Eugenie Scott and Ruth Bancewicz hold a science-religion lovefest

June 5, 2015 • 2:30 pm

Over at Premier Christian Radio (!), Eugenie Scott, former director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), and Ruth Bancewicz, a research associate at the Templeton-funded Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at Cambridge University (and author of the new book God in the Lab: How Science Enhances Faith) have an 80-minute discussion called “Unbelievable? Is faith good for science.”   Here is the precis of her book on Amazon:

An exploration of how the work of scientists in different disciplines has enhanced their faith, God in the Lab is an exploration of the common ground that exists between science and faith. Science provides the opportunity to use creativity and imagination, to appreciate the beauty of the natural world, and to experience the wonder and awe of discovering new things. Experiencing scientific research firsthand has given Dr. Ruth Bancewicz a sense of awe that has enhanced her faith, and for ten years she has been a communicator of the positive expressions of the science-faith dialogue. Through her own insights and those of six other experienced scientists, she shows how science can build faith in God, and gently urges non-Christians to consider the connections they have with their Creator.

You can listen to the podcast for free, which deals (nominally) with the relationship between science and religion. I’ve concentrated mostly on Scott’s comments because she is an influential figure in science education, while Bancewicz seems to be largely, a garden-variety Christian who, despite her book, is given to spouting soothing platitudes that we’ve heard many times before.

Here are a few “highlights,” if you can call them that:

5:29: Genie Scott says she doesn’t consider herself an atheist, but a “nonbeliever”, because, she says, the U.S. connotation of the word is “antitheist,” and she’s not antireligious. She says that “from an anthropological prespective, it makes as much sense to be antireligious as to be antikinship.” That’s not really a fair comparison, because kinship doesn’t cause near the problems that religion does. Yes, religion is an institution to be studied as a human construct, but why is it senseless to oppose a construct (ISIS is one instantiation of that construct) that has terribly harmful consequences?

19:57: Scott claims that scientific hypotheses can be stimulated by religion.  Maybe that was true in Newton’s day, or among ID advocates today, but I’m not aware of a single hypotheses beyond creationist ones that derive from religious belief. Readers can correct me if I’m wrong.

23:30: Scott claims that atheist scientists aren’t thinking clearly when they say that “science compels a particular perspective like atheism or humanism.” Sorry, Dr. Scott, atheism is a direct outgrowth of the doubt and skepticism endemic to science. Atheism is not by definition a part of science, so in that sense doesn’t compel atheism, but it should. For least if you demand evidence for your conclusions, then there is an intimate connection between science and atheism, the refusal to accept gods on the grounds of no evidence. That, of course, is one reason why American scientists are vastly more atheistic than “regular” Americans.

30:41: Bancewicz argues that one does not have to pick between science and religion. Well, that’s true, as there are religious scientists and science-friendly believers. But if you want to be intellectually honest, you should espouse a consistent worldview: either one that relies on evidence and confirmation, or one that relies on faith, revelation and dogma. If you hold both, you are in a state of cognitive dissonance.

34:30: To Scott’s credit, she essentially denies the existence of miracles, saying that “a coherent religion has to be compatible with what we know of the natural world.” This shows that she recognizes the hegemony of scientific truth over religious truth, and, in effect, denies (without saying so) the view that Jesus was resurrected.  I would love to debate Scott on this issue, for if she really believes what she says, then Christianity is not a coherent religion since it makes a claim about reanimation of dead bodies that is not “compatible with what we know of the natural world.”

40:00 Bancewicz cites Simon Conway Morris’s flawed argument that the evolution of humanoid creatures was inevitable (this, of course, is because we’re supposed to be made in the image of God). I analyze and refute Conway Morris’s argument in Faith versus Fact, for I don’t see the evolution of humanoid creatures (i.e., those creatures with high intelligence, language, and the ability to apprehend and worship God) as inevitable. But then Bancewicz reinterprets “in God’s image” as simply meaning “a gift,” which is incoherent.

47:15:  Bancewicz, a Christian who “follows Jesus,” defines “faith” as “taking the available evidence and putting it together in a way that makes an inference to the best explanation”, and says that this is precisely what science does. I wonder, then, why the “faith” of Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Christians all gives them different inferences to the best explanations. Why, for instance, do the first three faiths give data different from the conclusion that “Jesus is the son of God/God and is our sole route to Heaven”? One sign of the desperation of modern theists is their eagerness to redefine “faith” as something beyond “belief without evidence.” It’s a touchstone of Sophisticated Theology™ that they try to say that faith is something more than what the Bible says (Hebrews 11:1):

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

And, as we know, the Bible is infallible!

59:00: Bancewicz flirts with the argument that modern physics may be telling us that there’s Something Out There Beyond the Laws of Nature (i.e., God). In other words, she’s approaching Natural Theology.

1:03: Bancewicz asks Scott why pure naturalism is not a “bleak picture of the world.” Scott responds, correctly, that there is no evidence of the universe of having an “ultimate purpose”, but she herself has an individual purpose for her life. She says (shades of Steven Weinberg), “The universe is pointless; my life is not pointless.”

Conclusion: Scott doesn’t cozy up to religion as much as she used to, and I agree with her substantially on several points. But I wish her organization, the NCSE (which she still helps direct), would just deep-six all the religion stuff, and stop saying that religion is compatible with science, which, as we all recognize, is largely a tactical move to enlist believers in the cause of evolution-acceptance. But she still won’t admit what she really is: an atheist. Nor will she admit that atheism can be seen as a logical and philosophical conclusion of the scientific method. And it is really part of science, because science has discarded as useless the concept of a god or the supernatural, in the same way it’s discarded the paranormal.

As for Bancewicz, she’s a lost cause—so deeply steeped in faith that there is nothing that will make her admit that the correctness of Christianity and the reality of Jesus are the “scientific” conclusion of her “researches.”

46 thoughts on “Eugenie Scott and Ruth Bancewicz hold a science-religion lovefest

  1. There is a conflict between religion and science. No doubt.

    There isn’t necessarily a conflict between ‘god and science’.

    It depends on the god belief.

    Once your belief in a god is also tied additional beliefs like the virgin births of certain people, origin myths, answered prayers, miracles and rising from the dead, then you’re making claims about things occurring in the natural world. That a being, has, in some way, reached in and stirred the pot.

    This is religion stepping on the toes of science, since science is the study of the natural world.

    1. God beliefs, by their very essential nature, are about as anti-scientific as you can get.

      The whole point of the gods is either to explain the inexplicable or to serve as an amplifier for the voices of their authors, with divine authority established by achieving the impossible. But if anything truly is inexplicable then it’s beyond the purview of science (as well as any other form of human comprehension); and the miracles of the gods must be impossible else anybody who could demonstrate them would themselves usurp the authority of the gods.

      That’s the real reason why Jesus was born of a virgin and walked on water and raised the dead and the rest. People knew full well that that sort of thing simply isn’t possible, under any circumstances, period, full stop. If Jesus had established his authority by pulling rabbits from hats or plucking coins out of people’s ears, then anybody could have claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus — and then told the priests who were selling Jesus to move over for the new big man on the block, the “real” Jesus.

      That should give you some further insight into why the priests hate the scientists so much…the scientists really are performing what once would have been considered miracles. Only the scientists aren’t so much using their miraculous new powers to usurp the priests as to render the priesthood irrelevant entirely. The priests don’t know how to cope, and they’re running scared, and they’ve got fewer and fewer replacement priests every generation. Which isn’t all that good for the priests, but it’s fantastic news for the rest of us….

      Cheers,

      b&

  2. …defines “faith” as “taking the available evidence and putting it together in a way that makes an inference to the best explanation”

    If we could do that consistently, we wouldn’t need the scientific method or any other method.

    The problem is, humans very often get the wrong explanation. To prevent that, we publish methods, we engage in peer review, and we reproduce each others’ claims. When you remove those error-finding mechanisms, what you get is a process – like faith – of taking the available evidence and putting it together in a way that makes an inference to your preconceived beliefs.

    1. Exactly. Faith is ““taking the available evidence and putting it together in a way that makes an inference to the best explanation FOR ME — using my own personal criteria, feelings, and needs — while pretending that somehow I’m still really just letting go of my ego and ‘seeking truth.’”

    2. “Inference [induction]” is a code word for 19th century theology borrowing philosophic descriptions of science.

      I don’t think those descriptions were true then, and when quantitative statistics under Fisher came to the fore they didn’t cut it.

  3. “One sign of the desperation of modern theists is their eagerness to redefine “faith” as something beyond “belief without evidence.”

    Perfectly said. That’s behind all religion in the 1st world these days. They soften their image to leave more wiggle room- but at the same time it also undermines their previous intransigence. Now the Pope says anyone can go to ‘heaven’- so what’s the point of baptism, communion, confirmation, confession, religious marriage, last rites…? Does one get a better address in heaven?

    1. As they lose power and control, they’re desperately trying to find ways to stay relevant and therefore retain some of their power.

      I have no doubt that if everyone went back to the church, they would revert to the way they were in the days of the Inquisition. It is atheists, secularists and humanists that keep the religious of the Western world from their previous extremes. Anywhere they dominate, including the Bible Belt of the US, their behaviour remains appalling.

  4. I do not know of anyone who has summarised the relationship of science and atheism more succinctly than JBS Haldane:

    My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel, or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world.

  5. Genie Scott says she doesn’t consider herself an atheist, but a “nonbeliever”, because, she says, the U.S. connotation of the word is “antitheist,” and she’s not antireligious.

    So she refuses to identify with a group because they’ve been falsely portrayed by others?

    1. A few years back Eugenie Scott was pleased to receive the Atheist Alliance’s Richard Dawkins Award. If she was serious about distancing herself from atheism, then she certainly went about it the wrong way.

      I’d classify her accomodationism as not only pragmatic, but relatively mild. That is, she doesn’t spend a lot of her time complaining about gnu atheists. She’s diplomatic.

      Scott claims that atheist scientists aren’t thinking clearly when they say that “science compels a particular perspective like atheism or humanism.”

      Ahem. As I said, she’s diplomatic. Science might suggest atheism, support atheism, or even lead to atheism as a direct outgrowth of the doubt and skepticism endemic to science — but it doesn’t compel it. It doesn’t force anyone who is religious to continue to believe in God if they’re comfortable with compartmentalizing religion into a different area where they choose not to use science. And she’s personally fine with that as long as they don’t leave scientists alone.

      1. Correction:
        “It doesn’t force anyone who is religious to no longer continue to believe in God if they’re comfortable with compartmentalizing religion into a different area where they choose not to use science.”

  6. As Lawrence Krauss put it 16(!) years ago (in the Chronicle of Higher Education):

    “Science may enter into theological discussions, but I can attest – after more than 20 years as a physicist – that religion never enters into scientific discussions. … Science has discovered absolutely nothing in the past century of remarkable activity that has any spiritual implications.”

    Some of the statements of Bancewicz and Scott appear to be a mixture of wishful thinking and pandering.

    1. Ahhh, but note Bancewicz isn’t claiming that. She’s claiming science helps her get her faith on, not that faith helps science. The former could be perfectly true regardless of the ‘truth’ of religion. Its definitely a form of accommodationism (because one can’t say science helps faith if you think science is incompatible with faith), but the arrow is at least pointing in the more accurate direction.

  7. “but I’m not aware of a single hypotheses beyond creationist ones that derive from religious belief.”

    How about the Big Bang theory? It took a priest who was a scientist to take Einstein’s theory to its logical conclusion. In fact, at first he had to refute the charge that he was postulating the Big Bang for religious reasons.

    1. If he wasn’t, “postulating the Big Bang for religious reasons,” surely the hypothesis didn’t derive from religious belief? The fact that he was a believer was irrelevant in the formation of his hypothesis. Of course, I know nothing about his thought process, so correct me if I’ve got this wrong.

      1. I don’t understand the point that the commenter before you replied to was attempting to make either. From Singh’s 2010 book on the Big Bang: “It was Lemaître’s firm belief that scientific endeavour should stand isolated from the religious realm. With specific regard to his Big Bang theory, he commented: ‘As far as I can see, such a theory remains entirely outside any metaphysical or religious question.'”

      2. Even if he got the idea for the Big Bang from Genesis, that’s irrelevant. What’s-his-name got the idea for the molecular shape of benzene molecules from a dream about Ouroboros; does that somehow demonstrate the reality or other significance of Mehen, the Egyptian snake god?

        b&

        1. Thomas Pynchon taking the Kekule Oroborus theme and running with it (Gravity’s Rainbow)

          “Kekulé dreams the Great Serpent holding its own tail in its mouth, the dreaming Serpent which surrounds the World. But the meanness, the cynicism with which this dream is to be used. The Serpent that announces, “The World is a closed thing, cyclical, resonant, eternally-returning,” is to be delivered into a system whose only aim is to violate the Cycle. Taking and not giving back, demanding that “productivity” and “earnings” keep on increasing with time, the System removing from the rest of the World these vast quantities of energy to keep its own tiny desperate fraction showing a profit: and not only most of humanity—most of the World, animal, vegetable, and mineral, is laid waste in the process. The System may or may not understand that it’s only buying time. And that time is an artificial resource to begin with, of no value to anyone or anything but the System, which must sooner or later crash to its death, when its addiction to energy has become more than the rest of the World can supply, dragging with it innocent souls all along the chain of life. Living inside the System is like riding across the country in a bus driven by a maniac bent on suicide . . . though he’s amiable enough, keeps cracking jokes back through the loudspeaker . . .”

        2. Indeed. It doesn’t become “science” until you test that hypothesis. It doesn’t become “knowledge” until the hypothesis is confirmed, and perhaps replicated. So if this is an attempt to claim that religion contributes to science, or is a “way of knowing,” it fails.

    2. Besides the problem with Lemaitrê’s inspiration for his “primordial atom” other comments already noted, it isn’t a logical or valid conclusion of Einstein’s general relativity.

      General relativity breaks down before it can describe a spatial singularity, and it was always an auxiliary hypothesis that there was one when you extrapolated back. (Supported by the idea that a singularity could help nail down theory parameters to a unique set. Which is kind of odd since simple mathematical singularities can take an infinite number of values. But I digress…)

      In that sense inflation falsifies the earlier “Big Bang” models, because the exponential expansion which is mighty fast tails off much slower than a singularity would expand. So while you can define modern cosmology as among “Big Bang” cosmologies, it doesn’t have Lemaitrê’s “Big Bang”. It has a hot Big Bang phase where particles are created, which was preceded by a cold (near 0 K), empty inflationary phase. And it is still an open question if there is a singularity somewhere further back, as far as I know.

  8. For a very long time, Scott led the battle against creationism when it seem few others were up for the fight. For that, she is to be commended. But I’ve always had a nagging unease with her as that leader. Others have taken up the fight and I think it is fine for Scott to retire and rest on her laurels.

  9. How does science really enhance faith?? Instead of a book or discussion the true influence of science on religious faith is more like the effect of a flamethrower on a paper mache parade float. Science causes the rapid oxidation and destruction of faith.

    How about a book or discussion on how religious faith can truly influence science? The book would be a cover with no pages inside. The discussion would be a moment of contemplative silence.

  10. I have far too much respect for Eugenie Scott to join in criticizing her as “not sufficiently atheistic”. I think she deserves to be judged on the basis of what she dedicated her life’s work to achieve, and the outstanding success that she had in furthering the acceptance of science in America. Eugenie’s goal was to combat creationism and to advance the teaching of Evolution in our schools. That’s it! Her achievements in these things were totally outstanding. She was persuasive, not strident, gentle not argumentative. Her approach worked. A crowning success was in the case of Kitzmiller vs Dover, where the NCSE derived evidence was pivotal. Let’s show her some respect, she truly deserves it.

    1. I heartily agree that Genie has done all sorts of great and wonderful things for science education and outreach, and I have a great deal of respect for her.

      And that exact same respect compels me to call her out when I think she’s going astray — and the (no exaggeration) Bible study on the NCSE Web site and similar examples of accommodationism are well worth criticizing.

      She may well be a saint, but she’s no angel. And, honestly, I think she’d welcome criticism over calls to treat her with kid gloves even as she criticized the critiques. She’s a tough old bird, plenty strong and clueful enough to take whatever we dish out. (Well, okay, “old” is rather overstating things, but her spring chicken days are definitely behind her.)

      b&

      1. “But you who seek to give and merit fame,
        And justly bear a critic’s noble name,
        Be sure your self and your own reach to know,
        How far your genius, taste, and learning go;
        Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet,
        And mark that point where sense and dullness meet”

        Alexander Pope

        1. I’m not sure what you think is the relevance of that poem. Most charitably, you’re suggesting either Genie or her critics such as me and Jerry should shut up, depending on which you think has passed sense to dullness. And, whichever direction you’re aiming that, I don’t think that’s the sort of thing our host appreciates very much.

          b&

          1. Don’t take it personally Ben. It’s not meant that way. The point I’m making is that we should judge others by the quality of the goals they set for themselves and how well they achieved their high goals. We can only guess how well WE might have done in their place with those self same goals.
            Or to put it in everyday terms, only Monday morning quarterbacks do everything perfectly, ordinary quarterbacks do quite enough when they win a very challenging game.

              1. Disagree there, Ben. I think the real players (is that what you mean by ‘Sunday evening quarterbacks’ – I have no idea when sports are played in your country) are best motivated by a wish to perform well and achieve their goals, not by criticism or fear of same from ‘Monday morning quarterbacks’.

                I’m with Howie on this. If Eugenie achieved what she set out to do, then kudos to her, and we should not be criticising her for not sharing our position. Although, obviously, we can critique that position.

            1. The problem Ben, is that most Monday morning quarterbacks don’t really understand the complexity of the game itself and the many conflicting issues that a real quarterback must deal with.

              Let me get back to real issues as they apply to Eugenie.

              What is the nature of the problem she has dedicated her life to address? It is an attack on science by the religious. A chief thrust of their attack is an assault on the teaching of Evolution, because Evolution most fundamentally undermines religious belief. But the real war, if we want to call it a war, is not a philosophical one – it is a very real political one. That is the way our enemies fight it, they outnumber us, and they are good at taking the fight to us. The chances of converting a creationist to a rational acceptance of science (which entails that they accept Evolution -one of the most proven theories of science) is essentially zero. The creationist political strategy is to stop the teaching of Evolution, to their children, and more than that to ALL children. This, in essence, is a strategy of retaining their political power by the power of numbers. This is the essence of politics.

              There is a middle ground in this battle Ben. This occurs with the part of the population who cling to religion but can be convinced to accept the teachings of science – if the acceptance of science does not absolutely demand their immediate rejection of their religion. This places just too great a demand on them. These people do not deserve our contempt. They are at many times our best allies in the battle, and often at a great cost to themselves. I would suggest Ben that you read Lauri Lebos book on the Dover trial – “The Devil in Dover”. There you will find a community in which great bravery was required of the “religious scientific” – who faced great personal cost to themselves in taking the side of science. The litigants on the whole were religious; many of our best witnesses were religious. We only won with their help and “sacrifice”.

              One thing is certain – just as Dennett says Evolution is a sort of acid. Once accepted, it will naturally serve to eat away at ALL religious certainty. In the end we will win over the scientific religious to non-religion – if not in this generation, in the next. The battle is certain to be a long one. Let’s not demand the impossible. Let’s accept the help of our allies in this battle and the sacrifices they make with some good grace and respect.

              This does not mean that books like Jerry’s “Faith vs. Fact” are in any way not essential to the cause of rationality – not at all. But books like this will, in my opinion, only work when we get the religious population “half way there” – this being actually believing to accept the obvious implications of science

              1. Howie, you’re just arguing the same accommodationist position that Jerry and Richard and all the rest (including, obviously, me) keep arguing against.

                Perhaps most importantly, it’s a lie to claim that Evolution is compatible with Abrahamic religions. That in and of itself should be the end of the discussion.

                It’s also quite insulting to the believers. They’re little people who can’t handle the truth that us smart people are capable of grasping.

                And it’s a purely theological position, one that atheists have no business promoting and that the State especially cannot Constitutionally make. Whether the gods did or did not play how much of a role in the origin of humanity and the other species…that’s as theological as it gets.

                (Jerry’s organization, the Evolution Society, gets it perfect: its statements on the teaching of biology don’t mention any gods nor religions at all, any more than you’d expect to find such mentions in statements on the teaching of physics or chemistry or astronomy or any other branch of science.)

                Accommodationism ignores solidly established principles of human psychology and rhetoric and effective negotiating tactics. It moves the Overton Window towards religion, not away from it. The NCSE has no Convert’s Corner to compare with Richard’s or even with Jerry’s own similar anecdotes; instead, they have Bible studies and the religious reaffirmations of faith and expressions of delight at the modern-day relevance of that old time religion.

                …and, finally, especially when it takes the form you’ve been promoting in this thread, it’s also highly insulting to me and others like me. It’s a call to be an Uncle Tom, to play nice, to not upset our righteous Christian masters, and to meekly stay at the back of the bus. Fuck that noise; you’ll find me at the front of the bus with Ms. Parks, raising holy hell.

                b&

              2. Ben, I pass on to you a quote from one of my favorite recent films – Lincoln:

                “A compass, I learned when I was surveying, it’ll… it’ll point you True North from where you’re standing, but it’s got no advice about the swamps and deserts and chasms that you’ll encounter along the way. If in pursuit of your destination, you plunge ahead, heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp… What’s the use of knowing True North?”

                This is the essence of my case…..

                As I stated, this is a political battle. It is perhaps very enjoyable to “remain pure” in the journey to a possible satisfactory ending – but I would say that that journey is a route to failure, and sometimes (inadvertently) puts a personal sense of purity above the end to be achieved. Not that I don’t respect your stance, or even admire anyone who holds it. But this is a “two pronged attack”. People like of Eugenie get the religious to LISTEN, to ACCEPT science. Then either the science itself, or the education they allow, or folks like yourself move them on in their views. If it were Richard Dawkins on that Christian Radio Program (given that Richard would ever be invited) the “journey thru the swamp” would not occur in this instance. Eugenie gets through to this particular audience, she makes progress. Dedicating a career to achieving such a level of progress deserves praise, not criticism or other forms of derogatory comment.

              3. Howie, nobody is objecting to a soft-spoken laid-back non-confrontational approach to science advocacy. Carl Sagan was the master of that, and he was beloved or at least respected by all but the most fundamental of fundamentalists. Einstein did that rather well, too, as does Hawking.

                Nor is the objection in this case really to the attempt to reconcile Evolution with Christianity. Ken Miller has written some wonderful biology textbooks and also spoken passionately about his Christian faith.

                The objection is to somebody who doesn’t believe herself promoting belief in others.

                Again, Jerry’s Evolution Society gets it perfect. It’s a science education advocacy organization with a special interest in biology…and they simply don’t mention religion at all. Not defensively, not even in response to challenges. They address the science. Matters of theology are best taken up with theologians, not scientists. Those magisteria do not and should not overlap.

                And that’s all that Genie has to do. No Bible study lessons on the NCSE Web site. No theological discourses. No teacher’s guides about how to discuss religious subjects in the science classroom. None of that. And, of course, similarly nothing from people like Jerry or Richard on atheology, explaining how the science makes it impossible for a rational individual to reconcile faith and fact — as that is, again, utterly irrelevant to anything that could possibly belong in a science classroom discussion.

                There will still be plenty of people like Ken Miller or Francis Collins who will be more than happy to spout theological bullshit about how Jesus infects human (and only human) zygotes with mind-conrolling alien zombies. So why does Genie and the NCSE have to chime in with suggestions about what sorts of techniques Jesus might use for the task?

                b&

              4. Ben: “It’s a call to be an Uncle Tom, to play nice, to not upset our righteous Christian masters, and to meekly stay at the back of the bus.”

                PS: And on the subject of expression of feelings of insult Ben.. I myself feel strongly insulted when someone accuses me of being an Uncle Tom

  11. As with Jim Gutel above not sure about
    “but I’m not aware of a single hypotheses beyond creationist ones that derive from religious belief.”

    Both Bohr and Heisenberg got some of the underlying concepts of quantum physics from their study of Vedanta Hinduism. (And Newton got the basic idea of gravity from frickin alchemy, for crying out loud.)

    Unfortunately, New Agers (and some Hindus) will excessively revel in this, thinking it means the authors of the Vedas were so smart that they were thousands of years ahead of the physicists, an unwarranted plea given that many teachings of the Vedas and Upanishads are certainly wrong.
    And then there’s that whole problem of quantum woo from “What the bleep do we know” and Chopra et al.

    Nonetheless Heisenberg has been quoted as saying “Quantum theory will not look ridiculous to people who have read Vedanta.”
    and Schrodinger eventually joined the Vedanta society, and has been quoted as saying “The unity & continuity of Vedanta are reflected in the unity & continuity of Wave Mechanics.”

    Perhaps it is good to recall an assertion made by Carl Sagan in “The Demon-Haunted World”- a scientist requires two opposite qualities, the creativity to generate apparently wild and crazy hypotheses, and the willingness to have them rigorously tested in the lab or the field. The two are in tension, Sagan argues.

    PS. I’m also interested in the relatively few religious folks who are !*inspired*! to do science by religion, such as Jane Goodall.

    1. Unity and continuity are instances of parsimony, which is basic in science but rarely applied in religious philosophies.

    2. I wouldn’t be surprised if some scientists are inspired by Mickey Mouse or the Playboy. It doesn’t signify anything.

      Though Vedanta philosophy, in some respects very similar to Spinoza’s, contains indeed some sophisticated concepts and abstract thinking. Seems to attract some intellectuals.

  12. “40:00 Bancewicz cites Simon Conway Morris’s flawed argument that the evolution of humanoid creatures was inevitable (this, of course, is because we’re supposed to be made in the image of God).”

    One could make a counter argument “from inevitability” that given the deterministic nature of our world and the forces of natural selection, our evolution was inevitable via natural means. No gods required.

    If on the other hand, due to some random quantum effects our evolution on this planet was anything but certain, then it is but one possible outcome of how things could have unfolded (we could be here, or not).

  13. “(Hebrews 11:1):

    Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

    That is one Orwellian passage! It starts by admitting that faith is simply the stuff hopes are made of, but then in a truly Orwellian fashion tells us that faith is somehow evidence.

    “War is peace.
    Freedom is slavery.
    Ignorance is strength.”

    …and faith is evidence.

    1. Yes – someone told me once that the very fact that religious believers have faith is *itself* an argument for the existence of god. This person did not seem to think through how that works when the gods in question are different …

  14. She says that “from an anthropological prespective, it makes as much sense to be antireligious as to be antikinship.”

    I would compare it to being anti-nepotism, not anti-kinship.

  15. Eugenie came to my campus outside of Nashville a few years ago to do a talk on evolution. To have any success with that in most of the U.S., much less in the bible belt, she undoubtedly has been forced to take a somewhat accommodationist stance.

    I think what she aims for is to keep the discussion focused on the value of science and steer it away from its conflict with religion. Her talk was excellent. She explains evolution in a clear, logical way that can get through to kids who have been taught creationism their whole lives, including in their Tennessee high school science classes.

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