Matzke doesn’t like creationism blamed on religion

April 19, 2012 • 6:25 am

I knew this was going to happen. If you indict religion as a cause of anti-evolutionism (as I did in my upcoming Evolution paper), despite the mountains of evidence supporting that claim, you’ll get accommodationists nit-picking at you.  And that is precisely what Nick Matzke (a former employee of the National Center for Science Education) has done at Panda’s Thumb. In his “rebuttal” (I use quotes because he doesn’t rebut anything), “Coyne on religion and evolution in Evolution,” Matzke makes four points.

1.  The Society for the Study of Evolution’s (SSE) statement on the teaching of evolution, which I quoted as a model for how scientific associations should promote evolution without mentioning religion, includes Theodosius Dobzhansky’s famous quote, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

Matzke takes great glee in pointing out that Dobzhansky was an accommodationist. Dobzhansky was also quite religious for an accomplished scientist.  Of course I know all this: Dobzhansky was the advisor of my advisor.  But so what? Just because the SSE statement uses a quote from Dobzhansky doesn’t mean that I, or the SSE, endorse all of the man’s views on science and religion. I’m surprised that even Matzke, not known for his acumen on these issues, can see this as a problem with my piece.

2. Matzke then points out that Darwin himself avoided direct confrontation with religion, and wrote two statements that could be construed as accommodationist.  Again, so what? First, it’s not clear what to make of these statements, for we know that Darwin’s wife was very religious and he was careful not to injure her feelings.  He also realized that explicitly dragging religion into his writings (though he constantly went after creationism in The Origin) would impede acceptance of his theory, about which he was quite nervous. (Remember his long delay in publishing the book). He let Huxley do his dirty work with the preachers. Finally, as we know, Darwin didn’t believe in a personal God. I myself suspect he was an atheist.

But again, all this is irrelevant. Even if Darwin were an accommodationist (and that’s not clear given his sometimes ambiguous statements about religion), my admiration for his science wouldn’t make me admire that accommodationism any more than I would admire Darwin’s faulty theories of genetics.

Implying that my admiration for Darwin is hypocritical because Darwin was an accommodationist is just another diversionary tactic of Matzke, who simply can’t stand religion being publicly blamed for creationism.

Matzke knows that such an accusation will rile up the more liberal religious people that the NCSE and other accommodationists want to court. We must by all means keep quiet the dirty little secret that religious belief—and not just fundamentalism, as I show in my article—is behind all American opposition to evolution. As I show in my piece, even many adherents to faiths that officially endorse evolution, like Catholics, are themselves garden-variety creationists or accept theistic evolution, in which God had a hand in the process and guided it toward humans. Neither of these views comport with the modern scientific view of evolution.  I’m always surprised when accommodationists are so eager to claim theistic evolutionists as true allies.  Evolution is a purely materialistic process; there’s a reason why one of its engines is called natural selection.

3. I’ll quote Matzke directly here:

Darwin’s point about Leibnitz [Darwin noted that Leibnitz saw the theory of gravity as subersive of religion] guts a great many of Coyne’s arguments that science is necessarily opposed to religion, since Coyne’s logical arguments mostly rely on the premise that religious people aren’t allowed to endorse natural explanations as a method of God’s action. But pretty much no religious person ever has ever taken this position.

This is so poorly written that it’s hard to follow, but it’s certainly wrong.  My “logical arguments” do not rely on the premise the religious people aren’t allowed to endorse natural explanations as a method of God’s action.  Many religious people do do that, of course. My point was that the existence of a theistic God, who actually interferes with the operation of natural law, is incompatible with science.  And many religious people, including scientists like Francis Collins, Ken Miller, and Simon Conway Morris, do see God as having affected nature in this way. The Resurrection, the virgin birth, miracles, and any incursion of God into the natural world—these are all in direct conflict with science.

I’m not sure what Matzke means by saying “pretty much no religious person has ever taken this position” (what position?), but if he means “no religious people are prohibited from endorsing natural explanations as a method of God’s action,” he’s dead wrong. Remember that 40% of Americans are straight Biblical creationists, and many of the churches to which they belong do indeed proscribe accepting evolution as God’s method for creating humans and other species.

4. Matzke doesn’t like the term “accommodationist,” which he says was “invented by the New Atheists in its present sense as a term of abuse”.  He’s wrong here, I think: it was “invented” to describe a particular intellectual stance: the claim that science and religion are compatible fields of inquiry.  Now I don’t like that stance, of course, but the word itself is not a term of abuse, any more than “anti-abortionist” is a term of abuse. But again, that’s irrelevant to my piece.

Finally, Matzke questions whether Evolution should publish papers like mine:

 Is it good for the professional field of evolutionary biology for arguments about this kind of thing to be aired in the field’s top science journals? I recall a historian once writing that the journal Evolution was set up specifically to help make evolutionary biology into a serious professional science, and disabuse the world of the notion that evolution was more a topic of metaphysical and political discussions than pure rigorous science.

He says he could go either way on this, but let me remind Nick, in case he didn’t know, that well before I wrote my piece the journal created the “outlook on evolution and society” section (under which my article falls) to specifically deal with wider societal issues of our field.  Evolution, after all, has more ramifications for humans’ self-image than any other field of science (save perhaps cosmology). So why not discuss them in a special section of the journal? Further, it’s ludicrous to claim that such discussions have degraded evolution as a serious professional science. It’s been such a science since 1859.

Here, for Matzke’s edification, are the author guidelines for articles like mine:

Outlook on Evolution and Society articles present essays on the relationships between academic evolutionary biology, on the one hand, and other scientific disciplines and social issues on the other hand.

And here are some of the article on science and religion and have been published as “outlook pieces” (mine is last). I give the abstracts of each of the pieces as well:

Evolution and creationism in Middle Eastern Education: A new perspective, by Elise K. Burton

Statements made in a recent outcry against a creationist in the Israeli Ministry of Education starkly illuminated Western misconceptions about Iranian science education. These misconceptions are perpetuated not only among the general public but also within the international scientific community, where investigations of “Islamic creationism” often incorporate misleading assumptions regarding Islamic religious attitudes toward science as well as the nature of secularism in non-Western states. In turn, these assumptions have led to superficial analyses that overly rely on state religiosity to explain the treatment of evolution in national science education. Therefore, a new framework accounting for local political and social circumstances is crucial and urgently needed to effectively analyze science education in the Middle East.

Accepting evolution, by Anyusuya Chinsamy and Eva Pláganyi

Poor public perceptions and understanding of evolution are not unique to the developed and more industrialized nations of the world. International resistance to the science of evolutionary biology appears to be driven by both proponents of intelligent design and perceived incompatibilities between evolution and a diversity of religious faiths. We assessed the success of a first-year evolution course at the University of Cape Town and discovered no statistically significant change in the views of students before the evolution course and thereafter, for questions that challenged religious ideologies about creation, biodiversity, and intelligent design. Given that students only appreciably changed their views when presented with “facts,” we suggest that teaching approaches that focus on providing examples of experimental evolutionary studies, and a strong emphasis on the scientific method of inquiry, are likely to achieve greater success. This study also reiterates the importance of engaging with students’ prior conceptions, and makes suggestions for improving an understanding and appreciation of evolutionary biology in countries such as South Africa with an inadequate secondary science education system, and a dire lack of public engagement with issues in science.

Is the age of the earth one of our “sorest troubles”? Students’ perception about deep time affect their acceptance of evolutionary theory, by Sehoya Cotner, D. Christopher Brooks, and Randy Moore.

From the abstract:

. . . In this study, we examined how college students’ self-described religious and political views influence their beliefs about Earth’s age and how this may affect their knowledge and acceptance of evolution. To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine these factors in college students.

The relationship between evolutionary biology and religion, by Michael J. Reiss.

Belief in creationism and intelligent design is widespread and gaining significance in a number of countries. This article examines the characteristics of science and of religions and the possible relationship between science and religion. I argue that creationism is sometimes best seen not as a misconception but as a worldview. In such instances, the most to which a science educator (whether in school, college or university) can normally aspire is to ensure that students with creationist beliefs understand the scientific position. In the short term, the scientific worldview is unlikely to supplant a creationist one for students who are firm creationists. We can help students to find their evolutionary biology courses interesting and intellectually challenging without their being threatening. Effective teaching in this area can help students not only learn about the theory of evolution but better appreciate the way science is done, the procedures by which scientific knowledge accumulates, the limitations of science, and the ways in which scientific knowledge differs from other forms of knowledge.

and mine:

Science, religion, and society, the problem of evolution in America, by Jerry A. Coyne

American resistance to accepting evolution is uniquely high among First World countries. This is due largely to the extreme religiosity of the U.S., which is much higher than that of comparably advanced nations, and to the resistance of many religious people to the facts and implications of evolution. The prevalence of religious belief in the U.S. suggests that outreach by scientists alone will not have a huge effect in increasing the acceptance of evolution, nor will the strategy of trying to convince the faithful that evolution is compatible with their religion. Since creationism is a symptom of religion, another strategy to promote evolution involves loosening the grip of faith on America. This is easier said than done, for recent sociological surveys show that religion is highly correlated with the dysfunctionality of a society, and various measures of societal health show that the U.S. is one of the most socially dysfunctional First World countries. Widespread acceptance of evolution in America, then, may have to await profound social change.

It’s curious that Matzke didn’t get his knickers in a twist about the Reiss paper, which is also about the conflict in America between religion and evolution. Could that be because because Reiss’s paper is far more respectful of religion than mine? It seems that what Nick objects to is not discussing religion and evolution in the journal, but discussing it in a certain way. For Matzke, evolution and faith must be friends, not opponents.

240 thoughts on “Matzke doesn’t like creationism blamed on religion

  1. In the comments on Panda’s Thumb is a religious scientist that flatly states he has to be an atheist while working and can’t credit supernatural powers. I can’t think of a more blatant admission that science and religion are incompatible, if they were we could credit God and Angels for natural phenomena.

  2. If one shouldn’t discuss the reasons for public hostility to science in a scientific journal, where should one discuss it? The religion section of HuffPo?

    1. I would suggest that there is nowhere Matzke would find appropriate but if he said that it would give the game away.

  3. >>Finally, as we know, Darwin didn’t believe in a personal God. I myself suspect he was an atheist.

    Ah, but on page 92 of his autobiography, Darwin considered himself a theist. 🙂

    1. Here’s the statement from Darwin’s autobiography. He certainly WAS NOT a theist: he calls himself an agnostic:

      “Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.

      This conclusion was strong in my mind about the time, as far as I can remember, when I wrote the Origin of Species; and it is since that time that it has very gradually with many fluctuations become weaker. But then arises the doubt–can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions? May not these be the result of the connection between cause and effect which strikes us as a necessary one, but probably depends merely on inherited experience? Nor must we overlook the probability of the constant inculcation in a belief in God on the minds of children producing so strong and perhaps an inherited effect on their brains not yet fully developed, that it would be as difficult for them to throw off their belief in God, as for a monkey to throw off its instinctive fear and hatred of a snake.

      I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.” (pp. 92-94).

        1. (psst….here’s what he says (I don’t see any Dawkins reference and further a reference to Pell is absent) in its entirety (that is the whole of DV’s comment) complete):

          Ah, but on page 92 of his autobiography, Darwin considered himself a theist.

          Damn christian gods, they poison everything even people’s ability to understand clearly written prose such as that written by Darwin.

          Furthermore, Darwin got some things wrong. He isn’t a deity but, in reality he was much more than any of the christian gods – as every human and life itself is far greater than any of the christian gods.

          Now, a lot of that isn’t at all resonsive to your comment but, how am I to insert Dawkins and or Pell into DV’s comment?

          1. You’re not _supposed_ to insert anything into anything. DV, unless I’m wrong, was making a humorous reference to a bogus trap Pell sprung on Richard Dawkins recently. I certainly found it funny, but you had to know the context otherwise the joke would pass well overhead.

            And, DV, if I’m wrong… well then the joke’s on me! 😉

        2. +1

          Thanks for getting the inside joke.

          I think the proper counter should be: Ah but on page 94, Darwin said he was agnostic! 🙂

          1. I thought it was obvious, too. Especially with the smiley.

            But I guess we can forgive Jerry for being a little captious here.


      1. He was certainly a theist and a fairly devout Anglican to boot when he stepped on board the Beagle. According to one of his biographers, the crew thought his daily devotions rather amusing.

    2. When Pell made that statement during the debate I recall hoping that Dawkins would ask him what was on page 93.

      1. Another one of Darwin’s statements that is often quoted out of context is the one that mentions the eye being formed by natural selection as “absurd in the highest degree”.

        Darwin was of course only carefully laying out one hand of the argument before presenting the counter-argument and then coming to the conclusion that it can’t be difficult at all.

        This style of acknowledging first the apparent soundness of a proposition before presenting the counter-arguments that lead to the opposite conclusion, is susceptible to quote mining.

  4. JAC:

    I myself suspect [Darwin] was an atheist.

    A small nit-pick. It’s fairly clear that Darwin was a mainstream Christian in his youth, and gradually lost faith over his life, such that he ended up pretty much an atheist. By his own testimony he was still a theist when writing OofS. So a bald “was” statement needs some qualification about which period of his life you’re referring to.

    1. Yes, agreed. After all, he trained for the ministry. I think I’ve been clear all along on this website that Darwin lost his faith when he became older.

      But I don’t think he was a theist in his old age, i.e. someone who thinks God intervenes in the world. I have to run now, but will look this up later. (I have; see my post just above: Darwin was AT BEST an agnostic. Anyway, this is irrelevant to the main issues I was discussing.

      1. Darwin was probably questioning Anglican Orthodoxy of the time even before he went to Edinburgh to study divinity.

        Prior to going to Edinburgh he had assisted Adam Sedgwick in carrying out a geological survey of North Wales, and was probably already doubting traditional Anglican teaching of the age of the Earth.

  5. The closest Matzke comes to making an actual point is where he says that the problem is fundamentalist religion rather than the ‘moderate’ religions – like Roman Catholicism – the ones he sees as allies or potential allies.
    Unfortunately for Nick he hasn’t read the paper clearly enough or he would have noticed that the results show that Catholics have a big problem with the scientific consensus on evolution too. They are not as bad as evangelicals but their belief system is still seriously at odds with what science has told us from nature – for example the Adam and Eve question, human parthenogenesis, the Catholic theory of reversible cellular necrosis etc – basically anything in the Nicene Creed.

  6. RE Accommodationist, first used in 1832 by Bentham according to the OED. The quote there with regard to religion is –
    2003 Nature 24 Apr. 813/2 Gould was not as strict: he was an accommodationist, insisting that both religion and science are independent and valid domains of enquiry.

    It makes little sense to me to call Darwin (who died 130 years ago today, may his memory live forever!) accommodationist. There was no opposition at the time to ‘accommodate’ with christianity. He was one of the first to create that, & others followed up the logic of his position to try & give god the heave-ho. We still are levering away but religion is shifting closer to the side of the ship. If we persist we can dump it overboard.

    1. OED missed a couple theology jargon uses of “accommodationists” that Google Books spots circa 1820-1830. That variant now seems more obsolete than the legal jargon sense Bentham used, however.

  7. I’ll shoot off at a tangent here and argue that religion is not the cause of the failure to recognise evolution as factual. It is instead some peoples’ willingness to think magically, wooishly, emotionally (MWE) – because it satisfies their view of the world.

    Of course people who do think in MWE ways lay themselves wide open to believing in various religions. Religions which have developed to pander to those same feelings. Religions which must resist the rational view of the world if they are to satisfy their supporters.

    As some sort of anecdotal evidence I’ll point out that many believers can’t accept that atheists value the ‘experiences of living’ – because if the ‘magic’ is gone, what is there? They are misguided of course.

    1. Um, and religion plays no causal role in “some” (in fact a huge number of) “people[‘s] willingness to think magically, wooishly, emotionally”?

      Very likely there are preexisting facts about the human brain and its function that render many of us susceptible to what you call WME, but are you seriously arguing that religion doesn’t play a huge role in promoting, nurturing, feeding, preserving, and defending such tendencies? If you agree that it does play such a role (and that, as a result, humanity has vastly more WME-soaked adults than it would if secular thinking reigned), how can you argue that religion isn’t a cause?

    2. Except that there are (very likely) some atheists who do accept evolution, but are sometimes literally (in their own minds) away with the faeries.

      Ergo, MWE qua MWE isn’t “the cause of the failure to recognise evolution as factual”!


  8. Even if Darwin were an accommodationist (and that’s not clear given his sometimes ambiguous statements about religion), my admiration for his science wouldn’t make me admire that accommodationism any more than I would admire Darwin’s faulty theories of genetics.

    I wonder what it is about so many people who can’t understand this. As a parallel, I think Matzke did fantastic work with the NCSE on the Dover trial, but I think his accomodationist stance is wrong, and his flailing defense of religion downright pathetic. But those latter views don’t diminish my opinion of the work he did for the Dover case.

    The difficult part of this sort of attitude is that it’s pretty much SOP for creationists. The all or nothing type thinking reflects a shallow understanding of the issue, at best, and indicates that it’s much more of a personal belief, opinion, preference, what have you, than a rigorously analyzed position arrived at through even a cursory application of rationality.

    Sad to see in so many who are ostensibly on ‘our side’. Is there more money to be made with that stance, maybe?

  9. Seems to me that Nick once again is conflating the belief with the believer.

    Here’s the hypothesis: If there were no religion, there would be no creationism.

    Or an alternative: Religion is the cause of creationism (defined as the belief that a god or gods intervened in the natural history of Earth).

    Disprove that hypothesis, Nick. You’re arguing that because some scientists are religious that means science and religion are compatible. But that’s not the argument being put forth here.

    The argument is that religion causes creationism. Not that scientists can’t be religious.

    Please try to stay on-point, OK?

    1. because some scientists are religious that means science and religion are compatible

      Sure, just like because some priests are pedophiles that means that Catholicism and child rape are compatible.

      1. …well, I didn’t say that his argument was coherent. Only that he’s completely missed this argument.

        He’s a hammer and every argument is a nail.

  10. As usually seems to be the case with accomms, he seems to think that “some scientists are religious” and “some religions accept some bits of science” are equivalent to “the religious reliance on revelation and dogma and the scientific reliance on evidence and observation are entirely compatible”.


  11. Have to disagree with Jerry. “Accommodationism” is a derogatory term in the same way as the following are derogatory:


    Accommodationists are (IMHO) stupid, foolish, ignorant and credulous bastards.

    There you go.

    1. I’ll disagree. Accommodationists aren’t (in the main) stupid. Nor are they credulous. Most accommodationists I’m familiar with claim to be atheists.

      They’re wrong about the facts, wrong about strategy, wrong about tactics, and wrong about the intentions of the religious.

      I may agree with “foolish” in the sense that they’re fooling themselves into believing that accommodationism as a strategy is viable, but not the rest.

      1. One of the most popular argument to refute that any sort of theism can be behind evolution is that it would not be a moral way to evolve.
        And that is not what I call a fact.
        There is absolutely no way to disprove theistic evolution. And I’m not talking here about the Bible…

        From the perspective of many oriental traditions, evolution can be seen as an atheistic, but still spiritual, process where an uncreated force wants to operate through nature on a material plane.

        Science is just not able to disprove or prove this…

        1. evolution can be seen as an atheistic, but still spiritual, process where an uncreated force wants to operate through nature on a material plane. Science is just not able to disprove or prove this…

          There are an untold number of things that can be imagined, yet cannot be proved or disproved. Does that give meaning to them?

              1. I cordially disagree. A truism couched in an epigram is a classic deepity.

                Now try it employing backwards alphabetization…


        2. Science is just not able to disprove or prove anything

          That’s just not how science works!

          But essentially Laplace shows that theistic evolution is almost certainly false.


            1. Then you made it obliquely.

              In any case, per Torbjörn’s and my comments, we know that theistic evolution is false with the same certainty that we know evolution is true.

              Unless you have some evidence that validates some falsifiable prediction of theistic evolution?
















              1. If natural selection is the mode of operation used by an uncreated force to manifest itself physically, that would show no differences with an “atheistic evolution”…

              2. Leaving aside that natural selection isn’t the sum of evolution (Larry will jump on you if you persist with that idea), that’s just a nonsensical assertion.

                Theistic evolution is by definition different from naturalistic evolution. If God had interceded in the evolutionary processes in any way, then there would necessarily be differences from naturalistic evolution. If there are no differences, God did not intercede, and we have no theistic evolution.


              3. It is not because you insist that a theistic evolution must be different than an atheistic process that, “tadam!”, the case is closed.

                Why exactly a theistic evolution has to be different than what we are seeing?
                Because natural selection is not moral?

              4. What? How did morally get into this?

                I’m not sure I can say it more plainly.

                Theistic evolution is evolution guided by (a putative) God. God’s intercession necessarily makes theistic evolution differrent from naturalistic evolution. If God exists but didn’t intercede, then evolution is still only naturalistic; that is, there is no theistic evolution. Just as if there is no intercessionary

              5. (cont.)

                … God. Which there isn’t. Because evolution looks exactly like we’d expect it to without an intercessionary God. There is no need of that hypothesis to explain anything in evolution. (Thus, my earlier reference to Laplace.)


              6. You still don’t explain what would be the differences between a theistic and an atheistic evolution? Unless you can compare them, nothing can be said about the impulse behind evolution.

                And I still don’t get why you insist on a divine intercession. Unless you think I talk about the God of the Bible which is not my case.

                A theistic evolution doesn’t need any intervention. From the perspective I try to explain, it only means that evolution is a process used by an uncreated force to be effective on a material plane.
                And It looks like evolution through natural selection and all that it implies is the perfect way to do so. You don’t need to intervene, you just let things go…

              7. Oh! I get it! Theistic evolution is exactly like (regular) evolution here on the material plane! They are different but you can’t tell the difference! Because there isn’t a difference! Cool.

                Could you pass that joint over. I need another toke. I’m getting the munchies.

              8. So what benefit is gained by adding in this “uncreated force” to an explanation of evolution ?

                And what do you do with this “uncreated force” once you have done with evolution. It is left kicking around in need of being explained, as scientists are wont to explain things. So this “uncreated force” needs an explanation, but none seems to be of offer, probably because the physicists who are paid to worry about such things can recognise bullshit when they see it and send it back to the biologists with a note asking what they are on about.

                You can make claims for an “uncreated forces” all you like, but if you cannot show one is needed (and you have not) then it is folly.

              9. In other words, God doesn’t exist. But if he existed, there would be some magical phenomenon going around (because it says so in the Bible?).
                So since evolution is purely a natural process, it proves that God cannot be behind?

                Does that resume what you are saying?

              10. No, I am saying that since evolution does not require a god there is good reason for shoving one into the process.

                You seem to be unaware of the null hypothesis. Without evidence for a god the assumption is that it does not exist.

                Once you start talking of an “uncreated force” you cannot invoke such a force unless and until you provide evidence that such force is necessary. You have not done that, and not it seems are you capable of doing that.

              11. This is ironic because Occam himself said that his razor wasn’t useful when it comes to what is beyond human reason. Eckhart on the other end didn’t agree. He advocated that it was possible to go beyond the limitations of human reason, beyond the dual mod eby whichwe grasp the world. That is why Eckhart and many oriental teaching are very similar.

                As far as I know, an uncreated force is necessary because otherwise we wouldn’t be here. That energy organized itself in order to make possible life and self-awareness as we know it requires an uncreated force as you know.

              12. Matt Penfold: So what benefit is gained by adding in this “uncreated force” to an explanation of evolution ?

                – Meaning, subjectivity, beauty, love…
                (It reminds me The life of Brian.
                “And what did they bring us in return?”
                -Aqueduc, civilization, peace….)

                “And what do you do with this “uncreated force” once you have done with evolution.”

                – Evolution is a process. I don’t think you can be done with evolution. But if an end comes. I guess you start all over again.

                “It is left kicking around in need of being explained, as scientists are wont to explain things.”

                – It can’t be left kicking around since the force in question is the process itself you are witnessing everywhere and is what allows you to think you are separated from it.

                “So this “uncreated force” needs an explanation, but none seems to be of offer, probably because the physicists who are paid to worry about such things can recognise bullshit when they see it and send it back to the biologists with a note asking what they are on about.”

                -There are explanations offered but you don’t take them seriously. The main obstacle is our mode of perception itself. It works in a certain way. A way that is very useful when it comes to science but less useful when it comes to analyze the way itself. First, we take it for granted. And it is only by experiencing another mode of perception that you can realize that you are grasping the world through a certain way, a dual mode, and that this mode isn’t absolute. Unless you reach a non-dual mode, you can’t really know that you are using a dual mode and you can’t know how this shapes in a certain way the intellect.

                Second, the force in question is consciousness. But consciousness is not a thing. We can witness the traces it leaves when it interacts with matter, but we can’t see it because our own consciousness isn’t able to recognize consciousness just like water cannot wet water or fire burn fire.

                But on a dual-mode, it is possible to see that consciousness is uncreated because a non-dual mode doesn’t require opposites in order to grasp anything. Consciousness being a no-thing, it is possible to see its uncreated nature, which means that it didn’t began and cannot end. Our average dual mode cannot cope with this because the dual mode is fed by the grasping of opposites. Language, our egotic sensation are by-products of that dual mode. And since we think in terms of language, it makes it impossible on a dual mode to imagine what could be a non-dual mode. only experience can talk about it…

            2. JF Fortier wrote:

              From the perspective I try to explain, it only means that evolution is a process used by an uncreated force to be effective on a material plane. And It looks like evolution through natural selection and all that it implies is the perfect way to do so.

              So, if I have this right, your version of theistic evolution looks and acts exactly like naturalistic evolution, but is actually simply a process that an uncreated force (whatever that is) uses so that it can act on a material plane. Otherwise, I presume, this force would be acting on an immaterial plane. Why? Not just why would an immaterial, uncreated force act in this way, but why would anyone dream up such a scenario?

              1. Exactly, Tom! (Even if you replied in the wrong place! 😉 )

                @ JF

                That was exactly my point, IF GOD or an equivalent agency DOESN’T INTERCEDE, evolution is just like naturalistic evolution… in fact, it is naturalistic evolution. THERE IS NO THEISTIC EVOLUTION!


              2. “Otherwise, I presume, this force would be acting on an immaterial plane.”

                It is acting on different levels at the same time. We just happen to be more conscious about our plane because of our egotic perceptions that hardly suggest we are separated from that force, something you can invalidate when you are able to get an egoless perspective.

                “Why? Not just why would an immaterial, uncreated force act in this way, but why would anyone dream up such a scenario?”

                Who is dreaming? And how can we know we are not dreaming? Awaken is precisely the state you reach when you are enlightened accordingly to many oriental traditions…

        3. Preposterous! The set of theories that we call evolution are picked over creationism because we both lack evidence for the extraneous mechanism and because they are simpler without it.

          This is in the same way that we know that a mass is responsible for resistance to acceleration and not a mass and an invisible “mass daddy” co-inhabiting the mass center and so on.

          You don’t seem to understand the market of ideas that lies behind science if you insist your armchair theories are acceptable.

          No, creationism has been found wanting as empirical explanation, and science has rightly rejected them. In you parlance that probably means ‘disproving’, in the same way that a large enough hammer ‘proves’ that you can drive nails…

        4. Also, I don’t think creationists should comment on science bl … websites. Go elsewhere and spout inanities.

            1. I once happened upon a man hammering a large nail into a granite pillar on a public walkway so as to release the angels that were calling from within to be released. I know this through a short discussion with him and his demeanor and pleading when the police arrived. He was very sincere and took great delight when he was able to make progress by chipping a few small grains from the granite and his distress that it might be taking too long as the angels might die before he was able to release them.

              If christians instead of believing in miraculous biological interventions, believed in angelic entrapment within stone we would be arguing about saving our public monuments from the cuts inflicted by millions of christians. And your stand JF Fortier, if consistent, would be that we can’t prove nor disprove that angels are trapped within the stone, in long agony, waiting for a good christian to release them.

              Biology actually stands on firmer ground because it is possible to peak inside and see what is happening and follow the traces of its history. There ain’t no damned christian gods there!

              1. I’m certainly not advocating for christianity.
                I’m only saying that natural selection doesn’t exclude an uncreated force at its core.

              2. There is no difference between the core of christianity and the core of the crap you are selling. My ass is an uncreated force, prove that it didn’t cause you.

                All you are doing is stuffing your force into the randomness of genetic coding mistakes, you have no basis for sticking your force in there – get it out, you raping christian goat.

              3. When interacting with matter, consciousness tends to complexity because it wants to know itself. Evolution can be seen as a process to produce more and more complex organic machines in order to allow consciousness to know itself.
                (this is really hard to dismiss unless you want badly to do it).

                That consciousness would want to experience itself subjectively through matter (thanks to Bill Hicks) has the advantage to give meaning to meaning.

                From a human perspective, this is very useful. And from an evolutionary perspective, usefulness is not a minor thing.

              4. Okay… someone’s bought a first-class ticket for the woo-woo choo-choo.

                What is consciousness that it exists independently of matter?

                There is nothing in evolution that is teleological.

                What is the advantage of giving meaning to meaning? (What does it even mean to give meaning to meaning?)

                Why is this very useful from a human perspective?

                How does that matter re evolution? (That is, how does it make organisms “fitter”?)


              5. That nothing is teleological in evolution is an opinion. You’ll understand that I have a different one than yours. I don’t think that it is a coincidence if evolution tends to increase complexity and self-awareness.

                Even if the process of evolution involves randomness (on purpose..? ;), it is not due to hazard if the most self-aware, creative, religious and cultural species is the most dominant. Humans are big producers of meaning. We could say that culture and religion are attempts to literally make sense. Producing meaning is a trait of our species and it looks like that trait is an efficient and useful one.
                It has counterproductive effects, sometimes very lethal(nothing on this plane can be absolutely good or bad), but it has a big positive weight in the balance. There would be a lot of things to say but I’ll try to to the essential.

                We can produce meaning because of our self-awareness. Self-awareness is also what allows us to feel compassion. And a lot of good things come with compassion. The road was, and is still long, but we could say that we basically live in a state of law and have easily access to drinking water and education (to name a few) because of compassion. Compassion is a natural consequence of self-awareness because with self-awareness, questions come. And WHY is a constant one. That is why humans are such big producers of meaning. And compassion. Because it makes sense that what is good for you is good for the other. That is why our specie is very successful and have labeled as bad or wrong what goes against the interest of the group. But why is that? Why is compassion feeling good?

                It is because we are at our core, a single entity, a single consciousness. That is what we are right now. We just ignore it. You can be aware of it when you can transcend your dual perception that makes you believe you are separated from the rest of the world. That single source is fragmented individually among us but is not itself separated. It is only our perception that makes us believe it is the case. That is why the oriental traditions developed techniques so you can be aware of that. And that is why evolution is a process that leads the creation of more and more complex and self-aware organic machines.

              6. That evolution is not teleological is not just a matter of opinion. There is nothing in evolution that requires or indicates any design or purpose — and much that contradicts such a view.

                Any purpose that you ascribe to evolution is just wishful thinking.

                The rest of you response is a no more than a congeries of flocculant new-age po-mo double-speak.

                If you can adduce evidence for your view, please do so. Otherwise, I think this conversation has gone as far as it can.


              7. it is not due to hazard if the most self-aware, creative, religious and cultural species is the most dominant.

                “Dominant” in what way? Bacteria make up more than half the biomass of the planet, and inhabit domains that would kill a human in seconds. Many organisms have a greater ecological range than humans, have lived longer than humans, and could survive events that would wipe out the entire human species.

                Your claim of human “dominance” is nothing but hubris, and circular at that (“humans dominate in what humans are good at”). I’m sure that dogs would say they dominate because no other species has such a good sense of smell.

              8. Humans are dominant because of their creativity
                and the speed they can deploy it. Just look at the last 3000 years… How we emancipated ourselves from our “default” biological limitations is quite impressive when you compare with the other organisms around us.

              9. JP Fortier wrote: “Humans are dominant because of their creativity
                and the speed they can deploy it. Just look at the last 3000 years… How we emancipated ourselves from our “default” biological limitations is quite impressive when you compare with the other organisms around us.

                Did you not read Tulse’s reply? Humans aren’t the pinnacle of evolution; that’s not how evolution works.

                There were creatures around well before humans evolved, and creatures that will be here well after we’re gone. In terms of the capacity for true long-term survival, we’re actually quite piss-poor; it wouldn’t take much of a catastrophic event to wipe us out completely – and when/if that happens you can be sure as shit there’ll still be bacteria around to eat our corpses.

              10. Humans could easily be seen as the pinnacle of evolution. Nothing anthropomorphic here. Do I really need to enumerate the special characteristics that make humans a very special species…?

                Of course, I can’t force you to see evolution as a process that encourages complexity… but the data doesn’t go against that claim either… Unless you are really interested in claiming the opposite…

                And dominance is not about quantity or longevity…

              11. Using the word ‘pinnacle’ implies a peak; that humans are ‘above’ everything else – what metric are you using to judge this?

                Douglas Adams had a response to your kind of thinking:

                Man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much – the wheel, New York, wars and so on – while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man – for precisely the same reason.

                And dominance would imply we have subjugated every other lifeform on the planet – do you really think that’s true? If you do, some super bugs would like to have a word with you.

              12. Humans are dominant because of their creativity and the speed they can deploy it.

                “Dominant” by what measure? You keep using this term but don’t define it. By some reasonable definitions, such as geographic spread, or total biomass, or variety of ecological niches, or hardiness, or individual longevity, or species longevity, or etc. etc. etc., humans are unremarkable. So how specifically are you defining “dominant”?

              13. Ok, ok. Humans are a common species that have nothing in special. That it can bypass its biological limitations to do what it wants is nothing new and bugs is evolution finest jewel…

              14. Seriously, JF, you can’t be specific just once? What do you mean by “bypass its biological limitations”? Do you mean “use tools”?

                And what is the link between “bypassing biological limitations” and “dominance”? Your original claim was that humans were “dominant”, but still fail to explain what you mean by that — dominant in what way? By what measure?

        5. >evolution can be seen as an atheistic, but still spiritual, process where an uncreated force wants to operate through nature on a material plane.

          >Science is just not able to disprove or prove this…

          I beg to differ. The only way science can’t disprove or prove something is if that something does not have unique characteristics that interact with our reality. And if that is the case, then where did the hypothesis come from in the first place?

          Occam’s Razor isn’t just about simplicity. It’s about recognizing that two hypotheses that produce identical results ARE identical. The difference is only in the language we use to describe them.

          If an “uncreated force” exists and wants to do something, and produces exactly the same result as a simply, unthinking physical law, then conceptually there is no difference. The “wanting” by the “force” isn’t free to act outside the behaviour described by the natural law, and it becomes an unnecessary middleman.

          In that case, the question becomes where the idea of the “force” came from, and that is a subject of history which can rely on scientific evidence.

          So, yes, science can prove or disprove such things.

          1. “If an “uncreated force” exists and wants to do something, and produces exactly the same result as a simply, unthinking physical law, then conceptually there is no difference. The “wanting” by the “force” isn’t free to act outside the behaviour described by the natural law, and it becomes an unnecessary middleman.”

            You ascribe to that “force” the limitation you are subjected to. Since those limitations are part of you, you can’t see where they begin or end, and how they shape your intellect. The contradictions that appear in your argument have no absolute reality. They are conditioned by a certain mode of thinking.

            Let’s see it another way. That force implies consciousness, a consciousness that would be uncreated. And we are conscious being. That means that this “force” would be right now operating though us. The source is a single source but it is felt and used individually by everyone of us. But we can’t see this because looking for this is like looking for light with a flashlight. Our own consciousness cannot look at consciousness just like water cannot wet water or fire burn fire. What we can see is the physical traces it leaves when interacting with matter (with what it is not) but we can’t trap it since consciousness is by a essence uncreated. It is a no-thing.

            But there is a way to check this. But it is not a scientific way. It can’t because it deals with our average mode of perception and how the intellect is fueled by that mode that we believe is absolute. And when it comes to the inquiry of that mode itself, you need to get out of it in order to be able to look at it. That can only be achieved personally. Our average mode is what the oriental traditions call a dual mode. They also teach how to reach a non-dual mode.

            On a dual mode, things are grasped through opposites. And language is a by-product of that dual mode. And since we think in terms of language, we can’t imagine what a non-dual mode would be. But when you reach a non-dual mode, you have access to another kind of grasping that is not done through discontinuity and opposition. On that mode, you can see that what supports your personality is a plain pure uncreated awareness that never began and therefore cannot end.

            But I know, this is gibberish woowoo stuff for you guys…

  12. Good responses to his points 3 and 4, but I think you missed on 2. Nick’s point in #2 seems to be that you invoke the argument from authority or argument ad populum in your article to support your point. (Jerry, I haven’t read your argument so I’m really going on what I read of Nick’s). His example is your quoting of Dobzhansky. That quote is essentially drawing on his authority to support your argument.

    If his claim is right and you do, in fact, do that, you cannot simply reject out of hand the authorities or numbers on the other side (like, possibly, Darwin). Such a rejection would be biased: either such arguments are valid for both sides, or they’re invalid for both sides. Its fallacious to quote Dobzhansky’s opinion when he supports you, but then say its completely illegitimate for anyone else to quote Dobzhansky when he doesn’t support you.

    There seems, however, at least one easy way to refute Nick’s #2. You could just say that you didn’t mean to imply any argument from authority or populum; what matters is actual conceptual compatibility based on objective factors such as their definitions, not whether some famous scientist like Dobzhansky believed science and religion were compatible despite the evidence.

    1. The Dobzhansky quote, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”, is not made by way of argument from authority. It is simply a relevant true statement, used appropriately in the current context. It does not represent an inconsistent position re: argument from authority.

      1. Indeed. It is worth looking at the quote in context within the paper.
        “In contrast, the “Statement on the teaching of evolution” by the Society for the Study of
        Evolution, which doesn’t mention religion, is a model of how to promote evolution on its
        scientific merits alone, without wading into the marshy hinterlands of theology and religious compatibility:

        Evolutionary theory should be taught in public schools because it is one of the most
        important scientific theories ever generated, and because it is the accepted scientific
        explanation for the diversity of life. As a scientific theory, it is testable and has been
        extensively tested. As stated by the great geneticist and evolutionist Theodosius
        Dobzhansky, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” The
        theory of evolution is subject to refinements and revisions, but this is no different from
        any other major scientific theory, such as those providing the explanatory frameworks of
        geology, physics, or chemistry.”

        It is not using Dobzhansky as the ultimate arbitrator of what is scientifically correct, it is simply agreeing with one of his better lines and attributing that line to him.
        It is Matzke himself who is using the argument from authority here – using the fact that Dobzhansky is a scientific authority to imply that his religious views have merit.

    2. Yeah, you need to read my paper; sorry that it’s not yet online. I wasn’t arguing from authority: I was quoting the SSE’s evolution statement which uses the line from DObzhansky, “Nothing make sense except in the light of evolution.” That’s a money quote, although a bit exaggerated, no matter WHO said it, and I don’t care whether it was Dobzhansky or Joe Schmoe. It makes a good point about the centrality of evolution among the biological sciences.

    3. Most quotations aren’t used in order to trade on the authority of the author but rather to give credit to someone for a particularly concise and insightful turn-of-phrase. Dobzhansky’s statement about evolution is just that, a particularly well-phrased and true observation about evolution and biology.

  13. I think you’ve got one or two unintended extra words in the following sentence (in the hypothetical “quotation”):

    [I]f [Matzke] means “no religious people aren’t are prohibited from endorsing natural explanations as a method of God’s action,” he’s dead wrong.

    My suspicion is that you intended the above to look something like this:

    [I]f [Matzke] means “no, religious people aren’t prohibited from endorsing natural explanations as a method of God’s action,” he’s dead wrong.

  14. It is useful to note how intransigent ad hominem and personal attacks are as the core tactic against evidence and logic.

    These are the reflexive defensive responses to ideas that disturb and are very effective because of this.

    The personal behaviors individuals are irrelevant to the factual validity of statements, of course.

  15. Matzke then points out that Darwin himself avoided direct confrontation with religion

    Oh, for fuck’s sake, it was 1859. There were people in Europe executed for heresy within Darwin’s lifetime. He was going out on one hell of a limb as it was. And I mean that in the sense of Darwin’s own personal beliefs as well. How big a leap can one man make from the conventional wisdom of millenia to something completely and diametrically opposed to it? He pretty much made that entire jump all by himself, which is extraordinary. I would bloody well expect him to have a few doubts along the way.

  16. There will always be martyrs willing to take offence on behalf of the religious. Somebody needs to tell these people that the religious already have enough victim complex to go around.

  17. The argument that religion and science don’t mix is demonstrable. Scientists who have the ability to compartmentalize mythical beliefs (Collins, et al, e.g.) do not bring “god” into the laboratory, not does “god” ever appear as a variable in an equation or as an explanatory

    This isn’t to say that science threatens these idiotic beliefs, just that science has nothing to say about nebulous, unquantifiable gibberish (and vice versa). As soon as the god wallopers start making scientific statements, however — the Earth is 6000 years old, e.g. — then their beliefs are destroyed.

    The solution then, for the hopelessly God-smacked, is to STFU about their Invisible Friend in scientific settings, such as classrooms.

  18. Though I do understand Matzke’s stance after all being an accommodationist did help him at the Dover trial, what with being able to bring so many Christian scientists to give evidence. Even he must realize that winning a few battles does not deliver victory in a war. Since the creationists just dusted themselves down and licked their wounds and went back and reworded the legislation.

    You just have to see what is happening in American politics now as treating the symptoms will just lead to a never ending cycle of court cases. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and go all out for a cure.

  19. I’m going to put this comment here, although it’s not directly about Matzke’s essay so much as the concerns Jerry raises in his article about how to get more people to accept evolution. I will just repeat something I said here a few weeks ago.

    It seems to me that if you want to get students to accept evolution you have to fight religion, yes. But it’s not clear to me that the way you fight religion best is in terms of teaching evolution and biology itself. Jerry seems to see this when he recognizes that there are broader, social issues which need fixing that are relevant to encouraging acceptance of evolution, and so the problem is quite complex. I would like to suggest in this context that one thing missing from a central role in American education is engagement with philosophy (which is not required in high school usually). Consider two important facts related to this point: (1) A recent study showed that a larger number of philosophers (72%) than scientists in general (50-60%??) were atheists. It seems there is a strong association between the study of philosophy and atheism. This is not surprising, since students are commonly exposed to readings from people like Hume, Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche in their history of philosophy courses.

    (2) Second, there is a further fact that deserves discussion. Why is it that western Europe is largely secularist? What is the difference between the American system and the European system that might help explain this fact? Is it that Europeans read more science texts? Do they read more Darwin? This hardly seems like the right explanation. Although the issue is no doubt complex, I would suggest that Europeans are exposed to more philosophy. Early on they read the authors from their culture (Hume, Marx, Nietzsche) while our students are reading none of this. Is it any wonder that they are less likely to take religion seriously after having been exposed to these authors and then become more open to evolution? In my view the kinds of social and economic criticisms of religion these authors make are usually more effective in students’ minds than other approaches and should be encouraged.

    1. Disclaimer: I really, really dislike philosophy these days. It is accommodationist by its very nature.

      That said, I would take issue with your two poinst on a factual basis anyway.

      1) Science and education are generally known to correlate with atheism, in that students tend towards it and that the trend increases as you go towards physics. Surveys/polls of AAAS et cetera returns betwen 90 – 100 % atheists.

      – Philosophy should ride on that trend.
      – As noted above, you can use philosophy any which way. No doubt those who are interested of “philosophy of science” would tend towards atheism, while practical philosophers like theologists may not.

      2) Religion is known by statistics to correlate with social insecurity. (See Paul & Zuckerman on ‘Why the gods are not winning’. Supported by fresh numbers here, in a talk by >Tomas Rees. Europe has more social security et cetera; you can compare nations in many figures of Rees’ presentation.

      I don’t think there are any similar observations of philosophy, nor would I expect any. For example, Sweden, where I live, have abysmal exposure to philosophy, especially in higher education, compared to most nations and especially US. “Science of philosophy”? Forget about it.

      So that is a hefty population of individuals that contradict the idea you propose.

      1. I think the statistics you give are a little misleading. My comment was directed at “scientists in general” and not some gerrymandered subset of them (e.g., the AAAS). If we select a subset of philosophers the number will undoubtedly go up in that case too. How many scientists in general are atheists? Here is data which says the number is around 50-60%, less than philosophy.

        “Almost 52 percent of scientists surveyed [in the natural and social sciences] identified themselves as having no current religious affiliation compared with only 14 percent of the general population.”

        The Sweden example is interesting, but I’m not sure what to make of it.

        1. I think you’re being disingenuous, couchloc. That survey shows that natural scientist are more atheistic than social scientists, and I’d concur with Thorbjörn that physicists are among the most atheistic… likely close to evolutionary biologists.

          I think the example of Sweden is especially interesting, given the low religiosity among the populace.

          The UK isn’t very different. Half the populace have no religion, according to the most recent social attitudes survey. Yet, certainly in my and my sons’ experience, there’s very little to no exposure to philosophy in the curriculum at state schools. Or at university. (Unless you’re specifically studying for a qualification in philosophy, of course!)

          You may be making the mistake, and a common one, I think, of assuming that the majority of, if not all, atheists are atheists for rational, “philosophical” reasons. I think that at least a sizeable minority are simply apathetic about religion and have no basis for belief (or disbelief) in a higher power, or need such a belief. (Social security plays a part in that, of course.)

          The irrationality of some atheists is also demonstrated by their appetite for various kinds of woo. “I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in the healing poser of crystals!” See “Storm”.

          I’d really like to see some hard data here, but, afaik, we haven’t had such a fine-grained survey yet.

          Maybe RDFRS could commission another Ipsos-MORI poll!


        2. I’ll let And rest my case (if that is the english term) for the time being. I don’t have much to add, the facts speaks for themselves.

          1. Well, let’s try again. Here is a pew research poll from July 2009 concerning scientists and their religious beliefs. The study was based on members of the AAAS. The results don’t show anything like what has been claimed above. In fact, they show that scientists who don’t believe in “God” or “A higher power” are 41%. So, with all due respect, I don’t see how the case has been closed or I’m being disingenuous. Can someone provide an actual citation for the other number given? If I’m wrong fine, but I’d like to see actual evidence for this (and not just concerning physicists or something but scientists in general).

            1. Scientists, Politics and Religion (you have to the bottom for the “religious beliefs” section):


            2. And here it states the numbers are from the AAAS:


    2. Although I have not read Jerry’s article yet, I do think you are missing some of the points he has made recently. Judging from the debate Jerry had with Haught, I would infer that the degree of religiosity within a country is based on its social characteristics. Countries with low social well being tend to be more religious than countries where social well being is high.

    3. Why is it that western Europe is largely secularist? What is the difference between the American system and the European system that might help explain this fact?

      Could it have something to do with the fact that countries in Western Europe aren’t dysfunctional?

      Oops, someone already thought of that.

      1. That may be a necessary condition but it’s not sufficient. I am in Europe every year, and my interaction with friends is very different than in the US. My European friends all grew up reading classical books and their culture is more intellectual overall. It is not simply a matter of being nondysfunctional. It’s the intellectual culture there which is different, and philosophy plays a larger role in the reading list. In the US the cultural figures people learn about in high school are people like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln (political figures). In Europe they read about people like Marx and Freud.

              1. (I replied to your other post and Larsson above…..)

                Not sure where they were educated. University College London maybe.

              2. My wife is Bulgarian and her friends are in England. She said they read philosophy at the high school level in various places in Europe.

              3. OK, so not in England then?

                I suspect that France maybe more inclined towards philosophy in schools, but there’s likely a lot of pomo to.


              4. Sorry if I’m being vague. My wife says that her experience is in various places in Europe philosophy is read at the high school level. In England, my friends have only spoken about their university-level exposure. I don’t know much about whether they read philosophy before the university level there, but the British strike me as more likely to be well read intellectually in general. So this is part of what I’m referring to.

                Regarding France: I believe France has the *highest* number of atheists in western Europe, so this maybe supports my contention. Countries with a greater philosophy presence ====> countries with more atheists. So I think the France case is interesting.

              5. Well, it depends how you interpret the figures.

                France is top when it comes to explicit atheists (who might not self-identify as atheists) at 33%.

                But Estonia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands have fewer explicit theists than France.

                Based on the Eurobarometer Poll 2005, via Wp.

                However, the odd thing about those numbers is that for the UK, 38% believe in a God, but for the same year, the British Social Attitudes survey had 54% Christian (with < 6% other religions). So, 15% or Christians don’t believe in a God… (Not inconsistent with the RDFRS Ipsos-MORI poll, iirc.)

                Now we need some data on philosophy as a subject in secondary education in Europe.


              6. And here are a few bits about the study of philosophy in Europe.

                1. “Philosophy is routinely taught in Europe as a standard feature of the secondary school curriculum.”

                2. “All French students study Philosophy in their last year of high school. France is one of the few European countries (with Spain, Italy and Portugal) which requires this.”

                3. “This ‘search for personal reflection’ is one of the aims of the French educational system, whereas other European countries tend to tackle philosophy through the history of thought.

                Italy teaches the “history of ideas” to its youth while Spain teaches the “history of philosophy”. Germany, Switzerland and Sweden, among other countries, have similar curricula.”

        1. Speaking for Germany:

          There is precious little philosophy you learn in school, except if you opt in for special courses, which you can find on some schools. Me, I think I read maybe a page of Kant in school. Marx only in the context of history lessons, although we did of course hear about the famous religion quote in that context.

          There may have been more but it obviously never made a lasting impression on me.

          What DID make a lasting impression was, funnily enough, Religious Education. The schedule includes things like learning about other religions as well as cults and how to recognize them (our teacher asked us to compare Scientology and a Major Religion with the list of cult characters – it would have been an eye opener if anyone of us had been very religious 😛 ). Plus you learn how bible scholars think things like the creation stories developed. That really is a good way to impregnate against creationism. So we may have the paradox situation of RE actually working against strong beliefs, in some cases.

          All in all there was a shocking amount of critical thinking in my RE classes, but this may depend heavily on the teacher and is not something I would easily generalize over all Germany.

          1. Thanks for this comment. I find it interesting that at least students are being exposed to atheists like Marx in their history courses in Germany (I presume you are talking about pre-university education). I cannot recall reading about a single atheist before getting to the university in the US. My sense is that in general Germany is a more intellectual culture (i.e. people are more well read intellectually) than in the US, but I’m not sure.

            1. Yeah you better be not so sure about us being more intellectual, there’s no need to feed German prejudices about Americans 😉

              And yes, I was talking about pre-university education, but note the differences in school systems.

              But I want to emphasize that Marx’ atheism was never actually a topic, nor were the beliefs of other important people or philosophers, except where it was for some reason important, either in a historical or a sociological context. In this way, Marx’ religious beliefs may have come up (I really can’t remember) because they were somewhat unusual at the time and had huge implications for the history of eastern Europe. But not because atheism in itself is something unusual or particularly interesting. Does that make sense?

              So I think we are actually already a step further from “students are being exposed to atheists”. We are at the point where atheism is such a normal thing that it is usually not worth mentioning.

              1. That makes sense. This suggests the influence of philosophers like Marx and others have created the context in which atheism is a part of the social discourse already. If that’s right, this would maybe help explain why Germans are sympathetic to atheism in the current culture. It seems to me that this is something largely absent from American high school education. Discussions of religion even in a vague sense (and of atheism and Marxism, etc.) are not really part of the curriculum, which focuses on other things like Abraham Lincoln and American history.

    4. If you want to understand the process of secularization, sociologists have done a lot of work studying the phenomenon. I would recommend Steve Bruce’s book “Secularization” as a good general work.

  20. Matzke doesn’t like the term “accommodationist,” which he says was “invented by the New Atheists in its present sense as a term of abuse”.

    Matzke and Roshenau compete in being completely oblivious of their own behavior when their god complex is challenged. _New Atheism_ was invented by religious in its present sense as a term of abuse. Atheists were stridently “new” long since (say, Voltaire).

    But using a convenient term that a) accurately describe a position, and b) can’t be confused with, say “free will” compatibilists, is portrayed as abuse.

    If it wasn’t so sad to have to watch it, it would be a humorous statement on the foolishness of humans.

      1. Thanks!

        I was hurried, I’m sure there are other old and great critics but they slipped my mind.

          1. It gets tricky. Epicurus thought there were long-lived tranquil creatures that lived between the cosmoi that people saw in dreams and labeled as the gods of religion. In a way, then, Epicurus was no atheist. Since these beings were at best a model of the Epicurean lifestyle (they were held to have no concern with affairs of humans, did not create anything, etc.) it is pretty clear that Epicurus is *pretty* close to an atheist.

  21. The scientists have all concurred.
    To question it would be absurd.
    It can’t be doubted. It is True.
    The modern scientific view.

    Renegades from the modern scientific view may be entertained by my essay “How to solve free-will puzzles and overcome limitations of platonic science” and the presentation at the website link.

        1. Hey, this is fun !

          I’ll see your pseudo profundity and raise you a “stopped clocks are right twice a day”.

        2. That’s not a sensible response. A sensible response would be something like, “You’re right, sorry. I shouldn’t use the forum generously provided by this website’s owner to redirect traffic to my blog without contributing to the conversation.” Then you might contribute something to the conversation.

          But I predict that you won’t. Not because I’m psychic but because you “everything you know is wrong!” types are so predictable.

          1. i did my best to redeem myself in your eyes, but i suspect the judgment remains negative…it’s ok, i have faith in the ever-elusive open mind and pray that it may suddenly appear, even today…”cast your bread upon the waters” etc….and the bread is cheap nowadays…sign me “trolling for freedom”

      1. To avoid constrictions, I respond here to the comments below.

        I have been contemplating the discussion in this blog. It is characteristic of the condescending attitude of some scientists, who ignore the facts of actual life.

        The facts of actual life are that religious beliefs and scientific achievement are perfectly compatible, as proved by the lives of Faraday, Maxwell, Einstein and Dobzhanky, who is noted above. Those who deny such compatibility close their minds and eyes to the facts.

        1. This is nonsense for reasons that have been pointed out before. You are not responding to the _actual_ point that holding two contradictory ideas in your head at once does not make the ideas compatible.

          So… unless you address the real argument, you are just Trolling For Jesus™.

          1. The incompatibility is between two classes of people (fundamentalist scientists and fundamentalist religious believers) who each declares that its set of images has actual control over other peoples’ lives. I must dispel your delusions: the “laws of physics” do not control my daily life. It is more correct to say that the “laws of California” control my daily life. There is no “incompatibility” between the laws of the State of California and scientific laws but there are different forms of law. Each is used to control certain activities. None is useful to control activities outside of its domain.

            1. I would invite you to step out of a 10th story window and then expand on your assertion that the laws of physics do not control your daily life.

              1. That was Alan Sokal’s response to the post-modernists too:

                “Anyone who believes that the laws of physics are mere social conventions is invited to try transgressing those conventions from the windows of my apartment. (I live on the twenty-first floor.)”

                –Alan Sokal

              2. I suspect that I have read this quote, forgotten it and dredged it out of my subconscious for this occasion.

            2. >>the “laws of physics” do not control my daily life<<

              Why the quotation around laws of physics? if you put the quotations around "my daily life" that would have been more appropriate. That's the only way your statement could make sense. Unless you walk through walls and travel back in time as part of your daily routine.

            3. The “laws of physics” come into play every time you take a step, drive your car, pick up and carry something or even breathe. The laws of physics are discoverable facts about the world. If California law is crafted carefully, the laws of physics and the nature of material reality will be kept in mind.

              But science is not just a body of knowledge, it is first and foremost a means of testing our ideas about the way the world really is. In the scientific method ideas are tested to destruction. Those that hold up best to comparison with the way the world really is are provisionally accepted. Where does this happen with religious ideas of how the world works? What discoverable facts about the world has religion and religion only, shown us? How does one adjudicate between conflicting religious ideas? Muslims, Christians and Jews hold many religious doctrines which are mutually exclusive. How does one decide between them to determine which of them, if any, is correct? My own view is that these religious ideas are just stuff that people made up and that, without convincing evidence, they can be discarded without qualm.

              1. About 2500 years ago, using religious principles, founders of Judaism set about making the Jewish people strong enough to endure all kinds of unforeseeable travail — and they succeeded. About 2000 years ago, using religious principles, founders of Christianity set about taking over the world — and they have had a moderately successful run. About 1300 years ago, using religious principles, founders of Islam set about taking over the world — and they have had a ad a moderately successful run. Today, world leaders speak in the name of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. (The Chinese don’t seem to be using such language.) I don’t hear any world leaders asserting power in the name of “laws of physics.”

              2. I’ll simply note that you (Bob Kovsky) failed to address a single one of the questions posed to you by YourName’s notBruce.

                You are not engaged in rational conversation. You are just Trolling For Jesus.

              3. I respond the the following statement:

                “My own view is that these religious ideas are just stuff that people made up and that, without convincing evidence, they can be discarded without qualm.”

              4. And your “might makes right” argument shows that you have no response to how to determine their correctness. But are Trolling for Zombie-jesus™.

              5. “The prophecies of what the courts will do in fact, and nothing more pretentious, are what I mean by the law.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Path of the Law (1897).

                Facile dismissals and insults do not address the issues. Claims of comprehensive power of “the moderns scientific view” have no substance. Limited applications do not make for universal laws.

              6. The survival of the Jews and the worldly politico-military success of Christian and Muslim conquerors says nothing about the truth of their respective supernatural, religious, doctrines. These ideas might offer some degree of motivation or boost morale, but unless these religious warriors were to win their battles through prayer alone rather than through conventional, material military weaponry, the religious ideas themselves really don’t enter into it. Convincing your side that your holy book was written by a god does not prove that that god exists. Telling your troops that they will go to heaven if they are killed in battle does not prove there is actually a heaven to go to. Both of these strategies might make your side better fighters but it doesn’t prove that the supernatural assertions are actually correct.

                And just maybe some of that wielding of earthly power comes at the expense of throwing some of the more kindly, humanitarian beliefs of some religious traditions under the bus. Certainly the militarism of nominally Christian empires would seem to go against the idea of “turning the other cheek”. And what of Christians and Muslims fighting amongst themselves? Are you going to claim that the military success of one denomination over another has some relevance to the truth value of their particular interpretation of dogma?

              7. I do not attempt to state some comprehensive “truth.” I avoid comprehensive statements about “truth.” I don’t get anything useful done worrying about “truth.” Although I don’t subscribe to scientific “truth,” I so subscribe to scientific “constructions.” Theories are constructions and so are devices. Some of these are very useful.

            4. “Fundamentalist scientist” is a meaningless pairing of words.

              You are profoundly confused about the word “law”. When used in the context of social rules the word describes how we think people _should_ conform their behavior. When used in the context of the physical world it refers to descriptions of how things _must_ or _do_ behave.

              1. my confusion is evidently shared by Ronald N. Giere, esteemed professor and past president of the Philosophy of Science Association who wrote “Science Without Laws” and esteemed professor Nancy Cartwright, who wrote “Fundamentalism versus the patchwork of laws” in “The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science.”

              2. Given your performance in this thread so far I’m guessing that you’re misinterpreting the arguments of these people — assuming you’ve actually even read past the titles.

              3. Prof. Giere at 23:

                “Take, for example, the notion of a universal law of nature, an idea associated with science since the seventeenth century, and still assumed in much of twentieth century philosophy of science. I have looked in vain for a broad-based historical treatment of this notion. From the bits and pieces available, I have concluded that the original view of science as discovering universal laws of nature had little basis in actual practice of science, but was imported largely from theology. In this theology, God laid down laws for human conduct and for nature. The task of natural philosophers, then, was to discover God’s laws for nature, which are of course universal — except perhaps, when God himself intervenes.”

              4. Now you _confirm_ that you are profoundly confused about the word “law”. There are universal theories and parameters, whether you prefer to call them laws or not – “descriptions of how things _must_ or _do_ behave”.

                Better drop that philosophy of science before it hurts your vocabulary further.

              5. I can’t follow up to the below, since it is “too far to the right”, but let me just say that Giere and Cartwright’s positions are by no means the only ones in the philosophy of science. I don’t claim to know Giere’s work very well, but this part of Cartwright’s work has always struck me as confused.

                Regardless of that, Armstrong and Bunge (to pick two) are two contemporary philosophers who agree in broad outlines with gbjames.

        2. responding to mr. oberski:

          An isolated phenomena does not constitute a comprehensive universe. A sphere makes a tangent with a plane but they are different forms.

          Gravity there is, but “laws of gravity” are more complex. There are three “laws of gravity”: Galileo’s s=(1/2)gt^2, Newton’s inverse square law and Einstein’s field equations. Bombardiers prefer Galileo, astronauts prefer Newton, and astrocosmologists prefer Einstein. Einstein works for empty space but has trouble with energy densities, Newton runs afoul of three-body problems and wind can make bombs go astray. Alas, the “perfect law of gravity” has its discontents. Thermodynamics, my area of interest, has many more discontents. Evolution…well, evolution is better than psychology…

            1. While the classical laws of motion adequately describe the motion of objects of low mass traveling at low velocities (i.e. what we experience in every day life) they break down in for large masses or high velocities (i.e. designing a GPS system or trying to compute the orbit of Mercury) and they also break down at the atomic level hence the development of quantum mechanics.

              Mr. Kovsky confuses the fact that as more evidence becomes available science will either adjust existing theories or discard them and adopt new ones that explain all the evidence with some sort of basic flaw in the scientific method.

              He also appears to think that it is profound to point out that we would not use general relativity to describe the motion of an object falling from an airplane when Newtonian mechanics describe this quite well.

          1. “Astrocosmologists.” LOL. Thank you for making it so clear that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

            Just a few pointers: Galileo never proposed a law of gravity, the mathematical statement you provide as “Galileo’s law of gravity” is actually a particular solution of Newton’s law of gravity, even “astronauts” (I think you mean aeronautical engineers, the astronauts are the guys ON the craft not the guys doing the math) understand that Newton’s laws are not actually consistent with the physical evidence and are therefore false. “Einstein works for empty space but has trouble with energy densities” makes no sense whatsoever. (Please provide a link to a credible source if you want to rebut that one.) Have you ever heard the phrase “You need to know the rules before you can break them?” You don’t know enough about science to criticize it. Back to school for you.

            Bonus pointer: When people talk about the “laws of physics” or the “laws of nature” they are ALMOST ALWAYS talking about how the universe actually works, not about our best guess as to how they work. So your response to steve oberski misses the point. The universe constrains the actions which you can take whether or not we’ve properly accounted for those constraints.

            In other words, the distinction you draw between “gravity” and “law of gravity” is specious. No one is making the argument that you are trying to rebut.

            1. C. Moller, The Theory of Relativity:

              “The final solution of the problem of the electron and of other elementary particles can probably not be found on a classical basis. Besides the introduction of Planck’s quantum of action it may even be necessary to introduce a new fundamental constant of the dimension of a length. But the above considerations show that, as long as one assumes the existence of an energy-momentum tensor of the system, the theory of relativity requires a vanishing of the self-force, i.e., of the four-dimensional divergence of the tensor.”

              Paul Dirac similarly wrote of his quantum theory “…the cut-off spoils the relativistic invariance of the theory. This is a blemish which cannot be avoided in our present state of ignorance.” (Principles of Quantum Mechanics, 308.)

              1. Sorry, Bob. Which points are thes quotations supposed to address? I can’t see that they’re relevant, in any case, given that they’re 60 and 82 years out of date.


              2. A “point” has “infinite self-energy” that is unphysical. A “patch” for the impossibility is provided by renormalization theory and physicists use the patch without questioning its effectiveness, even though it is a theoretical mess. It works and they are satisfied. They know it is perfect because the modern scientific view is perfect.

              3. What are you talking about now?

                Of course no physicists thinks their models are “prefect”. It’s utter tripe to suggest that they do.


              4. Regarding physicists’ claims of perfection, here is an extract from my essay (see, quoting from Feynman’s Character of Physical Law:

                “To … our list of conservation laws…, we can add energy. It is conserved perfectly as far as we know.” (77.) Feynman apparently claims victory in the face of serious challenges: “Of all the conservation laws, that dealing with energy is the most difficult and abstract, and yet the most useful.” (68.)

                My critical reconstruction challenges the claim of “perfect” energy conservation. I suggest that there are phenomena — especially discontinuous transformations in material bodies — where the principle of energy conservation does not apply in the hegemonic way presumed by platonic science. Chief examples discussed below are red-hot steel being quenched in ice water and laboratory production of snowflakes from gaseous water vapor. The principle of energy conservation requires “state” conditions, e.g., a defined and uniform “temperature.” There is no defined “temperature” in the examples. Instead, hot is changing to cold.

            2. Galileo Galilei, Two New Sciences, Fourth Day:

              “Hence it follows that half the base, or amplitude, of the semi-parabola (which is one-quarter of the entire amplitude) is a mean proportional between its altitude and the sublimity from which a falling body will describe this same parabola.”

              [“Parabola” implies the t^2 form.)

              1. Yes, had Galileo had access to the mathematics available (and partially developed by) Newton, he might have quantified the classical laws of motion.

                But he did not so he did not.

                It also may have helped if he had not been persecuted by the Catholic church and could have spent more time doing science and freely exchanging his ideas with other scientists of that era.

              2. indeed, galileo has more myths circulating about him than just about anyone. in “against method,” my favorite anarchist, paul feyerabend, had a good time showing what a huckster he was, very clever at manufacturing myths about himself. also entertaining is “Galileo’s Mistake” by Wade Rowland. Religious fundamentalists versus scientific fundamentalist – more fun that professional wrestling (and with about as much connection as wrestling to peoples’ actual lives, unless you’re catholic of course).

          2. Ouch! That is fractally wrong, and I say that as a physicist.

            For starters, all these gravity theories are known to be effective. But energy densities is precisely what general relativity excel in. It has problems with _total_ energies because a large enough volume of an expanding universe is not an isolated system.

          3. Oh, I forgot: fractally wrong implies you are an incompetent. Only those are capable of misunderstanding precisely everything, while believing they got it down pat.

          4. You’re mistaking (following Cartwright’s _How the Laws of Physics Lie_, no doubt) laws for *law statements*. Armstrong and Bunge are two philosophers who repeatedly point out how absolutely vital it is to keep the two concepts distinct. Laws are objective patterns of being or becoming. Law statements, like the ones you allude to are *partial* reconstruction of the pattern in thought.

        3. Einstein was not religious as he specifically rejected the notion of a god that interests himself in human affairs. At best, Einstein was a Deist.

        4. You’re making a vaugely reasonable point in an obnoxious manner. True, it’s perfectly possible for person X to be a competent applier of the scientific method in some domain, and yet be a faithhead in some other domain. That doesn’t mean science and faith are remotely compatible, it just means that a person can hold two sets of inconsistent beliefs in their head. The problem comes when such people try to apply faith to subjects which are properly the area of science, which is just about everything about the real world, as in the case of evolution.

  22. It still baffles me that anyone thinks that science and religion are compatible. Such accommodation seems to either attempt to reconcile events (science of how the The Flood could have happened) or by fitting natural law into the means by which God gets things done. The former is grasping at straws and the latter renders God impotent and redundant with only the intelligence of the wind. Both are irrelevant.

    What makes religion religious is that faith is seen as a virtue, and unwavering faith is a strength. What makes science scientific is the complete rejection of faith as a virtue; only that which can be demonstrated is of value in science and unwavering belief is seen as a weakness.

    There is a common saying at NASA, usually attributed to W. Edwards Deming, that inadvertently sums up their incompatibility: “In God we trust; all others bring data.”

  23. Anyone up for a sweepstake on how many times Matzke will boast about Kitzmiller v. Dover when he eventually turns up?

    I bid “3 times in first post” for $10.

    1. Yes. He will turn up. And he will remind us about his role in Kitzmiller.

      When he does it 3 times in the first post, it’s usually at Josh Rosenau’s place, though.

  24. Interesting that you should cite Michael Reiss. Or should I say Rev. Reiss? Certainly not an accommodationist – unless he’s accommodating science? I think his acceptance that creationists have a valid “worldview” is worse than accommodation – it’s a betrayal of science education.

  25. if he means “no religious people aren’t are prohibited from endorsing natural explanations as a method of God’s action,” he’s dead wrong

    Something wrong here, Jerry! (End of point 3.)


          1. Yes. Jerry/Wordpress’s funky comment system connects to my Yahoo account and comes up with that name for some reason.

            (Rieux, the protagonist of Camus’s The Plague, is a doctor.)

            1. Heh – only yesterday I was listening to the audiobook of The Portable Atheist where Hitch mentions Dr Rieux, and I wondered if that’s where you’d drawn the name from.

              1. I’d been using the name for years before Hitchens wrote about it!

                (I was both excited and annoyed when I read that opening of his.)

  26. Ah, science must be ‘nice’ to faith. I think Robert Burns put the words best (though he was referring to something unrelated): “Does a dog thank its fleas?”

  27. He’s also, apparrently, taken to outright deleting comments that are not to his liking. Not an abusive comment, but if you point to child abuse and suicide bombers, it’s not sufficiently respectful for him.

    Can his templeton fellowship be far behind?

  28. garden-variety creationists

    *snort* *giggle* Shouldn’t the ‘g’ be capitalized there?

    Sorry, nothing to add to the conversation, but I’m definitely going to steal “Garden-variety creationists” for my own use.

  29. An extract from my essay (see, quoting from Feynman’s Character of Physical Law:

    “To … our list of conservation laws…, we can add energy. It is conserved perfectly as far as we know.” (77.) Feynman apparently claims victory in the face of serious challenges: “Of all the conservation laws, that dealing with energy is the most difficult and abstract, and yet the most useful.” (68.)

    My critical reconstruction challenges the claim of “perfect” energy conservation. I suggest that there are phenomena — especially discontinuous transformations in material bodies — where the principle of energy conservation does not apply in the hegemonic way presumed by platonic science. Chief examples discussed below are red-hot steel being quenched in ice water and laboratory production of snowflakes from gaseous water vapor. The principle of energy conservation requires “state” conditions, e.g., a defined and uniform “temperature.” There is no defined “temperature” in the examples. Instead, hot is changing to cold.

      1. Given that this is a conversation about science education, it really should be somewhere else entirely – as I suspect our host will eventually point out to you.

    1. Yes, you’re hijacking the thread to tout your own work, something I’m not keen on. Please stay on the topic.

        1. I understand that nothing can detract from the certain knowledge of “why evolution is true.” I do “troll” dogmatic sites as this occasionally, testing for an “open mind.” I do not consider your wisdom beyond question and no open mind has been found here. I quoted numerous authorities and I made my arguments; from you guys, I received insults. There is no reason for me to return.

          1. Well, we’re all in agreement, I suspect, on one point. You do troll.

            You will find no respect for trolling here. And little more for quote mining and weak arguments from authority. If you can’t logically and substantively address the issues discussed on this web site you are not likely to find much happiness here.

            1. I’m happy to discount this troll purely by the number of quotation marks he uses (as apart from the blogwhoring and constant quoting of “authorities”).

              There valid times and a places for quotation marks; throwing them either side of every term you don’t happen to agree with or just doing so for emphasis does not qualify.

  30. Well, if nothing else, I learned from reading the PT thread that John Kw*k is alive, well and still the cracked record known and mocked around the internet.

    1. But he didn’t mention his high school yet. We can still hope, though.

      Seriously, there’s a lot of stupidity in that thread, along with some good defenders of rationality. A lot of whining about the “creationist” label, a whole lot of lack of evidence for the Acomms position, even the bizarre “you can’t refute last thursdayism” (oh, yeah, where’s your evidence that such a thing has happened – when you present some, we can talk). Gah. Almost makes the crank physics troll here seem sane. Maybe someone needs to invite Robert Byers to the PT thread for some real yucks.

      1. I’m a PT regular, currently wading through the hand-waving and point-missing extravaganza being put on by the Nu Framers. To his credit, Larry Moran is there doing his best to actually explain what the general Gnu position is, why peace-and-love liberal Christians still class as creationists and how JAC’s point is being missed, but he’s fighting an uphill battle. People are in there throwing about quotes by PZ Myers too – as if he’s representative of Gnus in general – and and in doing so committing a variation argument from authority (Your Fearless Leader said so therefore YOU are WRONG)! I suggest a few WEIT’ers get in there and – being as Nice As Possible (TM) – try and get it through a few skulls that we’re not a pack of “scientismists” or “dogmatic rationalists” or “anti-supernaturalists”; we’re just trying to pare down scientific inquiry to what is necessary and what is indicated by the evidence.

        Cripes, all any Gnu is really saying is that propositions for which there is no evidence or logical implication should not be entertained when determining empirical truth (as best as we are able to discern such truth). As such, propositions regarding supernatural entities have no place in scientific investigation: not because it’s been decided a priori by Big Science that such things aren’t “permitted”, but because they’ve never been shown to be supported by any evidence whatsoever, that innumerable specific claims have been entirely refuted by evidence (not that that stops people from continuing to make said claims) and that no claim of supernatural existence, knowledge or “ways of knowing” has ever – ever – proven fruitful or even plausible on the face of it.

        That the various proposition/s that supernatural god/s exist, created the universe and/or tinker with it happen to make a lot of people feel special/suspicious of reality as revealed by scientific inquiry should be of no concern to scientists, regardless of their own personal beliefs (beliefs which, oddly enough, make the scientific process of eliminating personal bias all the more necessary). But to listen to the Nu Framers, if you dare to actually say as much you’re a proponent of rigid, unskeptical “scientism” and, I dunno, perhaps only moments away from setting up your own scientismic gulag or shipping off poor, gentlem church-on-Sunday grandma to the Reason Mines.

        1. Yes, it’s the difference between “excluding god”, and “not including god”. They seem interchangeable, but are not. Larry Moran is indeed doing a great job at PT, but I wonder why he doesn’t post under his own name as he does here.

          1. He does, it’s just that the PT login procedure is clumsy (and frankly fracking irritating at times) and often reduces a username to gibberish. For that reason, Larry includes his name in each post.

            1. I’ve considered posting a couple of times, but between the hideous login, Matzke-apologist Kwok (seriously, a Libertarian Deist kiss-A$$? – is his dislike of Coyne, PZ, Moran, etc that bad?), and this bizarre notion of “objective truth in Handel’s Messiah, apparently based on one paper from 1981, which must be so complex that Matzke can’t explain it except to redirect it into an appeal to popularity). He doesn’t see that the “Lincoln is a great president” isn’t an objective fact, nor even the tentative conclusions of science – it’s based on entirely subjective opinions that, if they change in the future, will not be because of new data but a change in the subjective criteria. That is the point being made, which Matzke misses and Kwok can’t see since his eyes are full of rectum.

              1. Well, I did finally post – couldn’t take it any more, even if I’ll have to leave anything else until tomorrow – niece’s birthday party tonight. Apparently a “reply” doesn’t actually quote what I am replying to. Do I have to do something with html to make it work?

  31. doctorrieux – sorry, I didn’t mean to imply you’d adopted it after Hitch used it; I assumed it was from having read La Peste. I’d forgotten that was the doctor character’s name, so when I’d seen it on blogs in the past I hadn’t made the connection.

    1. Oh, nonono. I knew you weren’t knocking me. I was just randomly whining about the Hitchens piece you referenced. No offense taken whatsoever.

  32. Matzke takes great glee in pointing out that Dobzhansky was an accommodationist… Matzke then points out that Darwin himself avoided direct confrontation with religion,…
    Quite the name dropper. Here’s a tip for Matzke from the Project Steve page at the NCSE web site:

    “We did not wish to mislead the public into thinking that scientific issues are decided by who has the longer list of scientists!”

  33. Matzke now seems to be claiming that science has nothing to say on why people prefer some pieces of music to others.

    The example he gives in The Messiah, which he claims is a great composition (I would agree with him I think) but he makes the odd, and I think wrong (and most probably dishonest) claim that science cannot do anything to tell us this.

    Matzke is not stupid, so he must be aware of the research done into looking at why some music seems to be universally popular and some does not. So why is claiming no such research exists ?

      1. He finally posted one paper that argues against the common consensus (it would seem from the intro) that non-representational artwork contains no “truth”. It’s from 1981 and if I can get the login to my school’s research database I should be able to get a copy of the paper. I suspect, however, that it won’t be terribly persuasive. It’s only 31 years old and (according to the google scholar page) been cited by 4. All the other ones with “truth in music” don’t (on the surface) appear to relate to what he wants to claim. I suspect when he realized he didn’t have anything, he did research by google for the first thing he could find.

  34. I submit that all atheistic research scientists, including Jerry Coyne, are actually accommodationist to some degree. After all, they submit the work of theistic research scientists to the same level of analysis and critique, as they do for other atheistic scientists. That sure likes accommodationism to me.

    1. Only to someone who does not understand what the word means.

      Accommodationism is treating religious beliefs differently from other beliefs. Since religious scientists can and do produce research free from any mention of religious beliefs, then accommodationism is not a term which applies.

      1. That’s not the definition provided by RationalWiki: “Accommodationism in terms of modern rationalism or atheism refers to the belief that some sort of ‘common ground’ can be found between believers in magical and supernatural things, and between atheists and those who hold the scientific method and methodological naturalism are humanity’s best tools to describe the universe.”

        1. THat is a a pretty poor definition, and does not explain your total failure to even understand that definition since it does not accord with the your understanding of the word in your initial comment.

          1. Matt, apparently our pertinent difference is the meaning of the word “accommodationism.” We have problems with science education in this country, and the question is “how do we fix that?” Accommodationists recognize that a coalition with theistic evolutionists/evolutionary Creationists yields a majority, all else being equal. Confrontationalists apparently reject that approach.

            1. Again you are misunderstanding the term.

              Accommodationism is the idea that religious beleifs should be treated differently from other types of belief simply because they are religious. Accomodationist think that by not criticising religious beliefs then it is possible to work with the religious to achieve shared goals. It is flawed idea because

              1) it is inimical to science to “go easy” on certain ideas simply because of the fervour with which they are held.

              2) There is no evidence that going easy on religious ideas makes the religious more likely to co-operate, and even if they did are those allies you really want ?

              3) Science education in the US is not that important compared to the harm being done by religion around the world.

              4) Evidence from the UK shows that one can be very critical of religion and still work with religious people to improve science education. One only needs to look to look to Richard Dawkins to see that.

      2. matt, you claim that “accommodationism is the idea that religious beleifs should be treated differently from other types of belief simply because they are religious.” Please objectively support your claim here, using objective means that do not necessitate treating this definition differently from other types of ideas. Thank you.

  35. Oooh – not only has Booby Byers shown up, but Rabbi Averick has commented as well (

    Plus Matzke says that “Handel’s Music is a great work of art” is an objective fact rather than subjective opinion, apparently merely because some (or many, I have no clue how many) would agree with that statement.

    Does accommodationism rot your brains. Objective facts are decided by public opinion?

    1. This is why I really dislike this replacement of “objective” (independent of human desire) with “intersubjective”. Sure, one can be *mistaken* about the objective, and certainly we are limited in how we are such, but …

  36. “The Resurrection, the virgin birth, miracles, and any incursion of God into the natural world—these are all in direct conflict with science.”

    Why? Take, for example, the virgin birth by a hammerhead shark that was discovered in Nebraska in the last decade. How did that conflict with science?

    1. When there’s evidence that human women can give birth parthenogenically (sp?), then you might have a point. Same with human beings dying, being dead for a couple of days in the mid eastern spring, then come back to life with no damage. Until then, the point stands.

    2. Parthogenesis, when it has been induced in mammals in a lab, invariably leads to female offspring. If Jesus was Jessica, perhaps, but as it stands – no.

      1. If it’s theologically legitimate to believe evolution is God’s way of creating humans,it would seem to be theologically sound to accommodate belief in the virgin birth and science and by believing Jesus to have been a woman. Ho-hum.

  37. Doesn’t Matzke know the difference between a quote and a citation? The essay by Dobzhansky may have been a study in accommodation , but there’s nothing in the title to lead one to suspect it. Of course, he does know the difference. He’s obviously a desperate accommodationist as well as a militant one.

    1. Would be nice to see a few nice accommodationists taking a few swipes at the Gnu-accomodationsists.

  38. Ugh. It appears to have turned into the Matzke/Kw*k mutual adoration society over there. I’m starting to remember why I stopped visiting.

  39. I am not going to join his blog just to post this but…

    Just reading through the comments there – it appears Nick Matzke doesn’t know the difference between eloquence and truth.

    That is pretty bad considering what he is supposed to do professionally.

    If one looks to film one can say, for example, that The Birth of a Nation was great art, despite it being utterly racist trash and a shit-stain on cinema’s history.

    One can also point to the blatantly and disturbingly anti-semitic nature of The Brothers’ Grimm and still hold the work as a whole up as art.

    Art isn’t truth, it is eloquence. That a particular work of art inspired deep emotional responses says no more to the validity of what it was saying the same of Hitler’s speeches would.

    1. I think you speak the truth – eloquently. Eloquence per se is neither true nor false. It can help to reveal or conceal truth.

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