For your Saturday delectation

April 3, 2010 • 6:19 am

Over at HuffPo, Michael Ruse mounts “A Scientific Defense of the Templeton Foundation,” and doesn’t miss an opportunity blast P. Z. (“evolution’s answer to Rush Limbaugh”) and me.  What a thin skin that man has!  But there are many lolz:

Having said this, it seems to me that it was perfectly open to Sir John Templeton to have put his money into a foundation that seeks to reconcile science and religion. The money was earned honorably, even though one might have some questions about Sir John’s decampment to the Bahamas and its tax-free economy. But so long as America is daft enough to let people get away with this, who am I to object? Speaking as one who has probably no more religious beliefs than Richard Dawkins, I don’t see anything morally wrong with someone trying to reconcile science and religion. Clarifying that a little, I don’t see anything morally wrong with religion as such. These days I don’t much care for the Catholic Church, whether it be abusing small children, covering up the crimes of the priests involved, or leading the charge against universal health care because the restrictions on abortion were not sufficiently stringent. But I care for the work that the Church does among the poor and the sick, and I care also about the work that many Evangelicals are doing in Africa.

Who ever said it was “morally wrong” to reconcile science and religion? It’s philosophically and logically wrong!

Oh, and just when you thought that the Catholic Church couldn’t get more clueless, listen to this.  The BBC reports that the  Pope’s personal preacher, Reverend Raniero Cantalamessa, has compared criticism of the Pope and the Church’s handling of the child-abuse scandal to anti-Semitism:

The Rev Raniero Cantalamessa was speaking at Good Friday prayers in St Peter’s Basilica, attended by the Pope.

In his sermon, he quoted a Jewish friend as saying the accusations reminded him of the “more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism”.

His comments angered Jewish groups and those representing abuse victims.

Father Cantalamessa said Jews throughout history had been the victims of “collective violence” and drew a comparison with recent attacks on the Roman Catholic Church.

He read the congregation part of a letter from a Jewish friend who said he was “following with disgust the violent and concentric attacks against the Church, the Pope…

“The use of stereotypes, the shifting of personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt remind me of the most shameful aspects of anti-Semitism,” he quoted from the letter.

On the upside, over at Metamagician Russell Blackford, feeling feisty, says that “Some speech needs to be marginalized.” That includes a lot of religious speech:

But some ideas, though not censored, should be given only a marginal place in our society. In every generation, we continue to debate which those are. I am hopeful that future generations will include not only the examples I’ve given, such as the ideas of reinstituting slavery or punishing homosexuals, but also such examples as the ludicrous idea that the Earth is only 6000 years old (contrary to all conclusions from rational investigation). Likewise for the idea that there is something even “sinful” about (as opposed to grounds for banning) consenting homosexual conduct between sufficiently mature people, or that “sin” attaches to the use of contraceptives or to masturbation. Like the advocacy of slavery, these foolish ideas no longer deserve a level playing field in our society. Let them be freely derided, ridiculed, and driven to the margins. The sooner, the better.

As for religious leaders, they certainly do not deserve the kind of deference they currently receive, or the megaphones they are provided by the news media for their pronouncements. They do not deserve to be looked upon as moral or community leaders, or to be given a privileged voice in public debate. Some – such as those Protestant fundamentalists who claim the Earth is only 6000 years old or the celibate, white-haired dinosaurs of the Vatican who think that the use of contraception is a sin – deserve to be accorded little more intellectual credibility than would be given, in a modern city such as Melbourne, to a slavery advocate.

Not all ideas deserve to be taken seriously and considered respectfully, and not all people deserve to be accorded intellectual legitimacy. We can argue about who and what falls into which category, but there is no doubt that some speech deserves to be marginalised … and that certainly applies to a lot of religious speech. There’s no need to be backward about saying so.

32 thoughts on “For your Saturday delectation

  1. Ruse’s:

    But I care for the work that the Church does among the poor and the sick, and I care also about the work that many Evangelicals are doing in Africa.

    Studies have been done that show that only 5% to 10% of money donated to charity via religions actually gets to help people. This is in contrast to NGOs where 50% to 95% of money donated gets to help people.

    So if you want to piss away donations then give them to religious organizations.

    On Rev Raniero Cantalamessa:
    His sermon shows him to be an evil piece of garbage and is typical of the lies, obfuscation and cover-up of the RCC. This turd should resign and his boss, papa Ratz should be prosecuted.

  2. Clarifying that a little, I don’t see anything morally wrong with religion as such.

    This means it is perfectly OK to lie, often in book-length prose, according to him…

  3. “But I care for the work that the Church does among the poor and the sick, and I care also about the work that many Evangelicals are doing in Africa.” really?would that include Ugandans Draconian anti-gay laws promoted by evangelical pastors from america?the U.S preachers telling them that homosexuality is the same as the Nazi party,and that gays need to be put to death?he “cares”about that?what an ass!

      1. Cara Ms Benson: Je suis desolee; accept my apologies. Why do I write like so? Forgive me, It is a peculiarity of my immature impulsive temperament,in a manic phase. I wont do it again, I mean Ill try. Let me explain; Ouchiest is superlative of ouchie: femenine of ouch; bizarro, as in bizarro world? and chiral dont need to define, right? All this to claim it was hilarious to think PZ looks in the mirror and sees Limbaugh. As to Dr Coynes’, Jerry, private bandwith? a brilliant metaphor.

        1. Artikcat – I’m unable to parse most of your posts, and I don’t think I’m the only one. Quite literally, I have no idea what you mean to say most of the time. If English is your second language, that would be thing (and I couldn’t throw stones since I speak only one). But even still, understand that you’re not communicating effectively. People just don’t know what you’re saying. Might want to work on that.

          1. Oh quite – there’s nothing like a slew of cryptic typo-riddled dadaist remarks to liven up a boringly linear grouchy nerdy blog. By all means keep posting random opaque idiolectic comments on a blog about science and critical thinking. Try to recruit a lot of your friends to do likewise, too.

            1. ouch!!Come now Ms Benson, a slew? Hardly. What comes out of all this? Interest in new (I mean for me) work: I had never read yours, for example, now I have. Bunny eggs anyone?

            2. A slew on the blog as a whole, not on this particular thread.

              But behold, I can understand this one! Thus you’ve revealed that the opacity is intentional. Jabberwocky is all very well, but it can be overdone.

          1. In this case I contend the feminine superseds the diminutive as Wonder Woman has abundantly and firmly shown. Interestingly, some of my very male friends use it to replace a f$%$% bomb.

            1. Carisima Ophelia Benson, forgive me si? It is not intentionsl, it is intensional… see? its addicitve:-) I copy a Wordsworth sonnet as a testiminoy of assent:
              “The world is too much with us; late and soon,
              Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
              Little we see in Nature that is ours;
              We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
              This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
              The winds that will be howling at all hours,
              And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
              For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
              It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
              A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; (1)So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, (2)
              Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; Have sight of Proteus (3) rising from the sea;
              Or hear old Triton (4) blow his wreathed horn “

            2. Dear Mrs Benson, Relevance..relevance..widespread and private? I didnt think of relevance properly; the sonnet came to mind as one that captures better-to me-inadequate answers. I asked Mr Wordsworth do the writing to nurture a graceful moment?

      2. Is it scary that I understand what he writes and what he was trying to say, at least here (don’t know about other posts)?

        1. I understand it, but I have teenage children so I have learned stuff that is of no use other than to communicate with them. I feel like I speak two different dialects of the same language and worry that one day I’m going to use the teenage version amongst grownups, oh the shame, it burns!

  4. “What a thin skin that man has!”

    Especially for a guy who specializes in being energetically rude himself, and not just rude but inaccurately rude. He’s always announcing that Dawkins or Dennett or both or all ‘New’ atheists has/have said things they haven’t said.

    He is notoriously unpleasant and aggressive in real life, too. I wouldn’t ordinarily purvey tittle tattle, but Ruse is such a chronic fight-picker and name-called that it seems worth pointing out: take everything he says about other people with a truckload of salt, because he is well known to be a shit.

    1. Take with a grain of salt:

      Meaning: To take a statement with ‘a grain of salt’ or ‘a pinch of salt’ means to accept it but to maintain a degree of skepticism about its truth.

      Origin: The idea comes from the fact that food is more easily swallowed if taken with a small amount of salt. Pliny the Elder translated an ancient antidote for poison with the words ‘be taken fasting, plus a grain of salt’.

      Pliny’s Naturalis Historia, 77 A.D. translates thus:

      After the defeat of that mighty monarch, Mithridates, Gnaeus Pompeius found in his private cabinet a recipe for an antidote in his own handwriting; it was to the following effect: Take two dried walnuts, two figs, and twenty leaves of rue; pound them all together, with the addition of a grain of salt; if a person takes this mixture fasting, he will be proof against all poisons for that day.

      The suggestion is that injurious effects can be moderated by the taking of a grain of salt.

      So, even Ophelia truckload of salt will not be enough!

  5. [T]he celibate, white-haired dinosaurs of the Vatican who think that the use of contraception is a sin – deserve to be accorded little more intellectual credibility than would be given, in a modern city such as Melbourne, to a slavery advocate.

    It’s not just a matter of marginalizing speech. These doctrines are derived from the “natural law” theories of Aristotle and Aquinas, which form the bedrock of Catholic moral theology.

    That’s why, for example, the pope refers to homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered”.

  6. Ruse

    “More recently, the award has been given to academics working on the science-religion interface.”

    See, there it is again. What science-religion interface? What interface is there? Ayala scolded Dawkins for saying science can say things about religion, because that’s outside of science’s competence, yet it’s taken for granted that there is such a thing as a science-religion interface. That’s incoherent! Or having it both ways – which is bogus.

    1. Religion is both incoherent and bogus, so no surprises there.

      Having read Ayala’s bit in the NewScientist it is my considered opinion that he is an atheist, but thinks others should be patronised and lied to. A faitheist in fact.

      There is no other reason to refuse to answer questions about his own beliefs. In the same way that only gays refuse to answer questions about their sexuality, they don’t want to lie but the truth is too damaging in today’s world, so ‘No comment’.

      Perhaps he should take a leaf out Ricky Martin’s book and fess up! Or has he less courage than Ricky? I wouldn’t have thought he had as much to lose! I suppose the trouble is that he’d have to explain why he doesn’t believe and then his hypocracy would shine bright as the sun.

      I wonder if the Templetons would sue for their money back if you changed your mind?

  7. More Ruse:

    “I care also about the work that many Evangelicals are doing in Africa.”

    Oh yes? Like the “work” Helen Ukpabio is doing in Nigeria, convincing parents that their children are witches, and suing the humanist Leo Igwe for working hard to counter her claims and help the children tortured and abandoned by their families? That kind of “work”?

  8. The Melbourne Age editorial Blackford refers to ends,
    “Whatever the reason, the rancorous tone that characterises the new debate about God is more likely to erode civility than to undermine faith.”

    The rancorous tone has been there from the VERY beginning – to quote chapter and verse, Ps 14:1 “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”

    Civility? Don’t talk to us about civility.

    1. Exactly! And who has sentenced whom to an eternity in a deep fryer.

      Them christians can just, Suck it jesus christ!

  9. I’m starting to grow weary of the apologists and the NOMAs.

    Science does have something to say about the existence of god. The evidence points to all and everything supernatural as being a bunch of made-up nonsense. There is no evidence whatsoever that some creator being exists, none. Zero. Zilch. Angels, devils, souls, eternal life, heaven and hell are very obvious fabrications.

    The implausability of all claims of the supernaturalists and the complete lack of evidence is it’s own kind of proof.

    Ayala and compatriots, would you please stop. Quit playing your stupid word games. Just shut up already.

  10. Ruse says he doesn’t “see anything morally wrong with religion as such.” He then comments that he does not much care for the Catholic Church’s morality when it comes to child abuse and its opposition to universal healthcare because restricitions on abortion are not sufficiently stringent. He doesn’t mention the RC Church’s discouragement of condom use in Africa, nor does he comment on the Church’s view that homosexuality isn’t biologically determined but is instead a sin.

    To get to the secular moral position which the Roman Church opposes one has to rid oneself of the kind of religion which the Catholic Church upholds, if not religion as such. The work that the Church does among the poor and sick, in as much as it is done specifically for religious reasons, is at least morally acceptable. There is a moral price to be payed, however, in terms of all the superstitious baggage that comes attached, together with the proselytising of that same reactionary and inhuman morality. There is plenty morally wrong with religion in practise.

    It happens that New Scientist have an interview with Ruse’s good friend Ayala in the current issue. Ruse thinks he probably has as little religious belief as Richard Dawkins. Perhaps the same is true of Ayala – who knows? Ayala isn’t telling. He seems to suggest, however, that homosexuality as such is both a biological and a moral matter. Is he trying to accommodate Church bigotry on this point? What about the rest of the RC Church’s moral stew?

    When asked about the mutually contradictory nature of different religions Ayala says it is simply a matter of faith. There is no way of demonstrating one only to be true therefore all are true for all who believe. Religious faith equals religious truth. But moments before he says that religion is not understood by some Christians.

    “Creationism and intelligent design are not compatible with religion because they imply the designer is a bad designer, allowing cruelty and misery.”

    But if religion can be justified by faith alone then anything believed merely by faith is compatible with religion. Ayala has hanged himself.

  11. As I have remarked on more than one occasion:

    Why should one expect any connection whatsoever between mythology (of which the many and varied religions are a major subset) and science?

    “Science” (I prefer the terms “Common Sense” or “cognos”) is an empirical discipline grounded in the acceptance that the information provided to us by our senses is generally a true representation of the real world. In that sense is must be admitted that it is a “faith”.

    It differs significantly from other “faiths” (systems of axioms) in that, for practical purposes, it is one that we all share. Furthermore it is not based entirely on hearsay as are all mythologies. Its precepts are essentially checkable,

    It is interesting to note that the vast assortment of deities and “spirits” that our species has dreamed up over millennia all show characteristics of our own mental processes and sometimes even, our own bodily forms.

    Man invents gods in his own image!

    This is the great trap of anthropocentrism. Unfortunately it catches not only those who lean to mythologies but also to most practitioners of the sciences.

    Only by casting off the shackles of this human arrogance can we become able to objectively perceive the true nature of the holistic life process and of the impending redundancy of our species.

    We silly little bipeds are, after all, but very tiny cogs in an extraordinarily complex universal machine.

    This, together with closely related topics, is discussed in detail in my recent work “Unusual Perspectives” The electronic edition of can be freely downloaded from the eponymous website

    1. I prefer ‘reality’ to science very often. Commonsense is often mistaken about reality, that’s why people thought the world was flat and species were immutable. ‘Cognos’ I’ve never heard of and it sounds even more elitist and alienating than ‘science’ to me.

      Science is about the nature of reality. Reality is at odds with religion. We have a conflict between religion and reality. ‘Science’ tends to sound like something divorced from the real world, something special people called scientists do which the rest of us need not worry about. It makes it easy to ignore and imagine that what science says is just another faith. Reality on the other hand is everybody’s problem. No-one is happy to admit that they don’t believe in reality and don’t understand much about it either.

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