PZ put together the way they are going on these days.

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 10:33am by KiwiDon Comment #7

KiwiDon - are you just critiquing PZ in general or anything that he said in this interview because he was not arguing anything of the sort.

You also seem to be buying the notion that criticizing a belief is the same as attacking the people themselves.  And are questions like the existence of God or whether homosexuality is born or a choice really “opinions”?  I don’t think so!

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 10:42am by adrian Comment #8

Both PZ and Dawkins seem to be preaching to the converted ...

http://richarddawkins.net/letters/converts - and I’ve seen many other people cite Dawkins (esp. The God Delusion) in their deprogramming. PZ writes a blog - I presume mainly for his own enjoyment - and his more abrasive style may be unlikely to sway many devout believers, but there are certainly main ex-faithiests that enjoy his acerbic wit and commentary.

Bring us a real debate, lets hear a debate amongst equals like Dawkins vs Stephan Hoeller.

Please! Let’s find a theist that can bring a good game to a debate - because I’ve never seen it. Dawkins, Myers, Hitchens, Dennet, et al have eviscerated every opponent sent against them. I note that many of the religious always believe someone *else* would “wipe the floor” with them. It’s like a continuous game of ‘No True Scotsman’ - if they didn’t win the debate, they weren’t real, serious, heavyweight theologians!

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 10:49am by Davito Comment #9

famous scientists from Newton to Albert Einstein have expressed belief in God in some form or another - as well as being scientists.

Some scientists have also believed in UFOs, Bigfoot, and homeopathy. Just because an individual is a scientist does not mean that every idea of theirs is instantly credible. Kary Mullis is an excellent example. Does his belief in astrology mean that astrology has some valid tenants and should be treated with respect?

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 10:49am by 1000 Needles Comment #10

PZ said and I quote “Name the person whose religious beliefs does not conflict with science… I would say their aren’t any.” About 10 minutes in.  PZ then says ”  “The proper tactic is open confrontation…” 31:16 “Religion is the problem we are going to criticize it no matter whose expressing it.” 31:30 “Belief in God is a problem’’ 38:43

Am I alone in thinking he’s getting too fanatical himself?

1000 Needles - that’s non-sequitur, are you saying Newton and Albert Einstein are non-credible? That was the measure, I’m saying that their are some credible where PZ was saying their aren’t any!

DavidC - I just gave you my example of what I believe would be a good debate, as “I agree”, so far I haven’t heard anyone put up a persuasive debate. That’s what I’d like to hear - “a debate amongst equals.”

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 11:57am by KiwiDon Comment #11

are you saying Newton and Albert Einstein are non-credible?

Newton and Einstein, like most individuals, have/had both credible and non-credible ideas. Credibility lies with ideas and the thorough testing of ideas, not with their discoverers.

Newtons ideas, in both physics and religion, were undoubtedly advanced for their time. However, both physics and theology have improved since Newton’s era. Relativity is more accurate than Newtonian dynamics for describing physics, and atheism is more accurate than religion for describing cosmology and morality and all other questions that religion claims answers to.

If Einstein was at all a deist or theist (and this itself is a subject of debate), then his ideas regarding religion were certainly less credible than his ideas about physics.

Am I alone in thinking he’s getting too fanatical himself?

How is PZ being fanatical? When he says “Belief in god is a problem,” he is making a true statement. You only need to look towards Islam or the Catholic church or the teaching of evolution in American schools to see the symptoms of god-belief.

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 12:20pm by 1000 Needles Comment #12

“Newton and Einstein, like most individuals, have/had both credible and non-credible ideas. Credibility lies with ideas and the thorough testing of ideas, not with their discoverers.”

I agree, however, that is not what PZ said.

“If Einstein was at all a deist or theist (and this itself is a subject of debate), then his ideas regarding religion were certainly less credible than his ideas about physics.”

Einstein’s view does not need debate, he himself used the word “God” in context of a creator.  It would be intellectually dishonest to say that it is subject to debate. What his beliefs were beyond his statements are the only thing open to debate, not what he wrote.

Am I alone in thinking he’s getting too fanatical himself?

How is PZ being fanatical? When he says “Belief in god is a problem,” he is making a true statement. You only need to look towards Islam or the Catholic church or the teaching of evolution in American schools to see the symptoms of god-belief.

All belief in God is a problem according to PZ, this includes the silent majority who have no issues accepting science, evolution et al.  Why isn’t this view fanatical in context with PZ’s quotes? I’m saying his statements are fanatical as he is lumping every Christian, Muslim, Hindu etc… into a one size fits all box which is obviously a fallacious argument.

I am happy for him to have his opinion but he’s not happy for anyone who is religious to have one…  that’s “Excessive, irrational zeal” or fanaticism.

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 1:35pm by KiwiDon Comment #13

Since I consider this type of debates almost a sport event, I see the score here as Accomodationism 0, New Atheism 1.  :-)

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 1:46pm by George Comment #14

1000 Needles - that’s non-sequitur, are you saying Newton and Albert Einstein are non-credible? That was the measure, I’m saying that their are some credible where PZ was saying their aren’t any!

That is certainly what PZ was not saying. He said that Miller’s science was admirable but his religious beliefs were not. The same would apply to Newton and Einstein: their science was good, Newton’s ideas on alchemy and Einstein’s ideas on pacifism were nonsense.

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 2:20pm by George Comment #15

1000 Needles - that’s non-sequitur, are you saying Newton and Albert Einstein are non-credible? That was the measure, I’m saying that their are some credible where PZ was saying their aren’t any!

That is certainly what PZ was not saying. He said that Miller’s science was admirable but his religious beliefs were not. The same would apply to Newton and Einstein: their science was good, Newton’s ideas on alchemy and Einstein’s ideas on pacifism were nonsense.

Hello George, what PZ actually said 10 minutes into the podcast was “Name the person whose religious beliefs does not conflict with science… I would say their aren’t any.”  He talked about Miller much later on, which became a special pleading to his earlier statement.  Hey he said it not me, go and listen to it again if you like.

Don’t get me wrong I like PZ and I have listened to many podcast’s where he has been a guest. However, I just felt he said some silly things in this one as quoted above, he could have just been playing devils advocate to open up debate. 

Which side was he on again? ;-)

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 2:48pm by KiwiDon Comment #16

1000 Needles - that’s non-sequitur, are you saying Newton and Albert Einstein are non-credible? That was the measure, I’m saying that their are some credible where PZ was saying their aren’t any!

That is certainly what PZ was not saying. He said that Miller’s science was admirable but his religious beliefs were not. The same would apply to Newton and Einstein: their science was good, Newton’s ideas on alchemy and Einstein’s ideas on pacifism were nonsense.

Another example would be Einstein’s hypotheses regarding quantum mechanics. Some of Einstein’s ideas were correct when matched with evidence, and they were accepted. Some of Einstein’s ideas were incorrect when investigated, and the ideas were criticized.

It appears that Ms. Hecht and Mr. Mooney feel that the tone of the Gnu Atheists is too loud; based on their behaviour on this podcast, it seems any criticism above a hushed whisper is too loud. Kudos to PZ, Dawkins, Coyne and Hitchens for raising the volume of religious criticism to a firm voice.

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 2:54pm by sharkey Comment #17

Since I consider this type of debates almost a sport event, I see the score here as Accomodationism 0, New Atheism 1.  :-)

I can’t wait to listen to it….

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 3:12pm by Jackson Comment #18

Another example would be Einstein’s hypotheses regarding quantum mechanics. Some of Einstein’s ideas were correct when matched with evidence, and they were accepted. Some of Einstein’s ideas were incorrect when investigated, and the ideas were criticized.

Well, there are wrong ideas and then there is “crap,” as PZ would refer to it. Einstein’s ideas on quantum mechanics were not crap—just like Lamarck’s theory of evolution, for example, was merely a wrong idea—but Einstein’s explanation for the need of pacifism, Newton’s alchemy, or, indeed, Miller’s religious beliefs, are nonsense.

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 3:14pm by George Comment #19

It appears that Ms. Hecht and Mr. Mooney feel that the tone of the Gnu Atheists is too loud; based on their behaviour on this podcast, it seems any criticism above a hushed whisper is too loud. Kudos to PZ, Dawkins, Coyne and Hitchens for raising the volume of religious criticism to a firm voice.

I’m happy with firm too. The feeling I have is that PZ is beginning to sound more like the people on the dark side of the force, as “quoted” above. Digressing into Newton or Einstein is going off topic, they were provided as examples of where I felt he was mistaken in his earlier statement 10 minutes into the podcast. George seems to agree he contradicted himself on later by saying something different. This was sloppy of PZ and not his best work. (Please correct me if I’m wrong in this observation George)

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 3:19pm by KiwiDon Comment #20

Sorry, KiwiDon, that is not what I am suggesting at all.

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 3:33pm by George Comment #21

Chris, take the mic back please. Jennifer Michael Hecht needs to remember that when you’re the host, you’re not part of the debate, especially when you can’t make up your mind what you want to be or whose feelings your more in tune with. The host should ask a question and get out of the way and keep the discussion on track. Unfortunately, she did neither.

I understand the reasoning behind Chris’ strategy, but I have to side with PZ on this one. The reason we can’t ignore the religiosity of those who also support science is the political and social power they wield and the preferential treatment they get for holding that religious view.

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 3:46pm by rabo Comment #22

Sorry, KiwiDon, that is not what I am suggesting at all.

So you don’t think that PZ contradicted himself by saying “that Miller’s science was admirable but his religious beliefs were not.” Having categorically stated “Name the person whose religious beliefs does not conflict with science… I would say their aren’t any.” 

I believe the issues are non sequitur and PZ should have known better.  Belief in religion doesn’t make you a bad scientist or vice versa.

Sorry that I misinterpreted, I thought you had seen this too.

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 3:49pm by KiwiDon Comment #23

Sorry, KiwiDon, that is not what I am suggesting at all.

So you don’t think that PZ contradicted himself by saying “that Miller’s science was admirable but his religious beliefs were not.” Having categorically stated “Name the person whose religious beliefs does not conflict with science… I would say their aren’t any.” 

I believe the issues are non sequitur and PZ should have known better.  Belief in religion doesn’t make you a bad scientist or vice versa.

Sorry that I misinterpreted, I thought you had seen this too.

I don’t see how that is a contradiction. Miller’s religious beliefs conflict with science; those beliefs include his acceptance of the resurrection and theistically-driven evolution. Miller just ignores these and other non-scientific beliefs when he’s in the lab; PZ wants him to ignore those beliefs outside the lab as well.

Every religious belief held by actual people conflicts with our understanding of reality; I’ve never met an actual deist, just slippery Christians.

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 4:17pm by sharkey Comment #24

I just want to add one more thing: Einstein actually changed his position on pacifism as soon as Hitler invaded Poland, so my comparison here was not fair. Indeed, were Newton brought to life today, I am sure he would quickly change his position on alchemy. The same would be probably true of, say, Kepler, Aristotle, Freud and others. The fact that people like Miller, Collins, and the seven percent of the NAS believe in God today is absolutely mind-boggling.

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 5:46pm by George Comment #25

So you don’t think that PZ contradicted himself by saying “that Miller’s science was admirable but his religious beliefs were not.” Having categorically stated “Name the person whose religious beliefs does not conflict with science… I would say their aren’t any.” 

I believe the issues are non sequitur and PZ should have known better.  Belief in religion doesn’t make you a bad scientist or vice versa.

Sorry that I misinterpreted, I thought you had seen this too.

You seem to be missing either the word ‘religious’ or ‘beliefs’ when reading the sentence “Name the person whose religious beliefs does not conflict with science… I would say their aren’t any.”.

He is asking for a religious belief, held by anyone, which doesn’t conflict with science. He is not asking for a religious person who has ideas that don’t conflict with science. There is no non sequiter here.

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 6:27pm by Tufty Comment #26

Unfortunately, Hecht losing track of her position isn’t uncommon. She gave a very good talk at TAM this year, but other than that, every time I’ve heard her speak she has sounded a bit lost.

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 6:30pm by Vic333 Comment #27

So you don’t think that PZ contradicted himself by saying “that Miller’s science was admirable but his religious beliefs were not.” Having categorically stated “Name the person whose religious beliefs does not conflict with science… I would say their aren’t any.” 

I believe the issues are non sequitur and PZ should have known better.  Belief in religion doesn’t make you a bad scientist or vice versa.

Sorry that I misinterpreted, I thought you had seen this too.

You seem to be missing either the word ‘religious’ or ‘beliefs’ when reading the sentence “Name the person whose religious beliefs does not conflict with science… I would say their aren’t any.”.

He is asking for a religious belief, held by anyone, which doesn’t conflict with science. He is not asking for a religious person who has ideas that don’t conflict with science. There is no non sequiter here.

The whole passage was; “Name the person whose religious beliefs does not conflict with science, lets be very specific here. What set of religious beliefs beyond just sort of a vague Deism are compatible with scientific thought. I would say their aren’t any.”

The non sequiter as I see it is that - I don’t believe in totum that all religious beliefs are in conflict with science… their are many good scientists who also hold religious beliefs.  It is my opinion that aggressive criticism should only be leveled at religious beliefs that contradict science ie the age of the Earth only being a couple of thousand years old, not all religious beliefs because a name doesn’t exist for this group. There would be thousands if not millions who if asked would not feel any conflict… My old science teacher for one, who I recall made such a statement in my 6th form.

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 11:48pm by KiwiDon Comment #28

Sorry, KiwiDon, that is not what I am suggesting at all.

So you don’t think that PZ contradicted himself by saying “that Miller’s science was admirable but his religious beliefs were not.” Having categorically stated “Name the person whose religious beliefs does not conflict with science… I would say their aren’t any.” 

I believe the issues are non sequitur and PZ should have known better.  Belief in religion doesn’t make you a bad scientist or vice versa.

Sorry that I misinterpreted, I thought you had seen this too.

People can do good science in one area and hold completely ascientific beliefs in another. Or do you think Peter H. Duesberg’s work on AIDS is good science?

Scientists are perfectly capable of holding views that conflict with science - after all science covers a lot of different things, to the point where calling someone a scientist verges on being meaningless.

Do you seriously not get this?

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 at 11:58pm by Bruce Gorton Comment #29

Sorry, KiwiDon, that is not what I am suggesting at all.

So you don’t think that PZ contradicted himself by saying “that Miller’s science was admirable but his religious beliefs were not.” Having categorically stated “Name the person whose religious beliefs does not conflict with science… I would say their aren’t any.” 

I believe the issues are non sequitur and PZ should have known better.  Belief in religion doesn’t make you a bad scientist or vice versa.

Sorry that I misinterpreted, I thought you had seen this too.

People can do good science in one area and hold completely ascientific beliefs in another. Or do you think Peter H. Duesberg’s work on AIDS is good science?

Scientists are perfectly capable of holding views that conflict with science - after all science covers a lot of different things, to the point where calling someone a scientist verges on being meaningless.

Do you seriously not get this?

I perfectly get that they can but unlike what PZ stated I don’t accept that they all are.  That’s my my point that you seem to be making back to me… Did I not express it clearly enough for you? I didn’t use Duesberg as an example so you are being disingenuous with your question by ‘poisoning the well’,  you have also changed the structure to ‘Scientists can do bad science’ from what PZ actually stated regarding ‘religious beliefs being in conflict with science.’ Any reason for this???

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 12:49am by KiwiDon Comment #30

Sorry, KiwiDon, that is not what I am suggesting at all.

So you don’t think that PZ contradicted himself by saying “that Miller’s science was admirable but his religious beliefs were not.” Having categorically stated “Name the person whose religious beliefs does not conflict with science… I would say their aren’t any.” 

I believe the issues are non sequitur and PZ should have known better.  Belief in religion doesn’t make you a bad scientist or vice versa.

Sorry that I misinterpreted, I thought you had seen this too.

People can do good science in one area and hold completely ascientific beliefs in another. Or do you think Peter H. Duesberg’s work on AIDS is good science?

Scientists are perfectly capable of holding views that conflict with science - after all science covers a lot of different things, to the point where calling someone a scientist verges on being meaningless.

Do you seriously not get this?

I perfectly get that they can but unlike what PZ stated I don’t accept that they all are.  That’s my my point that you seem to be making back to me… Did I not express it clearly enough for you? I didn’t use Duesberg as an example so you are being disingenuous with your question by ‘poisoning the well’,  you have also changed the structure to ‘Scientists can do bad science’ from what PZ actually stated regarding ‘religious beliefs being in conflict with science.’ Any reason for this???

Using an example to illustrate a point isn’t poisoning the well.

You see a contradition in PZ saying in one breath that he sees religious beliefs as conflicting with science, and in the next that Miller does good science.

With regards to Ken Miller he is a Roman Catholic. The Catholic Church teaches, as one of its central tenets, that a cracker and a glass of wine become the literal flesh and blood of Jesus when blessed by a priest and consumed by a Catholic. Is such a belief founded on good science? No. Test it and you would find that the wine is still wine, the cracker is still a cracker.

Does this mean that Miller’s work on evolution isn’t good? No, he is still a good scientist.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 2:10am by Bruce Gorton Comment #31

I perfectly get that they can but unlike what PZ stated I don’t accept that they all are.  That’s my my point that you seem to be making back to me… Did I not express it clearly enough for you? I didn’t use Duesberg as an example so you are being disingenuous with your question by ‘poisoning the well’,  you have also changed the structure to ‘Scientists can do bad science’ from what PZ actually stated regarding ‘religious beliefs being in conflict with science.’ Any reason for this???

Using an example to illustrate a point isn’t poisoning the well.

You see a contradition in PZ saying in one breath that he sees religious beliefs as conflicting with science, and in the next that Miller does good science.

With regards to Ken Miller he is a Roman Catholic. The Catholic Church teaches, as one of its central tenets, that a cracker and a glass of wine become the literal flesh and blood of Jesus when blessed by a priest and consumed by a Catholic. Is such a belief founded on good science? No. Test it and you would find that the wine is still wine, the cracker is still a cracker.

Does this mean that Miller’s work on evolution isn’t good? No, he is still a good scientist.

Thank you for expanding on what you said Bruce.  In context I did take adding Duesberg into the mix as ‘poisoning the well’ as his example wasn’t inline with what I had stated.

More correctly I see PZ saying ALL religious belief is in conflict with science, which is what he initially said.

I think Miller can tell the difference between wine and blood, crackers and flesh ...the fact he may take communion doesn’t mean he can’t distinguish between them in a lab.  Hence my discussion on the issue. 

My concern with PZ’s approach is that he is alienating all religious scientists, not just those masquerading ID as science.

Going back to the podcast, I’d like hear a debate between someone who is an informed theologian rather than simply a true believer from ID. PZ wasn’t as convincing (my opinion) as I have heard him in other podcast’s, for the reasons stated above.

If I had to pick between PZ and Chris to debate the issue on one side for science, I would pick Chris. But PZ usually has such flair - which I didn’t hear in this debate.

What do you all think, was he as convincing in your opinions?

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 2:59am by KiwiDon Comment #32

No - but that is more the fault of bad moderation.

While I disagree with Mooney on a lot, I think he should have been moderating between Myers and Hecht in the first place, rather than that end up being how the discussion developed in the end.

It is an important, and far from universal skill moderating an argument where you agree with one side of it and not the other - and Hecht doesn’t have it.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 3:42am by Bruce Gorton Comment #33

Jennifer Michael Hecht stated “I’ve met many people who told me that I turned them into atheists and Richard Dawkins turned them back, and then I had to do it again and that’s exhausting work

This it patently ridiculous.

If a person decides they are an atheist, nothing Dawkins says will convince them that they believe in god again, it might sour them on the “Atheist Movement” whatever that is, but push them back to religion?  No.

Either Hecht was exaggerating, or the people who told her that were lying either about their atheism or their re-conversion.

Hecht was not a moderator in this debate in any sense of the word.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 7:33am by Ken Larson Comment #34

PZ’s attitude here was like nothing I’ve heard from him in an interview before.

Dripping with contempt and condescension from the start and never letting up.

When he talks to people like this he should not expect anything other than animosity for the inhumanity he is displaying.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 7:36am by ft79 Comment #35

More correctly I see PZ saying ALL religious belief is in conflict with science, which is what he initially said.

I think Miller can tell the difference between wine and blood, crackers and flesh ...the fact he may take communion doesn’t mean he can’t distinguish between them in a lab.  Hence my discussion on the issue. 

My concern with PZ’s approach is that he is alienating all religious scientists, not just those masquerading ID as science.

Well, which religious beliefs are not in conflict with science?  Hecht dodged that question repeatedly and I don’t see it answered here.

We’ve got two problems, first that religious ideas (and ideas in general) are boundless but reality is tightly constrained so the chances of the two matching is very slim indeed.  A bigger problem is that, much like the medicine/alt-med debate, when science confirms an idea it becomes science and stops being a religious idea, so almost by definition “religious ideas” are those which are either not confirmed or actually rejected by science.  That last is a slight exaggeration but not much of one.

So why don’t you try to take his challenge where Hecht could not.  Perhaps the attempt will prove his point, clarify it or maybe even reject it outright.  I’d be interested to see what people come up with.


As for alienating scientists - that seems a little absurd.  Who are these shrinking violets who can’t stand to work with people who don’t agree with them on all issues?  Atheists in the US are outnumbered 10:1 yet they still contribute to political, educational, environmental or ethical causes which almost certainly contain a majority of Christians, many of whom will disagree vocally with them on religious issues.  Do you know how?  It’s because they don’t talk about religion all the time!  Do you think that when Ken Miller worked on the Dover trial he cared about what others thought of his religious beliefs?  Do you think anyone ever mentioned them?  No, because they were focused on a different task.

Am I totally missing your point because it seems so laughable that I think I must be off base somewhere.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 8:00am by adrian Comment #36

If a person decides they are an atheist, nothing Dawkins says will convince them that they believe in god again, it might sour them on the “Atheist Movement” whatever that is, but push them back to religion?  No.

You’ve got to wonder what sort of allies these would be at the best of times.  They sound like the kind of people who are shopping for religious, scientific and philosophical ideas based on celebrity endorsements or which billboard has the most pink in it.  “Ooh shiny candlesticks, I’m gonna be a Jew.  I feel a bit parched, time to be a Catholic.  Eew, Hannity is a catholic, I better be a Baptist.”  If these people do exist, I wouldn’t want their support.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 8:06am by adrian Comment #37

Well, which religious beliefs are not in conflict with science?  Hecht dodged that question repeatedly and I don’t see it answered here.

We’ve got two problems, first that religious ideas (and ideas in general) are boundless but reality is tightly constrained so the chances of the two matching is very slim indeed.  A bigger problem is that, much like the medicine/alt-med debate, when science confirms an idea it becomes science and stops being a religious idea, so almost by definition “religious ideas” are those which are either not confirmed or actually rejected by science.  That last is a slight exaggeration but not much of one.

So why don’t you try to take his challenge where Hecht could not.  Perhaps the attempt will prove his point, clarify it or maybe even reject it outright.  I’d be interested to see what people come up with.

As for alienating scientists - that seems a little absurd.  Who are these shrinking violets who can’t stand to work with people who don’t agree with them on all issues?  Atheists in the US are outnumbered 10:1 yet they still contribute to political, educational, environmental or ethical causes which almost certainly contain a majority of Christians, many of whom will disagree vocally with them on religious issues.  Do you know how?  It’s because they don’t talk about religion all the time!  Do you think that when Ken Miller worked on the Dover trial he cared about what others thought of his religious beliefs?  Do you think anyone ever mentioned them?  No, because they were focused on a different task.

Am I totally missing your point because it seems so laughable that I think I must be off base somewhere.

That’s why “conflict” is being used as a verb without an object… the problem is that PZ made religion inclusive with conflict, I’m saying that isn’t necessarily so. You can’t prove a negative as the saying goes, though Steven Hales disagrees, but examples that disproves PZ on this don’t need to be supernatural, they can be geographical - such as the location of a biblical place, or genealogy - DNA tracing the 12 Tribes of Israel etc… they don’t need examples going all the way to their full conclusion of Adam and Eve unless the “religious person” actually believes that as a literal fact, few christens I know ‘if any’ do, yet that wasn’t the case even 20 years ago.
“As for alienating scientists - that seems a little absurd.” I disagree, its far better to have more people on side than less. Haven’t you ever seen someone who is uninformed accepting the beliefs of another because their ideas are in general synergy?

Pope John Paul II saying that evolution is “more than just a theory” is a great start, we should be encouraging more scientific education and beating ID at its own game rather than just sledding those who aren’t entirely on our side by alienating them from the outset. That is why I think Chris had the better approach.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 9:46am by KiwiDon Comment #38

Oh god this was painful but bravo to PZ for a fantastic job.

I literally laughed out loud when PZ told Mooney that some people don’t like him very much.

I find it ironic that the accomodationists constantly refer to vocal atheists as arrogant. I think it’s completely the other way around. Mooney and his group are the arrogant ones. They are the ones trying to devise some political/marketing strategy to manipulate religionists.

I find PZ’s approach refreshingly transparent and honest.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 9:55am by macnamae Comment #39

examples that disproves PZ on this don’t need to be supernatural, they can be geographical - such as the location of a biblical place, or genealogy - DNA tracing the 12 Tribes of Israel etc… they don’t need examples going all the way to their full conclusion of Adam and Eve unless the “religious person” actually believes that as a literal fact, few christens I know ‘if any’ do, yet that wasn’t the case even 20 years ago.

Would you really call the setting of biblical stories a religious belief?  That seems like an incredible stretch.  I would be impressed if you asked any Christian about the details of their belief and they responded by saying “I believe Bethlehelm was a city.”

“As for alienating scientists - that seems a little absurd.” I disagree, its far better to have more people on side than less. Haven’t you ever seen someone who is uninformed accepting the beliefs of another because their ideas are in general synergy?

Sure, it’s the foundation of racism, sexism and bigotry that humans tend to agree with those people who most resemble them in appearance, behaviour or ideas.  I’m not accusing Christians of being these things, I’m saying that everyone even atheists share these irrational tendencies.

So yes, when we want to promote evolution then by all means bring in atheists, Catholics, Hindus and Mormons and whomever else you can find so that people can get over this barrier and open themselves up to the ideas.  Of course.  Which Gnu Atheist has ever suggested that we don’t ally ourselves with theists on these separate issues?


Questions:

1.  Why do you believe that even a minority of people will reject evolution or scientific ideas because some atheistic supporters make speeches attacking religion in other venues?  Its not like they’re standing up in conferences on Global Warming to ridicule transubstantiation!

2.  What do you believe the ultimate goal is of PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins and which allies do you imagine they’re trying to attract?  When you say it’s better to have religious people on their “side”, which side is that?

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 10:15am by adrian Comment #40

What do you believe the ultimate goal is of PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins and which allies do you imagine they’re trying to attract?  When you say it’s better to have religious people on their “side”, which side is that?

Great point adrian. I think the major disagreement between Mooney and PZ is which of them is acting “tactically” and which one is acting “strategically”. Mooney thinks that PZ’s criticism can only affect a small and short-term audience, and accommodating believers will allow the long-term goal of increased rationality to take hold. PZ is diametrically opposed; accommodation is a short-term ploy, and only criticism will succeed over the long-term.

I’m in PZ’s camp for now, but I think Mooney’s approach could be applicable when atheists become a stronger, more cohesive segment of the public sphere.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 11:19am by sharkey Comment #41

I think the major disagreement between Mooney and PZ is which of them is acting “tactically” and which one is acting “strategically”.

I suspect it may be deeper than that.  I think the major disagreement is that Mooney and PZ have completely different goals and target audiences.  I could be wrong because, despite PZ’s repeated questions, Mooney has not clarified these issues.  Listen to the podcast - Mooney keeps saying that PZ isn’t helping and PZ keeps asking who and what goal he isn’t helping but never gets an answer.

Even with different goals I’m still not convinced that Mooney is pursuing it well or that PZ doesn’t help Mooney as a by product but it’s hard to have a rich conversation without these details.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 11:40am by adrian Comment #42

I suspect it may be deeper than that.  I think the major disagreement is that Mooney and PZ have completely different goals and target audiences.  I could be wrong because, despite PZ’s repeated questions, Mooney has not clarified these issues.  Listen to the podcast - Mooney keeps saying that PZ isn’t helping and PZ keeps asking who and what goal he isn’t helping but never gets an answer.

I agree, the ultimate goal was never specified during this podcast, but I assume that the goal PZ and Mooney are working towards is a world where the “correct” answers to questions from controversial fields are widely accepted, not because of authority but because of rationality and critical thinking; controversial fields would include stem-cell research, global warming, origin of species and the role of revelation in truth. During the podcast, PZ made mention of this goal, and Mooney seemed to agree, at least tacitly.

If this is their ultimate goal, then PZ is correct: both approaches will be required at different times and/or directed at different people. If they don’t share this ultimate goal, then PZ is still correct: Mooney has his goal he can work towards, and PZ will work towards his own.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 12:39pm by sharkey Comment #43

both approaches will be required at different times and/or directed at different people

A classic bad cop / good cop routine.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 2:34pm by 1000 Needles Comment #44

Who knew a “moderator” could out-Mooney Mooney.

“I’ve met many people who told me that I turned them into atheists and Richard Dawkins turned them back, and then I had to do it again and that’s exhausting work”.

There are so many reasons this doesn’t make sense. First of all, I highly doubt she has converted more religious people to atheism than Richard Dawkins. Secondly, Richard Dawkins by being unafraid to offend has gotten world-wide fame and thus given atheism an awareness which is great for recruitment. This may even suggest that being more “strident” is the best approach since you’re hardly gonna get a lot of notice by being tepid and afraid to offend. It may make the believers offended and defensive but I’m not convinced it’s a bad thing in the long run. When the Pope compared atheism to Nazi’s, I took it as a victory for atheism, because our numbers and voices had grown sufficiently to rattle his cage. Thirdly, how the hell can someone be an atheist and then become a theist just because Dawkins or anyone else said something that for some reason offended them? These people were probably never atheists at all and I think I can say that they were just trying to get atheists to respect them and when they felt that respect was gone they took their ball and went home. Good. They probably weren’t worth it anyway.

I did a lot more face-palming during the course of this episode, but I really don’t want to write thousands of words on it. I think the reason it frustrates me so much is because the accomodationalists just always spew out these nebulous claims that nobody can pin down and that was highlighted near the end when Jennifer said “you’re wrong” followed by a statement to which PZ simply said “be specific…no atheist would disagree with that” ... so I’m always left wondering, what the hell is the point? Getting Templeton cash maybe?

I can’t wait for the next POI trainwreck. This almost topped the “Christian Atheist” episode!

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 2:52pm by kennykjc Comment #45

P.S. Why was Jennifer Hecht ‘moderating’? It was like having Rush Limbaugh moderate a debate between Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly!

Just finished it today—She did an fine job but she sort of took sides (it wasn’t a formal debate). Now if they had had Jennifer Hecht and Jerry Coyne be joint-moderators that would have been fun!

I think PZ held his own.

I think Hecht needed to keep better focus on the topic since both Mooney and PZ Myers have good points—PZ kept coming back to “what is the point of accomodating” but didn’t really get anywhere with that.

It really seems like he gets sandbagged a lot with the claim that most religious people don’t REALLY believe in God…so why not just accomodate them (?)

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 4:15pm by Jackson Comment #46

Questions:

1.  Why do you believe that even a minority of people will reject evolution or scientific ideas because some atheistic supporters make speeches attacking religion in other venues?  Its not like they’re standing up in conferences on Global Warming to ridicule transubstantiation!

2.  What do you believe the ultimate goal is of PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins and which allies do you imagine they’re trying to attract?  When you say it’s better to have religious people on their “side”, which side is that?

(A1)“According to the 2001 census, there were 41 million Christians in Great Britain, making up almost three quarters of the population (72%). This group included the Church of England, Church of Scotland, Church in Wales, Catholic, Protestant and all other Christian denominations. -BBC”

“minority of people” It is in fact a far more substantial number of people. Attacking (all religious people) in a manner like I heard PZ on this podcast (unlike the more witty approach say in the TSGTTU podcast) isn’t winning people over, its getting their backs up - rather than leaving dialog open. Its saying ‘your foolish’ rather than planting a seed and agreeing to disagree for a time.

(A2) PZ has a day job and I think he is in it for the right reasons, Dawkins spends too much time preaching to the converted and isn’t handling his PR as well as I think he could… but that’s my opinion and I’ve never met either man, so I could be wrong in this view.

I agree with Adrian it is a good cop /bad cop routine, my thoughts are that ultimately the good cop will go further. Not answering the question is ultimately better than being wrong and becoming fanatical yourself. I’m surprised that this hasn’t been talked about more here… The best fights at school were never just some kid getting hit by the school bully but when two bully’s had a go at each other… man that got a crowd.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 4:49pm by KiwiDon Comment #47

KiwiDon:

You’ve committed a non-sequitur. Stating statistics on the number of professed believers does not imply that PZ’s tactics are harmful, nor imply that the religious beliefs of the statistical sample are consistent with science.

Try again.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 5:42pm by sharkey Comment #48

KiwiDon:

You’ve committed a non-sequitur. Stating statistics on the number of professed believers does not imply that PZ’s tactics are harmful, nor imply that the religious beliefs of the statistical sample are consistent with science.

Try again.

Hi sharkey, take from what you will but your “non-sequiter” of my alleged non-sequiter is not constructive debate.  It is name calling at best. Can you explain or offer an opinion like I have - rather than just shoot the messenger?

“Stating statistics on the number of professed believers does not imply that PZ’s tactics are harmful” My opinion is that PZ’s approach isn ‘t the best one (That is only my opinion) you are welcome to disagree with it.

“nor imply that the religious beliefs of the statistical sample are consistent with science.” That is disingenuous because that’s not what I said. The issue is what PZ said, and I believe I have demonstrated that what he said was wrong. He himself later contradicted himself by way of a special pleading about Miller. 

What are your feeling about the debate on “Atheism or Accommodation”, were there any further points you feel strongly about or disagree with?

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 6:21pm by KiwiDon Comment #49

Hi sharkey, take from what you will but your “non-sequiter” of my alleged non-sequiter is not constructive debate.  It is name calling at best. Can you explain or offer an opinion like I have - rather than just shoot the messenger?

KiwiDon, I wasn’t trying to offend, I was only giving a logical rebuttal to your points. However, you inferred “name-calling” from “committed a non-sequitur”, and subsequently took offense.

I hope you see the parallel between this exchange, and similar statements made by PZ and Dawkins. When PZ or Dawkins point out the logical problems with a religious position, it is often considered an attack upon those who hold said position. The simple fact is: much of the “stridency” or “militancy” of Dawkins et al. is simply unfamiliarity with logical arguments.

“nor imply that the religious beliefs of the statistical sample are consistent with science.” That is disingenuous because that’s not what I said. The issue is what PZ said, and I believe I have demonstrated that what he said was wrong. He himself later contradicted himself by way of a special pleading about Miller.

You haven’t demonstrated that what PZ said was wrong; furthermore, you have been shown the error of your thinking by adrian, George and Bruce, but you still can’t see why you are mistaken. Bringing up Miller isn’t special pleading, it’s an example of the problem: Miller’s religious beliefs conflict with science. As does Francis Collins’ beliefs conflict with science. As does any individual that sees a role for the supernatural in evolution, or in the creation of the world, or in the permanence of a soul.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 7:46pm by sharkey Comment #50

What a farce this episode was!

Jennifer Michael Hecht embarrassed herself on a number of levels.  What kind of “moderator” outs herself as so ridiculously biased that, by the end of the “debate,” the person she’s siding with feels the need to take charge, reel her in, and wrap the debacle up (as Mooney did)?  That’s plenty bad enough already, but she was far worse still.  She didn’t even make an effort to moderate, instead injecting her own opinions and thoughts out of the blue.  She continually brought up various groups of people (those who “interpret” the scientific world as religious, and those who Dawkins scared away from atheism but she heroically re-de-converted) even though Mooney and PZ’s conversation had nothing to do with them.  She was a disaster as a “moderator,” and wouldn’t have been interesting or compelling even if she were supposed to be a direct part of the discussion.

Chris Mooney was good only by comparison to Hecht.  He would throw out a mischaracterization of PZ’s position, and would not respond to PZ’s patient explanation and defense of his actual position.  He (and often Hecht) would just steamroll on to the next mischaracterization.  No progress whatsoever.

PZ Myers walks out of this looking pretty bad himself, since he sounded smug and arrogant.  I don’t entirely blame him, though, since he spent the entire time schooling Hecht and Mooney in the actual ideas and rationale of a position (New Atheism) they supposedly understand yet disagree with.  Also, if PZ’s gut reaction to them (and their straw-manning, and their impartiality, and their question-ducking, etc) was anything like mine, he would’ve been justifiably indignant and annoyed from the get-go.

This episode was just a disaster.  It might take the cake as the worse post-DJ Point of Inquiry episode.  The Bob Price “Christian Atheist” fiasco was at least mercifully esoteric and confusing ... this was accessible, yet all the more awful for it.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 7:57pm by cheglabratjoe Comment #51

You haven’t demonstrated that what PZ said was wrong

I’m sorry but I disagree… I quoted PZ and supplied the time when he made his incorrect statement in the podcast. Saying I’m wrong doesn’t make it so.

furthermore, you have been shown the error of your thinking by adrian, George and Bruce,

Not at all, the only thing I’ve been shown wrong about was I thought George had also seen the contradiction too and asked him to correct me if I was wrong, which agreed he did.

but you still can’t see why you are mistaken.

Again I disagree on your logic, putting words into my mouth doesn’t make the mistake mine at all, the discussion has become one of moving goal posts as others have introduced their opinions and arguments.

Bringing up Miller isn’t special pleading, it’s an example of the problem: Miller’s religious beliefs conflict with science. As does Francis Collins’ beliefs conflict with science. As does any individual that sees a role for the supernatural in evolution, or in the creation of the world, or in the permanence of a soul.

I think you missed the point between what PZ initially said and later discussed about Miller and what I’m saying that “Science and Religion are not always mutually exclusive.” PZ made the slipper slope logical fallacy.  While Chris didn’t name anyone or any group whose religion isn’t in conflict with science they exist nonetheless. I provided Newton and Einstein as examples and unless your stating all their work was wrong I am correct… there is no other logical conclusion… pointing out some of their errors is not supporting PZ’s or the others argument because I never said that they are always right, just that they were not always in conflict with science because they held a religious belief.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 8:19pm by KiwiDon Comment #52

I’ve shied away from this but finally broke down and listen to it this evening - and I tell you bro…

I need to jump on the bandwagon here -
that was very disappointing, had to smack my hand away from turning it off more than once.

For me, Hecht deserves every scrap of the aforementioned scathing critique.
A moderator isn’t supposed to attempt making their personal thinking/opinion central to the discussion. Which she did every time she opened her mouth. Totally awful > geez, she seemed incapable of listening. Hell of an example :mad:

Listen to it, every interjection of Hecht’s went way out of bounds for a moderator, and way longer than justified.  Beyond that she made little sense within her own argument.

PZ made a whole bunch more sense than either Hecht or, I must admit, Mooney.

As for Mooney’s early comment about religion’s varying degrees - To me it seems more a quantum states situation - It is all or nothing for evangelical types (the majority).  Which is exactly why “they” are so tenaciously clinging to every aspect of their dogmas - creationism, lord/savior, godly insight. Once a domino falls, it all crumbles… point goes to PZ.

Occam I would so like to tear into Hecht’s dialogue right about here, but ok, I’ll hold my peace. . .

ps… PZ Myers given this “debate” you get my vote.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 9:32pm by citizenschallenge.pm Comment #53

A moderator isn’t supposed to attempt making their personal thinking/opinion central to the discussion. Which she did every time she opened her mouth.

I agree it was poorly moderated.

ps… PZ Myers given this “debate” you get my vote.

Was PZ the winner in your opinion because of his stance and do you think he would have still won had he been more affable?

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 9:46pm by KiwiDon Comment #54

Was PZ the winner in your opinion because of his stance and do you think he would have still won had he been more affable?

I think he won, because of the substance of his arguments… they made sense to me.
And I can’t say as much for Heckt, or even Mooney’s comments to PZ Myers remarks.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 9:55pm by citizenschallenge.pm Comment #55

Oh god this was painful but bravo to PZ for a fantastic job.

I literally laughed out loud when PZ told Mooney that some people don’t like him very much.

I find it ironic that the accomodationists constantly refer to vocal atheists as arrogant. I think it’s completely the other way around. Mooney and his group are the arrogant ones. They are the ones trying to devise some political/marketing strategy to manipulate religionists.

I find PZ’s approach refreshingly transparent and honest.

Has Mooney ever received any death threats?, because PZ did.  I thought that PZ’s comment about not being liked was a little too undignified under the circumstances and hypocritical considering people have threatened his own life.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 10:13pm by KiwiDon Comment #56

Aren’t debates fun when opponents just reiterate the same position over and over as a response?

Hmm, hang on, that’s every debate I’ve ever heard…

Was still a good episode. This is my impression.

I understood where each of the panelists were coming from; and actually agreed with them all, but
they never strayed enough from their own turf to explore where their differences lie.

Seemed maybe they weren’t only “arguing tactics”... was there a fundamental difference in their view of religion?

?: One side supposes that religion is essentailly the (or a) root of all (or much) evil and that
therefore the objective should always be to refute it wholesale rather than its “symptoms”. Whereas the other side
supposes that religion through false is not in itself the cause of adverse conditions (but maybe a symptom of them)
and so therefore we should sometimes accomodate it to better address the individual issues (that may be a problem)
in a more piecemeal way.

If that is true, then it’s not tactics that is the difference between the camps, but a complete difference in agenda?

Is “to be rude or not to be rude” the core of the argument or just a surface layer?

?: One side supposes that the scientific method and the right to free speech should
never defer to the “sacred”. The other supposes that the truth itself is sacred and should never
simply defer to the scientific method or the language of science (no matter how valid a tool it is).

Funny how they flirted with rudeness with each other at one point. Jennifers comment about people carrying baggage
from religious upbringings and PZs comment about Chris being seen as insipid. Like they were testing the idea that
even though people can have almost everything in common, one thing could easily make them sworn enemies,
resonating with the earlier points about that religious evolutionist.

Impressions of rudeness often come down to the language we use. I think the New Atheists language
is inherently more pointed and applicable to specifics as PZ pointed out (based on most of it being ported
across from the scientific method). Great when talking about the existance of Noah’s ark as a literal event.
The other side’s language is more prudent and circumspect which is equally as valid when talking about the
unknowns of existance. Call it “fuzzy” or “wishy-washy”; but the points that Jennifer made about there
being room for people to explain the same essential viewpoints in different ways were actually very
subtle and only break down because they get into the vagaries of language; ie the meaning of “religion”
is different to everyone.

My impression is that PZ has a pointed specific way of getting to the truth, but often applies it in a
sweeping manner to make his point whereas Chris and Jennifers thinking is more expansive,
but often focuses in on a specific person as an example. Maybe they were trying to talk each others
language to make their points. Lots of shots fired over the bow.

Anyway, it was an interesting episode from perspective.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 10:24pm by nativeflame Comment #57

So you don’t think that PZ contradicted himself by saying “that Miller’s science was admirable but his religious beliefs were not.” Having categorically stated “Name the person whose religious beliefs does not conflict with science… I would say their aren’t any.” 

I believe the issues are non sequitur and PZ should have known better.  Belief in religion doesn’t make you a bad scientist or vice versa.

Hello there, first post.

This is an issue of definiton; when PZ said the above, it’s clear to me that by “religious belief” he means “belief in something supernatural”, e.g. rising the dead, walking on water, cracker becomes flesh, etc. These are religious beliefs, as opposed to a historic hypothesis like the location of a locust plague or whether it existed.
By referring to “science” he’s talking about a naturalistic world-view where the supernatural has no place when it comes to explaining things.
What he’s talking about, basically, is that Collins and Miller don’t work in the lab with the expectation that God will intervene in their experiments, and that there probably isn’t an actual scientist that does, as in, the scientific community would laugh at them if they tried to publish a paper about how prayer heals cancer.

So no, PZ didn’t contradict himself. He simply stated that Miller’s head houses two different ways of addressing stuff although they contradict each other, and that listening to Miller is worthwhile when what he says is based on the scientific way and not so if it’s about religious stuff.

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 5:33am by Khris Comment #58

Having just listened to this podcast I had to sign up to say that Hecht really doesn’t know how to impartially moderate a discussion. The whole thing was bizarre.

Every so often she would interrupt the debate with a bizarre series of platitudes about the world being more complicated than science understands or to get in her own bit of vague, touchy-feely axe-grinding and then expect PZ to answer.  As an example of platitudes she used her position as “moderator” to get in the last word and say that the only thing was was interested in was the truth.  Who needs to defend this point?  Who in the discussion was taking the opposite position?  Why should the moderator sum up their personal position at the end of a debate anyway?

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 7:03am by Bob M Comment #59

It strikes me that frame for this debate is miscast. It should not be “science v. religion,” but rather “critical v. non-critical thinking.” Also, much of the debate is ad hominem, e.g., whether or not Ken Miller is a Catholic or a good scientist is beside the point; what is import are the particular ideas he holds. A person can be both religious and scientific, but an idea cannot be.

When viewed through a critical lens, it rapidly becomes clear that all theological arguments are filled with logical fallacies, fuzzy thinking, and a lack of supporting evidence. (Black swan fallacy here; there may be some coherent theological arguments out there, but no one has been able to cite them, so we can provisionally say “all.”) In this sense, religion and science are utterly incompatible because religion and theology are at their core irrational.

Once you proceed using this frame, you rapidly come to the new atheist position that religious belief is silly, but unobjectionable if left as a private matter. But if you take that belief into the sphere of public debate, then it should be subject to the same critical inquiry that any other rationale is subject to. Religion gets no special dispensation when it comes to public policy. This is all that Dawkins, Myers, and the other new atheists are saying. To say otherwise, as the “accommodationists” do, is to say that we should accept irrational thought processes as a means for determining public policy. “Homosexuality is bad because the Bible tells me so” and “Vaccines are bad because the Huffington Post told me so” are equally objectionable statements. Religion, per se, has nothing to do with it. You either proceed rationally or you don’t; there is no middle ground for “accommodation” on this point.

This does not mean that an atheist cannot cooperate with theists when on the same side of a public debate. Take teaching creationism in public schools for example. One can demonstrate the fallacies of young earth creationism without attacking the entire Christian theological edifice. And both atheists and progressive Christians would agree that the state privileging one particular religious viewpoint is both unconstitutional and bad policy and precedent. But this is a tactical choice to mute or ignore the aspects of the debate where they disagree, not a denial that the two views are, at their root, incompatible. And this does not mean that you have to mute or ignore the differences in general and for all time. Libertarians and Democrats, for example, agree that many aspects of the Patriot Act are bad and can work together to change them, but that does not mean that they don’t keep debating each other regarding other policies.

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 7:10am by dwilton Comment #60

It strikes me that frame for this debate is miscast. It should not be “science v. religion,” but rather “critical v. non-critical thinking.”

Good point.

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 8:09am by citizenschallenge.pm Comment #61

1.  Why do you believe that even a minority of people will reject evolution or scientific ideas because some atheistic supporters make speeches attacking religion in other venues?  Its not like they’re standing up in conferences on Global Warming to ridicule transubstantiation!

(A1)“According to the 2001 census, there were 41 million Christians in Great Britain, making up almost three quarters of the population (72%). This group included the Church of England, Church of Scotland, Church in Wales, Catholic, Protestant and all other Christian denominations. -BBC”

“minority of people” It is in fact a far more substantial number of people. Attacking (all religious people) in a manner like I heard PZ on this podcast (unlike the more witty approach say in the TSGTTU podcast) isn’t winning people over, its getting their backs up - rather than leaving dialog open. Its saying ‘your foolish’ rather than planting a seed and agreeing to disagree for a time.

Kiwi,

I think we had some genuine miscommunication there.  When I said “minority”, I wasn’t talking about whether they accept or reject evolution - I’m well aware that in the US a majority of people reject evolution and while it’s still a minority in England the numbers are growing.  What I tried to ask is: of those people who reject evolution, is it because of a reaction to outspoken atheists or because of a prior religious commitment, because their church preaches YEC or because some Creationist has persuaded them?

I can’t imagine that even 1% of those who reject evolution do so because of Dawkins or PZ, in fact I’d bet their work writing and speaking has led many to question their faith or at least shift to accept more of evolution.

The reason I’m asking is this constant refrain from accomodationists that being outspoken doesn’t help.  Where’s the data?  Who are these stubborn, weak-minded people who evaluate claims based on personality?  The only reason anyone finds Dawkins offensive is if they are already religious - he is about as mild-mannered and inoffensive as a person can be otherwise.  And if questions are offensive then frankly accomodationists don’t have a chance, not without people working to shift the zeitgeist.

(A2) PZ has a day job and I think he is in it for the right reasons, Dawkins spends too much time preaching to the converted and isn’t handling his PR as well as I think he could… but that’s my opinion and I’ve never met either man, so I could be wrong in this view.

I realize it sounds repetitive and that it seems like it’s only to the converted but because of their efforts, atheism and secularism has remained a hot topic in the media for over five years.  Opinions and beliefs need a lot of time to shift so this sort of repetition is vital and they’re doing a much better job than any passive accomodationist has ever done.

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 9:30am by adrian Comment #62

I don’t think Jennifer H. understands the meaning/role of ‘moderator’. I also thought PZ did a good job of holding his own.

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 11:19am by asanta Comment #63

PZ Myers walks out of this looking pretty bad himself, since he sounded smug and arrogant…..

Have you ever sat in on one of his lectures?? That’s just the way he normally talks. I don’t know why people take his tone of voice as ‘smug and arrogant’. Every time I have heard him speak, he hasalways sounded like that!

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 11:27am by asanta Comment #64

So you don’t think that PZ contradicted himself by saying “that Miller’s science was admirable but his religious beliefs were not.” Having categorically stated “Name the person whose religious beliefs does not conflict with science… I would say their aren’t any.” 

I believe the issues are non sequitur and PZ should have known better.  Belief in religion doesn’t make you a bad scientist or vice versa.

Hello there, first post.

This is an issue of definiton; when PZ said the above, it’s clear to me that by “religious belief” he means “belief in something supernatural”, e.g. rising the dead, walking on water, cracker becomes flesh, etc. These are religious beliefs, as opposed to a historic hypothesis like the location of a locust plague or whether it existed.
By referring to “science” he’s talking about a naturalistic world-view where the supernatural has no place when it comes to explaining things.
What he’s talking about, basically, is that Collins and Miller don’t work in the lab with the expectation that God will intervene in their experiments, and that there probably isn’t an actual scientist that does, as in, the scientific community would laugh at them if they tried to publish a paper about how prayer heals cancer.

So no, PZ didn’t contradict himself. He simply stated that Miller’s head houses two different ways of addressing stuff although they contradict each other, and that listening to Miller is worthwhile when what he says is based on the scientific way and not so if it’s about religious stuff.

Hi Khris, that is not the case as I heard it and certainly not what PZ actually said, “religious beliefs” plural. I would have been happier had PZ based his argument on the supernatural more in lines with what you believed he meant but listen to his debate again he didn’t! I quoted some comments that appeared purely fanatical earlier with the times they can be heard in the debate.

PZ rather than tactfully and amiably debating the issues was intolerant and rude.  He acted unlike I have ever heard him before and as an educator I’m sure he wouldn’t act like this lecturing students, treating all religious people with contempt, so why promote “new atheism” differently… is he trying to educate people or grandstanding?  I admire his educating people, and to be fair this is only one debate that I have heard him sound seething rather than witty and articulate.

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 11:32am by KiwiDon Comment #65

Why do you believe that even a minority of people will reject evolution or scientific ideas because some atheistic supporters make speeches attacking religion in other venues?

I think I conveyed my view by saying to Kris that if its about education then use what works best in the classroom. If its about grandstanding and keeping the issue in the media then being controversial will probably get more attention. 

The reason I’m asking is this constant refrain from accomodationists that being outspoken doesn’t help.  Where’s the data?  Who are these stubborn, weak-minded people who evaluate claims based on personality?

Look at education statistics. Can I ask you how many teachers you ever respected who taught antagonistically?

The dumb guy in my classroom never learned when he was repeatedly berated for ‘not getting it’, it was only ever through situations of nurture that his grades improved.

Beliefs are powerful things, rightly or wrongly they are held through cognitive dissonance were logic is dismissed telling someone they are ‘foolish’ for having religious beliefs (in my opinion) isn’t going to win them over.

Opinions and beliefs need a lot of time to shift so this sort of repetition is vital and they’re doing a much better job than any passive accomodationist has ever done.

Thanks for your explanation Adrian, I think we agree it takes time and can agree to disagree about the best method.

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 12:13pm by KiwiDon Comment #66

Hi Kris, that is not the case as I heard it and certainly not what PZ actually said, “religious beliefs” plural. I would have been happier had PZ based his argument on the supernatural more in lines with what you believed he meant but listen to his debate again he didn’t! I quoted some comments that appeared purely fanatical earlier with the times they can be heard in the debate.

KiwiDon, I’m not sure if you’re being deliberately obtuse, or there is a genuine miscommunication, so I’ll proceed upon the latter assumption. Kris’ appraisal is the correct one, and is borne out by PZ’s earlier articles: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/03/sins_of_omission.php, http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/07/only_a_theory.php, google for more.

PZ respects Miller’s science work, but castigates Miller’s religious beliefs for being in conflict (read: inconsistent) with science. It’s what he said the in the podcast, it’s what he said in the blog articles, and it’s what he’ll continue to say. You have latched onto a single interpretation of PZ’s words, refuse to listen to those that correct you, and equate forceful statements with intolerance. This is not ‘name-calling’: this is simply fact.

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 12:22pm by sharkey Comment #67

PZ Myers walks out of this looking pretty bad himself, since he sounded smug and arrogant…..

Have you ever sat in on one of his lectures?? That’s just the way he normally talks. I don’t know why people take his tone of voice as ‘smug and arrogant’. Every time I have heard him speak, he hasalways sounded like that!

Yeah, I’ve seen him in person once, and I’ve heard him interviewed a few times.  I don’t normally find him “smug and arrogant,” I only did in this instance.  Just my opinion, of course, and even then I gave him a pass on it because I’m sure he was exasperated with being caricatured and having to explain himself over and over to people who should know better.

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 12:40pm by cheglabratjoe Comment #68

KiwiDon, I’m not sure if you’re being deliberately obtuse, or there is a genuine miscommunication, so I’ll proceed upon the latter assumption. Kris’ appraisal is the correct one, and is borne out by PZ’s earlier articles: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/03/sins_of_omission.php, http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/07/only_a_theory.php, google for more..

I’m being deliberately obtuse, just like PZ… I’ll win you over by telling you your foolish and I know better as an atheist ;-)

Thanks for the links, I will go and take a look.

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 12:47pm by KiwiDon Comment #69

KiwiDon, I’m not sure if you’re being deliberately obtuse, or there is a genuine miscommunication, so I’ll proceed upon the latter assumption. Kris’ appraisal is the correct one, and is borne out by PZ’s earlier articles: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/03/sins_of_omission.php, http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/07/only_a_theory.php, google for more..

I’m being deliberately obtuse, just like PZ… I’ll win you over by telling you your foolish and I know better as an atheist ;-)

Thanks for the links, I will go and take a look.

Fair enough :)

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 12:48pm by sharkey Comment #70

It’s fun to read the different takes, kinda makes me wonder do people have genetically different ears or what. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I incline to agree with Myers; Tuesdays Thursdays and Saturdays with Hecht and what’s that other guys name ah yes I remember Mooney. On Sundays I keep my opinions to myself realising I can argue myself out of any pigeonhole others want me in.

Joking aside I thought: Hecht did not chair the “debate”, she elbowed Mooney aside, All three came across as reasonable and civil human beings, All made interesting and valid points, Its possible their views could be reconciled, but they just weren’t listening attentively enough to each other, Their goals came out as slightly different, which would explain why they kept repeating their own points, Its very hard to listen to others when you have so many clever things of your own to say.

I owe it to the debate to listen at least one more time; who knows I might learn some more stuff.

The standard of debate here is better than RD.net

I enjoyed this podcast notwithstanding its many imperfections.  Metaphorically speaking I would like to knock heads together and make people pay better attention to the other speaker.

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 1:01pm by B9K9 Comment #71

Just FYI: according to some rather reliable information, Hecht did not know she was to “moderate” this episode until Mooney mentioned it during the show.

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 1:43pm by junkmotel Comment #72

Just FYI: according to some rather reliable information, Hecht did not know she was to “moderate” this episode until Mooney mentioned it during the show.

I suppose it was “during the show” but it was just about the first thing he said in his introduction and Hecht picked it up without hesitation or apparent surprise and asked a question.

Additionally the text which describes the podcast states:

“The moderator was Jennifer Michael Hecht, the author of Doubt: A History. The next day, the three reprised their public debate for a special episode of Point of Inquiry, with Hecht sitting in as a guest host in Mooney’s stead.”

Nevertheless if what you say is true about it being dropped on her out of the blue then it suggests rather haphazard organisation.

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 2:09pm by Bob M Comment #73

PZ rather than tactfully and amiably debating the issues was intolerant and rude.  He acted unlike I have ever heard him before and as an educator I’m sure he wouldn’t act like this lecturing students, treating all religious people with contempt, so why promote “new atheism” differently… is he trying to educate people or grandstanding?  I admire his educating people, and to be fair this is only one debate that I have heard him sound seething rather than witty and articulate.

Actually Kiwi, PZ showed remarkable restraint in the face of some barefaced stupidity, especially from Jennifer.

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 3:13pm by kennykjc Comment #74

PZ rather than tactfully and amiably debating the issues was intolerant and rude.  He acted unlike I have ever heard him before and as an educator I’m sure he wouldn’t act like this lecturing students, treating all religious people with contempt, so why promote “new atheism” differently… is he trying to educate people or grandstanding?  I admire his educating people, and to be fair this is only one debate that I have heard him sound seething rather than witty and articulate.

Actually Kiwi, PZ showed remarkable restraint in the face of some barefaced stupidity, especially from Jennifer.

To be fair there was fault in the structure of the debate and it became two against one, though (I) didn’t hear any “restraint”.  Thanks to Sharkey I will go and read PZ’s blog and see what he say’s there. As has been suggest - what I heard from the debate may not be a totally accurate account of his views.

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 3:24pm by KiwiDon Comment #75

It’s fun to read the different takes, kinda makes me wonder do people have genetically different ears or what. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I incline to agree with Myers; Tuesdays Thursdays and Saturdays with Hecht and what’s that other guys name ah yes I remember Mooney. On Sundays I keep my opinions to myself realising I can argue myself out of any pigeonhole others want me in.

Joking aside I thought: Hecht did not chair the “debate”, she elbowed Mooney aside, All three came across as reasonable and civil human beings, All made interesting and valid points, Its possible their views could be reconciled, but they just weren’t listening attentively enough to each other, Their goals came out as slightly different, which would explain why they kept repeating their own points, Its very hard to listen to others when you have so many clever things of your own to say.

I owe it to the debate to listen at least one more time; who knows I might learn some more stuff.

The standard of debate here is better than RD.net

I enjoyed this podcast notwithstanding its many imperfections.  Metaphorically speaking I would like to knock heads together and make people pay better attention to the other speaker.

Agree 100%

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 3:25pm by nativeflame Comment #76

I don’t think Jennifer H. understands the meaning/role of ‘moderator’. I also thought PZ did a good job of holding his own.


Maybe it started as “leader of a panel discussion” which allows a more active role—-but then if the “panel” was just PZ & Chris for the podcast you really need to modify the role of the leader.

I agree the discussion turned into a 3 way discussion.


I also think Jennifer H. and Chris M. are giving undo weight to “metaphorical Christians”—there is no accomodation issue with “metaphorical Christians” and I would think there wouldn’t be an evolution issue with them as well.

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 4:00pm by Jackson Comment #77

Which of the following attitudes is the most respectful?
a) I agree with you about A, B and C, but D is bollocks and this is why….
b) I agree with you about A, B and C, I disagree about D but I won’t bring it up because you might be offended.
I would say a)

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 4:07pm by FomalhautB Comment #78

I agree the discussion turned into a 3 way discussion…

It was a two way discussion with JMH taking Mooney’s side against PZ>

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 6:41pm by asanta Comment #79

I agree the discussion turned into a 3 way discussion…

It was a two way discussion with JMH taking Mooney’s side against PZ>

Sounded to me like JMH grandstanding.

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 at 6:53pm by citizenschallenge.pm Comment #80

I agree the discussion turned into a 3 way discussion…

It was a two way discussion with JMH taking Mooney’s side against PZ>

yeah pretty much two way - of course you are right!

I think JH views herself as a non-scientist and with a different perspective than the other two—her reasons for soft-and-fuzzy atheism are different from Chris’

It would be nice to get postings from someone who attended the conference and the original session.

Here is link to an article on Templeton Cambridge Fellows with a link to POI—it gives PZ Myers a shared by-line but not a hot-link to his blog. Bet he is thrilled..

http://www.templeton-cambridge.org/fellows/showarticle.php?article=652

Posted on Oct 14, 2010 at 2:52am by Jackson Comment #81

HERE is one discussion of the original panel

http://heathen-hub.com/blog.php?b=475

There is an ongoing argument inside atheism about strategy and tactics, and the debate is horribly confused and conflated. The participants in the debate can’t even get to grips with what the debate is supposed to be about. To show the most recent examples, there has been a debate between PZ Myers and Victor Stenger on one side, and Chris Mooney, and Eugenie Scott on the other side, with Jennifer Michael Hecht as moderator. There has also being a couple of other similar debate (non-)events in the same week, and I’ll describe them after this one.


Also a good discussion by Larry Moran (and his commenters) at the Sandwalk
http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2010/10/great-accommodationist-dud.html

Posted on Oct 14, 2010 at 2:53am by Jackson Comment #82

Thanks for the posting the links.

So PZ wasn’t a member of the original Gnu Atheism group according to Gurdur? 

Well the consensus certainly is that it was unfair and an unprofessionally conducted debate.

Perhaps I’m being too quick in judging PZ and thinking hes becoming a curmudgeon… hes always been one ;-)

I guess I was just disappointed with the POI debate after hearing PZ’s awesome phone-in - tearing Ben Stein, Paul Lauer et al a new one.

Posted on Oct 14, 2010 at 4:45pm by KiwiDon Comment #83

she used her position as “moderator” to get in the last word and say that the only thing was was interested in was the truth.  Who needs to defend this point?  Who in the discussion was taking the opposite position?  Why should the moderator sum up their personal position at the end of a debate anyway?

I specifically came to this forum to see if anyone else noticed this and what they thought of it.

I was absolutely floored by the “closing statement” from Jennifer Hecht - which was surely the most slimy attempt to score points in a debate I’ve heard, in this context, in a long time. And for all the reasons that you’ve stated.

She used a baseless, strawman argument while essentially tying a debater down without a microphone to argue that she is surely more reasonable, whatever the answer to the debate is… and then switched the light off.
All this, while supposedly acting as moderator, which meant she wasn’t even supposed to be part of the debate.

I hope she feels it right to apologize for lack of integrity. That was shameful.

Otherwise, some ideas for Jennifer’s next debate are:
1) Switch your opponents microphone off for his closing statement
2) Close by asking your opponent if he’s still beating his wife

Posted on Oct 15, 2010 at 3:11am by FurryMoses Comment #84

I usually love debates but this was not a good debate.  Jennifer interrupted way to much and was either super vague(never came up with an example of something PZ was railing against that wasn’t backed up by science and evidence) or just taking Chris’s side.  Moderators should ask questions and not preach about their personal views and talk over the people try to debate.  My other problem is with the topic of debate.  PZ is advocating for having both strong voices like himself and Dawkins and have people like Chris who can be gentle and inviting.  Chris’s view was lets just all be gentle.  I was turned away from mormonism by Dawkins and I need that up front, scared of nothing, no BS attitude.  Is it not obvious that we need the entire spectrum so that there is a voice to convince every type of person?

Posted on Oct 15, 2010 at 12:37pm by atomb Comment #85

Who knew a “moderator” could out-Mooney Mooney.

“I’ve met many people who told me that I turned them into atheists and Richard Dawkins turned them back, and then I had to do it again and that’s exhausting work”.

There are so many reasons this doesn’t make sense. First of all, I highly doubt she has converted more religious people to atheism than Richard Dawkins. Secondly, Richard Dawkins by being unafraid to offend has gotten world-wide fame and thus given atheism an awareness which is great for recruitment. This may even suggest that being more “strident” is the best approach since you’re hardly gonna get a lot of notice by being tepid and afraid to offend. It may make the believers offended and defensive but I’m not convinced it’s a bad thing in the long run. When the Pope compared atheism to Nazi’s, I took it as a victory for atheism, because our numbers and voices had grown sufficiently to rattle his cage. Thirdly, how the hell can someone be an atheist and then become a theist just because Dawkins or anyone else said something that for some reason offended them? These people were probably never atheists at all and I think I can say that they were just trying to get atheists to respect them and when they felt that respect was gone they took their ball and went home. Good. They probably weren’t worth it anyway.

I did a lot more face-palming during the course of this episode, but I really don’t want to write thousands of words on it. I think the reason it frustrates me so much is because the accomodationalists just always spew out these nebulous claims that nobody can pin down and that was highlighted near the end when Jennifer said “you’re wrong” followed by a statement to which PZ simply said “be specific…no atheist would disagree with that” ... so I’m always left wondering, what the hell is the point? Getting Templeton cash maybe?

I can’t wait for the next POI trainwreck. This almost topped the “Christian Atheist” episode!

Perfectly put, I couldn’t believe the lame answer that Jennifer came out with and never could be specific and she never got called out on it.  And as far as face palming goes this “debate” couldn’t have had more of it.  Your point about Dawkins/Hitchens celebrity shinning light on the topic and bringing it into the main stream makes perfect sense and I think has done far more than any of the accommodationists have accomplished.

Posted on Oct 15, 2010 at 1:39pm by atomb Comment #86

What is “In your Face” and what is polite disagreement evolves as society does. Going back 500 years or less a polite person as Hecht would be executed for her beliefs. They would be deemed dangerous to civilized society and truly shocking.

Robert Ingersoll was as strong an atheist as any today, and was quite direct, but polite, very logical. I think Dawkins in his book did not make fun of the faithful, just showed the folly of their reasoning. The verbiage used changes as language and society evolves.

Clearly, western society has been evolving in a way that favors atheism, with major scientific advances and the media making distribution of information to the masses much easier than the not so distant past. So I believe this debate is moot. There will always a spectrum of attitudes in a population distribution. The religious have their absolutists and so do the atheists. Even if one believes a softer approach is more effective for deconverting a specific individual, there needs to be the bastion of pure (anti-) faith to back up and fortify the arguments. In time there will be less need to be gentle, and less need to be in your face. The tone of the dialog has been changing and softening for years. Only recently could an atheist be in your face and still be a best seller. That is because in your face is not as in your face as it once was.

Anecdotally, I am a deconverted Jew, now an atheist, who still sees value in my heritage, but not the theism or ritual. It helped me greatly to read the “new atheists” because it can be hard to see your own way through the logic when you have had a lifetime of religious inculcation. The availability of “shock therapy” was invaluable. I have a partner at work who grew up as an observant Jew, went to a Yeshiva all through school until college and med school. He still keeps kosher. He has told me he has doubted the existence of god, but was told that god would kill him and his family if he did not obey the laws. Brain washing. So I gave him Sam Harris’s book, and he privately told me he agreed with it. Now I gave him Shalom Auslander’s book, and it resonated. But I have never just yelled at him that he is stupid for believing in god. He will come along, but I respect his morality and ethics, so you just don’t break down a basically good person with inconsistent logic.

But I am still a hard liner, and will state that belief in god is a problem, and not consistent with the cosmological reality. You can still be a good person and have logical inconsistencies. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Posted on Oct 15, 2010 at 2:24pm by dolifant1 Comment #87

“I’ve met many people who told me that I turned them into atheists and Richard Dawkins turned them back, and then I had to do it again and that’s exhausting work”.
Thanks Atomb, for reminding me of one of the most inane comments I’ve heard in years! Don’t you just love her hubris?

Posted on Oct 15, 2010 at 2:53pm by asanta Comment #88

The moderator was preoccupied with the thin difference between her own
view of nature and some who see things practically the same way,
except they include religious ideas to account for nature’s
awesomeness ... and so, with such a fine (and, frankly,
understandable) distinction between the two camps, isn’t this whole
debate kind of silly?

Maybe it would be silly if those were the standard positions, but they
aren’t. Those are only the positions on each side of the line that
separates the camps. Away from the line, the religious side rapidly
loses its grasp on what facts are and pounds away at everyone about
being sinners headed for hell and all manner of in-your-face, self
righteous preaching. They have been at everyone this way for thousands
of years, but it is the atheists who are rude for recently mentioning
that it isn’t true.

Posted on Oct 15, 2010 at 5:20pm by Curt Nelson Comment #89

I listened to the show twice.  I like the overall content everyone provided. I read PZ posts. I have her book. I listen to Point of Inquiry podcasts. Everyone is interesting.  But I sure did gravitate to PZ during this discussion.  We should not back up and bow to the 1% of someones character that has been issued some special glow. I don’t see that religious glow. I mean, these are not 4 year olds that are waiting for Santa. “Oh, don’t spoil it, they believe in Santa. Play along”.

Posted on Oct 15, 2010 at 6:02pm by Skip_H Comment #90

Is it not obvious that we need the entire spectrum so that there is a voice to convince every type of person?

That’s the resolution I come to in thinking about this issue.

Chris Mooney made a point about research that suggested that the ‘soft’ way of argument was more effective.
I was ready to concede this as something worth looking at, but it’s surely just the weight of those participants who happen to have a personality which is inclined to be convinced by softness. Which may be a majority - but this doesn’t invalidate other modes of argument. There is surely a spectrum that needs to be covered.

I have known some people for whom it is much more appropriate to figuratively ‘slap’ them with argument to cock them into rethinking their position. Anything less than that and they keep getting these recurring wooly feelings that maybe they should start using crystal-healing and believing in wonder-gods.

I think PZ’s point goes beyond this though, and I think he would say ‘who cares’. If an idea is worthy of criticism, criticize it.
There’s no point in dancing around trying to use the right tactics to prevent hurting people’s feelings or running people up the wrong way. If you see a bad idea, you attack it in the way that your personality dictates, within reason. Regardless of who’s idea it is.

Furthermore, PZ’s point (I thought) was that by trying to tiptoe around people’s unsubstantiated/goofy/weird beliefs we’re partly ignoring the very problem we’re trying to solve. Do you really want to avoid criticizing magnetic-wonder-drugs while trying to convince a school-board that creationism shouldn’t be taught in a science class?

This sort of sneaky, double-standard seems more like a tactic of a used-car salesman.

Posted on Oct 15, 2010 at 10:57pm by FurryMoses Comment #91

....
Chris Mooney made a point about research that suggested that the ‘soft’ way of argument was more effective.

It certainly would seem to depend on what the point of the ‘argument’ is.

If he is trying to convince religous folks to vote Democratic, he doesn’t want to tick them off—he just wants their votes.
If he is trying to let them accept evolution in schools, he just wants them to accept evolution and doesn’t care about the other stuff.

But PZ and the new atheists in general want to assert that we need to run things without assuming that there is a God looking over us,
either fixing things if things get too bad, coming again in a rapture at the end of time, or rewarding folks with Heaven.  There is a fundamental
premise of the new atheists that we need to take care of this world for the future of mankind and that this is what matters.  This is
consistent with a “deist” view of God particularly if it also doesn’t include heaven (people who invoke “deism” as a defense for fuzzy atheism
are a little fuzzy on this point—I’m assuming deists think God has permanently checked out and is working on another universe somewhere)


Jackson

Posted on Oct 16, 2010 at 3:20am by Jackson Comment #92

If I could ask a scientist who adheres to mainstream religion anything, it would be, “How can your trust laboratory data if “God” intervenes in the natural world?  Do you consider a “God fudge factor” in statistical analysis of that data?”  Of course, Jennifer and Chris might see that as being a rude question.  I don’t care.  I want to know a scientist’s position on that question before I buy anything that he or she is selling as being a valid scientific conclusion.

Posted on Oct 16, 2010 at 11:37am by Strubie Comment #93

I was brought up with the same ideals as I used with my children: separate the issue from the person. Be hard on the issue and soft on the person. I like your honesty and disagree with the view that…. The statement that X is a nutty statement because…is at a different level of discourse from saying the other is a nutty person, or simply is nutty. How rational is it to use one statement on which to base a free personality diagnosis?

Posted on Oct 16, 2010 at 6:31pm by flyingspur Comment #94

There are far more people who gamble than there are people who are overtly religious. Nearly all of them justify gambling on ignorant and erroneous ideas about probability. And the state promotes it with bad logic and deliberate deception.
  More people subscribe to absurd and stupid erroneous thinking and harmful practices concerning medicine, health, and diet than attend church.
  We are supposed to grant a pass to minorities, the handicapped, and homosexuals for some outrageous lies and propaganda. Some of the most ancient and fundamental mores and attitudes of our culture are being transformed by the fallacious argument that the homosexual agenda is an equal rights issue. The absurd and brutal misconceptions of Marxism are still broadly taught and excused in our educational system. “Hate crimes” laws are thought crime laws but no one can or does decide what he is going to think or feel. We have laws and regulations intruding on every aspect of life: environmental, handicapped access, automotive gas mileage, open burning, hiring, work safety, educational, toilets, light bulbs, bottles and bottle caps, and thousands more, by legislators and bureaucrats with little knowledge and no concern for indirect and unforeseen consequences or even the actual basic operations of the laws of nature or economics involved, let alone optimizing marginal returns of benefit per dollar.
  I’m an atheist and I confront and debate Creationists because that is my competence. But religion is not all Creationism. It is far more sophisticated, benevolent and beneficial to society (despite grievous historical and lesser current sins), than political liberalism (despite important historical and lesser current beneficences). At least Christianity and Judaism are. Atheism, skepticism, and science are becoming whores for political liberalism which is much more consistently contrary and hostile to science and rationality and far more dangerous to life and well being than Christianity ever was.

Posted on Oct 17, 2010 at 6:19am by rg21 Comment #95

There are far more people who gamble than there are people who are overtly religious. Nearly all of them justify gambling on ignorant and erroneous ideas about probability. And the state promotes it with bad logic and deliberate deception.
  More people subscribe to absurd and stupid erroneous thinking and harmful practices concerning medicine, health, and diet than attend church.
  We are supposed to grant a pass to minorities, the handicapped, and homosexuals for some outrageous lies and propaganda. Some of the most ancient and fundamental mores and attitudes of our culture are being transformed by the fallacious argument that the homosexual agenda is an equal rights issue. The absurd and brutal misconceptions of Marxism are still broadly taught and excused in our educational system. “Hate crimes” laws are thought crime laws but no one can or does decide what he is going to think or feel. We have laws and regulations intruding on every aspect of life: environmental, handicapped access, automotive gas mileage, open burning, hiring, work safety, educational, toilets, light bulbs, bottles and bottle caps, and thousands more, by legislators and bureaucrats with little knowledge and no concern for indirect and unforeseen consequences or even the actual basic operations of the laws of nature or economics involved, let alone optimizing marginal returns of benefit per dollar.
  I’m an atheist and I confront and debate Creationists because that is my competence. But religion is not all Creationism. It is far more sophisticated, benevolent and beneficial to society (despite grievous historical and lesser current sins), than political liberalism (despite important historical and lesser current beneficences). At least Christianity and Judaism are. Atheism, skepticism, and science are becoming whores for political liberalism which is much more consistently contrary and hostile to science and rationality and far more dangerous to life and well being than Christianity ever was.

The reason most atheists are liberals is because conservatives are generally know-nothing ignorant racist homophobe hicks. I realize that’s a generalization, but I promise you it’s prevailing. It’s hard to be an atheist and at the same time be a know-nothing ignorant racist homophobe hick, but you pulled it off. Congratulations!

Posted on Oct 17, 2010 at 1:34pm by kennykjc Comment #96

Thank you Myers and Hecht for a wonderful podcast :)

I thoroughly enjoyed Myers and Hechts view point in spreading science. Being someone who was once a fundamental Christian and is now passionately enthralled with the scientific method, I found myself constantly applying the arguments to my ‘conversion’. While being a thoughtless soldier of fundamentalism I had encountered enough ‘angry’ atheist who merely strengthen my passion for credulity. Prior to my awakening to reality I was reading The God Delusion, and found myself laughing at the angry and childish tone Dawkins took. As Myers mentioned, the angry approach strengthens a person current belief, or at least in my case. Dawkins, Harris, and Myers style of promoting science was viewed as atheistic evangelism to me, and further my disdain for science. I actually felt a repulsion to evolution, and the angry atheist poured coals on this fire.

I had my beliefs crushed when my cousin, whom is no scientist, approached me in a kind manner. He did not bark and yell, he did not ridicule or belittle me, as the angry atheists do, and as a result I took him up on his challenge. There was no need for me to be defensive and I was forced to think out the issues instead of engage in a childish yelling match. Yelling the truth had never gotten through to me, but lovingly challenging me destroyed my fundamental foundations. For these reasons I find myself completely supporting Hecht and Mooney and seeing such tactics used by Myers to be useless.

I found it interesting when Myers distanced himself from such allies as Kennith Miller. I wonder if he will follow the argument where ever it leads him? After reading Hoods book ‘Supersense’ I have begun to realize how we all share the same roots of supernaturalism that is shared with religion. I found it interesting how he called out Dawkins for engaging in the supersense when he gives reverence to his copy of Origin of Species. Will Myers distance himself from Dawkins as he is clearly demonstrating an attribute of a behavior that is derived from the same stuff religion is derived from? I doubt it.

I also found the angry atheist attacked the weak. There is no glory in winning a battle when the person you were fighting is a child! I found Dawkins always went after the most extreme fundamental, and never the intelligent moderate. Why doesn’t Dawkins address arguments presented by the likes of John Polkinghorne or Owen Gingerich. Why is it that most angry atheist only go after the clueless creationists? The only angry atheist that made me think twice was Hitchens, and for me it was because he had original argument, and went after the giants instead of the pathetic.

Too me, it seems more that the angry atheists are on a crusade to have everyone think like them, even if it means them doing so without critical thinking. I find their agenda similar to fundamental evangelism. I have met a handful of people of have altered their views based on such books as The God Delusion, but they change their views whenever something new comes out and becomes mainstream. Is this lack of critical thinking truly a win for science? I think the human condition is prone to go with the flow, and few are truly critical. Let us be honest, the majority of fundamentals are ‘simple’ people, and I don’t think they think much about much, and merely go through life doing. Sure angry atheist can convert some of these people, but if they do so and those people are blindly following we should seriously consider the validity of the ‘win’. Will this lip service amount to any significant gain, I doubt it.

I believe a lot is at stake. I wasted my brains away for the first 30 years of my life. I have found a passion for science, but my fundamental roots have destroyed so much. I never took notice of science in school and find myself ignorant to so much that I want to know, but feel it is too late to pursue. I’d love to go back to university to learn more, but have a career and no extra time. It is as if a piece of my life is missing, and should have been there. I wonder how many fundamentals are out there that are unaware of a passion for science? I wonder how many of them will never see the light because the angry atheist get spotlight?

Posted on Oct 17, 2010 at 3:26pm by Eli Winsor Comment #97

Holly molly, this thread is still going strong. wow.

So whatchagonna-do for the election?
You know that one day out of 730 when your opinion matters?
Where is the rubber going to meet the road?
“faith-based”  or “rational”?
gotta moment?... http://www.centerforinquiry.net/forums/viewthread/8711/

Posted on Oct 17, 2010 at 4:13pm by citizenschallenge.pm Comment #98

I also found the angry atheist attacked the weak. There is no glory in winning a battle when the person you were fighting is a child! I found Dawkins always went after the most extreme fundamental, and never the intelligent moderate. Why doesn’t Dawkins address arguments presented by the likes of John Polkinghorne or Owen Gingerich.

What arguments advanced by Polkinghorne or Gingerich do you find compelling?

I haven’t heard any that are. Yes, their religious ideas aren’t as ludicrous on their face as those of Ken Hamm, but at the core they are the same—riddled with logical fallacies and based on superstition, not science or reason.

Posted on Oct 17, 2010 at 4:55pm by dwilton Comment #99

I also found the angry atheist attacked the weak. There is no glory in winning a battle when the person you were fighting is a child! I found Dawkins always went after the most extreme fundamental, and never the intelligent moderate. Why doesn’t Dawkins address arguments presented by the likes of John Polkinghorne or Owen Gingerich.

What arguments advanced by Polkinghorne or Gingerich do you find compelling?

I haven’t heard any that are. Yes, their religious ideas aren’t as ludicrous on their face as those of Ken Hamm, but at the core they are the same—riddled with logical fallacies and based on superstition, not science or reason.

You mention that you have not heard any arguments from Polkinghorne or Gingerich, but I would be curious to know what arguments you have heard from them? Have you read any of their books? If so can you please tell how their arguments aren’t more compelling? If they are more compelling, wouldn’t it make sense to show them wrong. To me, it makes more sense to tackle the hardest arguments first.

As stated, the angry atheist go after the weak, for the sake of looking superior. If mocking a far lesser mind is the heart of critical thinking then all the power to them! I am more than sure that if you had read any of Polkinhornes work on religion that you’d agree his arguments are far superior to any argument that Dawkins challenges. Heck, Dawkins didn’t include the interview with Swinburne in The Root of all Evil as Swinburne was in a league of his own in comparison to the others Dawkins interviewed. Dawkins did not look near as superior against Swinburne.

Those that are far more mellow seem to encourage the one thing that the angry atheist profusely banter on about, but do little for, critical thinking. Bart Ehrman has sound argument and does not waste his time responding to the arguments of the woo-woo crusaders. Robert Wright also takes on the tougher argument and responds with fresh insights that forces a person to think over their views.. Barbara Kings arguments are far more powerful than any angry atheist, in my eyes, as she lets the science do the talking and not petty ad hominem attacks. Bruce Hood is another who lets the science lead a person to the truth. For me, I found these authors inspired me to question my beliefs, and their works were integral to the altering of my mindset. While the angry atheists (with the exception of Hitchens) did nothing for me, as hurling insults at someone does not lead them to challenge their beliefs… well, unless you are they type that jumps ship when your feelings get hurt, but then again, thats not critical thinking.

Posted on Oct 17, 2010 at 9:23pm by Eli Winsor Comment #100

....
While being a thoughtless soldier of fundamentalism I had encountered enough ‘angry’ atheist who merely strengthen my passion for credulity. Prior to my awakening to reality I was reading The God Delusion, and found myself laughing at the angry and childish tone Dawkins took. As Myers mentioned, the angry approach strengthens a person current belief, or at least in my case. Dawkins, Harris, and Myers style of promoting science was viewed as atheistic evangelism to me, and further my disdain for science. .....

While I don’t agree with some of our points or share your perspective entirely,  I had a “similar” experience when I was in elementary school.  We had a Catholic school in our neighborhood and some of the neighborhood kids we played with went there. One day they told me that only Catholics go to heaven (or something like that)—they had been told this by the Sister.  Now if I had put two-and-two together and concluded “this is total baloney” things would have been different, but I responded like Eli suggested and resolved to show that an Episcopalian could be every much a devout Christian as a Catholic. 
However—the reason this is not a true analogy is that PZ Myers position is actually TRUE.

I think rather than emphasizing how many scientists believe in God to make people feel better about scientists, I would emphasize that the majority don’t and that this is a clue.

Posted on Oct 18, 2010 at 3:03am by Jackson Comment #101

To me, it makes more sense to tackle the hardest arguments first.

Fine, in your opinion which is the hardest argument? Give me the best and I’ll shoot it down.

This is right out of the standard theist playbook. Accuse the atheist of not addressing the best argument for God and then refusing to say what that argument is. If the atheist takes on the argument, then “it wasn’t one of the good ones.” If the atheist responds to a particular theist, then “he/she wasn’t the best choice.” The best argument for the existence of God is always over the next hill.

Posted on Oct 18, 2010 at 4:38am by dwilton Comment #102

To me, it makes more sense to tackle the hardest arguments first.

Fine, in your opinion which is the hardest argument? Give me the best and I’ll shoot it down.

This is right out of the standard theist playbook. Accuse the atheist of not addressing the best argument for God and then refusing to say what that argument is. If the atheist takes on the argument, then “it wasn’t one of the good ones.” If the atheist responds to a particular theist, then “he/she wasn’t the best choice.” The best argument for the existence of God is always over the next hill.

This is right out of the handbook of blind faith! Have you stolen your tactics from a revival? You clearly have not read literature from either Polkinghorne or Gingerich, hence why you refuse to respond to anything specific about their arguments. It is entirely possible to be credulous for the truth.When someone supports an idea solely because it supports their views it does not make them critical. What good is supporting truth if you have never questioned why it is truth and only claim it truth as it is what you want to believe, they have demonstrated credulity. There is no honor in believing in truth because it supports you, but there is honor believing in truth because you have done your best to examine it. Critical thinking does not mean supporting a position because those smarter than you support it. What good is it to replace one system with another when the adherents came to their position from the same mechanisms as the original system? I

How about you show how you came to your position (that Polkinghorne and Gingerichs arguments are not the best) other than through blind faith you appear to be showing. You made it appear that you have read their work, so please, comment on it, and do so without using wiki, as after all, you read their books! Polkinghorne has a slew of books that go deep in to quantum physics and faith, so why not comment on some of them instead constantly dodging the fact that you let Dawkins do your talking.

There is a reason that Dawkins claimed he was bewildered with the beliefs of Polkinghorne, but did not attempt to argue them. It is much harder to definitively win when you are playing on equal grounds. Again, the angry atheist beat their opponents with ad hominem, and their opponents are always the weak. It would seam that those such as Mooney truly care about science, as they don’t mock those with infantile beliefs, instead they let science do the talking, and encourage critical dialog. The authors I listed in the previous post all discussed science, and didn’t need to pollute their work with childish bantering. The science can defend itself, it does need an angry ass standing up for it. Look at the good Myth Busters has achieved for promoting science. Science is cool enough on its own.

Posted on Oct 18, 2010 at 7:03am by Eli Winsor Comment #103

This is exactly why atheists should not debate theists.

Give me the argument of Polkinghorne or Gingerich (or anyone, who put it forward is irrelevant) that you consider to be the best. Please tell me what that argument is. You say they have these great arguments, but you refuse to state what they are. I can’t argue something that isn’t defined.

I could select what I think is the “best” of their arguments, but that may not be the one that you consider convincing, and any argument I choose to refute will not be the “best” one. If I refute all of them, Polkinghorne and Gingerich will then cease to be good examples and some other theist will be touted as the best example. The history of atheist-theist debates is littered with examples of theists “moving the goalposts” when their ideas are refuted. I’m not going to engage in that.

Posted on Oct 18, 2010 at 8:09am by dwilton Comment #104

To me, it makes more sense to tackle the hardest arguments first.

Fine, in your opinion which is the hardest argument? Give me the best and I’ll shoot it down.

This is right out of the standard theist playbook. Accuse the atheist of not addressing the best argument for God and then refusing to say what that argument is. If the atheist takes on the argument, then “it wasn’t one of the good ones.” If the atheist responds to a particular theist, then “he/she wasn’t the best choice.” The best argument for the existence of God is always over the next hill.

This is right out of the handbook of blind faith! Have you stolen your tactics from a revival? You clearly have not read literature from either Polkinghorne or Gingerich, hence why you refuse to respond to anything specific about their arguments. It is entirely possible to be credulous for the truth.When someone supports an idea solely because it supports their views it does not make them critical. What good is supporting truth if you have never questioned why it is truth and only claim it truth as it is what you want to believe, they have demonstrated credulity. There is no honor in believing in truth because it supports you, but there is honor believing in truth because you have done your best to examine it. Critical thinking does not mean supporting a position because those smarter than you support it. What good is it to replace one system with another when the adherents came to their position from the same mechanisms as the original system? I

How about you show how you came to your position (that Polkinghorne and Gingerichs arguments are not the best) other than through blind faith you appear to be showing. You made it appear that you have read their work, so please, comment on it, and do so without using wiki, as after all, you read their books! Polkinghorne has a slew of books that go deep in to quantum physics and faith, so why not comment on some of them instead constantly dodging the fact that you let Dawkins do your talking.

There is a reason that Dawkins claimed he was bewildered with the beliefs of Polkinghorne, but did not attempt to argue them. It is much harder to definitively win when you are playing on equal grounds. Again, the angry atheist beat their opponents with ad hominem, and their opponents are always the weak. It would seam that those such as Mooney truly care about science, as they don’t mock those with infantile beliefs, instead they let science do the talking, and encourage critical dialog. The authors I listed in the previous post all discussed science, and didn’t need to pollute their work with childish bantering. The science can defend itself, it does need an angry ass standing up for it. Look at the good Myth Busters has achieved for promoting science. Science is cool enough on its own.

Are you afraid to put forth one of these compelling arguments or what.  I have not read the work you have listed but I’m not in any hurry to either when you refuse to give any examples of why they are so great.  People don’t have infinite time to waste on every religious apologetics book out there so give me a good sales pitch as to why this is worth anyones time.

Posted on Oct 18, 2010 at 8:17am by atomb Comment #105

Hi Eli

your story is very interesting, I am largely in agreement with you.  I too consider I wasted a lot of time with false belief that was very hard to shake off.  My way out of the maze came about by examining the counter evidence with a view to refuting it.  I was surprised at the outcome of my investigations!  Importantly, these were self originated, and would probably never been a response to a perceived intemperate hostile attack.

Now I know nothing about Polkinghorne nor do I consider it at all necessary for two reasons:


1) What use is a (presumably sophisticated) belief that requires superior amount of study and intelligence to defend it?  On the face of it it’s suspect, because an ordinary mortal would not have the resources to properly fund his faith except by such effort.

2) IMHO the simplest and best criticism against all Abrahamic systems are those against its moral foundations in the OT, particularly in the matter of divinely mandated crimes of genocide against tribal enemies of the Jews.  Defences of those crimes are weak and outlandish.  With the biblical moral authority thus discredited, the edifice of all the Abrahamic faiths collapses.  This connects with point 1; one doesn’t continue to build upon irreparable foundations, morally, logically or concretely.

Thus the reasonableness of faith in the popular perception of God was very unwarranted, and made for a strong likelihood that all traditions are substantially false.  There remains a few generalities of genuine wisdom in the bible, but it being so seriously discredited, it’s often undesirable to credit the source, so I think.

While every word PZ spoke was true, his approach would have left me cold or even obdurate during the very many months I was reevaluating my faith.  Anecdotally some of my friends agree, while others do not.

Only two cheers for Mooney and Hecht, because they seem to deny PZ the right to mouth off.  I defend that he has that right, while maintaining that he often achieves the opposite of his intentions.  I have had a similar tone in other forum postings.  I would not presume to think they had much effect on believers, but it did feel good.  He can be entertaining in a self-indulgent way.  However Tom Paine in The Age of Reason is still the man that says it best, and he is merciless.  So I do allow occasional success to the hardcore atheists.  In the end it depends on the individual I guess.

Posted on Oct 18, 2010 at 4:40pm by B9K9 Comment #106

To me, it makes more sense to tackle the hardest arguments first.

Fine, in your opinion which is the hardest argument? Give me the best and I’ll shoot it down.

This is right out of the standard theist playbook. Accuse the atheist of not addressing the best argument for God and then refusing to say what that argument is. If the atheist takes on the argument, then “it wasn’t one of the good ones.” If the atheist responds to a particular theist, then “he/she wasn’t the best choice.” The best argument for the existence of God is always over the next hill.

This is right out of the handbook of blind faith! Have you stolen your tactics from a revival? You clearly have not read literature from either Polkinghorne or Gingerich, hence why you refuse to respond to anything specific about their arguments. It is entirely possible to be credulous for the truth.When someone supports an idea solely because it supports their views it does not make them critical. What good is supporting truth if you have never questioned why it is truth and only claim it truth as it is what you want to believe, they have demonstrated credulity. There is no honor in believing in truth because it supports you, but there is honor believing in truth because you have done your best to examine it. Critical thinking does not mean supporting a position because those smarter than you support it. What good is it to replace one system with another when the adherents came to their position from the same mechanisms as the original system? I

How about you show how you came to your position (that Polkinghorne and Gingerichs arguments are not the best) other than through blind faith you appear to be showing. You made it appear that you have read their work, so please, comment on it, and do so without using wiki, as after all, you read their books! Polkinghorne has a slew of books that go deep in to quantum physics and faith, so why not comment on some of them instead constantly dodging the fact that you let Dawkins do your talking.

There is a reason that Dawkins claimed he was bewildered with the beliefs of Polkinghorne, but did not attempt to argue them. It is much harder to definitively win when you are playing on equal grounds. Again, the angry atheist beat their opponents with ad hominem, and their opponents are always the weak. It would seam that those such as Mooney truly care about science, as they don’t mock those with infantile beliefs, instead they let science do the talking, and encourage critical dialog. The authors I listed in the previous post all discussed science, and didn’t need to pollute their work with childish bantering. The science can defend itself, it does need an angry ass standing up for it. Look at the good Myth Busters has achieved for promoting science. Science is cool enough on its own.

I would be a lot more convinced by your argument if I was convinced that you weren’t recomending books you have never read. Give us the arguments, the authors are irrelevant.

Posted on Oct 19, 2010 at 2:26am by Bruce Gorton Comment #107

Seems that Eli is using the same tactic that annoyed me about Jennifer in this podcast: making vague unsubstantiated accusations, then evading rather answering when challenged. I finished listening to this podcast yesterday, and I must say that while PZ did sound a bit frustrated at the end, he showed a lot more patience that I would have with Jennifer’s antics. She came across as rude, evasive and condescending. I would have called her out her early on when she made the claim about re-deconverting some Christians turned atheists turned Christian again by Richard Dawkins’ writings. That is an extraordinary claim. I am insulted she finds me naive enough to believe such obvious bullshit. She displayed rudeness by interrupting PZ to refute points he was trying to make. When PZ finally asked her for specifics she merely offered vague evasiveness.

This podcast made me wonder why I bother wasting hard drive space on Point of Inquiry. If not for Karen Stollznow I would unsubscribe to the Podcast. At least I can go through and delete the crappy ones like this one under discussion, and everything Robert Price has hosted.

Posted on Oct 19, 2010 at 12:39pm by DarronS Comment #108

Rudeness and tone are issues of PR, not of content.

PR is important, of course, but as far as actual content goes, the only thing that worries me about “strong” atheism is scientism: some strong atheists get overconfident in science and start treating even fairly speculative scientific theories as proven truth. Science becomes their new religion. It is really dangerous because a major debating pitfall for atheists is the “atheism is just another religion” fallacy.
I’m not sure if PZ Myers is prone to this mistake, but Dawkins makes it all over the place in “The God Delusion”, and it worried me to hear Myers singing the praises of that book, when really it is an example of how atheism can become contaminated with scientism.

Posted on Oct 20, 2010 at 9:13pm by Hilbert Comment #109

Rudeness and tone are issues of PR, not of content.

PR is important, of course, but as far as actual content goes, the only thing that worries me about “strong” atheism is scientism: some strong atheists get overconfident in science and start treating even fairly speculative scientific theories as proven truth. Science becomes their new religion. It is really dangerous because a major debating pitfall for atheists is the “atheism is just another religion” fallacy.
I’m not sure if PZ Myers is prone to this mistake, but Dawkins makes it all over the place in “The God Delusion”, and it worried me to hear Myers singing the praises of that book, when really it is an example of how atheism can become contaminated with scientism.

Care to point to specifics?

Posted on Oct 20, 2010 at 10:47pm by Bruce Gorton Comment #110

Bruce, you don’t really expect specifics from someone who posted a straw man argument do you? No? I didn’t think so.

... some strong atheists get overconfident in science and start treating even fairly speculative scientific theories as proven truth.

Undoubtedly there are some atheists who think like this, but they are statistical outliers, not the norm.

Science becomes their new religion.

Science is religion applies only to crackpots who pursue their ideas despite all the evidence they are wrong.
Edit: After further reflection, crackpots do not make science their religion. They reject scientific thinking and their ideas become their religion.

It is really dangerous because a major debating pitfall for atheists is the “atheism is just another religion” fallacy.

This fallacy is not a “major debating pitfall,” it is easily refuted. Science and religion are opposite worldviews. Science relies on evidence, religion relies on faith. 

I’m not sure if PZ Myers is prone to this mistake, but Dawkins makes it all over the place in “The God Delusion”, and it worried me to hear Myers singing the praises of that book, when really it is an example of how atheism can become contaminated with scientism.

As Bruce said, give us some specifics. All you have done is the same thing Jennifer Hecht did in the podcast and Eli has done in this thread; throw out vague, unsubstantiated assertions as if they are facts. Actually, your arguments go further by promoting obvious straw men.

Posted on Oct 21, 2010 at 4:26am by DarronS Comment #111

Care to point to specifics?

Sure. For example, to deal with the argument from personal experience he invokes recent cogsci speculation about the brain’s “simulation software”. But obviously the flaws in that argument are deeper and independent of whether those speculations turn out to be correct or not.
Another example is his discussion of the argument from design, where he unnecessarily invokes the “multiverse”, a piece of speculative cosmology with negligible evidence to support it. Again, he overlooks the fact that the argument from design has more general flaws independent of the success or failure of the multiverse theory.
He does something similar with the origin of life, unnecessarily getting embroiled in speculative scientific hypotheses, as if they were the main argument against the theist’s claims. Obviously you don’t need your own working theory of the origin of life, to argue that a personal God is not the best or only explanation!

Posted on Oct 21, 2010 at 10:05am by Hilbert Comment #112

If PZ is interested in persuading the opposition I think his style ain’t a’gonna do it.  People are obviously not strictly logical mechanisms; therefore the logic of what he has to say to them is going to be lost in the murk of their insulting manner.  I think he and the other “new/angry” atheists may enjoy a bit too much the pejorative contempt they rain down on their enemies.  Methinks their enemies won’t be persuaded.

Posted on Oct 21, 2010 at 10:35pm by d19jordan57 Comment #113

I also found the angry atheist attacked the weak. There is no glory in winning a battle when the person you were fighting is a child! I found Dawkins always went after the most extreme fundamental, and never the intelligent moderate. Why doesn’t Dawkins address arguments presented by the likes of John Polkinghorne or Owen Gingerich. Why is it that most angry atheist only go after the clueless creationists? The only angry atheist that made me think twice was Hitchens, and for me it was because he had original argument, and went after the giants instead of the pathetic.

This is a completely misleading argument, and it came but in the Shook-Wright podcast (Wright improved but a long way to go).

Most Protestants and Catholics say the Nicene Creed—PZ brought this up and Hecht tried to dismiss it as “out of date”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicene_Creed

Either Chrisitans believe in the Nicene Creed (which starts in English ... I believe…) or they don’t.  If they believe in it literally, then there is something concrete to discuss that is every bit as baloney as creationism.  If they only believe in it metaphorically then they are not the accomodationsm problem.

I really don’t see what is wrong with going for the weak points in someone’s argument—maybe you could try to explain that —is your point that you don’t think most Christians are creationists? That’s probably why I brought up the Nicene Creed as a “lowes common denominator” weak point.

Posted on Oct 22, 2010 at 2:52am by Jackson Comment #114

I think he and the other “new/angry” atheists may enjoy a bit too much the pejorative contempt they rain down on their enemies.

When have any of the new atheists been “angry”? I hear this word applied to them a lot (usually, but not always, by people who have not read what the new atheists have written), but I’ve never heard a word or tone of anger in any of their arguments. Myers comes the closest, but even he is calm and low key. The new atheists actually come across like really friendly, extremely polite, and likable people.

And the same goes with “pejorative.” Sometimes they go over the top in their rhetoric (e.g., Dawkins likening childhood religious indoctrination as “abuse”), but I’ve never heard Myers, Dawkins, Hitchens, or Dennett make any kind of personal attack or insult any individual because of their religious belief.

Compared to their theist counterparts, the new atheists are the Emily Posts of debate strategists. It’s the theists who are the angry ones, shouting, talking over their opponents, not letting their opponents speak, etc.

The only thing that I can figure out that the new atheists have done to deserve such criticism is that they dare to challenge religious ideas in public. As a society, we—and that includes most atheists—are so indoctrinated to sacredness of religious thought, any public challenge to religions is angry, destructive, pejorative, and even blasphemous.

Posted on Oct 22, 2010 at 3:32am by dwilton Comment #115

The only thing that I can figure out that the new atheists have done to deserve such criticism is that they dare to challenge religious ideas in public. As a society, we—and that includes most atheists—are so indoctrinated to sacredness of religious thought, any public challenge to religions is angry, destructive, pejorative, and even blasphemous.

*golf claps*

Exactly.

Posted on Oct 22, 2010 at 4:35am by 1000 Needles Comment #116

Care to point to specifics?

Sure. For example, to deal with the argument from personal experience he invokes recent cogsci speculation about the brain’s “simulation software”. But obviously the flaws in that argument are deeper and independent of whether those speculations turn out to be correct or not.
Another example is his discussion of the argument from design, where he unnecessarily invokes the “multiverse”, a piece of speculative cosmology with negligible evidence to support it. Again, he overlooks the fact that the argument from design has more general flaws independent of the success or failure of the multiverse theory.
He does something similar with the origin of life, unnecessarily getting embroiled in speculative scientific hypotheses, as if they were the main argument against the theist’s claims. Obviously you don’t need your own working theory of the origin of life, to argue that a personal God is not the best or only explanation!

I think you are taking Dawkins’ comments out of context and twisting them to fit a preconceived notion. I don’t have the reference material at my side, but I would be shocked if Dawkins stated the multiverse idea is fact. I would appreciate it if you could quote the objectionable passages in context, or at least point the out book and the pages where you found them so I can look them up.

Posted on Oct 22, 2010 at 6:01am by DarronS Comment #117

I think you are taking Dawkins’ comments out of context and twisting them to fit a preconceived notion. I don’t have the reference material at my side, but I would be shocked if Dawkins stated the multiverse idea is fact. I would appreciate it if you could quote the objectionable passages in context, or at least point the out book and the pages where you found them so I can look them up.

Certainly, that’s a reasonable request. I left my copy at the office so it’ll take a couple of days for me to get back to you. By the way, I did not preconceive this notion. I read Dawkins’s book and discovered that he made these (to my mind) mistakes. Also, I’m not saying he presented the multiverse as fact. If I remember correctly he presented it as the main counter-argument against the theist’s “Goldilocks” argument for God. But it’s a very weak counter-argument because the evidence for it is so weak. He should have emphasized the internal inadequacies of the theist’s case (why does the mechanism that “fine tunes” the laws of physics have to be a personal God, or any kind of being at all?).

Posted on Oct 23, 2010 at 7:23pm by Hilbert Comment #118

Hilbert, sounds good to me. I have not read The God Delusion so cannot comment on its contents. I agree that the multiverse idea is not a good main argument against the Goldilocks argument because the multiverse idea is speculation, and the Goldilocks argument is itself fallacious.

Posted on Oct 23, 2010 at 7:29pm by DarronS Comment #119

PZ Myers is good at separating religious beliefs from all other kinds of beliefs.  Then he attacks those distinct religious beliefs with no mercy.  This is great if you can be that discriminating, but most Christians are not that way.  Life is complex and even with lots of self reflection and analysis it is difficult to sort out and separate all the different issues and ambiguity in life.  Also, Christians have been taught since they were converted to integrate and fuse religious and Godly beliefs into every fiber of their being.  To ask them to give up God and religion would be like asking them to give up life.  This needs to be taken into consideration when trying to talk with the religious.  Unfortunately, this will require a great deal of patience.

Posted on Oct 24, 2010 at 10:08am by brightfut Comment #120

I think you are taking Dawkins’ comments out of context and twisting them to fit a preconceived notion. I don’t have the reference material at my side, but I would be shocked if Dawkins stated the multiverse idea is fact. I would appreciate it if you could quote the objectionable passages in context, or at least point the out book and the pages where you found them so I can look them up.

Certainly, that’s a reasonable request. I left my copy at the office so it’ll take a couple of days for me to get back to you. By the way, I did not preconceive this notion. I read Dawkins’s book and discovered that he made these (to my mind) mistakes. Also, I’m not saying he presented the multiverse as fact. If I remember correctly he presented it as the main counter-argument against the theist’s “Goldilocks” argument for God. But it’s a very weak counter-argument because the evidence for it is so weak. He should have emphasized the internal inadequacies of the theist’s case (why does the mechanism that “fine tunes” the laws of physics have to be a personal God, or any kind of being at all?).

The evidence in favor of the multi-verse theory is about as substantive as the evidence for the Goldilocks “Theory”(GT), i.e. not very.  This was the author’s demonstration of the reductio ad absurdum of the GT, and was(IMHO) a subtle allusion to Occam’s Razor.  Perhaps, however, I am giving a singularly brilliant man, and author of a dozen other magnificent books, too much literary credit…

Posted on Oct 24, 2010 at 1:30pm by Reerr Comment #121

Excellently put brightfut.

Posted on Oct 24, 2010 at 2:09pm by ft79 Comment #122

Dawkins’s misuse of the multiverse.

The relevant text is Dawkins’s “God Delusion”, where he invokes the multiverse as an important part of the counter-argument to the theist’s “Goldilocks” (fine-tuned) Universe argument. See Chapter 4, section “Anthropic principle: cosmological version”, and final summary at end of chapter (pages 169-176 and 188 in Mariner Books 2008 edition).

In these pages, Dawkins sets up the “finely-tuned universe” argument, with its “six finely-tuned numbers” and mentions that “hard-nosed physicists” would say that this is to be explained by an ultimate theory of everything. He says he finds this “unsatisfying” and offers as a superior alternative “the suggestion, which Martin Rees himself supports, that there are many universes… in a ‘multiverse’...”. He spends the next few pages describing how the multiverse and the anthropic principle can explain apparent fine-tuning.
A few pages later he even defends the multiverse on the grounds that it is “simple” compared to God: “if each one of those universes is simple in its fundamental laws, we are still not postulating anything highly improbable.”

In his summary at the end of the chapter he softens his stance slightly, saying that “Some kind of multiverse theory could in principle do for physics the same explanatory work that Darwinism does for biology”, but he goes on to affirm that “the anthropic principle entitles us to postulate far more luck than our limited human intuition is comfortable with.”

It is clear that to Dawkins the multiverse is a significant part of the counterargument to the argument for design. He gives readers the impression that we need to postulate some sort of “luck” to deal with the Goldilocks argument, and that wild scientific speculations unsupported by evidence are something to have faith in. This is a problem when the central argument against theist apologetics is that faith has no probative value, and that the problem with supernatural beings is that they are wild speculations unsupported by evidence.

Posted on Oct 25, 2010 at 7:50pm by Hilbert Comment #123

And how is this a mistake?
I agree with you that the multiverse is a poor argument against Goldilocks argument, but if this is the worst “mistake” in all of his books, he has done a pretty good job.

Posted on Oct 25, 2010 at 8:27pm by hamax Comment #124

For a evolutionist, the multiverse idea is of course very attractive… One does not need a ‘real explanation’, only chance and a selection criterion, the weak anthropic principle in this case. But without a mechanism that explains how many different universes bang again and again it still not worth much…

See the multiverse thread for some ideas.

GdB

Posted on Oct 26, 2010 at 2:24am by GdB Comment #125

And how is this a mistake?
I agree with you that the multiverse is a poor argument against Goldilocks argument, but if this is the worst “mistake” in all of his books, he has done a pretty good job.

1) Dawkins is widely regarded as an intellectual leader of atheism. If his arguments are weak then many readers, naturally assuming this is the cream of atheistic argumentation, will infer that these are weaknesses in the case for atheistism.

2) Dawkins’s specific mistake, repeatedly made in his book, involves using even fairly marginal scientific theories as important components of his arguments. This undermines the central thrust of the case for atheism, which is that extraordinary claims (like the multiverse) require extraordinarily strong evidence. Dawkins’s approach unfortunately gives ammunition to those who would like to argue that atheism is just another faith system, following from an arbitrarily adopted “naturalistic worldview” which is credulous about science.

As I mentioned before, there are other places where he makes this mistake, e.g.  in the argument from personal experience, where he invokes recent cogsci speculation about the brain’s “simulation software”. Obviously the “personal experience” argument for theism has deeper weaknesses, and a good counter-argument should focus on those.

Posted on Oct 26, 2010 at 7:36pm by Hilbert Comment #126

Hilbert, those do seem like valid criticims of Dawkins’ writings. Now I’m going to have to find a used copy of The God Delusion and read it for myself.

Posted on Oct 26, 2010 at 7:41pm by DarronS Comment #127

Hilbert, those do seem like valid criticims of Dawkins’ writings. Now I’m going to have to find a used copy of The God Delusion and read it for myself.

Well, in that case you might say the same about Hawking, as he makes a very similar claim in his latest book, The Grand Design.

Posted on Oct 26, 2010 at 7:57pm by George Comment #128

Stephen Hawking stepped off into the deep end a long time ago. His latest diatribe about keeping radio silence so aliens don’t invade us convinced me he has nothing of substance left to offer.

Posted on Oct 26, 2010 at 8:08pm by DarronS Comment #129

Stephen Hawking stepped off into the deep end a long time ago. His latest diatribe about keeping radio silence so aliens don’t invade us convinced me he has nothing of substance left to offer.

Hmm, an ad hominem? I would have expected a little more from you, Darron.

Posted on Oct 26, 2010 at 8:12pm by George Comment #130

Stephen Hawking stepped off into the deep end a long time ago. His latest diatribe about keeping radio silence so aliens don’t invade us convinced me he has nothing of substance left to offer.

Hmm, an ad hominem? I would have expected a little more from you, Darron.

Stephen Hawking made one significant contribution to physics in 1974. Since then he has written several popular books (which I have read and enjoyed) and admitted everything he has done in physics since 1974 was wrong. Speculating about multiverses is interesting, but not yet in the realm of testable science. It may be soon, but it ain’t there yet. Warning about aliens invading Earth is paranoia. Some ad hominems are justified.

Posted on Oct 26, 2010 at 8:20pm by DarronS Comment #131

Dawkins presents the idea of the multiverse in his book as a possible explanation, which is far from making an extraordinary claim, as Hilbert seems to suggest. (Yes, you should read the book.) Hawking and Mlodinow say in their book that the “multiverse idea is not a notion invented to account for the miracle of fine-tuning. It is a consequence of the no-boundary condition as well as many other theories of modern cosmology.” But maybe you’re aware of why many of those theories might be wrong, and why you may therefore find it appropriate here to use an ad hominem against Hawking.

And one more thing on the “extraordinary claims (like the multiverse) require extraordinarily strong evidence”: Didn’t Sagan once said that, “We wish to find the truth, no matter where it lies. But to find the truth we need imagination and skepticism both. We will not be afraid to speculate, but we will be careful to distinguish speculation from fact?” As far as I can tell, that’s exactly what both Dawkins and Hawking are doing, not being afraid to speculate. None of them has ever claimed that the multiverse was a certainty.

Posted on Oct 26, 2010 at 8:55pm by George Comment #132

Good points, George. I do need to read The God Delusion and see for myself what Dawkins said about multiverses.

My point about Hawking is limited to his recent pronouncement about the dangers of aliens finding our signals and coming to invade us. His speculations about mulitverses are interesting, and recent discoveries about dark matter have the potential to reveal the veracity of the idea. I like the multiverse idea and think it has potential to explain a lot of things about how and why our universe exists as it does.

I do believe that Hawking’s reputation exceeds his contributions to science. Not to belittle what he has contributed, but he is not one of the 20th Century’s greatest physicists. Brilliant, yes, but others have contributed just as much. See Lawrence Krauss’ book The Black Hole Wars for an explanation of where Hawking went wrong. He owes Krauss a six-pack of beer, and publicly admitted this two years ago. I give Hawking kudos for admitting Krauss was right. That shows Hawking is more interested in advancing science than in advancing his own ideas.

Posted on Oct 26, 2010 at 9:36pm by DarronS Comment #133

Hawking and Mlodinow say in their book that the “multiverse idea is not a notion invented to account for the miracle of fine-tuning. It is a consequence of the no-boundary condition as well as many other theories of modern cosmology.”

I was wondering if this is true, and searched for the citation in the internet, and found a longer version of it:

That multiverse idea is not a notion invented by the miracle of fine-tuning. It is a consequence of the no-boundary condition as well as many other theories of modern cosmology… in the same way that the environmental coincidences of our solar system were rendered unremarkable by the realization that billions of such systems exist, the fine-tuning in the laws of nature can be explained by the existence of multiple universes.

Italic by me.

If there is a ‘not’ somewhere in the ellipsis it could make sense, otherwise Hawking seems to contradict himself. George, do you have the complete sentence at hand?

GdB

PS Found this interesting article.

Posted on Oct 27, 2010 at 1:18am by GdB Comment #134

Good points, George. I do need to read The God Delusion and see for myself what Dawkins said about multiverses.

My point about Hawking is limited to his recent pronouncement about the dangers of aliens finding our signals and coming to invade us. His speculations about mulitverses are interesting, and recent discoveries about dark matter have the potential to reveal the veracity of the idea. I like the multiverse idea and think it has potential to explain a lot of things about how and why our universe exists as it does.

I do believe that Hawking’s reputation exceeds his contributions to science. Not to belittle what he has contributed, but he is not one of the 20th Century’s greatest physicists. Brilliant, yes, but others have contributed just as much. See Lawrence Krauss’ book The Black Hole Wars for an explanation of where Hawking went wrong. He owes Krauss a six-pack of beer, and publicly admitted this two years ago. I give Hawking kudos for admitting Krauss was right. That shows Hawking is more interested in advancing science than in advancing his own ideas.

Hawking’s argument for the multiverse is interesting - having just finished his book. The central point he seems to me to be making is that if we take quantum objects as travelling from point A to point B via every possible path (as shown by experimental evidence) AND consider that the universe started as such and object, then we should be prepared to accept the multiverse as being valid, with our universe simply being on one path amongst many.

I am not saying he is right, but if he is wrong he at least manages it in an intriguing way.

As to The God Delusion, it is a good idea to read the book in any case. There is a lot written debunking arguments in the God Delusion - which don’t actually appear in the God Delusion. It is a bit like there are two books written by the same author, with the same title, and totally different contents floating around.

Posted on Oct 27, 2010 at 7:16am by Bruce Gorton Comment #135

And how is this a mistake?
I agree with you that the multiverse is a poor argument against Goldilocks argument, but if this is the worst “mistake” in all of his books, he has done a pretty good job.

1) Dawkins is widely regarded as an intellectual leader of atheism. If his arguments are weak then many readers, naturally assuming this is the cream of atheistic argumentation, will infer that these are weaknesses in the case for atheistism.

2) Dawkins’s specific mistake, repeatedly made in his book, involves using even fairly marginal scientific theories as important components of his arguments. This undermines the central thrust of the case for atheism, which is that extraordinary claims (like the multiverse) require extraordinarily strong evidence. Dawkins’s approach unfortunately gives ammunition to those who would like to argue that atheism is just another faith system, following from an arbitrarily adopted “naturalistic worldview” which is credulous about science.

As I mentioned before, there are other places where he makes this mistake, e.g.  in the argument from personal experience, where he invokes recent cogsci speculation about the brain’s “simulation software”. Obviously the “personal experience” argument for theism has deeper weaknesses, and a good counter-argument should focus on those.

1. By the logic of your first paragraph, theism argued via the Goldilocks Theory is just as weak.  The assumptions required for such an idea are enormous, not the least of which is the idea that humans are to be the standard of measurement, and that the universe must have been geared towards our emergence.  If there is a more arrogant viewpoint, I can’t conceive of it.  In addition, this is but one argument in his book, and he has several other arguments from a biological standpoint which hold far more credibility.

2. He did not have to use solid arguments to offer alternatives to a weak argument.  He offered a weak argument and that was all that was required.  He, and all other scientists, readily admit their ignorance on many subjects, this included.  Your standards for what is required to argue AGAINST theism is far higher than what is required to argue FOR it.  “I made a bad argument, and he didn’t refute it well enough, therefore atheism is not a sound position.”

Certainly conceding your third point, however.

Posted on Oct 27, 2010 at 7:40am by Reerr Comment #136

That multiverse idea is not a notion invented by the miracle of fine-tuning. It is a consequence of the no-boundary condition as well as many other theories of modern cosmology… in the same way that the environmental coincidences of our solar system were rendered unremarkable by the realization that billions of such systems exist, the fine-tuning in the laws of nature can be explained by the existence of multiple universes.

Italic by me.

If there is a ‘not’ somewhere in the ellipsis it could make sense, otherwise Hawking seems to contradict himself. George, do you have the complete sentence at hand?

GdB

GdB,

I don’t have the book with me, but basically what Hawking is doing here, he is comparing the strong anthropic principle (the laws of our universe) with the weak anthropic principle (our place within our universe) and saying that many different types of universes might give you one with our laws of physics just like many different types of solar systems might give you one with a life in it. I am not sure why you feel he is contradicting himself.

Posted on Oct 27, 2010 at 8:55am by George Comment #137

I don’t have the book with me, but basically what Hawking is doing here, he is comparing the strong anthropic principle (the laws of our universe) with the weak anthropic principle (our place within our universe) and saying that many different types of universes might give you one with our laws of physics just like many different types of solar systems might give you one with a life in it. I am not sure why you feel he is contradicting himself.

It is in explaining away of the goldilock’s solar system: when there are many billion stellar systems, then of course there is one solar system that has such a rare planet as earth. And given many universes, of course there is one with the correct parameters to produce stable structures.

Your interpretation differs from mine, but without the full context it is difficult to see what Hawkins really means.

GdB

Posted on Oct 27, 2010 at 10:46am by GdB Comment #138

Dawkins presents the idea of the multiverse in his book as a possible explanation, which is far from making an extraordinary claim, as Hilbert seems to suggest….As far as I can tell, that’s exactly what both Dawkins and Hawking are doing, not being afraid to speculate. None of them has ever claimed that the multiverse was a certainty.

And I never said they said it was a certainty.
However, in the passages I quoted, Dawkins clearly offers the multiverse as his main counterargument to the argument for design. And it is not an adequate counterargument because it is speculation (interesting speculation, I agree) with negligible evidence to support it. There are proper, strong, arguments against the argument from design that he should have put forward instead. Some form of Occam’s razor, for example. Moreover, I think one can make an argument that it is not even clear that there is fine-tuning. But we can discuss that in a separate thread, perhaps.

1. By the logic of your first paragraph, theism argued via the Goldilocks Theory is just as weak.  The assumptions required for such an idea are enormous, not the least of which is the idea that humans are to be the standard of measurement, and that the universe must have been geared towards our emergence.  If there is a more arrogant viewpoint, I can’t conceive of it.

You are already doing better than Dawkins, which amplifies my point. He should have focused on the inherent weaknesses of the Goldilocks argument, instead of focusing on a non-theistic speculative explanation for fine-tuning, which shares the same weaknesses as the theistic one.

I agree that in the proper argument against Goldilocks, the multiverse could play a role as an example (God is not the only mechanism, see, it could be this…) but by focusing exclusively on the multiverse Dawkins gives the impression that if the theist can cast doubt on the multiverse (which is not difficult!) then he has neutralized the atheist counterargument, and forced a draw. Dawkins should have made it clear that fine-tuning does not supply strong evidence for any detailed speculative scenario.

In addition, this is but one argument in his book, and he has several other arguments from a biological standpoint which hold far more credibility.

I think this is the only place where he addresses the Goldilocks argument (fine-tuning of the constants of nature). If there are others, please point them out to me.

2. He did not have to use solid arguments to offer alternatives to a weak argument.  He offered a weak argument and that was all that was required.  He, and all other scientists, readily admit their ignorance on many subjects, this included.  Your standards for what is required to argue AGAINST theism is far higher than what is required to argue FOR it.  “I made a bad argument, and he didn’t refute it well enough, therefore atheism is not a sound position.”

Weak counterargument vs weak argument is a draw. I think that’s a pretty lame performance by a supposed master of the subject, especially when proper strong counterarguments are available.

Posted on Oct 27, 2010 at 7:45pm by Hilbert Comment #139

Dawkins presents the idea of the multiverse in his book as a possible explanation, which is far from making an extraordinary claim, as Hilbert seems to suggest….As far as I can tell, that’s exactly what both Dawkins and Hawking are doing, not being afraid to speculate. None of them has ever claimed that the multiverse was a certainty.

And I never said they said it was a certainty.
However, in the passages I quoted, Dawkins clearly offers the multiverse as his main counterargument to the argument for design. And it is not an adequate counterargument because it is speculation (interesting speculation, I agree) with negligible evidence to support it. There are proper, strong, arguments against the argument from design that he should have put forward instead. Some form of Occam’s razor, for example. Moreover, I think one can make an argument that it is not even clear that there is fine-tuning. But we can discuss that in a separate thread, perhaps.

1. By the logic of your first paragraph, theism argued via the Goldilocks Theory is just as weak.  The assumptions required for such an idea are enormous, not the least of which is the idea that humans are to be the standard of measurement, and that the universe must have been geared towards our emergence.  If there is a more arrogant viewpoint, I can’t conceive of it.

You are already doing better than Dawkins, which amplifies my point. He should have focused on the inherent weaknesses of the Goldilocks argument, instead of focusing on a non-theistic speculative explanation for fine-tuning, which shares the same weaknesses as the theistic one.

I agree that in the proper argument against Goldilocks, the multiverse could play a role as an example (God is not the only mechanism, see, it could be this…) but by focusing exclusively on the multiverse Dawkins gives the impression that if the theist can cast doubt on the multiverse (which is not difficult!) then he has neutralized the atheist counterargument, and forced a draw. Dawkins should have made it clear that fine-tuning does not supply strong evidence for any detailed speculative scenario.

In addition, this is but one argument in his book, and he has several other arguments from a biological standpoint which hold far more credibility.

I think this is the only place where he addresses the Goldilocks argument (fine-tuning of the constants of nature). If there are others, please point them out to me.

2. He did not have to use solid arguments to offer alternatives to a weak argument.  He offered a weak argument and that was all that was required.  He, and all other scientists, readily admit their ignorance on many subjects, this included.  Your standards for what is required to argue AGAINST theism is far higher than what is required to argue FOR it.  “I made a bad argument, and he didn’t refute it well enough, therefore atheism is not a sound position.”

Weak counterargument vs weak argument is a draw. I think that’s a pretty lame performance by a supposed master of the subject, especially when proper strong counterarguments are available.

In response to your last sentence, I would again assert that a draw is all that is required.  He is a master of evolutionary biology, not cosmology, physics, astrophysics, astronomy, etc, etc(there are other experts for these subjects).  I think perhaps our disagreement is a function of preference; I am satisfied with his treatment of the GT, while you wish he had articulated a forceful argument from a field unfamiliar to his main studies.  I can understand this request, generally, though I disagree with the reasoning behind the request in this instance.  He addresses the main arguments for theism in an attempt to be thorough in his book.  Failure to do so on the part of other authors has resulted in sweeping criticism of the cowardice of the pen to bend to a particular reason or other.  That he has not escaped that criticism on the whole is indicative of just how many bad reasons are employed, and that he has received your brand of criticism (ie: not a “strong” enough counter) when addressing a rather arrogant argument with as much humility of knowledge as he has, is rather frustrating for both the author and those in agreement.

While a .308 is a very efficient weapon in deer hunting, a bow and arrow achieves the very same result: a dead deer.

I believe, in response to your request for the biological arguments against GT, that he offers them not in direct comparison.  In fact, they may not even be present in that particular book.  The emergence of humans out of the universe, instead of the universe in conformity to human comfort, is one such argument that I was delighted to receive from the professor(though I readily admit he may not have ‘coined’ the concept).  I haven’t read TGD in probably a year (last I recall a co-worker was borrowing it), so I could very well be wrong about this, and will have to search the copies of his other books.  In this context, is it unreasonable to cite his other works when discussing a point within a specific book?  I’m not entirely certain of the etiquette in this situation, and I voluntarily withdraw this point if necessary.

Thanks!

Posted on Oct 27, 2010 at 9:23pm by Reerr Comment #140

However, in the passages I quoted, Dawkins clearly offers the multiverse as his main counterargument to the argument for design.

No, he clearly offers a possible explanation.

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 at 6:31am by George Comment #141

And I never said they said it was a certainty.
However, in the passages I quoted, Dawkins clearly offers the multiverse as his main counterargument to the argument for design. And it is not an adequate counterargument because it is speculation (interesting speculation, I agree) with negligible evidence to support it. There are proper, strong, arguments against the argument from design that he should have put forward instead. Some form of Occam’s razor, for example. Moreover, I think one can make an argument that it is not even clear that there is fine-tuning. But we can discuss that in a separate thread, perhaps.

1. By the logic of your first paragraph, theism argued via the Goldilocks Theory is just as weak.  The assumptions required for such an idea are enormous, not the least of which is the idea that humans are to be the standard of measurement, and that the universe must have been geared towards our emergence.  If there is a more arrogant viewpoint, I can’t conceive of it.

You are already doing better than Dawkins, which amplifies my point. He should have focused on the inherent weaknesses of the Goldilocks argument, instead of focusing on a non-theistic speculative explanation for fine-tuning, which shares the same weaknesses as the theistic one.

I agree that in the proper argument against Goldilocks, the multiverse could play a role as an example (God is not the only mechanism, see, it could be this…) but by focusing exclusively on the multiverse Dawkins gives the impression that if the theist can cast doubt on the multiverse (which is not difficult!) then he has neutralized the atheist counterargument, and forced a draw. Dawkins should have made it clear that fine-tuning does not supply strong evidence for any detailed speculative scenario.

In addition, this is but one argument in his book, and he has several other arguments from a biological standpoint which hold far more credibility.

I think this is the only place where he addresses the Goldilocks argument (fine-tuning of the constants of nature). If there are others, please point them out to me.

2. He did not have to use solid arguments to offer alternatives to a weak argument.  He offered a weak argument and that was all that was required.  He, and all other scientists, readily admit their ignorance on many subjects, this included.  Your standards for what is required to argue AGAINST theism is far higher than what is required to argue FOR it.  “I made a bad argument, and he didn’t refute it well enough, therefore atheism is not a sound position.”

Weak counterargument vs weak argument is a draw. I think that’s a pretty lame performance by a supposed master of the subject, especially when proper strong counterarguments are available.

If you don’t like Dawkins don’t read his books. Who cares.

The world is certainly wide open for people who think they can make a better argument.

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 at 1:08pm by Gnostikosis Comment #142

I don’t think that’s a fair judgement of Hilbert’s post, Gnostikosis. Hilbert simply feels that Dakwins has made a mistake and there’s nothing wrong with presenting his opinion. FWIW, as much as I enjoy Dawkins’s books, I find some of his ideas excessively inflated. I think Dawkins almost needs to decide if he wants to be remembered as a science author, or an activist. He must know, for example, that he is wrong on blaming the parents for the religious indoctrination of their children, and he clearly knows that his new slogan, “We Are All Africans,” is in fact a very misleading message.

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 at 1:41pm by George Comment #143

He has written probably a dozen other books, all related to his field: Evolutionary Biology.  They stand, alone, as significant contributions to the field.  TGD was not his “to be remembered by” book, his mark has been made.

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 at 2:18pm by Reerr Comment #144

I don’t think that’s a fair judgement of Hilbert’s post, Gnostikosis. Hilbert simply feels that Dakwins has made a mistake and there’s nothing wrong with presenting his opinion. FWIW, as much as I enjoy Dawkins’s books, I find some of his ideas excessively inflated. I think Dawkins almost needs to decide if he wants to be remembered as a science author, or an activist. He must know, for example, that he is wrong on blaming the parents for the religious indoctrination of their children, and he clearly knows that his new slogan, “We Are All Africans,” is in fact a very misleading message.

Well, two things, I wasn’t trying to be judgmental, except for I see people drop Dawkins name like he has the final word in any creation/evolutionary debate. IMO Dawkins uses his activism to drive attention to his books. I don’t really find the books themselves that controversial. He has his field of expertise, but I don’t think the evolutionary debate lives or dies by his argument.

If someone can provide a better argument, fine, put it on the table and let it be judge on it’s own merits. Just seems little need to worry about one weak argument from a well known author who’s expertise is from a different field.

Other thing is a question, what misleading about saying we are all Africans?

Oh and BTW I’m really not that enthusiastic about the multi-universe theory myself.

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 at 4:01pm by Gnostikosis Comment #145

Just finished this podcast today.
Have to say as a strong and vocal atheist I’m not terribly pleased with either Chris or PZ.

As to PZ, I’m entirely in agreement with him that honesty and facts should not be compromised in order to placate the thin skins of anyone.  NO, NO, A THOUSAND TIMES NO!
However, that’s not the end of the story.  Is our goal to high-five each other or to make progress for humanity?  If the former, we can speak our truth as crudely and as bluntly as we please.  If the latter, we have to be smarter than that and realize, among other things, that our most inflammatory remarks will be the ones that define us among a large number of people who might be on the fence listening to both “sides.”  Hearing such remarks, those people will very often then be, to continue the metaphor, blown over to the wrong side of that fence.  Tact and skillful speaking and writing need not be the same thing as pandering.

I’ve read a good number of PZ’s blog posts and heard him speak on several programs. Some of what he says speaks the unvarnished truth yet is beautiful and insightful and inspiring and even poetic, to use Jennifer’s preferred term.  But other things he’s said and written, in my opinion, are puerile and simply obnoxious.  So on balance, PZ, from this corner it looks like your public square activities aren’t really doing us any favors.

About Chris Mooney, I have a question.  Has anyone ever heard him refer to the consequences of deity beliefs and religion except as they might effect science related matters like education and funding?  It seems as though his views on how religion and the religious ought be treated are informed solely on the basis of science related things.

But all the harms done to science taken together by and on behalf of religion are only a VERY SMALL fraction of the damage god beliefs and religions do to humanity.  Do I even need to start a list to illustrate?
I’ll admit I haven’t read any of his books, but I’ve listened to every word Chris has ever spoken on POI as well as interviews of him on other programs. I don’t recall having ever heard him acknowledge at all, much less in any serious or comprehensive way, the horrors, public and private, wrought around the world every single day owing to religion that have absolutely nothing to do with science but everything to do with inexcusable violations of basic human dignity and decency.  It’s as though he has a Grand Canyon-size blind spot that is nurtured and protected by his profound inclination to “be nice.” 

I suppose if I could only focus my attention on matters relating to science, I’d be more of an “accommodationist,” too.  But I’ve lived too long and traveled and seen too much.  Living in NYC and being in Manhattan on 9/11 and thereafter, for example, was just one event in a long and horrific train of “religious experience.”
Accordingly, while I do my best to carefully choose language and to avoid the sort of obnoxiousness that PZ sometimes displays (it’s not easy!), I’m a lot less inclined to “look the other way” regarding superstition and religious insanity just to avoid ruffling the feathers of someone who might not be a completely wacko fundamentalist and who might possess sufficient brain power to say, “Hey, maybe there is something to that evolution thing!”

Pardon if all this has been said above.  I’m not able at the moment to read all the previous entries.

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 at 5:29pm by Trail Rider Comment #146

Thank you, everybody, for your responses.
It seems we roughly agree. But…

That he has not escaped that criticism on the whole is indicative of just how many bad reasons are employed, and that he has received your brand of criticism (ie: not a “strong” enough counter) when addressing a rather arrogant argument with as much humility of knowledge as he has, is rather frustrating for both the author and those in agreement.

I don’t think there is much humility on display in The God Delusion. Have you read it? Dawkins is condenscending and even arrogant towards theists throughout. Here is one example out of many: in the preface he says

Dawkins: If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down. What presumptious optimism! Of course dyed-in the wool faith-heads are immune to argument…

He is being almost gleefully rude. Even though I agree with the conclusions he argues for, I don’t like that attitude, and I don’t think it is productive.

As for his other books, I enjoyed the ones about evolution, and agree that he’s a master at explaining it. My concern is what happens when he tries to be an apostle of atheism (as he clearly claims to be, see the quotation above). If he does a better job elsewhere on these questions I would be happy to hear of it. However, like any book, The God Delusion should be able to stand on its own.

However, in the passages I quoted, Dawkins clearly offers the multiverse as his main counterargument to the argument for design.

No, he clearly offers a possible explanation.

He offers a possible explanation, but it is a weak counterargument and it’s the only counterargument he seriously offers. He doesn’t even mentions the better stronger arguments against Goldilocks, e.g. that an omnipotent God is not at explanation of anything because it is equally consistent with all possibilities. He seems to fall straight in to the trap of thinking he needs his own explanation of the “fine-tuning” in order to counter the theistic argument.

Just seems little need to worry about one weak argument from a well known author who’s expertise is from a different field.

If it was just one weak argument then I would agree that it is not a big deal.
But this all started with my original point that Dawkins consistently makes the same mistake in many contexts: using even fairly marginal scientific theories as major components of his arguments. This gives ammunition to those who would like to argue that atheism is just another faith system, following from an arbitrarily adopted “naturalistic worldview” which is credulous about science.

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 at 6:49pm by Hilbert Comment #147

You seem to be trying awful hard to not admit that your original condemnation of his book was ill-conceived.  I make mistakes all the time, and I sometimes admit them :)

“I don’t think there is much humility on display in The God Delusion”

He doesn’t claim to know things he manifestly cannot know.

“He is being almost gleefully rude”

Like PZ said in the podcast, truth begets arrogance (paraphrase).  This method works, as Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Dennett, PZ, and a myriad others can attest.  If you don’t like him, don’t read the book, there are thousands of others from the deistic point of view (perhaps Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason) that are a little less black and white, a little more fluff and flutter.

“But this all started with my original point that Dawkins consistently makes the same mistake in many contexts”

You only gave one example, we have summarily dealt with it.  Next example, please.

“This gives ammunition to those who would like to argue that atheism is just another faith system, following from an arbitrarily adopted “naturalistic worldview” which is credulous about science.”

This is going to persist ad infinitum as long as there are credulous people, piously greedy clergy, and gaps in human knowledge.  Atheists have high hopes of eradicating religion, and while I agree this is probably necessary given what most religion is about, I’m not that hopeful.  However, presenting good science, even when incomplete, does not damn his arguments.  If you want absolutes, your best bet right now is religion, just don’t forget your blinders.

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 at 7:26pm by Reerr Comment #148

He offers a possible explanation, but it is a weak counterargument and it’s the only counterargument he seriously offers. He doesn’t even mentions the better stronger arguments against Goldilocks, e.g. that an omnipotent God is not at explanation of anything because it is equally consistent with all possibilities. He seems to fall straight in to the trap of thinking he needs his own explanation of the “fine-tuning” in order to counter the theistic argument.

lolwat?

Posted on Oct 29, 2010 at 12:49am by Bruce Gorton Comment #149

You seem to be trying awful hard to not admit that your original condemnation of his book was ill-conceived.  I make mistakes all the time, and I sometimes admit them

I made my points and, when requested, gave quotes to back them up. You haven’t given any arguments against anything I said. Perhaps you can be more specific about what you want…

You only gave one example, we have summarily dealt with it.  Next example, please.

“summarily dealt with”?! I’m waiting for any counter-argument you may have.
The post you are responding to contained a link to my original point, where I gave some other instances. Here it is again: link. If you want I’ll give you quotations to back those up to. Just ask.

This is going to persist ad infinitum as long as there are credulous people, piously greedy clergy, and gaps in human knowledge.  Atheists have high hopes of eradicating religion, and while I agree this is probably necessary given what most religion is about, I’m not that hopeful.  However, presenting good science, even when incomplete, does not damn his arguments.  If you want absolutes, your best bet right now is religion, just don’t forget your blinders.

Is there an argument here? I can’t find anything that responds to what I said. Perhaps someone else can decode this for me…?

He offers a possible explanation, but it is a weak counterargument and it’s the only counterargument he seriously offers. He doesn’t even mentions the better stronger arguments against Goldilocks, e.g. that an omnipotent God is not at explanation of anything because it is equally consistent with all possibilities. He seems to fall straight in to the trap of thinking he needs his own explanation of the “fine-tuning” in order to counter the theistic argument.

lolwat?

I’m not sure what you are asking for here, I’ll have to guess.
I meant “explanation” in the sense of “theory that accounts for”. I’m just making the fairly standard point that God is not falsifiable, since (according to the theist at least) there is no experimental test that would indicate his nonexistence. So God is not an explanation of (theory that accounts for) any particular state of affairs, since his existence is equally compatible with all states of affairs. This point is often made about intelligent design (see eg this blog posting), but it applies equally to God.

Posted on Oct 29, 2010 at 6:32pm by Hilbert Comment #150

First post in a long time…

I finally got around to listening to this podcast.  Having some notion of what to expect helped me be more critical.  The idea that the world needs more than one method of communicating is a good one.  The idea that some methods of communication (“loud atheism”) can, in some cases, cause people to pull away from the neutral ground and solidify unhealthy ideas is another good idea to keep in mind.

PZ (supposed “loud atheist”) pointed out that he does not start conversations with the intent to rile people up about religion (airplane conversation).  He focuses on actual topics and issues and if the person he is talking with shifts the conversation to include religion, then he will state his position without any mincing of words or apologetic language.

Confidence about who we are and what we think is important if atheists are to break free from the negative connotations that have haunted us for generations.  If atheists continue to be push overs, then religious communities are free to label us as devil worshipers and baby eaters.  Stating clearly that “Atheists are not these things, that we are moral contributing citizens and that we simply don’t see a place for ancient mythologies in today’s society,” is an honest enough point to make.  If this is considered loud, obnoxious or mean spirited, then I say the onus for these negative opinions falls on the offended.

The main point I would like to make is regarding how the speakers discussed people.  PZ focused on individual ideas, whereas Mooney & Heckt used language concerning people as a whole, or as a collection of ideas.  This seems to be the only point of contention in this debate.  This would have been more evident if the guests were asked a similar question to this, “Suppose there is an individual who sets the record for feeding starving children in the world, suppose he also sets the record for abusing these same children.  Would it be acceptable to criticize this persons abuses and at the same time laud his humanitarian efforts?” (of course you can)  How you view this person as a whole or as an individual is irrelevant when focusing on the issues.  Taking the good with the bad is unacceptable.  This is about specific issues.

The point I take away from the accomodationists perspective is that it is necessary for atheists to reiterate (sometimes over & over) that they are not necessarily speaking out against individuals but, more so, against specific ideas.  By doing this, we make it harder for those with conflicting views to label us as loud or obnoxious or worse.  And more importantly, it is also harder to disagree.

I appreciate all of the people involved in this debate and value many of their specific ideas on science, politics, poetry and atheism.  Keep it coming.

Posted on Nov 05, 2010 at 2:23pm by retrospy Comment #151

First post in a long time…

Welcome back!

Posted on Nov 05, 2010 at 4:02pm by Jackson Comment #152

Allow me summarize the ‘Accomodationists’ message to the ‘New Atheists’:

‘When you’re trying to express truth to the religionists, could you please be a little less truthful?’

Posted on Nov 06, 2010 at 12:00pm by scarr66 Comment #153

This article, by Robert Sapolsky, one of the smarter non-believers around these days, has everything to do with the subject matter covered in the podcast.

For my part, I think the issue at root has nothing to do with truth or falsity, but with intelligent and well-thought-out communication versus juvenile communication and spittle.
Or put another way, the bottom line is whether atheists, humanists, and free-thinkers want to make faster progress toward the better world Mr. Sapolsky mentions, or whether our own self-righteousness and piety are in fact our most cherished values.

That doesn’t mean I throw in with Chris Mooney’s viewpoint, or even necessarily with Ms. Hecht’s rather gauzy and ill-defined remarks.
As I wrote earlier, in my view neither Mooney or Myers are particularly effective.

Posted on Nov 16, 2010 at 8:12am by Trail Rider Comment #154

The linked article above “This is Your Brain on Metaphors” was really good.  Nice short examples of scientific research that I can use in conversations.  Thank You Brad.

Posted on Nov 16, 2010 at 8:53am by retrospy Comment #155

Sapolsky is great. Thanks for the link, Brad!

Posted on Nov 16, 2010 at 9:09am by George Comment #156

So what do the atheists on the forum think about the debate? (I happen to think the title’s a false dichotomy: not all failures to hurl insults at your opponents are identical with accomodationism. I’m happy to have anyone clearly state their *considered* opinions.)

But how about this: Meyers can be well accused of just enjoying smacking people around. ‘They do it too’ is just what nasty people say when they want to do something shabby. ‘I’m just being honest’ doesn’t wash either: any man worth his politic salt knows how and when to say something negative. (I’ve been learning how to be a Team Player at the retail job I have. It’s been good for me; I learn how to influence the people where I work without being a know-it-all lout. Marvelous!)

Someone suggested that his (specific brand of) loudness may sway fence-sitters - but which way? Isn’t it as likely that for every man led to atheism by Meyers, there’s another who says ‘forget that noise if this is what the New Atheism produces.’ Being a cad isn’t *reliable* persuasion.

I say, down with the New Atheism; try some Old Atheism. How ‘bout dat Epicurus, for instance - he started the longest-lived intellectual sect ever, was so admired that they had busts of him in their houses, and was famous even among the other schools for his moral probity. That’s how to show your opponents, no?

Chris Kirk

Posted on Nov 16, 2010 at 5:39pm by inthegobi Comment #157

This article, by Robert Sapolsky, one of the smarter non-believers around these days, has everything to do with the subject matter covered in the podcast.

Very interesting. I always thought the brain thinks in only a symbolic manner, but apparently it does both.
Perhaps this why we have the expression, “he thinks with his heart, not with his brain”.  :-S

Posted on Nov 16, 2010 at 8:54pm by Write4U Comment #158

Although I do like the idea of a debate on this topic, after hearing the episode I was very disappointed, mainly because the woman who was supposed to be moderating was doing no such thing. Rather, between her tangential ramblings and Mooney, it was basically a gang-up. I understand, everyone has an agenda, no one can really be unbiased. But if you are going to call something a moderated debate (which I assumed you called it since you named a moderator), than please try at least a tiny bit to be fair about it.

Posted on Nov 28, 2011 at 6:23am by Sexyjedi Comment #159

I thought this particular episode failed to clarify several things for me - the direction of the conversation was convoluted and unfocused.  I am a huge fan of PZ Myers and Chris Mooney both, but one thing that neither of them really clarified is what the end goal is.  Is it to ‘unconvert’ religious to atheism, or is it achieving real secularism (to remove the religiosity and religious privilege from our government)?  Since this was not really explored, it left me pretty confused and wanting more.  I think neither of them really were able to articulate their point of view very well because no one talked about the actual merits of each approach, it was simply an argument about belief, which is entirely not the point, it was supposed to be about tactics.

To boil it down for me, it all seems to come down to pessimism (confrontationalists) versus optimizm (accommodationists), and it’s not hard to see that optimism has the upper hand in changing minds and a better likelihood of success, and is frankly the road I would rather choose. 

If I were to take PZ at his word only from this interview, it seems to me that confrontationalists (New Atheists) don’t believe that actual secularism is possible while religion still exists in the world.  Therefore, the logical focus should be on eradicating religion.  This rings hollow, impossible for humans, and doomed to failure (even if it’s true).  I happen to think that the psychology of belief is really where the argument needs to go.  PZ didn’t seem interested in the data about psychology (of belief or otherwise).  Nothing was mentioned about the fact that cognitive dissonance exists on many levels in all of us, and their only answer is to remove all forms of dissonance in all humans?  Good luck with that.

I think what accommodation is trying to say (which was not really at all articulated by Chris Mooney in this interview) is really that “we don’t care what you believe so long as you don’t push it on others”.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with allowing mutual respect for fellow human beings in this manner, and I think a lot of progress can be made by promoting science and science education through those who are “given a pass” for being believers (i.e. Francis Collins).  As long as you adequately explain and teach science, the benefits to society (in my opinion) would far outweigh any negatives that giving the Francis Collins’ a pass would create.  On the flip side, it is probably impossible to have the true objectivity necessary to not (even subconsciously) push your beliefs on others if you are a true believer, and if accommodationists have one major flaw, it is that.  Still, just because you don’t put a loud asterisk (*caution, this was stated by a believer) next to everything a believer says doesn’t mean you are giving them tacit approval for everything they believe.  Yes, it is possible to have cognitive dissonance, or correct viewpoints on one issue and incorrect views on others (views that can be tested and proven with science).  I believe there is room for healthy debate/discourse, and that this can lead to progress on those issues of dissonance for the majority of people, who probably haven’t thought too deeply about it yet.  Accommodation embraces this view, and I agree with it.  It’ll probably work better, and I think the data will bear this out over time.

Anyway, I usually agree with much of what is said on POI, except this time it made me post.  Despite this, I owe a lot to POI for all their intriguing topics.  Much has been covered since this interview, I just happened to listen to it and hope people comment further.

Posted on Mar 15, 2012 at 10:26am by Spartacus29 Comment #160