A physicist and science popularizer osculates the rump of faith

I have mixed feelings about physicist Brian Greene. On the one hand he’s a good popularizer of science (I don’t know much about his achievements in physics research), and an eloquent speaker.  In collaboration with his partner Tracy Day, he also organizes the World Science Festival in New York, a good endeavor.

On the other hand he takes lots of money from the John Templeton Foundation to run the World Science Festival, and there’s always some Templeton-sponsored events that reconcile religion and science or enable “spirituality”.  In fact, Dan Dennett withdrew from a Festival panel when he learned it was backed by Templeton (see the first link in this sentence). And Greene has always been reluctant to say anything bad about religion, despite the fact that he seems to be an atheist. Although he’s said that “there’s much in New Atheism that resonates with me“, he’s admitted that his strategy is less confrontational and less antagonistic than scientists like Dawkins. In fact, as we see below, it no longer seems the least confrontational and antagonistic, but rather worshipful.

And, as I’ve related before, I’ve been collecting signatures of secularists, scientists, and other well known people on a copy of Faith versus Fact, which will be illuminated by Kelly Houle (like WEIT was), and then auctioned off for charity. (We made about $10,400 for Doctors Without Borders.) The new book has even more signatures, including every living Horseperson, Julia Sweeney, Steve Pinker, Dan Barker, Anne Laurie Gaylor, three Nobel Laureates, and many more, so I’m anticipating another big donation—to a different humanitarian charity this time.  Everyone I’ve asked to sign the book has obliged save one:  Brian Greene, whom I encountered in Aspen. When I handed him the book, told him what I was doing, and asked for his signature, he looked at the book and refused. That disturbed me, for it seemed that he didn’t even want his name written on a book that’s critical of religion, even if the goal was to get money for charity.

At any rate, the Guardian has an interview with Greene, as he has a new book out.  You can read it by clicking on the screenshot.

 

Most of the questions are about physics, and some of the answers are interesting, like Greene’s response to the question of where and when he’d go if he had a time machine, or what big problem in physics he’d like to see solve.

But there’s also this question (in bold) and his answer:

In your book, you talk about the “majesty of religion”. What do you mean by that?
There’s a tendency, certainly among some scientists I know, to judge religion by whether or not it gives us factual information about an objective reality. That’s not the right yardstick. There are many others who recognise that the value of religion is found in its capacity to provide a sense of community, to allow us to see our lives within a larger context, to connect us through ritual to our forebears, to alleviate anxiety in the face of mortality, among other thoroughly subjective benefits. When I’m looking to understand myself as a human, and how I fit in to the long chain of human culture that reaches back thousands of years, religion is a deeply valuable part of that story.

Here we see Greene floating a version of Steve Gould’s NOMA idea: that religion is not intended to give us factual information about reality, but rather is beneficial to society in other ways. Further, he’s advancing a kind of theology by arguing that the way to judge the value of religions should completely ignore any factual claims they make about the universe. (In fact, since Greene appears to be a nonbeliever, he realizes that “alleviating anxiety in the face of mortality” requires not only a false claim about the afterlife, but an essential claim “about an objective reality.” Absent that factual claim, there’s no alleviation of anxiety.

Further, while touting the benefits of religion, Greene neglects its downside—not only its palpable falsity, but its divisiveness, its oppression of women and gays, its instillation of fear in children, the people it has tortured and killed because they belong to the “wrong” faith, the smothering morality in spreads among its adherents, and so on. No, you won’t hear a bad word about religion in this interview.  Certainly religion is an important part of the “long chain of human culture” (how could we understand the Inquisition without it?), but I for one don’t see the “majesty of religion”.

About the argument that religion can’t be judged by whether it makes factual claims, well, I think many—perhaps most—believers would take issue with that. As I wrote in a 2018 post about a thinker (Stephen Asma) who also asserted that religion is all about making people feel good and connected, and that its truth claims are irrelevant:

 But do most people think that religion’s truth claims are bogus, or irrelevant? Here’s what a random poll of all Americans (not just believers) think is true; this was taken by the Harris organization five years ago. These are all metaphysical claims, of course:

A personal God concerned with you  68%
Absolutely certain there is a God  54%
Jesus was the son of God   68%
Jesus was born of a virgin   57%
Jesus was resurrected   65%
Miracles   72%
Heaven   68%
Hell and Satan   58%
Angels   68%
Survival of soul after death   64%

Further, many well known religionists have recognized that religious belief depends on truth claims. Here are three quotes I often use as well:

“I cannot regard theology as merely concerned with a collection  of stories which motivate an attitude toward life. It must have its anchorage in the way things actually are, and the way they happen.”  —John Polkinghorne

“A religious tradition is indeed a way of life and not a set of abstract ideas. But a way of life presupposes beliefs about the nature of reality and cannot be sustained if those beliefs are no longer credible.” —Ian Barbour

“Likewise, religion in almost all of its manifestations is more than  just a collection of value judgments and moral directives. Religion often makes claims about ‘the way things are.”—Karl Giberson & Francis Collins

As I’ve said before, the biggest opponents of Gould’s NOMA idea aren’t scientists—most of whom are nonbelievers who don’t care about religion or reconciling it with science—but believers and theologians. They, at least, recognize that the truth claims of religion are vital in getting people to not only accept it, but to follow its dictates, including coughing up the dosh (10% of your income if you’re a Mormon). The three quotes above are only a small sample of those sentiments.

And as for religion’s ability to bring people together, I added this in that earlier post:

Religion is really about morality, consolation, and emotional connection. 

[A quote from Stephen Asma} :”Maybe, then, the heart of religion is not its ability to explain nature, but its moral power?”

If that’s the case, then give me secularism any day. For religious “morality” is often twisted and warped, more about people’s sex lives than their character. It tells them who to copulate with, what to wear, what to eat, whom to hate, and how often you should pray, and in which direction. How is that good?  And of course here are some results of Catholic “moral power,” a list I often give in talks:

Opposition to birth control (leading to an increase in STDs, including AIDS)
Opposition to abortion
Opposition to divorce
Opposition to homosexuality
Control of people’s sex lives
Oppression of women
Sexual abuse of children
Instillation of fear and guilt in children

If that’s the heart of Catholicism, please do an Aztec-style cardiectomy!

I didn’t mention Islam, but one could make similar arguments for that faith—and many others. I haven’t read Greene’s new book, but I suppose I should look at least at the bits about the “majesty of religion.”

44 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted February 9, 2020 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 9, 2020 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    All the claims they attempt to make good of religion, the moral path and community and on and on, they never throw in the most important word – Money. In reading a bit more about the Mormon scandal, known only because of a single whistle blower, we discover, along with most Mormons, just how much money they have gathered in in the fund. Over $100 billion and growing. Of course they don’t want the flock to know because it might just cause some to cut back on that 10%. And the reason for this pile of savings – getting ready for the second coming.

    • phoffman56
      Posted February 9, 2020 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      “..the Mormon scandal..”

      There have been as well far worse scandals perpetrated by Mormons. What immediately comes to my mind is known as the “Mountain Meadows massacre”, the slaughter of a large number of people passing through Utah in a big wagon train of non-Mormons intending to settle in California.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 9, 2020 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

        That may be a nice history of the church but I am more interested in now.

        • phoffman56
          Posted February 9, 2020 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

          I had no objection to your example.
          Closer to now in Jon Krakauer’s book “Under the Banner of Heaven”, starting and ending with the 1985 murder, following god’s claimed command, of an infant and her mother by a pair of fundamentalist mormons–which really means believers in polygamy–which largely means men of much greater age forcing themselves on 14 and 15 year old girls with the threat they’ll go to hell if there’s any resistance, again, god’s command.

          • Kurt Helf
            Posted February 10, 2020 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

            “Under the Banner of Heaven” is a fascinating book!

  3. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 9, 2020 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    “… to judge religion by whether or not it gives us factual information about an objective reality. *That’s not the right yardstick*”

    Fact. How is it known to be a fact? Of course it sounds better than “that might not be the right yardstick.”

    This is typical : pick a well known fact of science, like using a different basis for measurement, and assert ipso facto it applies somewhere else – like religion, perhaps! “Isn’t that convenient!”

  4. phoffman56
    Posted February 9, 2020 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Greene’s first remark:

    “There’s a tendency, certainly among some scientists I know, to judge religion by whether or not it gives us factual information about an objective reality. That’s not the right yardstick.”

    Despite some later stuff, this is actually misleading, IMHO. The thing done by these scientists is much more fundamentally objecting to the bloviations, despite having no decent methods of learning the truth. So you get nonstop bullshit from religions. The semi-religion Unitarianism, to the extent it talks about truths about the world, tries to quote good scientists AFAIK. But the falsity of the claims of virtually all religions is a secondary effect of their (understandably historically) ignorance (except for Moronism and subsequent–sorry, missed an ‘n’!) about how to go about finding out what is highly probably true, or a good effective approximation to the truth.

    So Greene’s stated objection is off the mark and misleading to the gullible. And ‘god knows’ there are plenty of them, even outside the US.

  5. Posted February 9, 2020 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Greene is faint-hearted when it comes to religion. Religion’s biggest claims, as Weinberg has repeated said, are it’s ontological ones.

    Religion makes extraordinary claims about the origin and continued (miracles and angels) intercession of supernatural forces. As a physicist, Greene should have no time for any of that nonsense. He has sold out to religion because he doesn’t want to hurt people’s feelings if there is a chance he can sell another book to fence sitters.

  6. Tim J Reichert
    Posted February 9, 2020 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Greene took one look at your book and saw his Templeton funding disappearing if he signed it. Templeton is a scourge. I wish more people recognized how harmful their MO is.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted February 9, 2020 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      I used to think he was keenly associating with the victims of faith in order to keep up the guard, but with an exquisitely intelligent parsing of theological casuistry.

      no longer.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 9, 2020 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Sure looks like Brian Greene knows which side of his bread JTF is buttering with all its bread.

  8. Posted February 9, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    A while back I told a religious acquaintance that one of the major reasons why I’m an atheist, was reading religious apologetics.

    I mean if you’re ever arguing anything, and you proclaim “factual information is not the right yardstick” – well, that’s when you know the thing you’re talking about is objectively wrong.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted February 9, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      Not to mention “factual information is not the right yardstick” is itself a fact.

  9. Historian
    Posted February 9, 2020 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I think there is a reason why the deeply religious support Trump. Both religion and Trump make extravagant promises that cannot be kept. But this doesn’t matter to the religious. As a cult leader Trump plays the same role as religious leaders. He speaks with the voice of an authority as does religious leaders. By definition, they cannot be wrong, although all evidence is to the contrary. Religion and the cult leader provide security in an uncertain and dangerous world to those who find reality intolerable. They provide psychological comfort. As such, there will always be a segment of the population to which rational argument will not work. The goal is to minimize as much as possible the numbers and influence of these people. Unfortunately, the alliance of the religious and Trump cult (with overlapping membership) is now in ascendance out of proportion to their actual numbers. Some people will accept manipulation and utter nonsense as their firewall against a threatening world as they ignore the fact that the people they obey have gained power by making them frightened. This is what the “majesty of religion” is regardless of whether the leader is Jerry Falwell, Jr. or Donald J. Trump.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted February 9, 2020 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      And the hypocrisy is right out there for all to see. Doesn’t matter as long as he delivers on religion, he can be as vulgar as he is. The religious, all but Romney, care about nothing but their self interest and that is primarily their jobs. Cannot have the wrath of Trump coming down on them. Pence is the dictionary example of hypocrisy.

      • rickflick
        Posted February 9, 2020 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        Any absolutist on abortion will feel compelled to vote for tRump.

        • Taz
          Posted February 9, 2020 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

          The tRump spelling has given rise to a new designation for him: “low-t”

          • rickflick
            Posted February 9, 2020 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

            Or, just low.

    • Posted February 9, 2020 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      “Religion and the cult leader provide security” — yep, and also raises the believer’s own perception of their own status relative to non-believers. That’s what Trump is selling above all.

  10. Mark Cagnetta
    Posted February 9, 2020 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I had Greene’s book on my list of books to purchase. Now I no longer wish to purchase such a perverted book. Religion skews people’s view of reality, which is dangerous. I paraphrase another notable physicist: good people will do good things. Bad people will do bad things. But it takes religion for good people to do bad things.

  11. FB
    Posted February 9, 2020 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Aren’t all the values mentioned by Greene present in Mormonism and Scientology? I wonder if he finds these religions majestic. I propose “ridiculous nonsense” as a yardstick.

  12. Posted February 9, 2020 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Greene’s physics specialty is superstring theory, which apparently is disconnected from experiment and observation and is “not eve wrong” according to Peter Woit. So perhaps he is less likely to recognize the difference between faith and fact, which is why he didn’t sign your book.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted February 9, 2020 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

      Mind that Woit is fringe, few takes notice of his rantings.

      The superstring revolution is consensus best option for having a candidate for basic physics. It is testable latest at the Planck scale, and meanwhile we don’t have any explicit test the same situation happened for atomic theory between 1608 [Dalton] and 1908 [Perrin, following Einstein 1905].

      • Posted February 9, 2020 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        That may have been true before the failure to find SUSY particles, but not anymore.

      • Posted February 10, 2020 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        Your point is basically correct IMO, but I think you must mean 1808 for Dalton. Also, I would argue that at least as far as “chemical atoms” go, we could run the inference to the best explanation by the 1870s, or so.

        (Incidentally, Mendeleev’s work is part of this and he would have *rejected* this – he thought the elements were stable spikes in some sort of wave or other periodic process – and hence thought there were elements between hydrogen and helium, etc.)

  13. Steve Gerrard
    Posted February 9, 2020 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Some additional quotes from the interview:

    “His work on string theory has focused on the forms that extra dimensions may take.” Oh a string theory person. Maybe that explains it then.

    “As a kid I had the same kinds of questions … is there a purpose to it all? I remember thinking that if there was an answer I would know it, because everyone would know it. But no one did.” So obviously religion didn’t.

    “There are questions that have right and wrong answers as opposed to opinions, and we’ve unfortunately come to a place where many people don’t make that distinction. It’s a vital one, especially when some of the questions are going to determine the fate of humankind and the fate of the planet. The solution has to be education. We need to impress upon kids at an early age that there are ways of investigating the world that can yield demonstrable truths. That’s an exciting thing for a kid to learn. And it’s essential.” And it is contradicted by religions, sir. Make up your mind.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted February 9, 2020 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      “I don’t touch equipment. I’m a theorist through and through: pens, paper, pencils, computers”.

      In my book, you have to be an Einstein to get away with not testing your own theories. Greene ain’t no Einstein.

  14. rickflick
    Posted February 9, 2020 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    My theory (and it is mine) is that Greene is motivated by $fame$. He seems to be enthralled with himself, and wants to maintain the broadest audience which includes the “spiritual” folks who fill seats in the auditorium. He’s a little like Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is also soft around the edges when it comes to religion.

    • grasshopper
      Posted February 9, 2020 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      Greene panicked when he heard that Nietschke had uttered the ponderous words “String Theory is dead, too.”, and not being a p-brane, cast about for a new remunerative topic to write about.

      • rickflick
        Posted February 9, 2020 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

        Sounds likely.

  15. Posted February 9, 2020 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if Greene’s position on religion is motivated simply by a need to maintain his appeal as broadly as possible, in order to get as many TV gigs, and as many viewers, as possible.

  16. Posted February 9, 2020 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps you should send him a copy of F vs F, with a suggestion that he read it. 😉

  17. KD
    Posted February 9, 2020 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Its interesting that there are always these parallels between religion and science, when they mostly have nothing to do with each other, and never between religion and law, when in fact you have Islamic Law, Jewish Law, Cannon Law, etc. etc.

    Is it true that murder is a crime? I suppose it is, but its not true in the way that its true that the Earth is more-or-less round.

    Religious “facts” are not much different from legislative “facts”. Most places use breathalyzer testing results as measures of BAC, when in fact the machine are designed for the average human with average lung capacity and average blood volume, and the results are not empirically true for people who deviate from the norm.

    Likewise, in Turkey, its a “fact” that the Armenian genocide did not take place. It could be a “fact” that humans emerged in Missouri if Utah ever secedes.

    Are laws ever true? That’s kind of an old-fashioned formulation, but are laws ever just? And if justice is some kind of universally held and understood ideal, why do laws change so much if you cross a river, let alone an ocean?

    If humans are incapable of universal agreement on the Good or on Justice, then the best we can do is impose an arbitrary standard, and place a ring of taboos around the act of questioning it, and thereby giving it a modicum of Magisterium. Is it true? Or merely a temporary defense against the powers of chaos?

    • Posted February 9, 2020 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think rules, laws and beliefs on moral and ethical behavior are all entirely arbitrary. All animals have group and social behaviors that have developed as they evolved in order to survive. Even plants grow in ways that have allowed them to survive n their environment along with each other and other organisms.

      The are some arbitrary rules, such ad driving in the left or the right of the road but then there are rules and laws that are universal and part of our DNA. and necessary for our survival as civilizations, societies, tribes or hunter gatherer groups.

      • KD
        Posted February 10, 2020 at 7:08 am | Permalink

        Arbitrary yes, capricious no. Further, there is a significant similarity in broad outline (probably stemming from the social consequences of bad rules), rules against murder and lying and rape (but different exceptions across the board, traditionally Islam permitted taking female captives in war as slaves and using them for sex, which wouldn’t be permitted in Western countries for a host of reasons).

        But if you have a figure drawn with a charcoal with different densities of color and with fuzzy boundaries, and you assign it precise boundaries, the act of assigning a boundary is arbitrary. Or just look at the history of philosophy since Plato, a bunch of guys arguing about the nature of the Good for thousands of years, each claiming to have worked it out for time eternal, only for someone else to come along with a new ethical philosophy. When you make what is vague precise in arbitrary fashion, then its not so hard for another to come along and make what is vague precise in a slightly different way.

        If you look at different ethical “theories”, humans alternatively use taboo-reasoning (deontological ethics) as well as consequentialist reasoning (utilitarian ethics), as well as virtue-based reasoning (constructing the virtuous citizen) and all the other means. Humans in the real world aren’t consistent about it, with the exception of philosophers (and usually only when they are doing philosophy).

        • KD
          Posted February 10, 2020 at 7:16 am | Permalink

          There was a schism in Russian Orthodoxy over the way people made the sign of the Cross. From the standpoint of scientific exploration, such a controversy makes zero sense.

          On the other hand, after the American Revolution, there was a conflict over whether lawyers should wear powdered wigs in Court. Justice Marshall did not wear a wig, as the wig was associated with reactionary monarchism, and the custom rapidly dies out. Likewise, the use of the powdered wig in Europe became a symbol of support for monarchy over republicanism. Not surprisingly, Canada (filled with British loyalists expelled by the American revolution) used wigs into the 20th century.

          Suddenly, we might have a context for making sense of the religious controversy, if we look at similar controversies in legal circles.

          • Posted February 10, 2020 at 10:18 am | Permalink

            I think we agree. You stated that there is a core or broad outline of rules, surrounded by rules which are arbitrary. And you have pointed out a number of rules that are arbitrary. Our difficulty is that we argue about rules which are arbitrary.

            That was recognized by Paul in some if his letters to the early churches. He said not to argue about disagreements over rules but look at the broad rules at the core. Not his exact words.

  18. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted February 9, 2020 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    To break it down, Brian Greene is one of the architects of the string revolution, which showed that there is a vast but finite landscape of possible string theories, string theory being a candidate for basic physics.

    Further, many theoretical physicists tried to have the cake and eat it too by feeding from the Templeton Foundation trough with an explicit firewall against the religious implications. “The Foundational Questions Institute (FQXi) … unlikely to be supported by conventional funding sources.” [ https://fqxi.org/about ]

    Finally, some physicist science popularizers are soft against religion, such as Brian Greene, or are religionists, such as Paul Davies [ https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/what-happened-before-the-big-bang-1584819.html ].

    As for the topic, of course superstitions should be judged on that they fail to provide information about an objective reality – else they would be named differently. Greene wants to privilege religion for reasons of his own, but I doubt he would judge flat earthism against his own ruler: “its capacity to provide a sense of community,”

  19. Posted February 9, 2020 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    The trouble with religion and reason is that the ‘deck of cards’ analogy does not work. Science can get rid of many cards, like a soul, a heaven, a god to supervise, a purpose … yet the deck still quivers away when it should collapse. IMO, most humans want to matter … which explains religion. Often writing books, music or other accomplishments are good enough for that feeling of lasting … except for all the simple ones who can do nothing that lasts, so instead they really believe in silliness. And who wouldn’t want some accomplishment to last forever, or instead get into heaven free. They have nothing so they might as well go with anything silly.

  20. Posted February 9, 2020 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    Whereas the notion of Rock Star Scientists is a a good idea or not is in and of itself a contentious view.

    How they (or anyone else for that matter) can lay claim to any religous affiliation and still consider themselves unperturbed by the glaring bias that deific decree infers is already a deplorable cause for concern. When that affiliation comes with substantial financial gain from the same institution that has a vested interest in subjugating the hearts and minds of wo(man)ity, a active and open agenda of refuting scientific research, a history of bloody suppression and persecution of any view that contradict dogma or threaten the decree of its self proclaimed reign, that silencing opposing views by persecuting offending proponents, torturing them to the brink of death, and then forcing them to redeem themselves by signing whatever grevious confessions they confabulte in the last drop of their own blood, and which explicitly demands fealty to doctrine, and servitude to line their coffers with the spoils of of guilt and shame is despicable and beyond redemption.

    As for myself I am invariably perturbed to notice where the trail of scientific evidence gives way to their unique and bespoke theories on the nature of existence, and frequently baffled at how most of these populists weasle out the argument of life after death, or miraculously find a way to prove their deluded faith by alluding the misconstrued theory that they formulated in lieu of their blatant disregard of opposing evidence and as for myself I fully concur with the contention of distrusting scientists with any affiliation that limits freedom of relation and unashamedly suppresses information for whatever devious reason they proffer.

  21. Dave137
    Posted February 10, 2020 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Years back, Richard Dawkins gave a talk/signing in New York for The God Delusion. I was in the audience and noticed that Brian Greene was sitting in front of me.

    At the time, Greene had maybe one or two PBS specials, but essentially no one noticed him.

    During the Q&A, Greene stood up and asked Dawkins, and I’m absolutely paraphrasing, “I understand the irrationality of believing in God: but do you ever find yourself waking up in the middle of the night and calling out for someone, for something? It seems inconceivable that we’re all alone.”

    I was taken aback because I had expected to hear a cosmological contextualization, or at least a nuanced question regarding the consequences of an absence of belief.

    Instead the question was oddly infantile and proximately accommodationist. I remember metaphorically pinning a caution flag on him in that moment, which obviously persists into today.

    Mitt Romney’s record is (I think) terrible, yet he deserves credit for convicting President Bonespur on at least one Article. Inversely, Greene has a solid legacy of promoting science and insightfully explaining difficult ideas, but unfortunately — perhaps sacrificially — he associates with, profits from, and thereby props up the nonsense that is Templeton.

    I’m in London next month and Greene is scheduled to speak at the Royal Institution. It’s my only chance to see a lecture in that special place and it’s somewhat annoying that he’s my only option. (Maybe I’ll return the favor and ask a pointed question during the Q&A.)

    In line with Dr Coyne, I have mixed feelings as well.

  22. Posted February 10, 2020 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    I have said, since reading a bizarre book called _The Sciences and the Humanities_ (thanks, Professor Norton, for selling that!) that makes this sort of “non-cognitivist” approach to religious claims too, that it is insulting to believers. Why? Because it denies what they, in fact, say they believe in say, the Nicene Creed. (Not theologians and such, which are very different – still crazy wrong, but different.)

  23. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted February 14, 2020 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    People who use phrases like “osculate the rump…” can kiss my ass. The first 4 commandments in the Christian Canon essentially state God’s demand that we kiss his ass in various convoluted ways. Let’s call a spade a spade. (Or is that racist now, too?) 🙂


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