Sunday, February 13, 2011
This is interesting.
Russell Blackford is explaining "incompatiblism":
[A]nti-accommodationists note the way that religion needs to be constantly reinterpreted to maintain even logical consistency with our empirically-based secular knowledge. This process in itself leaves religious beliefs looking ad hoc and implausible.But, wait a minute, doesn't science constantly reinterpret itself to maintain consistency with empirically-based knowledge?
So, is the complaint that those forms of theism that try to reconcile empirical knowledge and religious faith are being too damn much like science?
Labels: Accommodationism Incompatiblism
I haven't read Russell's post, TL;DR (I think that's how it goes), but science is a set of methodologies, or whatever that we use to asymptotically approach truth. It is grounded epistemologically in epirical evidence and theories that coherently tie that together. It is in science its self to alter as it approaches truth (and I'm not meaning that it progress ever onward without hicup or stuff up, reverse, swerve, 3 point turn and so on). It's hard to see that foundational methodology as ad-hoc.
Religion asserts certain statements that appear to be about reality and are not grounded espistemologically in empirical evidence. They might be grounded in revelation or something. That some do alter or reinterpret to the latest findings of science, and perhaps make themselves hostages to fortune is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is ad-hoc. It's not part of the 'religious method or teaching'. I suppose one could look to Augustine or whoever it was who said 'Don't look foolish in front of the non believers' and stretch that to 'alter religious teaching to fit the best empirical science we have'.
Anyway, just my 2 cents. I know you wouldn't be suggesting the rhetorical question I opened with.
Of course. But the claim that any theism that adjusts its beliefs to match empiric fact is "incompatible" with science needs more support than just saying that the beliefs are ad hoc. In addition, science is deliberately ad hoc when it comes to its theories (at least up to a point), so ad hoc-ness, in and of itself, can't be evidence of its truth value.
I'm surprised that you didn't comment more on this part of Blackford's post:
"The term 'accommodationism' applies to people who say, in a naive (or disingenuous), unqualified way that 'science is compatible with religion'. More particularly, it applies to people who think that it is possible to accommodate traditional religious beliefs, without any great intellectual strain, within a science-based view of reality."
The part before the "More particularly" is basically a way of saying "accommodationism is about asserting that 'science is incompatible with religion' in an unqualified way" without saying it outright. Blackford's phrasing "The term 'accommodationism' applies to people who say ..." allows him an out in that he can say that the term "accommodationism" applies to people who say far less silly things, but him using that out to explain away his implications would be, um, ad hoc. Considering that "accommodationism" is a term that came out from a conflict between science and certain kinds of religion, and that known "accommodationists" like Eugenie Scott are in the thick of such conflicts, painting accommodationists as those who just broadly say that "science is compatible with religion" is disingenuous.
The part after the "More particularly" is sort of true (although it's rather odd that what comes after the "More particularly" is broader than what comes before it). How true it is depends in part on whether "traditional religious beliefs" is meant to imply "some traditional religious beliefs." The "without any great intellectual strain" is arguable, too.
I see a few tells.
First, "science is compatible with religion" should really read "science CAN BE compatible with religion" since we know there are religious beliefs disproven by science.
Second, "without any great intellectual strain" is terribly vague and seems to imply that if one has to work at religion to make it compatible then there's something wrong with religion. I don't know what that means for physicists who have to adjust their theories based on new discoveries from the LHC.
Third, "within a science-based view of reality." Ehat does that even mean? Philosophical naturalism? Well of course you can't reconcile religion with that. But that has nothing to say about whether religion can be compatible with science.
And for the record, I had fun at church last night celebrating Darwin Day. Everyone was very compatible.
This is a metaphysical assumption for which there exists no confirmation.
Fair enough, but what would refute a straightforward plain reading of a theory and what tends to look more like clumsy excuses are matters of judgment, not objective fact. A major part of the IDer "critique" of evolution is a claim that it engages in ad hoc explanations of, for example, function in junk DNA. That's false, of course, but its not so easy to show why.
I'm surprised that you didn't comment more on this part of Blackford's post ...
It was a late night, insomniac post and I went for the easy line, hoping there would be more discussion ... which I think you have ably done.
Are you saying then that we know no more about the natural world than we did before? Denying The Relativity of Wrong?
I personally believe that we are nearer the truth than say the scientists in the 17th century but there is no way to prove that belief.
Well, it's a short hand for 'as far as I can tell, our theories describe the world better than the theories of previous centuries but I cannot say that our theories describe the world accurately and will not be amended.'
I'm not sure it's a metaphysical assumption that general relativity does a better job of fitting the data than newtonian mechanics, which is a limiting case of general relativity. Likewise evolutionary theory seems a much closer fit with the evidence than the great chain of being. So, we seem to have approached truth or reality without claiming to be able to hit it exactly (asymptotic approach). I have in mind a quote from Arthur C. Clarke (I think) in response to the radical skeptics claim that as our theories are always open to revision and rejection we really don't know anything about reality. But we do know more about reality now (QM, relativity, evolution, etc) than we did in times past. We don't know with certainty, but we do know more. That seems to suggest to me that we're close to reality or truth than we were.
If that's a metaphysical assumption, then its one we all seem happy to make, and seems justified as any inductive assumption. (Enter problem of induction!)
Fair enough. There does seem to be an asymetry. Theism seems to just be able to say 'blah!' and that's OK. If someone points out that 'blah!' doesn't cut it, they're required to provide support for the claim that 'blah!' doesn't cut it. Shouldn't the burden of proof be on the one who proposed 'blah!'?
Then again, I haven't had my coffee yet and I've got Mondayitis. So, if my point makes no sense that's my excuse. :)
People, including Gnu Atheists like Larry Moran, hold positions -- such as his granddaughter is "the third most wonderful girl in the world" (presumably after his wife and daughter) that are neither rational nor scientific. Yes, I know Larry is tongue-in-cheek about Zoë relative rank in the world, but not his love for her ... an empiric fact of the world that (I hope) he has not put to any scientific test. And, yes, it is the same thing ... a "blah!" statement that Larry is unwilling (again, I hope) to subject to rational, scientific testing. It's just something that's OK for him to believe.
Shouldn't the burden of proof be on the one who proposed 'blah!'?
I'm not a big fan of "burden of proof " arguments.
I love my wife, son, cats (sometimes) and many other things. And no, I'm not going to claim for a second that I've scientifically tested it. Certainly it's empiric in the sense that I experience it and that my wife at least acts in a way consistent with loving me. My son, he's only 8 and a bit months old, lights up when I come home from work or pick him up, but I don't think he could be said to love me.
But I'm not using this to claim that you ought do A, B, or C or that this means that reality is otherwise (I mean, it seems obvious that I and my wife exists for instance, not an act of faith) for all of us because I love my wife and (I believe that) she loves me in return. I don't quite follow your point.
The burden of proof is on whoever wants to persuade the other. If the religious person wants to persuade the other person of the truth of 'blah', the religious person will have to demonstrate (can't we put "proof" and "prove" out to pasture when we're outside math and court?) to the other person the truth of 'blah'. However, if the religious person believes 'blah' to be true and has no purpose to persuade the other person of its truth, but is being challenged on it, then the religious person is not under any obligation to attempt to demonstrate the truth of 'blah'. This may be frustrating to the other person, but so what?
"The term "accommodationism" applies to people who say, in a naive (or disingenuous), unqualified way that "science is compatible with religion". More particularly, it applies to people who think that it is possible to accommodate traditional religious beliefs, without any great intellectual strain, within a science-based view of reality.";
"Anti-accommodationists do not deny that there are vaguely religious views that avoid direct conflict with science - a non-literalist view, perhaps, or a very austere Deism - and we've said this many times."
we've got Blackford engaged in a cheap debating manoeuvre of applying his own pet definitions so that all the reasonable people get lumped onto his side for no plausible reason. I don't know anyone who believes in an ' unqualified way that "science is compatible with religion" ' or even says it as other than shorthand (the way, for instance, Larry Moran has said without qualification 'religion is incompatible with science' though he doesn't actually believe it nor intend anyone to take it that way). I do regularly notice people who self-identify as accommodationist rather than anti-accommodationist who don't hold the silly view Blackford claims characterizes accommodationists and who do hold the view he attributes to anti-accommodationists.
I can't recall reading Blackford's stuff before, but on the basis of that post, why do people take this guy seriously? That kind of definition trick is of Luskinesque quality. Is it just the old business of accepting uncritically any argument whose results they approve of?
I don't quite follow your point.
Well, according to the Gnu Atheists, if you take them at their word, your beliefs are "incompatible" with a science-based view of reality ... right along with theirs, unless they are the sort of stunted people who don't know and appreciate love or art or literature or all the other "ways of knowing" that don't involve science. Why do they get to carve out areas of their lives where they can be science-free and other people don't? Sure, if someone says the Earth is 6,000 years old, we can say that such a belief is "incompatible" with science. But if someone accepts the results of science but still believes in God, how is that any more "incompatible" with a science-based view of reality than believing, without scientific evidence, that they love and are loved? And what is wrong with pointing that out?
I can't recall reading Blackford's stuff before, but on the basis of that post, why do people take this guy seriously?
Blackford is a professional philosopher (and a lawyer, and, therefore, among the bretheren) who is one of the more reasonable of the Gnus.
But, as John Wilkins has said, Gnu Atheism is more about tribalism than anything else, and like the others in that tribe, Blackford has been drifting toward ... well ... accomodating the more extreme elements in that camp, especially since Coyne "adopted" him (tellingly calling him "Brother Blackford"). When I knew PZ on talk.origins (and, indeed, when he first started blogging), he was not the fire-breathing Gnu he is today. Something similar is happening with Blackford, though he is still among the more thoughtful of the Lords of the Flies.
Totally, I guess I find that religious people often try to tell me indirectly (via laws) what is right, and what people can do with their bodies and how the government should spend tax dollars all based on their claims. So, I reckon the burden of proof is one them. I reckon their beliefs are bizarre and shouldn't be given a special place above other groups any more than conservatives or liberals. But if I say so, I'm a nasty gnu atheist. Which I reckon is an asymmetric.
Well, according to the Gnu Atheists, if you take them at their word, your beliefs are "incompatible" with a science-based view of reality
Well, then I'm not a gnu if that is what a gnu is.
But if someone accepts the results of science but still believes in God, how is that any more "incompatible" with a science-based view of reality than believing, without scientific evidence, that they love and are loved? And what is wrong with pointing that out?
Here's where we stray into waters that are too deep for my non-deep mind to navigate very well. I can sort of see two sides. On one side, that my wife, and I exist seems to me undeniable. That I love her seems to me undeniable. That she loves me is deniable, because none of us can get into her mind, but the evidence is consistent with such a state of affairs obtaining. Conversely, that there is a god and gives a fat rat's cloaca about us seems to me to be a non explanation (the universe is causally closed, explanations are causal, even personal explanations) for the evidence that exists in this world. So, I'm six of one, half-a-dozen of the other on this. I lean sort of towards the gnus, but not decisively, and certainly not dogmatically (except when under the influence of the demon drink, then I'm a rabid gnu dogmatist for the lolz).
Gnu Atheism is more about tribalism than anything else
To (mis)quote Marx (Groucho). I wouldn't join aAny group that would have me as a member!
"But, as John Wilkins has said, Gnu Atheism is more about tribalism than anything else"
Are you endorsing this view point?
The part where you just get to assert it and still call yourself "rational."
Are you endorsing this view point?
Most definitely. But don't feel bad, the Gnus share the trait with everyone else.
So according to you , the changes that most religious people make to tweak their theology is not ad hoc and is not implausible? (Which is different from say Jefferson cutting out all the supernatural bits which isn't ad hoc).
Most definitely. But don't feel bad,
Ha ha. You give yourself too much importance.
the Gnus share the trait with everyone else.
Because clearly that's what you meant to imply with your comment about tribalism.
That's just another way of making the same assertion. I personally find all religions implausible but I don't mistake my personal opinion for a rational argument.
You give yourself too much importance.
[Shug] You came to my place. I didn't drag you in here. If you don't care what I think, why are you wasting your time?
Because clearly that's what you meant to imply with your comment about tribalism.
I meant to imply exactly what I said. The fact that everyone else engages in tribalism of one sort or another doesn't make what I said about the Gnus untrue. And the Gnus are such a good example of it ... especially when you add the irony of their loud proclaimations of their own rationalism.
And is that based on some rational reasons?
If you don't care what I think, why are you wasting your time?
Not what I said. You assumed that I'd feel bad based on your tribalism comment. Have no fear on that regard.
And the Gnus are such a good example of it
Really? Lets see most Gnu's don't care for Hitchens's support of the war and make it known. Many disagree with Harris's latest book. Many Pharyngula commenters disagree with P.Z. on the sexism issue. What tribalism are you referring to?
Context is important. I have clear rational reasons to find Ken Ham's religion ad hoc and implausible. Not so much so in the case of of Ken Miller's.
Really? Lets see ...
I think you misunderstand what "tribalism" is. It doesn't imply lockstep agreement. Even religionists within the same sect disagree about doctrine, much less politics and social issues. Tribalism is about identifying with a group and its "worldview" and signaling your membership to others in the group.
I have clear rational reasons to find Ken Ham's religion ad hoc and implausible. Not so much so in the case of of Ken Miller's.
How so? God, the supernatural entity , if exists, could do anything and everything(neither Ham nor Miller can make any rational claim on any matter supernatural). Miller's God is no more implausible than Ham's. Ken Miller is also a Roman Catholic , right? Are you seriously telling me you find the teachings of Catholicism plausible?
Tribalism is about identifying with a group and its "worldview"
And Im pointing out to you there isn't a worldview. What is a Gnu stance of morality? What is a Gnu stance on war? What is a Gnu stance on sexism?
How does not preferring to see the influence of religion in public reduced, qualify as "worldview"?
And what is the identification exactly? Posting some comments on a blog? Reading chapters from the God Delusion every week?
The fact that a claim is arational is not a rational argument that it is untrue ... unless you assume that everything is amenable to human reason. That assumption is not, itself, the result of reason.
Are you seriously telling me you find the teachings of Catholicism plausible?
Again, that is just another way of making an assertion about its plausibility, not a reasoned argument.
Im pointing out to you there isn't a worldview.
That's not what Jerry Coyne and Russell Blackford say. While they don't explicitly identify "a worldview based on science and reason" with Gnu Atheism, it is clear from the context that is exactly what they are claiming.
And what is the identification exactly?
Oh, gathering together physically in church or virtually in blogs, intoning the same ideas, such as "America is a Chritian nation" or "religion is ad hoc and implausible," insisting that atheists are immoral or that liberal theists are "enablers" of suicide bombers, etc. etc.
But I'm not making that claim. I'm claiming that any claim about God is as plausible as any other because there is no way to find out(and if there is let me know) - when you give a being omnipotence then anything is possible including logical paradoxes. Certainly claims about God can be less or more harmful (which is why most people prefer Miller to Ham) - But you can't evaluate the plausibility of the claims. On what basis do you say Miller is more plausible than Ham? Remember God is omnipotent. He could do everything that Ham has said he did and we would still see reality as we see it today.
not a reasoned argument.
Whoever said it was a reasoned argument? I asked you a question- Do you find Roman Catholic beliefs plausible (and implied that I would find that rather hard to believe , especially after you have just claimed that you find most religious beliefs implausible). And that then it seems contradictory to say that Roman Catholic beliefs are implausible , but Miller's aren't even though he is a Roman Catholic - unless Miller is a Catholic in name only(which I haven't seen mentioned anywhere else).
And who appointed Coyne and Blackford as representative of all GNU's. They express their opinions in their blogs and people comment on that - Some disagree. Would you accept say Chris Mooney's views on Science/religion as representative of all accomodationists? It seems you would recognise that accomodationism is a pretty useless word, because it is now used to describe such a wide range of opinions that one must carefully qualify what is being referred to. However you don't see that the same applies to the term gnu atheist.
Ha. So sharing a view point with someone is tribal identification?
Which is pretty much what I said at the outset. But I can evaluate Ham's claims about science by science's standards. My personal opinion is that science is the best way to knowledge we've got and, therefore, I find it more plausible and Ham's beliefs about science, which he states is part of his religious beliefs, are less plausible.
Whoever said it was a reasoned argument?
Well, Blackford, who originally floated it and who I originally commented on, certainly presented as a rational argument.
And who appointed Coyne and Blackford as representative of all GNU's.
They are certainly among the leaders of what is called Gnu Atheism and you can find similar statements among the others, such as Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, PZ, et al.
But you say:
... but Miller's aren't even though he is a Roman Catholic - unless Miller is a Catholic in name only ...
By your logic, Roman Catholicism is not tribalistic because there are dissenters among their ranks. Frankly, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a Gnu who thinks their worldview isn't "based on science and reason" and who doesn't haunt the blogs of people like PZ and Coyne to associate with others with the same views. Of course, dissenting on (more or less) "rational" grounds is part of the worldview of Gnus, as people like Coyne, et al. define it, so they can dissent on things like politics and social issues while still signaling their membership in the group. More telling is their shared reaction to "outsiders," such as "faitheists" and "accomodationists" and theists.
Where did this come from?. Your statement is
I have clear rational reasons to find Ken Ham's religion ad hoc and implausible. Not so much so in the case of of Ken Miller's.
You compared the religion, not the science. There is also an implicit religious claim you are making , namely that God must obey the laws of physics or other scientific laws that we are aware of.
Well, Blackford, who originally floated it
Again where is this from?. I asked that do you seriously believe the claims of Roman Catholicism are plausible , to which you replied that , that is not a reasoned argument, to which I responded that it is a question not an argument - where does Blackford's argument come into the picture? Its a simple question to you- In your opinion are Roman Catholic beliefs plausible - if not, how are Millers beliefs plausible?
By your logic, Roman Catholicism is not tribalistic because there are dissenters among their ranks.
(most)Roman Catholics share a world view - gnu's don't. There are maybe two or three things that everyone agrees on. That certainly does not constitute a world view. I'd add that in my opinion you must prefer members of your tribe in some way to outsiders on a topic that has nothing to do with the definition of what constitutes your tribe for the tribalism accusation to fit. For e.g. When gnu's only want their children to marry other gnu's then maybe Id think your label is appropriate.
while still signaling their membership in the group
What commenting on a blog is now signaling membership? I must belong to your tribe then. Even you probably think your world view is shaped by science and reason - are you a gnu?
If you make claims about science that deny the rationale of science as part of your religion, I can rationally say your claims violate science. I can also decide which I think is more implausible, the denial of science or the religious belief that demands it. Ken Miller does not deny science. I don't see how this is hard to understand or how it us unrelated to the accommodationism/incompatibilism debate.
There is also an implicit religious claim you are making, namely that God must obey the laws of physics or other scientific laws that we are aware of.
[Sigh] Not at all. But if you insist on misinterpreting me, there's not much point in continuing this.
Its a simple question to you- In your opinion are Roman Catholic beliefs plausible - if not, how are Millers beliefs plausible?
By what metric? I have already stated that my personal opinion is that all religions are implausible. Some are more implausible than others for the "reasons" I gave above. What the heck are you asking for? I don't think my opinion is, ultimately, rationally based. Therefore, I don't think Blackford's is either, though I think he'd deny he was being arational. If we agree on that, what is there to argue about?
Roman Catholics share a world view - gnu's don't. There are maybe two or three things that everyone agrees on. That certainly does not constitute a world view.
[Shrug] Prominent gnu atheists disagree. All you have in opposition is your assertion. There is no reason to believe your assertion over theirs. The reactions I've seen among their "followers" supports their view of "Gnu Atheism" over yours.
I'd add that in my opinion you must prefer members of your tribe in some way to outsiders on a topic that has nothing to do with the definition of what constitutes your tribe for the tribalism accusation to fit.
I honestly do not know what that is supposed to mean.
What commenting on a blog is now signaling membership?
What? Going to church and saying the same sort of things as everyone else isn't signaling membership?
Even you probably think your world view is shaped by science and reason - are you a gnu?
I have been told in no uncertain terms that I can't be, since I'm an "accommodationist," by self-identified Gnus. That's how tribalism works.
a. Religious belief is implausible - because the most implausible belief is the being we call God (I fully expect you to say oh that's an assertion to avoid saying that you probably agree too). It's no good saying that some religious beliefs contradict the findings of science , because God as usually defined , is not constrained or bound by the laws of science/physics/logic. Given the assumption that God exists - then religious beliefs that contradict science aren't implausible. The implausibility lies in the assumption itself. So the Miller's religion is less implausible than Ham's is incorrect. It is of course true that Miller's science is more accurate than Ham's.
2. You believe that roman catholic beliefs are implausible. You also believe that Miller's religious beliefs are plausible. Im not sure what I should make of the two statements together.
3. On tribalism - Roman Catholics have an obligation to go to church every week and believe that Jesus is the son of God. So I don't consider that act "tribalism" - That's part of what you must do to be Roman Catholic. However their preference that they or their children should marry other Roman Catholics is tribalism.
Similarly that Gnu's share some viewpoints can't be tribalism because one must have those views to be considered a gnu in the first place.
Also if I remember correctly the term accomodationist was coined in response to the New Atheist label. i.e. the people engaging in you are different from us were the people we now refer to accomodationist which makes
That's how tribalism works.
amusingly ironic. You must be an expert.
Fair enough. I'll do the same. I find your thinking excessively dualistic, bordering on the fallacy of the excluded middle. You might as well declare that, because of Hume's problem of induction, all science is implausible and, therefore, we can't judge whether of not ID is less plausible science than evolutionary theory. I can use my personal criteria (science is the best knowledge we have) to decide which religious beliefs are less implausible than others, even if, in the end, I find them all implausible.
I think you have an excessively narrow definition of "tribalism." It is "the possession of a strong cultural or ethnic identity that separates one member of a group from the members of another group." The Gnu Atheists have declared themselves an intellectual, political and cultural movement to achieve shared objectives. The passion with which self-described Gnus identify with that culture is obvious when observing their "meeting places."
The term "accommodationism" wasn't coined in response to the term "New Atheists." It, along with "faitheist," was coined by Gnus to designate those who disagreed with them on matters of science education and public relations. It was, in short, done to identity what it is that separates Gnus from the members of other groups. It was an act directly intended (consciously or not) to create and confirm the existence of the Gnu tribe. As to my being an "expert" in tribalism, I did not coin the term "New Atheists" and never used it except in scare quotes as a handy term to talk about certain attitudes ... so handy that Gnus invented their own, precisely because they do share a cultural identity. "New Atheism" was coined by a magazine writer to describe the authors of the spate of popular books on atheism that came out within a short time of each other. That it was widely adopted by the public was, undoubtedly, an act of tribalism on the part of theists but I said tribalism was a trait shared by all humans. In that sense, we are all experts in tribalism ... as the Gnus continue to demonstrate.
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