Friday, November 24, 2006


Falling Skys

Larry Moran, in his inimitable style, has seen the firestorm he has touched off and rushed in ... to slosh some more gasoline around.
Specifically, he reiterates his claim that fine scientists, who happen also to be theists and who dare to speak outside of science classrooms of their clearly labeled religious beliefs, are more dangerous to science education than people who want their disguised beliefs taught as if they are science:

Public understanding of science will not be advanced by people like Francis Collins, Simon Conway Morris, and Ken Miller. They are subverting science in order to make it conform to their personal religious beliefs. (Which, by the way, conflict.) They are doing more harm to science than those who oppose it directly from the outside because the Theistic Evolutionists are subverting from within. It is sad that they are being supported by people who should know the difference between rationalism and superstition.
What Larry actually means is that his personal beliefs about the absence of gods, falsely claimed to be scientific, will not be advanced by intelligent and honorable theists discussing how they reconcile science and their beliefs. Frustrated that the general public won't accept his metaphysics, Larry would declare those who don't share his religious beliefs to be enemies of science. He even has a list in his hand ...

I don't have any problem with Larry expressing his beliefs, by the way. I'll just do what Larry does when someone says something stupid about evolutionary theory. I'll say it's stupid. And I'll make it as clear as I can to everyone that he does not speak for me and I don't share that particular stupidity. I'll stick with my own, thank you very much. I have no need to import Larry's.

To see the emptiness of Larry's position read, instead, John Wilkins' article, "On Learned Ignorance" for a dose of real rationalism, in contrast to Larry's hysteria.

More people are weighing in: Josh Rosenau, John Lynch, and Lynch again (making his third), are more or less in the anti-Larry camp. Coturnix and Buridan are in the pro camp.

Mike Dunford, in an act of incredible bravery or incredible foolhardiness, entered the fray between atheists and those they call wimps for not "taking a stand," by staking out a position between them, where both can draw a good bead ...

Well, no one can accuse the pro-science side of trying to maintain an artificial "big tent" ...

I have no problem with theists who advertise their beliefs, as long as they don't pretend that those beliefs are consistent with science. They aren't. They conflict with science.

I'd like them to be honest about that. What they are doing is promoting a view of science that incorporates miracles and gods who can manipulate the laws of physics and chemistry whenever they feel like it.

Do I think this is silly? Of course I do, but that's not the point. The point is that people should wake up to the fact that science and most religious beliefs are in conflict. Pretending they aren't is disingenious, at best.
Your criticism of their view depends upon your abilities as a theologian. Despite your repeated forays into that field, you remain spectacularly bad at it.

I'll give you the same challenge I gave PZ in a slightly different context: show your research proposal to test Miller's theology scientifically. If you can't, there is no sense in which science is involved at all.

Your personal philosophy, which you repeatedly mistake for science, no doubt conflicts with Miller's theology, but that doesn't make him dangerous to science education, only to your parochial beliefs.
I may not be an expert on theology, as you apparently are, but I do know something about science.

Miller and his friends say that their Gods meddle with evolution to create beings who will worship them. That's bad science. There is no scientific evidence to support meddling by supernatural beings.

I don't know whether this is good theology or not. And I don't care.
Since when in science is an absence of evidence evidence of absence (except in tightly constrained hypotheses)? Are we now to wonder about your abilities at the philosophy of science too?

And if the mere absence of evidence for such divine action is not scientific evidence against their beliefs and you have no way to gather any (I didn't forget your failure to provide that research proposal), then their theological beliefs are not anti-scientific, they are a-scientific. You know ... the same distinction you like to make about theology and atheists.

And, of course, that was what Miller was pointing out in his book: science doesn't conflict with his theology because his theology doesn't make the kind of claims about the world that are subject to empiric refutation or confirmation. And, as a good Catholic, if it should appear that some empiric evidence does conflict with his theology, he will adjust his theology to accommodate it.

The simple fact is, without any empiric evidence in favor of your position or any way to get some, it is obvious that what you are spouting is not science, but your own personal opinion and, based on how you've reacted when confronted with that kind of opinion in in the past, I know you are aware of its value ... or lack thereof.

And I don't have to be an expert in theology in order to see that you suck at it. You can't even recognize the difference between it and science.
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