Evangelicals vs. science

When the Evangelical Environmental Network first launched, the core of our message was simple: If you love the Creator, you ought to care for the creation.

I still find the logic of that message compelling and unassailable. If you believe that God made this world, then love of God ought to entail a corresponding love for the world that God made. To be disdainful of creation is to show disdain for the Creator.

It’s right there in American evangelical Christianity’s favorite Bible verse, “For God so loved the world.”

The original word there in John’s Gospel was “cosmos” — a word that was, for John, as vast and comprehensive as it would be centuries later for Carl Sagan.

John 3:16 isn’t mainly about God as Creator, but about God as Redeemer, which only intensifies the point about God’s passionate love for the cosmos. God created the world and declared it good. Then God redeemed the world, thus dispelling any doubt about the Creator’s enduring love for the creation. (And yes, John 3 teaches, as Paul did, that God is redeeming “the world.” Jesus may be your “personal Lord and Savior,” but Jesus is not only your “personal Lord and Savior.”)

So that was the core of our basic message: If you love the Creator, you must love the creation. And caring for creation must also mean caring about creation. And that means wanting to know more about it — wanting to learn as much as you can learn about every facet and aspect, every realm and region, nook and cranny, quark and quasar.

Imagine someone who didn’t know their spouse’s middle name, or favorite foods, or hobbies, occupation, background or family. You would assume — rightly, I think — that such a person couldn’t possibly really love their spouse, because to love someone is to desire to know them better.

So that core message we had with the Evangelical Environmental Network shouldn’t just apply to environmentalism. It ought to apply to all of science. To all the many practical and pleasurable reasons anyone has to explore the sciences and to be excited and enthralled by science, evangelical Christians can add one more: It’s God’s world, God’s cosmos. God made it. God is redeeming it. God loves it. Anyone who loves God ought to love the world as well — and to love learning about the world.

We Christians ought to be famous for our love and devotion to the best, deepest, broadest and most ambitious science. We ought to be known for the same half-goofy, starry-eyed wonderment that the late Carl Sagan showed toward science.

But that’s not the case. Perversely, the opposite is true. We Christians have a long history of ambivalence and antipathy toward science. Sure, we can point to dozens of examples of devout Christians who were also top-notch scientists — Newton, Mendel, Francis Collins, etc. — but they stand out as exceptions.

And for American evangelical Christians the track record is even worse. American evangelicals tend to treat science as the enemy and to regard scientists as guilty until proven innocent. This is due to a host of reasons, foremost among them being the perception that evolution poses a threat to the Bible. But this unlovely (and, frankly, sinful) antipathy to science preceded Darwin — his work was not the first natural explanation rejected as a perceived threat to supernatural beliefs. And while the Scopes trial got the headlines, the formative main event in the 1920s for American evangelicals was the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy — another dispute in which science, particularly scientific criticism, was engaged in battle as the enemy.

That long history and the many causes and roots of evangelical Christian distrust of science are worth exploring in more detail, because if we want to overcome that distrust, then we need to understand it. I want to return to this topic in future posts to discuss some of the responses and approaches that I think are most promising and/or necessary for challenging and overcoming this anti-science reflex. But since I started thinking about this topic again due to a series of recent articles and posts, let me just wrap up for now by highlighting some of those.

I’m looking forward to reading the new book from Physicist Karl Giberson and historian Randall Stephens, The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Scientific Age. Giberson has been on something  of an online publicity tour for the book, publishing a series of articles on its basic themes.

Why Do So Many Evangelicals Prefer to Get Their ‘Science’ From Ken Ham Rather Than Francis Collins?” Giberson asks at science + religion today:

Anti-evolutionists like Ken Ham—and his colleagues at places like the Discovery Institute—constantly bash science as ideology claiming that its conclusions derive from “assumptions” rather than observations. After years of seeing science bashed, many evangelicals simply don’t trust it. And so they embrace a “science” that seems to agree with the Bible, oblivious to the fact that it has no support of any kind.

My only quibble there is with the word “oblivious,” which is inaccurate unless it’s qualified as, say, “mostly oblivious” or “willfully oblivious.” At the very least, this obliviousness is a choice, and having to make that choice means that one cannot ever quite be wholly oblivious.

At The Guardian (UK), Giberson writes that “Millions of evangelicals, including GOP candidates, are trapped in an alternative ‘parallel culture’ with its own standards of truth“:

By the time we were in college our generation of evangelicals had been educated into a profoundly different worldview than that of the secular, anti-Christian, Satan-following Ivy League elites we had been taught to fear. We understood the world to be a spiritual battleground with forces of good pitted against forces of evil. Real angels and real demons hovered about us as we prepared to wage these wars.

And at the Huffington Post, Giberson writes on “Why Evangelicals Are Fooled Into Accepting Pseudoscience“:

Why have evangelicals been so ready to reject the generally accepted conclusions of the scientific community on global warming?

I want to suggest that the reason has nothing to do with climate science per se, but derives from the generally dim view that many evangelicals have of science and scientists — views that make it hard to distinguish credible science from fake challengers.

One of the strategies employed most effectively by evangelicals in their crusade against evolution, which does pose real, although soluble, biblical and theological problems, has been to undermine the entire scientific enterprise. If science is a deeply flawed, ideologically driven, philosophically suspect enterprise, then why should anyone care if almost every scientist supports the theory of evolution? If the scientific community is just a bunch of self-serving ideologues with Ivy League appointments, then we can ignore anything it says that we don’t like.

All spot on and very true, but not the whole explanation for evangelicals’ rejection of climate science. The whole explanation would also include the very important factors of politics and money. Evangelical Christians who say they reject climate science explicitly indicate that this rejection is political, not scientific. And the subject of evangelical hostility toward science has become a hot topic lately for explicitly political reasons. The Republican presidential primary has become a contest to capture the evangelical Christian voting bloc, bringing about the spectacle of what Phil Plait calls “The increasingly antiscience Republican candidates“:

Each candidate on the right is simply scrambling to be even more antiscience than the next.

Of course, if that “next” is Rick Perry, then I doubt anyone could sprint away from reality more than he does. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool creationist … and when it comes to denying climate change he also apparently had no problem with simply making things up. …

Even the candidates people are calling “moderate” are falling over themselves to appease the base when it comes to science and the lack thereof. Mitt Romney tried to eat his cake and have it too about accepting evolution, and even Ron Paul has now distanced himself from evolution.

  • Matthew Funke

    hapax: There are heroes of science, no question, just like every faith can produce its saints. And the vast majority do pretty well, on most days. But there are a fair number who will blindly abandon empiricism for their deeply held prejudices, biases, and preconceptions, all the while staunchly asserting their absolute objectivity. There are far too many who will cheerfully sell out evidence and logic to the highest bidder. And there are (thankfully) those few who will pervert their discipline to callous cruelty, in the pursuit of power.

    Yes.  But the construct of science as a discipline is such that these ideas and attitudes will eventually be weeded out.  It’s self-correcting.

    Granted, one has to be very patient for the self-correcting arc to bend towards the truth sometimes, but the very fact that one gains notoriety by showing demonstrable evidence for why the current line of thinking is mistaken means that error is gradually extricated.

    For example, when creationists came up with frauds that seemed to show evolution false, it was scientists who found out why their “evidence” should be disregarded.  When scientists came up with frauds to make their findings seem ahead of the pack, who found out what the reality of the matter was?  Scientists again.

    This whole concept is why peer review is so vital to the process.

    Religion is not always so fortunate.  One often gains notoriety by hewing to the official dogma in a particularly winsome fashion, and opportunities for peer review are not always forthcoming.

    Granted, since people are people, dogma and untruth and prejudice and so on will be unavoidable.  Even so, as inefficient as all that is, science is the most efficient system yet devised for replacing bad ideas with good ones.

    (I’m reminded of when Winston Churchill opined that democracy is the worst form of government — except for all the others.  It’s like that.)

  • Anonymous

    Bill Nye does it with a balloon, Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort do it with a banana. And here I thought *idle* hands were the Devil’s tools…

  • Anonymous

    Bill Nye does it with a balloon, Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort do it with a banana. And here I thought *idle* hands were the Devil’s tools…

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    Islam at the beginning had some promise in that direction, but the Mongols cut them short.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    Islam at the beginning had some promise in that direction, but the Mongols cut them short.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    Islam at the beginning had some promise in that direction, but the Mongols cut them short.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    The key phrase here is ‘as most people think of it’.  Most people unfortunately have been led to believe they want safe answers without using a lot of thought.  This way leads to disaster with both religion and science.  As others have pointed out better than I, there is much in this world that does not lend itself to objective observation.  Faith can instruct us in how we should use our science, and science should inform the direction of our faith, but substituting one for the other does a disservice to both.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    The key phrase here is ‘as most people think of it’.  Most people unfortunately have been led to believe they want safe answers without using a lot of thought.  This way leads to disaster with both religion and science.  As others have pointed out better than I, there is much in this world that does not lend itself to objective observation.  Faith can instruct us in how we should use our science, and science should inform the direction of our faith, but substituting one for the other does a disservice to both.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    The key phrase here is ‘as most people think of it’.  Most people unfortunately have been led to believe they want safe answers without using a lot of thought.  This way leads to disaster with both religion and science.  As others have pointed out better than I, there is much in this world that does not lend itself to objective observation.  Faith can instruct us in how we should use our science, and science should inform the direction of our faith, but substituting one for the other does a disservice to both.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    The Catholic Church did remove almost all of Galileo’s works from the Holy Index within 100 years of his death, and formally accepted heliocentrism around 1800 (about the time direct experimental evidence was available for the first time).  Galileo himself would have been rehabilitated back in the 1930′s but a little political dispute in Europe pushed that to the back burner. ;-)  As of two years ago Pope Benedict XVI commissioned a statue of Galileo to be erected in the Vatican as a reminder that human understanding can be limited.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    The Catholic Church did remove almost all of Galileo’s works from the Holy Index within 100 years of his death, and formally accepted heliocentrism around 1800 (about the time direct experimental evidence was available for the first time).  Galileo himself would have been rehabilitated back in the 1930′s but a little political dispute in Europe pushed that to the back burner. ;-)  As of two years ago Pope Benedict XVI commissioned a statue of Galileo to be erected in the Vatican as a reminder that human understanding can be limited.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    The Catholic Church did remove almost all of Galileo’s works from the Holy Index within 100 years of his death, and formally accepted heliocentrism around 1800 (about the time direct experimental evidence was available for the first time).  Galileo himself would have been rehabilitated back in the 1930′s but a little political dispute in Europe pushed that to the back burner. ;-)  As of two years ago Pope Benedict XVI commissioned a statue of Galileo to be erected in the Vatican as a reminder that human understanding can be limited.

  • Ross

    And, as I try to point out when I can, the Galileo affair had very little to do with the church rejecting science, and almost everything to do with the church not liking Galileo’s attitude. (Specifically, the bit where he went around saying “I am absolutely proven right in every way about this, and anyone who disagrees with me is a moron, and yes, the bible is wrong wrong wrong, therefore I am smarter than the bible.”)
    (Stupid disqus.)

  • Ross

    And, as I try to point out when I can, the Galileo affair had very little to do with the church rejecting science, and almost everything to do with the church not liking Galileo’s attitude. (Specifically, the bit where he went around saying “I am absolutely proven right in every way about this, and anyone who disagrees with me is a moron, and yes, the bible is wrong wrong wrong, therefore I am smarter than the bible.”)
    (Stupid disqus.)

  • Ross

    And, as I try to point out when I can, the Galileo affair had very little to do with the church rejecting science, and almost everything to do with the church not liking Galileo’s attitude. (Specifically, the bit where he went around saying “I am absolutely proven right in every way about this, and anyone who disagrees with me is a moron, and yes, the bible is wrong wrong wrong, therefore I am smarter than the bible.”)
    (Stupid disqus.)

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I thought the Superman turning back time thing was that he flew faster than the speed of light which made time go backwards. The earth rotating backwards signaled that time had reversed; it didn’t cause it.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I thought the Superman turning back time thing was that he flew faster than the speed of light which made time go backwards. The earth rotating backwards signaled that time had reversed; it didn’t cause it.

  • Andrew Galley

    Rikalous may have phrased their response clumsily, or they may have it not-quite-right, but they’ve cottoned on to a real fallacy in swbarnes’ post, which is conflating the strong ability of the scientific method to distinguish false from not-false hypotheses, relying on a *utilitarian* brand of positivism, with a moral imperative to apply logical positivism to all beliefs.

    The notion that one cannot be religious and a scientist depends upon the assumption that there is a positive and inescapable moral imperative to adopt positivism as an ethical position, rather than as a pragmatic one. This may be true, but just like the existence of souls, is extremely difficult to test in a rigorous manner. ;) Further, empirical observation suggests that people can, in fact, be both religious and scientists, though for complex reasons scientific education seems to make people — *at least in certain cultural contexts* — less likely to be religious.

  • Andrew Galley

    Rikalous may have phrased their response clumsily, or they may have it not-quite-right, but they’ve cottoned on to a real fallacy in swbarnes’ post, which is conflating the strong ability of the scientific method to distinguish false from not-false hypotheses, relying on a *utilitarian* brand of positivism, with a moral imperative to apply logical positivism to all beliefs.

    The notion that one cannot be religious and a scientist depends upon the assumption that there is a positive and inescapable moral imperative to adopt positivism as an ethical position, rather than as a pragmatic one. This may be true, but just like the existence of souls, is extremely difficult to test in a rigorous manner. ;) Further, empirical observation suggests that people can, in fact, be both religious and scientists, though for complex reasons scientific education seems to make people — *at least in certain cultural contexts* — less likely to be religious.

  • Rikalous

    …whether or not souls exist is not a subjective thing that has nothing
    to do with science.  Either souls exist, or they don’t.  Now maybe
    they’re undetectable, but even that doesn’t make them subjective.

    The
    same thing is true of heaven.  Or hell.  Or angels.  Or Jesus.  Or an
    inherent telos written upon the cosmos.  Or an inner yearning for God
    written on the hearts of mankind.  I mean, I can do this all day.  These
    things either are or are not.  Whether you believe in them isn’t like
    whether you prefer sausage or bacon, where its literally impossible for
    your answer to be incorrect because no matter what subjective opinion
    you hold, its your subjective opinion.  These are questions about
    facts.  Even if, through some bizarre coincidence, they are all facts
    that are somehow completely outside the practical reach of human
    knowledge, they’re still not subjective.

    Now if someone comes up
    to you and claims that you’re not allowed to morally approve or
    disapprove of homosexuality (or murder, of women wearing pants) because
    science hasn’t demonstrated the answer, then your response will make
    sense.  Use it then.  But right now, in response to what you quoted,
    it’s wrongheaded in the most extreme of senses.  Faith healing either
    works or it doesn’t, end of story.  And we checked, and it doesn’t.

    I guess I was focusing too much on the general thrust of your argument and not enough on the specific points. Lemme correct that.

    First, the souls thing. Once you’ve gotten a bunch of theologians together and got them to agree on a workable definition for souls or heaven or hell, you’ll almost certainly be dealing with something not detectable by our current methods. Evidence of divinity will probably never be detectable by scientific methods, because omnipotence is handy that way and if whatever divinity hasn’t offered proof yet, it probably won’t in the future. So you aren’t going to get any definite scientific evidence of souls or whatever. So what? Science is a tool. It’s an enormously useful and frequently fun tool, but it’s not the sum total of the human condition.

    You know, you could ask an astronomer (or maybe you are one) how many planets have life on them, and zie wouldn’t be able to come up with an experiment we could currently do to find the answer. That’s not a problem. It’s perfectly fine to not know things. Claiming an idea is bunk because people can’t answer every possible question about every possible aspect is something creationists do to attack science. Since we can’t empirically prove the existence or nonexistence of God, we have to go on the best evidence we have; i.e. each person’s subjective introspective journeys or sensations of divine presence or lack thereof or whatever.

    Second, the faith healing thing. Yes, faith healing is bunk and people should get themselves to actual medical professionals. The same goes for homeopathy and all the other myriad forms of woo. I agree with you completely there. I disagree with you that that matters. When you strip away faith healing from Christianity, you’re left with (drum roll please)……..Christianity! Faith healing is a not core tenet of the religion the way loving God and one’s neighbors is. It’s as vital to “religion as most people think of it” as snake handling or speaking in tongues. Strike that, it’s as vital to Christianity as snake handling or speaking in tongues. I don’t know whether or not other religions practice it.

    I thought that last sentence was a tangent, but it looks like it’s a segue. Religion is not a monolithic entity. Christianity is not a monolithic entity. American, Protestant, Evangelical, Christianity is not a monolithic entity, as suggested by the fact that our American, Protestant, Evangelical, Christian host posts about the ways he disagrees with his peers about how God wants them to treat humanity and the world. If you need to find one such post, scroll up. There’s plenty of room in religion for an appreciation of reality. Heck, during Islam’s golden age they were making advances in astronomy and navigation and algebra specifically because of their religion.

  • Rikalous

    …whether or not souls exist is not a subjective thing that has nothing
    to do with science.  Either souls exist, or they don’t.  Now maybe
    they’re undetectable, but even that doesn’t make them subjective.

    The
    same thing is true of heaven.  Or hell.  Or angels.  Or Jesus.  Or an
    inherent telos written upon the cosmos.  Or an inner yearning for God
    written on the hearts of mankind.  I mean, I can do this all day.  These
    things either are or are not.  Whether you believe in them isn’t like
    whether you prefer sausage or bacon, where its literally impossible for
    your answer to be incorrect because no matter what subjective opinion
    you hold, its your subjective opinion.  These are questions about
    facts.  Even if, through some bizarre coincidence, they are all facts
    that are somehow completely outside the practical reach of human
    knowledge, they’re still not subjective.

    Now if someone comes up
    to you and claims that you’re not allowed to morally approve or
    disapprove of homosexuality (or murder, of women wearing pants) because
    science hasn’t demonstrated the answer, then your response will make
    sense.  Use it then.  But right now, in response to what you quoted,
    it’s wrongheaded in the most extreme of senses.  Faith healing either
    works or it doesn’t, end of story.  And we checked, and it doesn’t.

    I guess I was focusing too much on the general thrust of your argument and not enough on the specific points. Lemme correct that.

    First, the souls thing. Once you’ve gotten a bunch of theologians together and got them to agree on a workable definition for souls or heaven or hell, you’ll almost certainly be dealing with something not detectable by our current methods. Evidence of divinity will probably never be detectable by scientific methods, because omnipotence is handy that way and if whatever divinity hasn’t offered proof yet, it probably won’t in the future. So you aren’t going to get any definite scientific evidence of souls or whatever. So what? Science is a tool. It’s an enormously useful and frequently fun tool, but it’s not the sum total of the human condition.

    You know, you could ask an astronomer (or maybe you are one) how many planets have life on them, and zie wouldn’t be able to come up with an experiment we could currently do to find the answer. That’s not a problem. It’s perfectly fine to not know things. Claiming an idea is bunk because people can’t answer every possible question about every possible aspect is something creationists do to attack science. Since we can’t empirically prove the existence or nonexistence of God, we have to go on the best evidence we have; i.e. each person’s subjective introspective journeys or sensations of divine presence or lack thereof or whatever.

    Second, the faith healing thing. Yes, faith healing is bunk and people should get themselves to actual medical professionals. The same goes for homeopathy and all the other myriad forms of woo. I agree with you completely there. I disagree with you that that matters. When you strip away faith healing from Christianity, you’re left with (drum roll please)……..Christianity! Faith healing is a not core tenet of the religion the way loving God and one’s neighbors is. It’s as vital to “religion as most people think of it” as snake handling or speaking in tongues. Strike that, it’s as vital to Christianity as snake handling or speaking in tongues. I don’t know whether or not other religions practice it.

    I thought that last sentence was a tangent, but it looks like it’s a segue. Religion is not a monolithic entity. Christianity is not a monolithic entity. American, Protestant, Evangelical, Christianity is not a monolithic entity, as suggested by the fact that our American, Protestant, Evangelical, Christian host posts about the ways he disagrees with his peers about how God wants them to treat humanity and the world. If you need to find one such post, scroll up. There’s plenty of room in religion for an appreciation of reality. Heck, during Islam’s golden age they were making advances in astronomy and navigation and algebra specifically because of their religion.

  • Rikalous

    …whether or not souls exist is not a subjective thing that has nothing
    to do with science.  Either souls exist, or they don’t.  Now maybe
    they’re undetectable, but even that doesn’t make them subjective.

    The
    same thing is true of heaven.  Or hell.  Or angels.  Or Jesus.  Or an
    inherent telos written upon the cosmos.  Or an inner yearning for God
    written on the hearts of mankind.  I mean, I can do this all day.  These
    things either are or are not.  Whether you believe in them isn’t like
    whether you prefer sausage or bacon, where its literally impossible for
    your answer to be incorrect because no matter what subjective opinion
    you hold, its your subjective opinion.  These are questions about
    facts.  Even if, through some bizarre coincidence, they are all facts
    that are somehow completely outside the practical reach of human
    knowledge, they’re still not subjective.

    Now if someone comes up
    to you and claims that you’re not allowed to morally approve or
    disapprove of homosexuality (or murder, of women wearing pants) because
    science hasn’t demonstrated the answer, then your response will make
    sense.  Use it then.  But right now, in response to what you quoted,
    it’s wrongheaded in the most extreme of senses.  Faith healing either
    works or it doesn’t, end of story.  And we checked, and it doesn’t.

    I guess I was focusing too much on the general thrust of your argument and not enough on the specific points. Lemme correct that.

    First, the souls thing. Once you’ve gotten a bunch of theologians together and got them to agree on a workable definition for souls or heaven or hell, you’ll almost certainly be dealing with something not detectable by our current methods. Evidence of divinity will probably never be detectable by scientific methods, because omnipotence is handy that way and if whatever divinity hasn’t offered proof yet, it probably won’t in the future. So you aren’t going to get any definite scientific evidence of souls or whatever. So what? Science is a tool. It’s an enormously useful and frequently fun tool, but it’s not the sum total of the human condition.

    You know, you could ask an astronomer (or maybe you are one) how many planets have life on them, and zie wouldn’t be able to come up with an experiment we could currently do to find the answer. That’s not a problem. It’s perfectly fine to not know things. Claiming an idea is bunk because people can’t answer every possible question about every possible aspect is something creationists do to attack science. Since we can’t empirically prove the existence or nonexistence of God, we have to go on the best evidence we have; i.e. each person’s subjective introspective journeys or sensations of divine presence or lack thereof or whatever.

    Second, the faith healing thing. Yes, faith healing is bunk and people should get themselves to actual medical professionals. The same goes for homeopathy and all the other myriad forms of woo. I agree with you completely there. I disagree with you that that matters. When you strip away faith healing from Christianity, you’re left with (drum roll please)……..Christianity! Faith healing is a not core tenet of the religion the way loving God and one’s neighbors is. It’s as vital to “religion as most people think of it” as snake handling or speaking in tongues. Strike that, it’s as vital to Christianity as snake handling or speaking in tongues. I don’t know whether or not other religions practice it.

    I thought that last sentence was a tangent, but it looks like it’s a segue. Religion is not a monolithic entity. Christianity is not a monolithic entity. American, Protestant, Evangelical, Christianity is not a monolithic entity, as suggested by the fact that our American, Protestant, Evangelical, Christian host posts about the ways he disagrees with his peers about how God wants them to treat humanity and the world. If you need to find one such post, scroll up. There’s plenty of room in religion for an appreciation of reality. Heck, during Islam’s golden age they were making advances in astronomy and navigation and algebra specifically because of their religion.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    What kind of gender essentialist garbage is that?  No seriously, how the fuck do you justify that kind of crap?

    Women
    are no less rational than men, and men are just as emotionally capable
    as women – if there is a correlation at all (and I doubt there is) it’s
    because society spends our entire lives trying to ram us into one of two
    different boxes, no matter who or what we really are.

    @mistharm:disqus don’t you know that when women base anything on a subjective, emotional response it’s their feeeelings (soft, flaky etc) but when men do the same it’s their gut (strong, tough, roar). Totally different.

    Sarcasm off, I know shitloads of men who think that feelings are more important than facts. They get praised for this approach because they are men of conviction yeah! Women, on the other hand, are irrational and might cry which is awkward and maybe they’re just expressing themselves like that because it’s that time of the month which ew.

    So yeah, sexist bullshit.

  • Rikalous

    Whoops. You aren’t the same person my original comment was directed to. Sorry about that.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    What kind of gender essentialist garbage is that?  No seriously, how the fuck do you justify that kind of crap?

    Women
    are no less rational than men, and men are just as emotionally capable
    as women – if there is a correlation at all (and I doubt there is) it’s
    because society spends our entire lives trying to ram us into one of two
    different boxes, no matter who or what we really are.

    @mistharm:disqus don’t you know that when women base anything on a subjective, emotional response it’s their feeeelings (soft, flaky etc) but when men do the same it’s their gut (strong, tough, roar). Totally different.

    Sarcasm off, I know shitloads of men who think that feelings are more important than facts. They get praised for this approach because they are men of conviction yeah! Women, on the other hand, are irrational and might cry which is awkward and maybe they’re just expressing themselves like that because it’s that time of the month which ew.

    So yeah, sexist bullshit.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    What kind of gender essentialist garbage is that?  No seriously, how the fuck do you justify that kind of crap?

    Women
    are no less rational than men, and men are just as emotionally capable
    as women – if there is a correlation at all (and I doubt there is) it’s
    because society spends our entire lives trying to ram us into one of two
    different boxes, no matter who or what we really are.

    @mistharm:disqus don’t you know that when women base anything on a subjective, emotional response it’s their feeeelings (soft, flaky etc) but when men do the same it’s their gut (strong, tough, roar). Totally different.

    Sarcasm off, I know shitloads of men who think that feelings are more important than facts. They get praised for this approach because they are men of conviction yeah! Women, on the other hand, are irrational and might cry which is awkward and maybe they’re just expressing themselves like that because it’s that time of the month which ew.

    So yeah, sexist bullshit.

  • Rikalous

    Whoops. You aren’t the same person my original comment was directed to. Sorry about that.

  • hapax

    But the construct of science as a discipline is such that these ideas
    and attitudes will eventually be weeded out.  It’s self-correcting.

    Oddly enough, so is “religion.”  The history of the faith I have studied the most — Western Christianity — begins as a “correction” of the dominant religion of the founder’s culture, and went through constant periods of expansion and pruning, openness and “purification”, reformation and counter-reformation…

    Just because *right now*, the noisiest Christians in one country on Earth have decided to pitch their tent on a particularly vile, cruel, and ignorant patch of barbarism and self-deception, doesn’t mean that defines Christianity, let alone “religion.”

    But I think your absolute faith in “peer review”, while touching, is a bit naive.  Yes, it certainly can operate the way you describe; it definitely should;  but it doesn’t have to.  I have seen many many times the peer review process used to enforce institutional biases and traditional assumptions, not to mention being used as a vehicle for personal vendettas.

    And as far as “notoriety” as a corrective mechanism — well, I can’t think of *any* living scientist who is exactly a household name in the USA, but the nearest equivalent I can think of are those who are quoted in the various pseudoscientific “documentaries” that clutter up cable television.  And if we’re talking money, not fame… all I can think of is spouse, who has spent decades building up a certain reputation in his field, but who literally cannot afford to send his children to college on his income.  However, he knows for a fact (because he’s had former colleagues who have done exactly this) that he could quadruple his earnings if he were willing to go work for the cryptozoological hunters, and add a whole ‘nother zero to his salary if he was willing to shill for the Discovery Institute.

    So yes, I have great respect, admiration, and appreciation of the discipline of science, its accomplishments, and many of its individual practicioners.  Just as I do for the tradition of Christianity. 

    But I see no particular reason why I have to choose one or the other.

  • swbarnes2

    No one has said anything about science being art, or morality, or a dessert topping and a floor cleaner either.  Science is about a way of thinking where you attempt to minimize the wrong number of things you believe, by believing in things to the extent that the evidence has failed to falsify your belief, and to the extent that the evidence has supported it.  And no, science can’t tell you whether to support charity, but it can tell you that supporting, say, homeopaths who are trying to “treat” refugees is not going to actually heal anyone.  Surely that’s relevent.

    If my co-authors are wrong about the gene in question being the target of their new antibacterial compound, there are experiments which will demonstrate to them that they are wrong, and then they will stop believing that wrong thing.  Doesn’t everyone agree that that’s a good thing?

    If I have an inaccurate belief about souls, how do I determine that, so I can stop believing that wrong thing?  How am supposed to believe accurate things about the soul if I have no robust way to distinguish between true facts about the soul and false facts about it?

    Why is it a bad “moral imperative” to want to believe as few false things as possible? 

  • hapax

    But the construct of science as a discipline is such that these ideas
    and attitudes will eventually be weeded out.  It’s self-correcting.

    Oddly enough, so is “religion.”  The history of the faith I have studied the most — Western Christianity — begins as a “correction” of the dominant religion of the founder’s culture, and went through constant periods of expansion and pruning, openness and “purification”, reformation and counter-reformation…

    Just because *right now*, the noisiest Christians in one country on Earth have decided to pitch their tent on a particularly vile, cruel, and ignorant patch of barbarism and self-deception, doesn’t mean that defines Christianity, let alone “religion.”

    But I think your absolute faith in “peer review”, while touching, is a bit naive.  Yes, it certainly can operate the way you describe; it definitely should;  but it doesn’t have to.  I have seen many many times the peer review process used to enforce institutional biases and traditional assumptions, not to mention being used as a vehicle for personal vendettas.

    And as far as “notoriety” as a corrective mechanism — well, I can’t think of *any* living scientist who is exactly a household name in the USA, but the nearest equivalent I can think of are those who are quoted in the various pseudoscientific “documentaries” that clutter up cable television.  And if we’re talking money, not fame… all I can think of is spouse, who has spent decades building up a certain reputation in his field, but who literally cannot afford to send his children to college on his income.  However, he knows for a fact (because he’s had former colleagues who have done exactly this) that he could quadruple his earnings if he were willing to go work for the cryptozoological hunters, and add a whole ‘nother zero to his salary if he was willing to shill for the Discovery Institute.

    So yes, I have great respect, admiration, and appreciation of the discipline of science, its accomplishments, and many of its individual practicioners.  Just as I do for the tradition of Christianity. 

    But I see no particular reason why I have to choose one or the other.

  • swbarnes2

    No one has said anything about science being art, or morality, or a dessert topping and a floor cleaner either.  Science is about a way of thinking where you attempt to minimize the wrong number of things you believe, by believing in things to the extent that the evidence has failed to falsify your belief, and to the extent that the evidence has supported it.  And no, science can’t tell you whether to support charity, but it can tell you that supporting, say, homeopaths who are trying to “treat” refugees is not going to actually heal anyone.  Surely that’s relevent.

    If my co-authors are wrong about the gene in question being the target of their new antibacterial compound, there are experiments which will demonstrate to them that they are wrong, and then they will stop believing that wrong thing.  Doesn’t everyone agree that that’s a good thing?

    If I have an inaccurate belief about souls, how do I determine that, so I can stop believing that wrong thing?  How am supposed to believe accurate things about the soul if I have no robust way to distinguish between true facts about the soul and false facts about it?

    Why is it a bad “moral imperative” to want to believe as few false things as possible? 

  • hapax

    How am supposed to believe accurate things about the soul if I have no
    robust way to distinguish between true facts about the soul and false
    facts about it?

    I have never ever personally encountered a person of faith who feels that their religion is about distinguishing “accurate facts about the soul.”

    Generally speaking, the question of importance is “I already *know* I have a soul [or accept some other supernatural entity -- personally, I'm not terribly interested in "souls" myself] — so how then should I live?”

    What “robust” method does the scientific “way of thinking” offer to answer THAT question?

  • hapax

    How am supposed to believe accurate things about the soul if I have no
    robust way to distinguish between true facts about the soul and false
    facts about it?

    I have never ever personally encountered a person of faith who feels that their religion is about distinguishing “accurate facts about the soul.”

    Generally speaking, the question of importance is “I already *know* I have a soul [or accept some other supernatural entity -- personally, I'm not terribly interested in "souls" myself] — so how then should I live?”

    What “robust” method does the scientific “way of thinking” offer to answer THAT question?

  • Tonio

    Sophia, thanks for the clarification. I was already aware that BCE/CE had been around for some time, although I didn’t know that it dated back to Kepler. And my knowledge about the Daily Mail is limited to “Paperback Writer.” It’s disappointing to learn that the “War on Christmas” crowd that can’t stand religious neutrality seems to have a UK franchise.

  • Tonio

    Sophia, thanks for the clarification. I was already aware that BCE/CE had been around for some time, although I didn’t know that it dated back to Kepler. And my knowledge about the Daily Mail is limited to “Paperback Writer.” It’s disappointing to learn that the “War on Christmas” crowd that can’t stand religious neutrality seems to have a UK franchise.

  • Randall M

    I think that the early Superman films surrendered any claim to
    scientific accuracy when it asked us to accept that time on Earth can be
    rewound by flying around the planet so fast it starts to rotate
    backward.

    I must have missed something.  When exactly did the early Superman films–or the later Superman films, for that matter–make a claim to scientific accuracy?

  • Randall M

    I think that the early Superman films surrendered any claim to
    scientific accuracy when it asked us to accept that time on Earth can be
    rewound by flying around the planet so fast it starts to rotate
    backward.

    I must have missed something.  When exactly did the early Superman films–or the later Superman films, for that matter–make a claim to scientific accuracy?

  • Ross

    Why is it a bad “moral imperative” to want to believe as few false things as possible?

    I’m sure there are valid moral systems where this is not the case, but as a general rule, I don’t find moral imperatives to be especially good when they can be best met by doing nothing.

    It seems like the surest way to meet your moral imperative is to *never believe anything*.

  • Ross

    Why is it a bad “moral imperative” to want to believe as few false things as possible?

    I’m sure there are valid moral systems where this is not the case, but as a general rule, I don’t find moral imperatives to be especially good when they can be best met by doing nothing.

    It seems like the surest way to meet your moral imperative is to *never believe anything*.

  • Ross

    Why is it a bad “moral imperative” to want to believe as few false things as possible?

    I’m sure there are valid moral systems where this is not the case, but as a general rule, I don’t find moral imperatives to be especially good when they can be best met by doing nothing.

    It seems like the surest way to meet your moral imperative is to *never believe anything*.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    hapax:

    The fundamental thing, I think, is that science has been developed as a way to ask questions of nature. This of necessity requires the willingness to discard wrong hypotheses and in this way seek an accurate description of what it is we can sense (by means both direct and instrumentally) in this universe.

    I don’t think faith of any kind, be it religious or otherwise, is obligated to do the same thing, since the questions faith answers aren’t ones necessarily easily answerable by science (a simple one being “Why is all the life on this planet here, today?”)

    Science can answer the how. It’s up to each of us, individually, in the end, to answer the why as we see fit.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    hapax:

    The fundamental thing, I think, is that science has been developed as a way to ask questions of nature. This of necessity requires the willingness to discard wrong hypotheses and in this way seek an accurate description of what it is we can sense (by means both direct and instrumentally) in this universe.

    I don’t think faith of any kind, be it religious or otherwise, is obligated to do the same thing, since the questions faith answers aren’t ones necessarily easily answerable by science (a simple one being “Why is all the life on this planet here, today?”)

    Science can answer the how. It’s up to each of us, individually, in the end, to answer the why as we see fit.

  • Tonio

    No one has said anything about science being art, or morality, or a dessert topping and a floor cleaner either.

    Even Francis Collins is guilty of using that pointless straw man when he points out that science cannot answer questions such as “why are we here” and “what is the meaning of life.” He’s smart enough to know that his colleagues aren’t expecting science to answer such questions. What’s more, he’s smart enough to know that the phrasing of those questions presupposes the existence of a governing intelligence to the universe. Can the questions be reworded so as to treat that existence as an open question, or would that negate the basis for the questions themselves? It may be that “what is the meaning of life” is nothing more than a matter of opinion.

  • Tonio

    No one has said anything about science being art, or morality, or a dessert topping and a floor cleaner either.

    Even Francis Collins is guilty of using that pointless straw man when he points out that science cannot answer questions such as “why are we here” and “what is the meaning of life.” He’s smart enough to know that his colleagues aren’t expecting science to answer such questions. What’s more, he’s smart enough to know that the phrasing of those questions presupposes the existence of a governing intelligence to the universe. Can the questions be reworded so as to treat that existence as an open question, or would that negate the basis for the questions themselves? It may be that “what is the meaning of life” is nothing more than a matter of opinion.

  • Mark Z.

    I don’t think faith of any kind, be it religious or otherwise, is obligated to do the same thing, since the questions faith answers aren’t ones necessarily easily answerable by science (a simple one being “Why is all the life on this planet here, today?”)

    I don’t disagree with you, exactly, but it’s extremely weird that you describe faith as a way of answering questions.

    I have something that I would describe as faith, and it has never answered a question for me. Not once. What my faith does, mostly, is poke me with a stick.

  • Mark Z.

    I don’t think faith of any kind, be it religious or otherwise, is obligated to do the same thing, since the questions faith answers aren’t ones necessarily easily answerable by science (a simple one being “Why is all the life on this planet here, today?”)

    I don’t disagree with you, exactly, but it’s extremely weird that you describe faith as a way of answering questions.

    I have something that I would describe as faith, and it has never answered a question for me. Not once. What my faith does, mostly, is poke me with a stick.

  • Tonio

    Now you’re confusing me. The question “Why is all the life on this planet here, today?” is essentially a restatement of “How did all the life on this planet come to be?” with the presupposition that the life is here for a purpose. And again, that presupposes that a governing intelligence is at work. But when you say that it’s up to each of us individually to answer the why as we see fit, that suggests you’re treating “why” as really meaning “Now what?” or “What shall each of us do with our lives?” Is that your intention? If so, that’s the first time I’ve heard of anyone using the word “why” that way, and that use would never have occurred to me.

  • Tonio

    Now you’re confusing me. The question “Why is all the life on this planet here, today?” is essentially a restatement of “How did all the life on this planet come to be?” with the presupposition that the life is here for a purpose. And again, that presupposes that a governing intelligence is at work. But when you say that it’s up to each of us individually to answer the why as we see fit, that suggests you’re treating “why” as really meaning “Now what?” or “What shall each of us do with our lives?” Is that your intention? If so, that’s the first time I’ve heard of anyone using the word “why” that way, and that use would never have occurred to me.

  • hapax

    Tonio, the straw man in this conversation is constructed by those (very few) who took Fred Clark’s post as an opportunity to say, once again, “You can’t have “science” without rejecting “religion”.”

    Which is just the flip side of the silly anti-science platform certain Evangelical leaders are encouraging the Republican party to adopt.

    NOBODY in this thread — either the OP or any of the commenters — are saying “You must accept some form of religious faith, or be devoid of ethics or morality or meaning or art or anything else.” 

    I want everyone to find a world view — atheist, theistic, agnostic, or I-don’t-care-ic — that keeps them healthy and happy and leads them to make the world better and more joyful.
    If they want to explain it to me, I’m interested.  If they want me to accept it, I’ll give them a hearing, but reserve the right at any point to say, “Nope, sorry, not for me.”  If they want to force it on me, by legislation or other means — well, I’m going to resist that by every means my pacifist beliefs allow.  And I expect — no, I INSIST — that those who share my basic beliefs extend the same courtesy to others.

    I cannot see any way that Fred Clark is saying here, “Hey, all people who care about science must accept my brand of Evangelical Christianity.”  The only possible reading I can make of this post is, “Hey, all you Evangelical Christians who already share the basic tenets of my faith:  if we agree that we worship a God who is like THIS, and who told us THAT, how can we do other than eagerly embrace science as a technique for learning about the natural world, and using what we learn to inform our policies?”

    If there is something that I am missing in the OP, or in any of the posts that followed, I’d truly appreciate someone showing it to me.

  • hapax

    Tonio, the straw man in this conversation is constructed by those (very few) who took Fred Clark’s post as an opportunity to say, once again, “You can’t have “science” without rejecting “religion”.”

    Which is just the flip side of the silly anti-science platform certain Evangelical leaders are encouraging the Republican party to adopt.

    NOBODY in this thread — either the OP or any of the commenters — are saying “You must accept some form of religious faith, or be devoid of ethics or morality or meaning or art or anything else.” 

    I want everyone to find a world view — atheist, theistic, agnostic, or I-don’t-care-ic — that keeps them healthy and happy and leads them to make the world better and more joyful.
    If they want to explain it to me, I’m interested.  If they want me to accept it, I’ll give them a hearing, but reserve the right at any point to say, “Nope, sorry, not for me.”  If they want to force it on me, by legislation or other means — well, I’m going to resist that by every means my pacifist beliefs allow.  And I expect — no, I INSIST — that those who share my basic beliefs extend the same courtesy to others.

    I cannot see any way that Fred Clark is saying here, “Hey, all people who care about science must accept my brand of Evangelical Christianity.”  The only possible reading I can make of this post is, “Hey, all you Evangelical Christians who already share the basic tenets of my faith:  if we agree that we worship a God who is like THIS, and who told us THAT, how can we do other than eagerly embrace science as a technique for learning about the natural world, and using what we learn to inform our policies?”

    If there is something that I am missing in the OP, or in any of the posts that followed, I’d truly appreciate someone showing it to me.


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