Ayala interview

New Scientist has an interview with Francisco Ayala, the evolutionary geneticist who just won the Templeton Prize.  I think anybody familiar with this website could fill in the answers, which are straight-up NOMA-style faitheism.  For example:

You won for arguing there is no contradiction between science and religion. Many disagree.

They are two windows through which we look at the world. Religion deals with our relationship with our creator, with each other, the meaning and purpose of life, and moral values; science deals with the make-up of matter, expansion of galaxies, evolution of organisms. They deal with different ways of knowing. I feel that science is compatible with religious faith in a personal, omnipotent and benevolent God.

Some day, just some day, I’d like one of these people to describe in a bit more detail what religion helps us “know.”

Oh, and, like Ruse and other faitheists, Ayala claims that those among the faithful who see a conflict with science aren’t practicing proper religion:

And yet conflict exists. Why?

Religion and science are not properly understood by some people, Christians particularly. Some want to interpret the Bible as if it were an elementary textbook. It is a book to teach us about religious truths. At the same time, some scientists claim they can use science to prove God does not exist. Science can do nothing of the kind.

Thank you, Dr. Ayala.  Now would you mind telling those millions of fundamentalists that they simply don’t understand Christianity?

On mutual respect:

You talk about mutual respect between science and religion. How can we foster this?

People of faith need better scientific education. As for scientists, I don’t know what they can do: not many argue in a rational and sustained way that religion and science are incompatible.

Au contraire: I think most of us make that argument fairly rationally, for at least we explicitly define what we mean by “compatible” (for me, compatibility would mean that religion and science have similar methods for learning about the universe).

Ayala, like Ruse, sees evolution as way to resolve the problems of theodicy:

Why do you say creationism is bad religion?

Creationism and intelligent design are not compatible with religion because they imply the designer is a bad designer, allowing cruelty and misery. Evolution explains these as a result of natural processes, in the same way we explain earthquakes, tsunamis or volcanic eruptions. We don’t have to attribute them to an action of God.

This is problematic because it still leaves the big question of theodicy unanswered: why would an omnipotent and beneficent God allow the occurrence of natural disasters that kill a lot of innocent people? Note that Ayala claims that “science is compatible with religious faith in a personal, omnipotent and benevolent God”. But why would such a God choose a plan for creation that requires millions of people and creatures to suffer needlessly?  If you’re religious, evolution—or the existence of “natural processes”—is not a sufficient explanation for evil or suffering. It just pushes the problem back a notch.

On morality:

What do you say to people like Richard Dawkins, who argue that we don’t need religion to lead moral lives?

One can accept moral values without being religious. However, by and large, people get their moral values in association with their religion.

Well, they might say that they get their moral values in association with religion, but I really believe, with Plato, that most peoples’ morality comes from places far deeper than religion, and in fact is antecedent to religion.  I would claim that in a world without faith, morality would increase, not decline.  Look at atheistic Europe, for instance.  But at least Ayala avers that you can be moral without faith.

I’m an atheist. Am I missing out?

No, because you can have a meaningful life without faith in God. But most people live in poverty and misery, suffering from diseases. The one thing that brings them some hope and meaning is their faith. I don’t want to take that from them.

This is a really bad argument for refraining from criticizing religion. As P.Z. has noted, none of us are boorish enough to preach atheism to our dying religious grandmothers.  Indeed, religion does bring some hope and meaning: that’s why it is strongest in those societies that are most dysfunctional (e.g., the work of Gregory Paul and others).  But religion is also a potent source of poverty, misery and disease (look at AIDS in Africa, for instance, or the effect of Islam on the suppression of women, or of Catholicism on the abuse of children), and by and large it’s an excuse to do nothing.  Without faith, we have only ourselves to look to, and, rather than blaming God, we must realize that we have to roll up our sleeves and fix those problems ourselves.

I think that by now all of us could give these stock answers to questions about faith and science.  Just adhere to and preach the following principles, and you’re on your way to a Templeton Prize!

1.  Faith and science are alternative and complementary ways of knowing about the world.

2.  Faith and science should respect each other.

3.  Faith and science are not in conflict.  If they appear to be, that’s simply because the faith is improper!

4   Faith is good because it makes us moral.

5.  If there is a God, He used evolution as His means of creation, and you shouldn’t ask questions about that.

6.  Atheists (especially New Atheists) should refrain from criticizing religion.

75 thoughts on “Ayala interview

  1. Excellent point-by-point rebuttal of Ayala’s faitheism.

    I still don’t understand how intelligent, learned people like Ayala can delude themselves like this. Logic and common sense seem to evaporate for them.

    1. $1.5 million goes a long way toward reinforcing muddled thinking.

      His religious comments do seem very half-assed, don’t they? Better than Collins’ comments, but still very lame.

  2. When Ayala says this:

    Creationism and intelligent design are not compatible with religion…

    What he should really be saying is this:

    Creationism and intelligent design are not compatible with my personal understanding of my own religion

    Religions are not objective systems of knowledge that can be tested, they are faith-based. At best you can argue them into logical contradictions, but even then the believer will just throw up their hands, call the paradox a “mystery that only God can know”, and assume that that resolves the paradox.

    Creationism and intelligent design are perfectly compatible with a good number of religions. Calvinists, for example, have no problem believing that God is cruel enough to create people who are pre-destined to burn in Hell for eternity. They pretty much already believe that God is a “bad designer” if most of the humans on the planet are pre-destined for Hell anyway.

    It is good to note that Ayala treats the religionists the same way he treats the atheists, though. Everyone is wrong about their understanding of science/religion except for the people who believe exactly the same way he does. Good for him – at least he’s consistent.

    1. Yes, he pretty much attempts to turn the conflict between religions and science into a conflict between religious interpretations. But he doesn’t mention that, unlike science, religion doesn’t have a way to settle such conflicts. Some “way of knowing”, right?

      Everyone is wrong about their understanding of science/religion except for the people who believe exactly the same way he does.

      Which sets him apart from all other religious believers in exactly no way whatsoever.

      1. Oops, I take it back. He did mention in the interview that religion has no way to resolve contradictions:

        There are thousands of religions, many mutually contradictory. They can’t all be right.

        Correct. It is a matter of faith. There is no way of demonstrating the superiority of one religion. True religion is what one person happens to believe.

        Now I’m even more puzzled at Ayala’s position. It’s one thing to ignore this shortcoming of religion, it’s something else entirely to happily acknowledge it, and then blatantly refuse to see the resulting contradiction. He thinks religion is a way of knowing, but there is no way of knowing which religion is right? If it’s a matter of faith, how can it be knowledge?

  3. Ayala: “At the same time, some scientists claim they can use science to prove God does not exist. Science can do nothing of the kind.”

    Sorry, but science has demonstrated that the interventionist, personal God of the Bible and Koran does not exist. There are still some possible “gods” that don’t interact with the universe that might exist, but that’s not that most religious people mean by “God”.

  4. Ayala: “They are two windows through which we look at the world. Religion deals with our relationship with our creator, with each other, the meaning and purpose of life, and moral values; science deals with the make-up of matter, expansion of galaxies, evolution of organisms.”

    OK, I’ve never understood how people who believe in a “creator”, and by implication “creation”, can distance themselves from any sort of “creationism”. At best they can only cling to some sophisticated form of creationism, in which its conflicts with science are minimised.

    1. Quite. I’ve observed this same phenomenon in New Age beliefs, driven by the same conviction that the universe, and therefore humanity, must have some purpose and some meaning. In New Agers, as in the religious, there seems to be this fear of turning the question around and asking “Why should the universe have a purpose and a meaning?”

      If you assume a priori that there is a purpose and meaning, then you have taken a giant step along the path that conjures up a creator. Assume the opposite, that there is no particular reason for the universe to have purpose and meaning (not saying there isn’t such, just that it’s (a) not evident, and (b) not, as far as we can tell, essential), and you quickly see that absent purpose and meaning, there isn’t much need to invoke a creator.

      Take a creator out of the mix, and concepts like souls and an afterlife get much shakier, because it’s the creator that’s supposed to supply the souls (yes, even in New Age thinking, though they frame it differently), and do the judging as to where the souls end up.

      I think this is the bedrock of the whole compatibility issue between religion (including New Age) and science: the religious don’t want to give up their belief in an afterlife, which implies souls, which implies a creator, and science is steadily shoving the boundaries of the unknown further and further back, so the number of places one could plausibly put a soul, a creator, and an afterlife steadily shrinks. They’re running out of options, and in their anxiety are trying to carve out a niche where they can tell themselves that the great unanswered questions are answered in just the way they want.

      1. shrinking? turn on the TV and watch jerusalems celebration of Good Friday….and the stock market and the congress are closed today ..

    2. I agree, which is why Collins and Miller are in my list of creationists. They oppose “intelligent design” only because it conflicts with their own version of the magical creation story.

  5. 3. Faith and science are not in conflict. If they appear to be, that’s simply because the faith is improper!

    I don’t get this. They always say something like that: Science and religion are compatible and equally valid ways of knowing. But when they conflict, remember that science trumps religion, so change your religion. How is that “compatible” and “equally valid”?

      1. And the No True Scotsman argument, saying that all religion that is incompatible with science is “improper”, aka Not True Religion.

        His thesis is amazingly childish for such a learned man. For him to claim that science and religion are equal and then to say religion is “improper” when ever they conflict is really inconsistent.

          1. But it’s not, which is what I don’t get. He is actually criticizing religion while claiming it is wrong to criticism religion.

            I think we need another term for such waffling, hypocritical accommodationists.

  6. “and by and large it’s an excuse to do nothing” (religion)

    s completely new to me. super dead-on!

  7. Well said, Dr. Coyne.

    It always surprises me that people say science and faith are compatible when they really mean “my faith doesn’t contradict current scientific knowledge.” They forget to say, that their faith adds a lot of superfluous nonsense to their world-view without the slightest bit of skeptical scrutiny.

    Even if one’s faith doesn’t contradict current scientific knowledge, science and faith remain completely incompatible ways of understanding our universe. They are really polar opposite epistemologies, in my opinion.

  8. One gets pretty tired of the challenge “to prove God does not exist. Science can do nothing of the kind.” Of course scientists can’t prove that god doesn’t exist. They can’t prove that leprechauns don’t exist. It’s not their job to worry about whether god exists or not anyway, unless belief interferes with science. Believers must prove existence of their god in rational ways (which centuries of brilliant theologians have failed to do) if they want to be “scientific”.

    “One can accept moral values without being religious. However, by and large, people get their moral values in association with their religion.”

    I cannot say how many times I have been told by well-meaning people that since I was an atheist I couldn’t have any moral principles. One close friend, believing that I was very moral indeed, used to claim that I couldn’t possibly be an atheist and was always trying to catch me in a religious act. If I happened to say something like “dammit it to hell”, he would jump over the cubicle wall and exclaim that I had just called upon god and therefore I was unconsciously a believer. It was like, without my knowledge, god slipped up behind me and made me swear!

    An old idea of Aristotle’s (and Buddha) is becoming popular again in modern philosophy. It is now being called “moral particularism”. There are some good books on the subject, primarily by Jonathan Dancy, who argues that there is no such thing in nature as a “moral principle” but that moral people make “good” decisions because they are sensitive to and thoughtful about their acts. I think is most recent book is “Ethics Without Principles”. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004.

    Is their any crueler way to create the universe than to require that every thing die and that billions of species have to become extinct in order for the whole thing to run properly?

    1. The problem with the “science can’t prove there isn’t a god” trope, as already pointed out by Ray Moscow, is that it simply isn’t true. The god described in the bible, which is the god worshipped by billions of people, definitely does not exist. The usual gab goes something like this:

      “Science can’t prove there is no god. These bible stories are metaphors. God pokes at subatomic particles to make everything happen.”

      So how is the bible meant to be of any relevance whatsoever? It is claimed to be the foundation of religions such as christianity and mohammedanism and yet people who say there is a god are essentially also saying the bible should be almost completely ignored. Only ‘almost’ because some still claim that it is a source of morality. Perhaps that’s why the catholic church protects rapists who are priests; after all, god told his people to rape and murder so many times; god must have looked at it and said “that’s good!”

  9. “But most people live in poverty and misery, suffering from diseases. The one thing that brings them some hope and meaning is their faith. I don’t want to take that from them.”

    and I would argue that the one thing keeping them in poverty and misery is their faith. Or, more accurately, their faith is the one thing that allows the powerful to keep them that way.

  10. “Some scientists claim they can use science to prove God does not exist. Science can do nothing of the kind.” I’d like to see Ayala list one scientist who believes that science can prove God does not exist. Can we ever absolutely prove that some visible physical thing – let alone some invisible spiritual thing – does not exist anywhere in this universe? I think not. I have no method that can conclusively disprove the assertion that invisible undetectable gnomes are partying it up on the outer rings of Saturn.

  11. So earthquakes and tsunamis are not acts of god?
    That’s news to me. I am sure it will be equally surprising to the millions of the faithful who pray in the face of natural disasters.

  12. SIGH. “I don’t criticize religion” gets extrapolated to “shut the hell up, Jerry Coyne.”

    This is a great post, Jerry, but could we stop sensationalizing things to the point where someone who doesn’t agree with criticism of religion gets their position blown up to one that states that they think people don’t have a right to speak their mind on religion at all? It’s getting ridiculous.

    Criticism of religion critics and thinking that religion should never be criticized are not mutually exclusive, but they’re not identical, either. Those of us baby-eating New Atheists who live by “you do not have the right to not be offended” should realize that this statement applies to us, too – and it doesn’t give us just cause to use fifth-rate foolishness like sensationalizing Ayala’s statement to “people don’t even have the right to criticize religion.”

    Ayala’s got some boneheaded statements for sure, but I didn’t see anything in that interview that sounded remotely like “criticism of religion should never happen,” “people should just shut up about religion, etc.” The only place where I saw that happen was after some sensationalistic woollyheadedness and overreaching generalizations on your part, to be honest.

    1. Sorry, but I didn’t claim that Ayala said “shut the hell up, Jerry Coyne.” I said that he argued that scientists should refrain from criticizing religion, which is what he’s maintained all along.

      The last bit of the post is a general strategy for winning a Templeton prize, not a characterization of what Francisco said.

      1. “whyevolutionistrue
        Posted April 2, 2010 at 10:20 am | Permalink

        Sorry, but I didn’t claim that Ayala said “shut the hell up, Jerry Coyne.” I said that he argued that scientists should refrain from criticizing religion, which is what he’s maintained all along.

        And it is a very odd position for him to take since he dictates that all religion that conflicts with science (such as creationism and intelligent design) is wrong. He is a very inconsistent man. He doesn’t realized that *he* is criticizing religion by his attempts to create NOMA.

    2. Yeah, I’m a little puzzled by Dava’s comment.

      So Jerry, I love ya man, but I suppose every now and then you “chase ghosts” a bit in overinterpreting accomodationist comments to be more of a “shut the hell up” than they actually are… hey, I do the same thing — given the special deference and political clout afforded to religion, it would be weird if us atheists weren’t a little jumpy from time to time..!

      But I don’t see anything in this post remotely like that. It seems a fairly level critique of Ayala’s, eh, confused outlook on faith/science compatibility.

      Maybe Dava had that reaction because of the picture at the end? Huh. I don’t really get it.

      1. I’ll TOTALLY take back my previous comment if someone can show me where in the Ayala interview he says (quoting Jerry) “scientists should refrain from criticizing religion” without a lot of reading into/overinterpretation of his comment.

        Maybe there’s some past context of what Ayala has said elsewhere that’s forming the basis of what Jerry is arguing with regards to the old “shut up” accusation. If so, I apologize for missing it. I just see absolutely nothing in the posted content from this interview that says “scientists shouldn’t criticize religion.” I see a lot of foolish argument from Ayala, yes, but simply saying that you don’t agree with someone like Dawkins or “some scientists” that give harsh criticism does not mean that you think they shouldn’t speak that criticism at all. In my opinion, those two positions are something that Jerry and several others (whom I mostly agree with otherwise on matters of science and religion) wrongfully conflate on a regular basis….although, occasionally, there is a bonehead or two that explicitly says “scientists shouldn’t criticize religion.” Ayala just doesn’t seem to be one of them here.

        Jerry seems to making that jump between positions here and even in his response to my comment. I simply see no logical connection and, in fact, see a hasty generalization in its place. But again, maybe there’s something I’ve missed.

        1. Dava states:
          SIGH. “I don’t criticize religion” gets extrapolated to “shut the hell up, Jerry Coyne.”

          So Dava is boldly lecturing with regard to extrapolating and Dava is the first to use; shut, hell up, and, Jerry Coyne.

          Ayala states (faultily):
          They are two windows through which we look at the world. Religion deals with our relationship with our creator, with each other, the meaning and purpose of life, and moral values; science deals with the make-up of matter, expansion of galaxies, evolution of organisms. They deal with different ways of knowing.

          That is an example of one place where Ayala is implying that science should not criticize religion (separate “windows”).

          Additionally, there is a quality morality that can be applied to life by studying and applying scientific principles that is far more just than the morality taught within the christian bible. If you don’t believe that then I should ask when is the last time you stoned your parents or children. It isn’t sufficient for someone to state something to the effect of “don’t take the bib. literally”, because that someone didn’t write the christian bib. and they aren’t the mythical jebus. If the christian bib. isn’t intended to be taken seriously the book itself would need to make that explicitly clear. If it isn’t to be taken literally than any interpretation is at the discretion of the reader and any interpretation is just as valid as any other. Which is shown in practice by the interpretation applied depending on whether a christian wants to justify killing or not. That morality, which is consistent with the christian bib. in its common usage, is not quality morality.

          From the interview:
          Do you believe in God?

          Ayala’s answer:
          I don’t answer questions on my personal beliefs.

          So then, Francisco Ayala, what part of “we” and “our” don’t you understand?

          1. So…”religion and science are different ways of knowing” is the equivalent of “scientists should never criticize religion?” That’s precisely the type of rather fuckwitted false equivalency I was afraid was being fostered among many of us. The former statement may be stupid and incorrect, but it in no way implies the latter without, well, Ayala saying the latter.

            You’re using the same fool’s “logic” that Jerry was using in making “I don’t answer questions on my personal beliefs” magically (in full, “goddidit” fashion) turn into the very different statement of “no scientists should ever criticize religion.”

            This little game of “pin a position on my opponent that he/she may not hold and then attack them for that position” might be fun, but it’s intellectually worthless. Let’s attack and ridicule Ayala for the stupid stuff he actually says (and there’s plenty of it!), not some stupid shit that we just make up to make him sound more extreme. I guess the latter gets the troops angry and whipped up, though, and that can be all that matters sometimes – not intellectual honesty.

            (Again, if there’s some past context where Ayala explictly says “no scientists should ever criticize religion,” I’ll take all this back.)

            1. Thanks Dava for the good morning belly laugh 🙂

              Although most of your comment is surely an attempt at humor, you did misunderstand, at least some, well probably most of what was intended. No, no no! Don’t fault yourself for misunderstanding, as I apparently express too much at one time, totally my bad. I beg you will forgive, as being a fuckwit, what am I to do?

              Maybe if we do it in smaller bits it will help you.

              Perhaps it is logical (don’t we think) to start with Ayala’s first words in response to the first question:
              They are two windows through which we look at the world. Religion deals with our relationship with our creator

              Although it is unclear as to Ayala’s intended scope regarding we and our, it is safe to assume the scope includes himself. We don’t know, maybe Ayala had a mouse in his pocket that he wanted to include to complete the set of this grouping. If Ayala intended we and our to include the interviewer and the audience (any reader) he was clearly wrong and also clearly rude.

              However (and I know this is a leap for you but please give it your best effort), further within the interview there is this question:
              Do you believe in God?

              And Ayala’s response:
              I don’t answer questions on my personal beliefs.

              So apparently Ayala is good to go regarding statements of his belief in mythology with respect to some group that includes himself but is inclined not to answer when he is only required to account for himself. Apparently he is not arguing in a rational and sustained way (commendable (I suppose) for himself but, for others, not so much.)

            2. If there’s an actual quote of Jerry saying that Ayala said: “Dawkins and other scientists don’t even have a right to speak up and should just shut their mouth” or “shut the hell up, Jerry Coyne” then I’ll take it all back.

              Or rather, I’ll stop thinking you are a hypocritical jerk.

              Those were your actual quotes of what you imagined Jerry was really saying, right? When you accuse others of holding a position they do not hold, it’s considered a “straw man” argument.

              Why don’t you use Jerry’s list of what the Templeton Prize people are looking for and tell us how Ayala’s verbal smoke and mirrors doesn’t fit with that list. It would be a much more honest approach to dialogue.

        2. Here you go; posted just last week:

          Professor Francisco Ayala, who won the £1 million Templeton Prize for scientific thought, said that attacking religion and ridiculing believers provided ammunition for religious leaders who insisted that followers had to choose between God and Darwin. “Richard Dawkins has been a friend for more than 20 years, but it is unfortunate that he goes beyond the boundaries of science in making statements that antagonise believers,” he said.

          Ready to take it all back now? (I’m not holding my breath.)

          1. “I don’t think Dawkins is helping much by antagonizing believers” and “Dawkins and other scientists don’t even have a right to speak up and should just shut their mouth” is a fuckwitted false equivalency, Jerry, pure and simple.

            A person can criticize someone’s rhetoric without simultaneously thinking they have no right to speak that rhetoric at all. Criticism and disagreement does not = “you have no right to speak your mind.” At least in Reality World, it doesn’t…

            1. I think it’s clear that Jerry was much more honest in summing up Ayala’s meaning(what else do you think Ayala is saying?)–than you are in your mischaracterization of Jerry’s words: “Dawkins and other scientists don’t even have a right to speak up and should just shut their mouth”

              Also Jerry never said that Ayala was saying “shut up, Jerry!”– those were your words… your extrapolation of what he was saying as interpreted by the voices in your head.

              Take the beam out of your own eye regarding the paraphrasing of other people’s words before making commentary on what you IMAGINE Jerry said about Ayala.

              Are you really so clueless, Dava, that you can’t see that you are more guilty of what you accuse Jerry of?? You are the one making a false equivalency while claiming that Jerry has done so.

              Do the word Dunning-Kruger mean anything to you?

            2. First off, articulett, this “clueless,” accusedly schizophrenic, “hypocritical jerk” always enjoys reading the responses of those who erect pillars of name-calling first with which to build their countterargument. Neener neener back at you, articulett.

              Since you’re on your fainting couch, clutching your pearls and whining with forced tears of agony (do you have your handkerchief?) about my soooooooo egregious mischaracrterization of Jerry, let’s use his words verbatim, shall we?

              “I said that he argued that scientists should refrain from criticizing religion.”

              Now, to rephrase: Claiming that “I don’t think Dawkins is helping much by criticizing believers” and “scientists should refrain from criticizing religion” are identical is a fuckwitted false equivalency. Ayala can think that Dawkins isn’t helping much with his criticism while equally thinking that Dawkins is free to utter that criticism if he wants or shouldn’t. But, if there’s some Secret Hidden MeaningTM which allows the Chosen OnesTM to read into that statement to choose which opinion Ayala holds, then by all means: I’m all ears. I’d love to be privy to this higher order of thinking that allows us to deduce personal motivations on extrapolated topics from statements that don’t clearly lead us in any direction. I’m afraid, however, that it’s just a bunch of tools ambulance-chasing a preconceived narrative.

              This whole “logic” trainwreck of “Ayala said X, so he MUST also mean Y, even though X in no way precedes an acceptance of Y” is quite curious. It sounds like a delusional believer’s train of thought…

            3. It’s irony, Dava.

              You are criticizing Jerry for exaggerating Ayala’s position WHILE exaggerating Jerry’s position. You are attacking Jerry for mishearing and misrepresenting Ayala when you are doing it even worse to Jerry!

              And you get a Dunning Kruger because you imagine you are some sort of expert at conversational interpretation, while being a person nobody would take conversational advice from. Your criticisms of Jerry would be better aimed at yourself.

              (Say, why don’t you try modeling the way you thing Jerry should have behaved when you criticized him while I criticize you for doing the exact same thing you accused him of? You might learn something from him if you didn’t imagine yourself the expert already. Clearly he responded in a much better manner to your opinion than you have to mine.)

            4. Triple sigh.

              Come on, articulett – your flailing at this “exaggeration” strawman is quite tiresome. I may be on your side that Dava is an obnoxious asswipe, but (s)he is right on the money that Jerry has indeed taken a comment and tried to extrapolate it to a more extreme (for lack of a better word), generalized position.

              That doesn’t mean that Ayala is right about anything else. He’s using just as foolish arguments himself. When we start to interpret one’s criticism of a single scientist as “no scientists should be able to speak their minds on religion,” though we’re entering the realm of mindless groupthink that’s just as irrational as religion stupidity. Dava has the level head in this one – not on tone, but on the crux of the argument, at least.

              Groupthink will do that to ya. Since when did WEIT become a groupthink therapy session, complete with position-pinning stupidity? It’s a shame.

              (I know, I know…I’m a shame/an idiot/completely wrong blah blah blah extreme reaction from the fainting couch blah).

            5. PetraX are you Dava too because you seen to use the same style of straw for construction.

          2. If you’ve got something to refute me and/or Dava (who I am not, by the way), then I’ll be glad to entertain it.

            If you want to sit cross-legged on the floor with your toys and continue to make the Argument from Snarkiness, however, you can feel free to do so to your own puerile amusement.

            1. Does this winning personality of yours (and Dava’s)transfer to your real life?

              Precious!

            2. It seems articulett is still firmly entrenched in the cushions of his/her fainting couch. PetraX said the dreaded F-word.

              The HORROR!!!!!!!!!!! *obligatory gasp!*

              Should I mention that the people who tout around the beauty of vitriolic criticism are the same ones whimpering about it here? Oh, little ones, it will be OK!!

              You do not have the right to not be offended. But you can certainly faint and whimper and pearl-clutch allllllllllllllllll you like.

            3. I apologize if I’ve offended you with my foul mouth, articulett. I suppose I’m not respectful enough for you. Tisk tisk.

              Perhaps The Intersection would be a more appropriate place to express your disgust at my lack of couth. You will find many more sympathetic to your whining, woollyheaded “but you weren’t nice to me!” cause over there, I’m afraid. Is the pot (offense-loving articulett) meeting the kettle (offense-terrifed articulett)?

              Who wouldn’ve figured you’ve been a closet Mooneyite all this time!

            4. Come to think of it, articulett is acting quite Colgate-esque with all of the feigned offense and arguments about tone and “personality.”

              I venture a wager that articulett is one (or both) of the Colgate Twins trolling incognito. Perhaps you can write a new post crying about broomstick sodomy, articulett, to gain some sympathy.

              Poor little thing – it’s upset!

            5. Yes, I’m afraid it looks like articulett is a disguised Colgater trolling for material for a new “atheists are bad!” book. The main argument of this one?

              “Atheists should be free to criticize….unless it’s at another atheist like me!!! The criticism is BAD!!!!! *sniffle sniffle shirks away all huffy and offended into a crying corner*”

              I can see it now. You have foster the long con, though, haven’t you, articulett?…

            6. That book’s already been written, PetraX. It’s called Chapter 8 of Unscientific America.

              articulett is just exemplifying the arguments of stupid from that chapter for us. He/she’s doing an excellent job. It must be articulett’s instruction manual for responding to criticism.

  13. I don’t think Ayala’s line of thought is as indefensible as is often made out. A naturalistic approach to religion would be that of an anthropologist; you’d look at how religious people use language rather than whether or not their statements are “true.” (I put “true” in quotes because surely truth is a pluralistic concept too; if scientists and believers didn’t use “true” in entirely different ways we wouldn’t be having this conversation.) From this perspective there’s no obvious reason to take religious statements as scientific hypotheses. That requires an additional commitment to an extra-natural (non-deflationary) concept of truth (i.e., as a word-world correspondence and not simply a part of our sociolinguistic practice).

    To pull this off you still need to claim that many believers are mistaken about what they believe, but how is that any more of a stretch than saying their beliefs are mistaken? That is, I can say, as most atheists do, that their religion is wrong or I can say, as Ayala and other “faitheists” do, that their beliefs about their religion are wrong. One position doesn’t seem any more absurd than the other (unless you’re committed to an extra-natural non-deflationary concept of truth as above).

    None of this would mean God, or any other supernatural entities, exist. Somebody holding this position would still be an atheist. It would mean science and religion were not in conflict, however; instead, science and mistaken beliefs about religion would be in conflict. It wouldn’t mean you couldn’t criticise religion either; it would just make the current rationality-based criticisms (irrational, delusional, etc) misguided. You could still say religion is unnecessary, outdated, immoral, etc, or make positive arguments for a naturalistic worldview.

    This is pretty much what I believe. Where’s my Templeton money?

    1. Ayala is, at mínimum, guilty of “deceit by omission”.
      Yes, a monotheistic god cannot be scientifically excluded. By neither can Greek pagan gods, Norse gods, or Hindu gods. And neither of them can be proven. Why then should one be given a prefrential status by a scientist like Ayala?
      And then, how about his fellow Templeton prize winners who claim their idea of a god can “scientifically” be proven, as it was mentioned on this blog yesterday? Does Ayala have anything to say about this fraudulent claim? Or are atheists the only subjects of his criticism?

  14. At the same time, some scientists claim they can use science to prove God does not exist. Science can do nothing of the kind.

    No they don’t. They claim (for instance) they can offer evidence that indicates a god of the familiar kind (benevolent, powerful, active in the world, etc) probably doesn’t exist. In short they claim that science can contribute to inquiry into whether god exists or not; that is not an obviously grandiose or impertinent claim. NOMA fans always give a wildly inflated and inaccurate picture of what scientists really offer on this subject.

    1. Evidence (bold) that probably(bold)doesnt exist? I cant even think of it. Please elaborate further. Im slow.

  15. I think science CAN say that belief in god is no more justified than belief in gremlins.

    All of the faitheist arguments can be used to support beliefs that they find risible and/or beliefs that are in conflict with their god.

  16. “Atheists (especially New Atheists)”

    And the difference between the two is WHAT, exactly?

  17. With the respect no doubt due to Ayala’s contribution to science, it has to be said that his religious stuff is quite frankly outrageous. Kids in kindergarten can think more cogently than this. Collins looks at a waterfall and believes in the Trinity. Well, of course, why not? Ayala thinks that that evolution let’s creator gods off the hook. Well, of course, no doubt in the nice catholic way, it has to do with intention and double effect. Gods intended all the good things, but not the bad things, so that’s okay! And then, of course, as Deen points out, if your religion conflicts with science it’s not true religion. Well, that stands to reason anyway. Shall we start carving off the incompatible parts right now? Or does that get down when the fat lady sings? This really is bizarre. And he gets a million pounds for saying stupid things like this?! The mind simply reels!

  18. “It is a book to teach us about religious truths.”

    (1) What the hell is a “religious truth”?

    (2) How does it differ from genuine truth?

    1. 1. A religious truth is whatever they want to fabricate it to be.

      2. It is the opposite of genuine truth.

    2. As P.Z. has noted, none of us are boorish enough to preach atheism to our dying religious grandmothers.

      True, but only because Granny is long gone. If she was still around, I might have a go at her.

      And since Mom’s not dying, I give her a nice tutorial on atheism every chance I get. Mom taught me to never tell a lie. Dad occasionally gets tutorials also, when he’s not wasting time playing hearts on his computer.

      The hell with “boorish”. There’s work to do.

  19. Now would you mind telling those millions of fundamentalists that they simply don’t understand Christianity?

    Isn’t that what he just did?

  20. But why would such a God choose a plan for creation that requires millions of people and creatures to suffer needlessly? If you’re religious, evolution—or the existence of “natural processes”—is not a sufficient explanation for evil or suffering. It just pushes the problem back a notch.

    I was surprised you didn’t go for a better quote. I mean, you’d have to go outside the article, but he’s been much more blatant in his abuse of theodicy.

    “The human reproductive system. Twenty percent of pregnancies end in spontaneous abortions and miscarriages in the first two months. In the world, that’s 20 million abortions per year. Twenty million abortions per year? You wouldn’t want to blame God for that.”

    There are variations all over the place, he’s made similar statements in multiple places. This from a man who won’t admit he’s religious. It seems obvious that he simply needs evolution to be true so that God has an excuse for the poor designs in nature. A true Catholic, really. God has a reason for anything bad, we just shouldn’t think about it too much. He’s solved the Problem of Evil by blaming any “evil” that’s not a “force of nature” on the randomness of evolution.

  21. So, by criticizing one Richard Dawkins, Ayala takes on the opinion that “scientists should refrain from criticizing religion?” Sigh indeed. That’s not as much a false equivalency as it is a *very* hasty generalization. By those terms, I suppose I become against scientists criticizing religion by default just if I don’t agree with something an atheist says about religion…despite the fact that I’m about as ‘militant’ of an atheist as they come! Dava is obnoxious but right: that is very irrational fuckwittery. Perhaps the context of the TF has made Jerry et al. put their logical blindfolds on (now with extra fallacy and unsafe jumps to conclusions!)

    This seems like nothing more than another manifestation of the tired old “if you criticize an atheist, that means you support religion” canard. When did WEIT become a member of this irrational Tribal Drum Circle of blogs? Groupthink is mushyminded, no matter if religion is involved. This blog community used to be above it. Sic simper sensationalize, I suppose. A shame…

  22. To the relatively new people posting comments here:

    You may not have been around WEIT for very long and have not seen the hundreds of posts by articulett. She has been vocal voice against creationists and all other kinds of supernatural beliefs and woo. She is far from being an accommodationist and has been a good friend in the fight against theism.

  23. Thanks, NEB– I’m not offended. I’m amused. I adore it when real life “Dunning-Kruger” examples drop by–and I especially love it when I(personally) am responsible for send them into a tizzy.

    It’s hysterical when people nobody would seek advice from start handing out advice to people like Jerry (or anyone else that I find far more intelligent and socially gifted than such blowhards.) They just don’t know how funny they are to me–these self-appointed-experts on logical fallacies and blog decorum. *giggles*

    They want Jerry et. al. to welcome their inane criticism while getting apoplectic when similar criticism is aimed in their direction. *Tee-hee* I mean, how lame would this blog be if it was run according to the advice of nutters? (But, then again, how sad it would be if they never dropped by to amuse us.)

    I want to keep poking at them to make them keep reacting so crazily– but I shouldn’t. It’s not nice, and I’m sure they take themselves and their incoherent faitheist opinions VERY SERIOUSLY. And, while it probably lowers my blood pressure to goof on them, I think it might send theirs through the roof.

    IMO, Jerry’s commentary was spot on, and I can’t find anything very coherent in the words of Dava and PetraX (though they do amuse). I actually am tickled by the irony of them tsk-tsking Jerry for his supposed wrongful interpretation of Ayala’s words while wrongfully misinterpreting Jerry’s words in a more egregious manner –all so that they could feel superior while pretending to be oppressed due to dissent!

    (And I especially love being able to share this with others.-I feel like this naughty monkey: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PblVFtckF90 )

    I shall unsubscribe from this thread, now, so the irked can have the last word. Cheers! 🙂

    1. How convenient to conflate ‘disagreement’ with ‘advice’ so you can label any critical comment “dunning-kruger” without further consideration, articulett, thus leaving as the only valid comments those that give Jerry a figurative reacharound, a pat on the back, or an “attaboy!” That, in a more perfect essence than I could have ever imagined, is my argument about groupthinking fuckwittery exemplified to perfection: chock full of mindguarding, irrational conflations, and intellectually rotten to the core. It exemplified like 3 or 4 of the criteria for groupthink at once. Fantastic! (Oh, and NEB: one can certainly be a staunch defender of evolution while falling into the groupthink stupidity trap. Your implicit assertion that, because articulett fights creationism, she couldn’t possibly be in the wrong otherwise is more groupthinking fuckwittery exemplified in beautiful fashion. Kudos for shunning reason for a few moments to bolster my claim.)

      Perhaps, articulett, in light of your comment about the only intellectually valid comments being those who express agreement with Jerry, he could add a simple questionaire that could serve to cull out the comments that you already just deemed faulty a priori based only upon where they lead (what a wonderfully irrational move, I’ll add!). He could ask something like “Do you agree with Jerry’s post?” If the respondent clicks “yes,” the comment passes moderation. If (s)he clicks “no,” it gets discarded since – as you just said – no one is worthy of criticizing Jerry because “criticism” means (through some goddidit magic!) “advice.” We must staunch criticism, for it gets in the way of The Narrative….

      1. Your implicit assertion that, because articulett fights creationism, she couldn’t possibly be in the wrong otherwise is more groupthinking fuckwittery exemplified in beautiful fashion

        Of course, I said nothing of the kind. You must read the words stated and comprehend them, not fabricate a position I did not take.

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