Dawkins: a Protestant atheist

February 11, 2011 • 6:24 am

I’m not sure what The Guardian intended by setting up the Comment is Free section, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t mean to publish essays so dire that they wouldn’t pass muster in an undergraduate composition class. Today’s specimen is a critique of Richard Dawkins by one Thomas Jackson.  I thought I’d heard every possible criticism of Dawkins, but Jackson has a new one:  Dawkins, in his science, is unconsciously engaged in Protestant mythology!

My problem with Richard Dawkins is not that he is an atheist. I admire that. It’s that he’s a Protestant atheist. Religion, many think, has been slain by the experimental method of science. Beginning with Galileo’s experiments on free fall, science has succeeded because it is value-free, objective and proves its points not by nebulous belief but by rigorous logic and verified proof. This is a complete misunderstanding.

The history of the experimental method shows us that, far from being value-free, it was deeply enmeshed with a Protestant myth, as in its post-Protestant phase it continues to be.

What is that “Protestant myth”?  The idea that God is not a part of nature itself (a view that Jackson sees embodied in Catholicism), but a deity outside it, one who set up the universe so it could be understood through rational investigation.  But Jackson’s article is so poorly written and organized that it’s hard to see what his beef is.  Why is “Protestant deism” more wrong that the idea that god inheres in nature like cuteness in a kitten?  And why is the idea that the world is comprehensible through empirical study a “myth”?

Who knows?  All one gets from Jackson’s babble is that he doesn’t really like Richard Dawkins.  And so we get  stuff like this (how many deepities can you spot?):

Dawkins’s understanding of Catholic theology seems to be nil. He thinks that religion teaches that God constructed the world like a watch, science has shown it is able to construct itself, therefore there is no God. How Protestant is that? The intelligibility of God is so bright, according to the great Catholic mystics, it overwhelms our minds with darkness, and can only be penetrated by the will. Science is beginning to suggest that reality might perhaps be like that. Quantum physics is bewilderingly irrationally rational.

Dark matter? Non-locality? An infinity of universes? In my experience contemplative prayer delivers. It is as inescapably compelling to the emotions as mathematics is to the intellect. Poor old Richard thinks that prayer means asking God to suspend the laws of the universe to stop it raining on the day of the church fete.

Poor old Richard, who simply doesn’t see that every religious person in the world is just like Jackson, who himself knows that there’s no point, save a contemplative peace, to importuning god.  We should give a name to the fallacy that every religious person in the world has sentiments precisely identical to those of a liberal believer.


92 thoughts on “Dawkins: a Protestant atheist

    1. That’s like the old joke of the guy who goes to a job interview in Northern Ireland.

      Interviewer: “Are you Protestant or Catholic?”
      “Oh, I’m an atheist.”
      Long pause.
      “Would that be a Protestant atheist or a Catholic atheist?”

  1. “We should give a name to the fallacy that every religious person in the world has sentiments precisely identical to those of a liberal believer.”

    How about the “Armstrong misdirection principle”?

    1. Dawkins: a Protestant atheist « Why Evolution Is TrueFeb 11, 2011 … How about the “Armstrong misdirection principle”? Reply · Ben Goren. Posted February 11, 2011 at 6:54 am | Permalink …

      Already first on Google! You’re a rockstar!

    2. I’d also suggest deismitis, where you project your mystical, impossible to disprove First Cause God as the God of everyone, even while the vast majority of people identify with a big man with a big beard who lives in the sky.

  2. The intelligibility of God is so bright, according to the great Catholic mystics, it overwhelms our minds with darkness, and can only be penetrated by the will.

    The greatest of the greatest Catholic mysteries, if I understand things correctly, is the Transubstantiation at the heart of the Eucharist. It’s right there in the liturgy, at the moment that the bread becomes flesh. The president declares, “Let us declare the mystery of our faith,” as he holds up the Eucharist for all to see. In response, everybody else chants, “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again!”

    Shortly thereafter, everybody takes a bite of the meat of the freshly-reanimated zombie king, thereby ensuring that they, too, will become immortal zombies in thrall to the king. They drink his blood, too.

    Frankly, I’m not impressed — though I will grant that it’s intelligible and would seem to overwhelm the minds of Catholics with darkness. I don’t know where he’s going with the willful penetration bit; does that have something to do with the altar boys in the dressing room backstage after the mass?



    1. Actually, he’s offering a Protestant declaration of faith.

      That you can’t know god until you seek god.

      A perfect circle.

    2. It’s not called the dressing room, Ben, it’s called the penetralium. You need to brush up on your ecclesastical architectural terms.

      1. ‘President’ just means ‘one who presides.’ Another oft-used term for the priest actually uttering the magic words is ‘celebrant’.

  3. I would call this the “Liberal Projection Fallacy”. Those who hold highly fuzzy (apophatic?) feelings about this god being, who generally claim that god doesn’t command anything more than “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, tend to project their understanding of theology on all other believers as a defense of theology. “People don’t really believe the book of Revelation, silly ignorant atheist.” Yeah, they do. “People don’t really believe in hell, silly ignorant atheist”. Yeah, they do.

        1. um, why bother?

          projection as a standard psychology term has covered religious apologetics since its inception.

          why try to apply something so limiting?

          it’s just projection, plain and simple, and we see both projection and denial in rampant use as psychological defense mechanisms in the religious.

    1. I see this as a form of fallacy I see theists make all the time. They assume those they’re arguing with share their beliefs.

      One example, their argument of no missing link may come from their understanding that humans were created from just one couple, not slowly from an entire population. (So they think evolution says Adam and Eve were monkeys?)

  4. I read that piece of verbose garbage when it appeared in the Guardian. His idea that Catholic theology teaches a god-within-nature in some sort of pantheistic sense is a new one on me. In 14 years of Catholic schooling and a theology degree, I never came across anything like the ideas he claims as Catholic.

    Utter drivel. The Guardian seems fond of crap like this, perhaps it should just set up a ‘Dawkins is wrong’ section on its website.

  5. I believe Bertrand Russell wrote an essay (collected with “Why I Am Not A Christian” these days) contrasting ex-Catholic atheists with ex-Protestant atheists. I think there might be something to it; when discussing sect differences with my nominally-Catholic-but-actually-very-weak-deist spouse, I (an ex-Protestant atheist) frequently find my sympathies lying heavily with the Protestants.

    Not that I think this lends credibility to Jackson.

      1. Yeah, and he makes some good points. IIRC, he noted that “Protestant atheists” consider themselves somewhat morally superior to theists, whereas “Catholic atheists” still felt that “the Church” still had the moral high ground even though it was factually wrong.

        I think that’s changed, though, with what all the Church kid-f*cking and coverups, among other crimes.

    1. …and of course there’s also G.B.Shaw’s observation about the French: that they are not religious — and the religion they are not is Catholic.

      By the same token, I once told my agnostic father that the religion he was not was English working-class Methodist (his childhood affiliation, which in many ways stuck even after he rejected theism in his teens).

    2. Joseph Heller summed it up pretty nicely:

      “What the hell are you getting so upset about?” he asked her bewilderedly in a tone of contrite amusement. “I thought you didn’t believe in God.”

      “I don’t,” she sobbed, burting violently into tears. “But the God I don’t believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He’s not the mean and stupid God you make him out to be.”

      Yossarian laughed and turned her arms loose. “Let’s have a little more religious freedom between us,” he proposed obligingly. “You don’t believe in a God you want to, and I won’t believe in a God I want to. Is that a deal?”



  6. [Prayer] is as inescapably compelling to the emotions as mathematics is to the intellect. Poor old Richard thinks that prayer means asking God to suspend the laws of the universe to stop it raining on the day of the church fete.

    I take that to mean, “It doesn’t do anything, but it makes me feel good.”

  7. First of all, this guy doesn’t even seem to know what Dawkins believes or to what he objects. Or that Dawkins really does understand what the Catholics believe, officially and as a population on non-drones. Or that Dawkins isn’t, in general, talking about the Catholics and their position of theistic evolution when he’s discussion creationists.

    Not that Dawkins doesn’t talk about them, at times. But, rather, spends more of his time against the far more dangerous and destructive fundamentalist Christians (which includes some Catholics), Muslims, etc., that reject evolution completely, without even the fig-leaf of “theistic.”

    Also, it’s not even all Protestants believe in the strawman set up of how people came to be. That is a creationist belief which shared (with doctrinal differences) among fundamentalists in Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam and in Judaism, that believe the world was created in such a fashion.

    But the largest grouping of Christians, even the US, do not believe so. In fact, even 51% of US Muslims believe in ‘theistic evolution.’ So while Dawkins, and most of us who follow the issue, know the Catholics ‘accept’ evolution in their doctrine, as do many others, we also know they still put God’s finger on the mutation-to-get-to-human trigger, ie, theistic evolution. Which, also, is the majority (largest grouping) of all Christians in the world (even in the US, if barely).

    To illustrate, Ken Miller, one of star prosecution witnesses in Kitzmiller vs. Dover, has a number of YouTube clips in which he asserts/confirms/acknowledges this very created/evolved duality. Miller’s perspective seems to be that we, from a naturalistic point of view, look evolved in the RMNS way. But that God used evolution to make us instead of ‘from scratch.’ And while Miller is a devout Roman Catholic, there are other large Christian segments such as the Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox Church, United Methodist Church, and a few others, that officially support the same doctrine. In fact, 48% of all US Christians believe in theistic evolution, to just 14% believing in ‘pure evolution’ and one-third believing in ‘pure creationism.’

    Complex issue, what people believe and what/how Dawkins is discussing. Something well beyond the seocnd-rate-strawman column presented.

  8. They can’t shake it! Why bring religious differences into anything associated with Richard Dawkins. They, religions, have no basis for being except in the feeble minds of the unconscious. To say that Richard does anything unconsciously is absurd.

  9. I can’t even begin to imagine how depressing the world that Thomas Jackson lives in must be,

    Plus, he’s an idiot to boot.

    Sucks to be him I guess.

  10. When I first saw the headline over at RichardDawkins’net, I assumed it was going to be talking about statements he has made in the past identifying himself as a cultural Christian — which is all fine (and in fact I think an important thing for people to see, that atheists are not necessarily about tearing down tradition for its own sake, that we love a pleasing ritual and a nice holiday feast as much as the next guy). The actual topic was just so, so, I dunno, loony, that I couldn’t bring myself to read more than a couple of paragraphs.

    It occurs to me while re-reading the passage here that this is part of a longstanding Catholic tradition. The Vatican figured out the secret power of “nuance” centuries before the apophatic theologians finally caught on, that if you don’t say a damn thing, you can pretend your audience just doesn’t understand. In fact, one might regard “The Mystery of the Trinity” as being a prototype of the Courtier’s Reply: “If a God being his own dad, and then sacrificing himself, to himself, so he can forgive something he set in motion… well, if that doesn’t make sense to you, then you haven’t mediated on The Mystery for long enough!”

    So with that in mind, I present Shorter Thomas Jackson:

    Dawkins is really only attacking Protestant theology, because he insists on attempting to reduce religious claims into something that makes an iota of sense. Catholic theology, on the other hand, doesn’t make any damn sense at all! Dawkins’ reluctance to speak in gibberish is a form of bigoted anti-Catholicism.

    1. …you can pretend your audience just doesn’t understand.

      This is precisely why the Catholic church insisted on celebrating mass and conducting other business/rituals in a dead language for centuries. And why dropping Latin in favor of the vernacular was opposed by many as recently as a few short decades ago.

      “It just sounds so impressive and meaningful; it MUST be true!”

      1. Ironically, this very same phenomenon is why I generally enjoy Jewish religious ceremony better than Christian religious ceremony. When half the words are in Hebrew, it sounds so much less offensive!

  11. This Jackson fellow –
    an ex-Benedictine who discovered sex. A big fan of Aquinas. Need we say more? His words…

    “I want to persuade as many people as I can that, generally speaking, western liberals have been led into many errors by the western liberal myth, a myth that is exceptionally misleading in so far as its central tenet is that it is not a myth but science. Its two founding scriptures are The Origin Of Species and The Wealth Of Nations”.

    Probably wants to boost sales of his 2008 book “Darwin’s Error”.

    1. Reading further on his website one discovers that he links climate change to this! This is a subject that exercises my ire but I do not see any sense in his argument linking this ‘science myth’ to climate change. Science is not technology…

    2. I think it is his “lion lies down with the lamb” view of the natural world that is making him misunderstand Dawkins and Darwin.

  12. Thomas Jackson’s writing overwhelms my mind with darkness.

    Oh, and BTW, the eagle has landed a third egg!

      1. I saw on another eagle cam site (don’t know which offhand) that the pair in question had successfully raised three chicks several years in a row.

        As long as food is sufficient, the third should do fine.

  13. Having grown up in a catholic household I can verify that the group that knows the least about catholic theology is not atheists. It’s catholics themselves. It’s not even their fault. The catholic church long ago figured out that it was best not to allow the lay population to actually think about its teachings. It adopted a policy of having so many arcane rituals and rules and contradictory teachings that the average catholic wouldn’t know where to start if he or she wanted to figure out exactly what the church believed.
    For instance, the catholic church teaches that the Adam and Eve story is a metaphor. And it also teaches that it refers to two real individual humans. Both stories cannot be true but are deemed necessary to bolster some rather important later scripture (notably the reason why Jesus lived and died!).
    Ask ten catholics to explain the reason for the churches rules on contraception and you will get ten different explanations. The same goes for many other critical poits of teaching. People simply do not understand the reasoning behind it and the church has no interest in explaining it. A lot of this is from the policy that scriptures need to be ‘interpreted’ for the church members by someone who is directly connected to God – namely the Pope or upper church hierarchy.
    Don’t read it and come to your own conclusions – just listen to Gods appointed spokesman.

    1. I may be wrong, but I think that was the whole point of the schism – the Catholics didn’t want Bibles to be freely available in languages other than Latin, otherwise people might start reading them for themselves.

      Things don’t change much.

      1. It’s not so much reading the bible that is frowned upon these days, it’s thinking about it independently. In a way they have a very rational point as illustrated by the multitude of protestant sects – you cannot allow multiple people to come to their own conclusions over such a fragmented and contradictory text without expecting them to come to multiple frequently contradictory conclusions. The only way to have a unified message is if you say only one interpretation is allowable. And, of course, this only works if you accept that the one allowable interpretation is the one that ‘God’ agrees with.
        Hence protestantism.

        1. Great! So the upshot is: the putative holy book is such a jumble that everyone will draw different conclusions from it, so……..the whole enterprise rests on absolutely nothing.

          Well this is what we’ve been saying.

          1. What I think to be the main Catholic objection is to each person forming his/her own interpretation of the Bible — each person becoming his/her own pope. (OK, I added the “her” bit, because they don’t actually count women.)

            Personally I’m looking forward to my pointy hat and robes.

              1. Well, then — today’s your lucky day!

                By the powers vested in my by the Pincipia Discordia I hereby inform you that you a genuine and authorized Pope. And, furthermore, I also canonize you as Saint Ophelia.



  14. Thomas Jackson ~ I get the impression from surfing his pages that he’s a likeable old cove who’s rather fond of meaning-free ‘spiritual’ turns of phrase

    He’s also pushing his new book which is due out shortly…

    “…To my surprise, I’ve found that the spiritual training I had has really bitten deeply into me. Now, the procession of the liturgical year has become of immense importance. Now, contemplation holds me spellbound. I have become deeply convinced that the human person is a transcendental creature, capable of a deep personal relationship with the infinite source of being, and destined (well this is what I’ve come to believe, how could I possible know?) for a further experience of universal consciousness after the severely limited earthly restrictions of this one.

    I have set up this website (apart from the ego trip and my desire to sell some books)…”

    1. Yet rape is still a crime.

      Both in religion and science, we (at least should) make a point of resisting that which is “compelling to the emotions”. Only in art and love do we make that a virtue – and in love at least, it often leads us to grief.

  15. “Dawkins’s understanding of Catholic theology seems to be nil.”

    I’d bet it’s a lot better than “nil”.

    That notwithstanding, I don’t think anyone is under any obligation to memorize the meticulous detail of someone else’s superstition, which that same someone else is allowed to adjust at any time for their own convenience.

  16. I propose the following…

    Anyone using the word “quantum” in relation to religion and/or theology automatically loses the debate. Unless they can demonstrate (a la Victor Stenger) that they actually have some grounding in quantum mechanics.

    It’s my understanding that quantum mechanics is entirely rational, and does not ever ever ever require the insertion of a supernatural anything in order to understand the state of the universe right down to the smallest subatomic particles we have been able to detect.

    Invoking it is merely yet another god-of-the-gaps riff. It’s annoying, especially coming from people who have obviously not studied it in the least.

      1. But that falls into the automatic loss.

        Hasn’t it been shown there are no hidden variables, so god couldn’t do squat with that indeterminism?

        1. No worries. There are realistic quantum theories without indeterminism, of which many world theory is one.

          In that case the space of all quantum states is spread over many worlds (hence the name) that bifurcates with the totality of a quantum wavefunction. I.e. each quantum observation (“choice”) to be has associated with it many unobservable worlds where the remaining states happened. The totality is deterministic, the specific local world observation seems fundamentally not. [Wikipedia’s article on the many world theory used to be good on this; if not Deutsch has a good overview in “The Fabric of Reality” (1997).]

          So there is no momentum in perceiving a gods-gap in the first place, there is no actual gap as of yet. Since realism is such a successful theory, I think the risk of a gap (if all the realist theories must be rejected) will remain remote. [Again, Deutsch has a good overview in “The Fabric of Reality” of realism and gives it a testable theory. A theory that can be seen as basic in both classical and quantum mechanics, in the former as Newton’s third law and in the later as a description of observation.]

          As for hidden variables a similar situation applies, AFAIU.

          The original formulation of the formalism behind Bell test experiments applies to “local” hidden variables. But this gap for “global” hidden gods disappear in realistic theories, or more specifically in those that incorporates decoherence such as many worlds. Then “non-locality” disappears to be replaced with locally observed causal correlations. Conversely, the apparent “non-locality” spreads, I think, the “local” hidden variable over a large system.

          There is no theoretical limit on pushing the “non-locality” over the universe. We wouldn’t recognize such an uninteresting physics, but the gedanken experiment shows that there is no gap in the physics theory as such.

          Also, and here I am on more firm ground, you can find arxiv papers on how Bell test experiments can be generalized to larger systems with more particles involved. This is also a more layman recognizable push away from the locality of the original formulation, as a many body system takes up more and more volume at similar average particle distances. You can’t reasonably argue microscopic “locality” and big ass galaxy (say) at the same time.

          But here there is instead gradual process (they were only up to 3 particles last I checked, still a bit shy from a galaxy…), so it isn’t as clear cut.

      1. So shall we call that Kevin’s Law?

        “Anyone using the word ‘quantum’ in relation to religion and/or theology automatically loses the debate.”

        or can it be extended to

        “Anyone using the word ‘quantum’ outside the field of physics automatically loses the debate.”

        (I could do without the use of “quantum” meaning “amount”, not to mention “quantum leap/jump” meaning a very big leap/jump.)

        1. “Quantum leap” doesn’t seem to make sense.

          I believe that they mean tunneling or wormholing. The first is taking place under the general direction of special relativity light speed restrictions as they apply on the wavefunction participating in the process. The second similarly (and there is no evidence for wormholes, plenty of reason to believe they don’t exist).

          So if they mean tunneling, and nothing instantaneous happens, what is the LOLz here? “I want mah LOLz!”

    1. Invoking it is merely yet another god-of-the-gaps riff.

      Yes. But not “merely” as I see it, it is a rather infuriating attempt to insert quantum woo in a discussion among adults. I generally second your notion, as in I think it should extend to mentioning quantum systems including actual physics of such.

      I am less certain about your “rational” argument since it seems to conflate rational reasoning or areas with natural ones. In that case the believer could (rightly, I think) turn the table and call out invoking a not-gods-of-the-gaps insertion.

      But we don’t need that, since quantum mechanics whether coherently rational or not, is a natural theory.

      Which is rather lucky, since as I describe in a comment still held for moderation quantum mechanics or more generally theoretical physics isn’t coherently rational in the philosophico-mathematical “proof” sense. It is coherently rational in the fact-theory-testing sense, but I experience that such algorithmic embracing of practical method is scoffed on by the likes of Jackson.

  17. In my experience contemplative prayer delivers.”

    So does Domino’s.

    Dominus vobiscum” — Ergo Jesus.

    Domino’s phone-call-um” — Ergo Pizza.

  18. “Science is beginning to suggest that reality might perhaps be like that.”

    Jeez, hedge your bets a little…

    and no, it really isn’t.

  19. “Two swinging pendulums of unequal weights do not keep time.”

    Don’t they? If they’re ideal – the same length from fulcrum to centre of gravity, swinging infinitessimally from the centre and in a vacuum, they do.

    1. Yes, and from Wikipedia’s entry for pendulum:

      Italian scientist Galileo Galilei was the first to study the properties of pendulums, beginning around 1602. His biographer and student, Vincenzo Viviani, claimed his interest had been sparked around 1582 by the swinging motion of a chandelier in the Pisa cathedral. Galileo discovered the crucial property that makes pendulums useful as timekeepers, called isochronism; the period of the pendulum is approximately independent of the amplitude or width of the swing. He also found that the period is independent of the mass of the bob, and proportional to the square root of the length of the pendulum.

      Jackson seems to be saying that air resistance spoils isochronism, so Galileo could not have observed isochronism, and Galileo imagined a Platonic ideal instead. But if Jackson thinks we can’t observe isochronism, then why does he think isochronism is scientifically correct? And if all scientists make models or idealizations, then how are some Protestant versus Catholic?

      Anyway, we observe isochronism well enough that the length of a pendulum with a two-second period was almost used as the definition of the meter!

      1. The question of how idealizations work in science (and every day life) is a fascinating philosophical problem, but just labelling someone a platonist for recognizing that fact is pretty weak …

  20. Uhm, isn’t it just the ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy? I mean, obviously Dawkins deals with non-christians, because no real christian would think that way, they’d think like the author.

  21. The relevant Bertrand Russell quote, from The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, upon being jailed for his opposition to WWI:

    I was much cheered on my arrival by the warder at the gate, who had to take particulars about me. He asked my religion, and I replied ‘agnostic’. He asked how to spell it, and remarked with a sigh: ‘Well, there are many religions, but I suppose they all worship the same God.’ This remark kept me cheerful for about a week.

  22. No, of course prayer doesn’t mean asking God to suspend the laws of the universe to stop it raining on the church fete. That’s just silly

    what prayer means, as any good Catholic must now believe, is asking a dead Pole to ask God to suspend the laws of the universe to cure a nun with Parkinson’s disease.

  23. What a mess Jackson made on the physics table!

    science has succeeded because it is value-free, objective and proves its points not by nebulous belief but by rigorous logic and verified proof.

    Um, no.

    “rigorous logic”. Even if you don’t get to the rarefied heights of actual theoretical physicists it is easy for an outsider to see that they use are contingent algorithmic approaches:

    “One drawback to canonical quantization for a relativistic field is that by relying on the Hamiltonian to determine time dependence, relativistic invariance is no longer manifest. Thus it is necessary to check that relativistic invariance is hidden, but not lost. Alternatively, the Feynman integral approach is available for quantizing relativistic fields, and is manifestly invariant.”

    You can’t axiomatize the necessary theory construction. It would be like demanding that there is one unique proof for every mathematical thesis. And obviously it doesn’t work like that.

    “verified proof”.

    As soon as you have to rely on observation not only to verify (test) but to formulate the area and objects of your hypothesis you are not allowed to claim “proof” or you would clutter your physics with ad hoc “axiomatic” assumptions in a way math doesn’t.

    Unless you had a TOE (Theory Of Everything), could rigorously describe emergence from first principles, accepted the absence of “rigorous logic” that multiply hypotheses on the same system as per above, et cetera. Good luck with that!

    Science is beginning to suggest that reality might perhaps be like that. Quantum physics is bewilderingly irrationally rational.

    Well, if it was actually “irrational rational” it would be bewildering. But it isn’t irrational, see other comments on that. And with the absence of quantum woo there is no actual suggestion of science like the one Jackson invents.

    Dark matter? Non-locality? An infinity of universes? In my experience contemplative prayer delivers.

    So a list of open research subjects is supposed to mean that we mean nothing? In reality, where Jackson apparently have no business, these open areas deliver testable multiverses respectively tested predictions (dark matter):

    “While identifying the four features consistent with being bubble collisions was an exciting result, these features are on the edge of our sensitivity thresholds, and so should be considered only as a hint that there might be bubble collisions to find in future data. The good news is that we can do much more with data from the Planck satellite, which has better resolution and lower noise than the WMAP experiment. There is also much better polarization information, which provides a complementary signal of bubble collisions (found by Czech et. al. – arXiv:1006.0832). We’ll be gearing up to analyze this data, and hopefully there will be more to the story then.”

    “Non-locality” is part of the quantum woo parcel, if you accept realistic quantum theories like many world theory you don’t have “non-locality” but causal correlations as a result of decoherence.

    It is only when you don’t reject non-realist theories like the original Copenhagen that you will start to see shades of Newton’s “action at a distance”. Well, duh!

    1. D’oh!

      “So a list of open research subjects is supposed to mean that we mean nothing?” – So a list of open research subjects is supposed to mean that we know nothing?

      “these open areas deliver testable multiverses respectively tested predictions (dark matter)” – these open areas deliver testable (multiverses) respectively tested predictions (dark matter).

      Preview is your friend. “I want mah previewz!”

  24. An infinity of universes?

    Also, Carroll at Cosmic Variance reminds me that the supposed religionist Jackson is engaging in the immoral deed of discussing multiverses:

    “People worry that talking about unobservable things is a repudiation of what it means to do science, a symptom of the decadence of modern society, etc. Click the links to rehash the usual debates.

    But a new rhetorical strategy has appeared among the anti-multiverse crowd — not that the idea is wrong (which would be very interesting, if there were a good argument for it), or even that it’s nonscientific (the usual complaint), but that it’s immoral. We are actually violating the Categorical Imperative by talking about universes beyond our own.”

    … first they come for the atheists, now they come for the amonouniversalists. Who’s next?

    [In fact, I believe philosophically slanted readers of WEIT may enjoy discussing the is-ought fallacy involved in this:

    “However, a truly novel version of the immorality charge was leveled by Clay Naff at the Huffington Post. Naff introduces a “moral principle,” which informs us to “resist accepting any proposition that tends to disable moral reasoning, unless and until the scientifically interpreted evidence compels us.” That is, instead of judging ideas by our conventional criteria of whether they are likely to be “right” or “wrong,” we should include an additional new factor that weights against ideas that would disable morality.”

    “What he seems to be concerned about — although he never quite comes out and says it, so a bit of interpretation is required, and I could always be misreading — is the possibility that our moral intuitions could be undermined by the idea that there are an infinite number of copies of ourselves out there in the multiverse, some of them exactly like us and many of them slightly different, e.g. worlds where Hitler was victorious, etc. In such a setup, should we be concerned that morality is pointless, because every good thing and every bad thing eventually occurs elsewhere in the cosmos?”

    “I have this old-fashioned notion that if an idea about the universe is very possibly correct, there is no moral or scientific advantage to pretending otherwise, even among those who can’t follow the math. Our capacity for moral reasoning shouldn’t depend on what’s happening many googols of parsecs away in an unobservable part of the universe. If it does, our moral reasoning needs an upgrade. And if reading popular books about the multiverse help nudge people along that path, I’m all for it.”]

  25. I think he is trying to say that believing god is outside nature is a strawman when it comes to catholicism in his pantheistic form idea of catholicism

  26. There is an interesting point to be made (although the article writer at CiF completely misses the point) that has been made before is that the Protestant mindset and ethic led to the enlightenment and to the development of science (it is IMO not mere chance that led northern european protestant or part protestant countries became the dominant scientific and economic forces of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries while the catholic ones lagged behind)

    Catholicism is dogmatic while real protestantism (and compared to the events of the 16th-18th C and protestantism in that time there is very little of that today) is about internal soul searching and independence of mind and thought as well as an embracing of the idea you have to go do it yourself. once people had to start thinking like for themselves about religion it spreads along with the protestant work ethic.

    As an atheist with an academic interested in the reformation I am definitely a protestant siding one. Catholicism and the mindset it bought along with it held europe back a thousand years.

    I identify far more with the traditional protestant mind set than i ever would with a catholic one,as i imagine most atheists would as well.

    also isnt what he is going on about essentially more like some theistic pantheism than catholicism?

    1. Totally late, but couldn’t help jump in.


      I find myself having the same tendency (i.e. siding with Protestant thinking – not today’s evangelical ones though)!

      I don’t know whether some would claim that to be the result of “Anglo-Saxon propaganda against Catholicism”, because my only foreign language is indeed English and maybe that shape my thinking? But at least nothing could be blamed on my upbringing though, since I grew up in a “communist” country, we are officially atheistic, and my family’s religion (if we can even call it that) is East Asian folk belief, so there’s nothing in my upbringing that should bias me one way or another when considering Protestantism and Catholicism.

      But the general idea of Protestantism – that every man should be able to seek God as an individual is always appealing to me, even though I don’t believe in God. Maybe that has more to do with political stance instead of anything else? For example, personal liberty etc that kind of issues?

      I don’t know whether this bias/leaning/tendency is justifiable, but it would be interesting to explore it.

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