Sunday, May 13, 2012

 

What You Do

I was going to recommend Jason Rosenhouse's post about the flap over Elliott Sober's argument that there is no scientific warrant for the contention that science has "disproven" the existence of god(s). 

Unlike Jerry Coyne, Jason seemed to treat the philosophical issues seriously.

... Until he accused Nick Matzke of "dishonestly twisting Coyne's words to give them a meaning he knows full well Coyne did not intend" but didn't have the cojones to defend that assertion.

I used to respect Jason ... but he has proved himself to be just another f..king ideologue willing to say or do anything in service of his "cause."

He is no better than Ken Ham or Kent Hovind!

I went too far in saying those things. I still think Jason was wrong to accuse Nick of dishonesty but that did not justify what I said and I apologize to Jason.

Comments:
"He is no better than Ken Ham or Kent Hovind"

Boggle. Is this meant to encourage people to take you seriously?
 
Boggle ... is misrepresenting a rational human like Nick supposed to encourage people to take Jason seriously?
 
I have no problem at all taking Jason seriously, even given a slip up like this one over "dishonesty". I am pretty confident Nick would feel the same.

I don't think Jason is remotely as bad as Ham or Hovind; just as I don't think Nick is actually dishonest.

It is quite true, of course, that Jason didn't help himself by calling Nick dishonest. Just as you have not helped yourself or anyone else with your even more extreme overreaction of saying Jason is no better than Ham or Hovind.

In the heat of discussion I've often seen invalid imputation of dishonesty, or lies, being made by people whom I generally respect and take seriously. It's a common overreaction online; one that is best recognized and retracted and forgotten. And not something worth fixating upon to the detriment of the issues being discussed.

I was reading the exchanges at EvolutionBlog; and I'm subscribed here as well and thought it worth giving this feedback. In my view you've taken up a low point in the debate and managed to drag it much lower again.

I meant to give my own name before; sorry. I am in most cases a fan, and a regular reader. Cheers -- Chris Ho-Stuart
 
Chris, I deeply respect your opinion and will certainly reconsider my position based on it.

As to how "bad" Jason is, it is, of course, relative. But that includes how smart we expect Jason to be. When Ham or Hovind crash and burn intellectually, we have no sense of disappointment.

Not so with Jason.

I may have taken a low point in the debate and dragged it lower but I'm not sure I'm willing to apologize to the person who drove it into the ground in the first place and has apparently no intention to correct his own stupidity.
 
Oh the irony.
Jason has proved (oh wait shouldn't that be overwhelming evidence where overwhelming is a subjective term - you are quite cavalier with the term proof when you want to be , huh)
to be a f...ing ideologue because he happened to characterize the argument of someone on your *side* as dishonest. Did you never stop to wonder what that makes you?
 
"He is no better than Ken Ham or Kent Hovind!"

John, may I suggest the hyperbole excuse to you?
 
From what I've read of both, I don't regard Nick Matzke as dishonest or Jason Rosenhouse as no better than Ken Ham or Kent Hovind ([Spanish Inquisition sketch] No one is worse than Ken Ham or Kent Hovind![/Spanish Inquisition sketch]) I suspect that in both cases people let momentary irritation get the better of them. It happens to us all. We're only human. Best thing would be to shake hands, agree that friendship and collegiality in its broadest sense are much more important than differences in interpretation of what Sober said or wrote, and move on.
 
Personally, I try to avoid ethically loaded words like "dishonesty"; except in two cases. One is when I actually *want* to focus debate on to the matter of morality or conduct. (Almost never a good idea.) The other is when dealing with someone for whom I have no respect at all. So I'd have used different wording, but that's just me; and Jason is good writer.

Be that as it may, the d-word did come up; and Jason and Nick's further exchange has positive features worth noting.

(1) Jason's phrasing focused on the act rather than the person. (That is, not "xxx is dishonest", but "this comment by xxx was dishonest".)

(2) Jason DID defend the assertion. He made it in comment 27, and then defended it in comment 31. He did so very briefly and moved on immediately to the real substance. Good.

(3) Nick didn't obsess, and also went on to focus on substance.

Hence: John is simply wrong to say Jason didn't defend his remark; and "lack of cojones" fails as a description either in specifics or in general about Jason. Jason's defense was brief and more focused on substance; but the defense was explicit. Whether anyone considers it an *adequate* defense is a different point, not worth our time; IMO. Jason DID explain himself and it really is not worth another level of meta-discussion over whether he did so adequately.

It was easy to miss… Jason's subsequent defense of his wording was brief and contained within other more substantive comments; all within comment #31 of the thread where the matter came up.

I'm also thinking more on the substance of the discussion -- not so much what Sober/Coyne/Dennet/Plantinga/Roenhouse/Matzke think; but more generally on the nature of how religious (Christian) faith can be held together with a recognition of evolutionary biology. I do this as an ex-christian atheist who remains in close discussion with Christians (my Dad, primarily) having an interest in academic theology, within a milieu where evolutionary biology is recognized and accepted without any particular distortion of the immediate scientific content . I haven't blogged for a long time; I should really stir myself and give some thoughts on the matter.
 
"Jason's phrasing focused on the act rather than the person. (That is, not "xxx is dishonest", but "this comment by xxx was dishonest".)"

That is not true. What Jason said was "He's just dishonestly twisting Coyne's words to give them a meaning he knows full well Coyne did not intend." The final bit demonstrates clearly Rosenhouse is accusing Matzke of flat out dishonesty. Matzke may give him a pass on it, but Rosenhouse's words are a clear accusation of dishonesty.
 
Mike, that's the point. The accusation of dishonesty -- which I agree is present -- is focused on the act; not the person.

He says "dishonestly", which IS indeed an accusation of dishonesty and which is directed, as appropriate, at a specific action.

That's the best way to do it; rather than a phrasing it as "XXX is dishonest"; which is a explicitly aimed at the person.

If anyone is going to complain about something they consider to be dishonest, this is the way to do it.

Cheers -- Chris
 
Chris, sorry, but I disagree. That's a slight on someone's character and they should have the facts to back it up.

I've done this before and believe me, I definitely have evidence to back it up.

It's not unreasonable to ask for the evidence.
 
And just to be clear, Nick may have a thick skin about this but that doesn't mean we should. It's fine if he wants people to drop it, but calling out a baseless attempt to discredit someone without specifically addressing their criticism is perfectly fine. Backing someone up in the face of attacks on their character is necessary at some point.

I don't read him much at all, but my impression of Rosenhouse has been he wants to be seen as reasonable but his feet are firmly planted in the new atheist camp. I think John's rightly pissed because this kind of behavior - for John - sort of blows the doors off Rosenhouse's reputation.
 
Just so people get this.

I am not defending the accusation of dishonesty. I don't think Nick is dishonest; and I don't think he was being dishonest in the comment Jason objected to. The criticism Jason was making would (in my opinion) have been better expressed without bring up dishonesty. There is some merit to the criticism Jason is making of Nick's remark; imputing dishonesty introduced an unhelpful red herring.

Are we clear on this? OK...

If you can recognize this, I might be interested in other meta-issues people might like to take up in what I have actually being saying. But please; if you are responding to me, then do read what I am saying.

My points have been...

(1) It's false to say Jason did not defend his assertion.

You may think the defense is inadequate; but that's a different matter. Going into the what levels of evidence are appropriate for imputing any dishonesty or the details of when someone should or should not impute dishonesty etc, etc, etc, is all a bit of a meta-discussion. Jason and Nick don't seem to care about that meta-discussion much. Take it up here if you like, by all means. But to do so, you will need to recognize that Jason DID offer a defense; so that you can criticize it if you so choose. To say he did not offer a defense is just false. The defense -- whatever you think of it -- was in comment 31.

(2) The accusation that a remark by Nick was dishonest has in turn provoked an accusation that Jason is no different from Ham or Hovind.

THAT is what provoked me to comment. As over-reactions go, it's way WAY over the top.

The specifics of the accusation JOHN has made here are way worse than any transgression in civility by Jason, in several respects.

(1) The comparison with Ham/Hovind was expressed as a general attack on the person; not on the action. Jason did it right; he expressed his attack on the action.

(2) The defense by John of his remark is entirely absent, as far as I can see. So complaining about Jason failing to defend his remark is.... jarring.

Ian Spedding nailed it above. Bring up dishonesty was (in my view) a bad move by Jason; but not a killer of all respect. People make remarks like this from time to time. This doesn't mean it doesn't matter or that one can't be critical of Jason for his attack on Nick. But good grief... have a bit of perspective in the response.
 
But good grief... have a bit of perspective in the response.

Yeah, you're right Chris. It was intended as hyperbole but I went too far. For what it's worth, I appoligize to Jason for it.
 
Hi Chris.

No, I understood where you're coming from, and I appreciate your point of view.

You have to understand, Nick has been the subject of personal attacks before, notably at Coyne's blog and I believe I've read accusations that he's a liar at the Panda's Thumb too.

Add to that Ken Miller being called a creationist and John Haught being ambushed and smeared by Coyne and you've got three important figures from the Dover Evolution Trial being treated pretty shabbily by what is, frankly, a political movement.

I don't think that's coincidence, and I don't think Nick is wrong in his analysis.

Now, I don't read Rosenhouse - my impression has been that he's an apologist for the new atheists - but he has tried to give the appearance of reasonableness. I recall he very gently disagreed that Miller should be called a creationist.

Maybe this is just a slip that Rosenhouse regrets, or maybe he's been building up to it for a while and Nick's criticism hit home to the extent that he joined the new atheist party and used a tactic they enjoy.

Doesn't really matter to me. If it's a slip, he can apologize. If not, I really don't have a problem with John's criticism. I appreciate that you do, and you came over here to say it. John obviously respects your point of view so he's modified his criticism based on that.

But, and I don't mean to offend here, but I can't help but notice that you didn't post over at Jason's thread. Apparently the accusation of dishonesty didn't affect you as much. In fact, you said "The specifics of the accusation JOHN has made here are way worse than any transgression in civility by Jason, in several respects."

You know, John may not be able to see why he's so pissed, and I'm guessing that you're unaware of this, but Jason didn't accuse Nick of exaggeration, he didn't accuse him of misunderstanding.

Jason specifically used dishonesty, an accusation I believe he's well aware has been unjustifiably leveled against Nick in various Internet forums.

You're looking at the remark in isolation. John saw it in it's proper context (although maybe he was too pissed to verbalized it yet): Jason used the language of the Internet mob. He stepped down from his intellectual hieght and piled on. Alone, not a big deal. But he specifically borrowed language that's been used before to try and discredit Nick personally and used it to help hand wave off Nick's legitimate criticism.

He used a code word, he pitched out shorthand to the new atheist crowd to say see: I'm one of you and you can reflexively disregard anything this guy says and rally to me.

That's where the behavior is on par with Ham/Hovind. That's the specific behavior that boiled John's blood. Because Jason, from my limited experience reading him, has presented himself as a reasonable person above that sort of thing. So for him, that could be a minor slip that mayb he regrets, or it could be a tell, a look behind the veneer.

John called him on it, and maybe you think it's pretty harsh, but i don't think Jason has defended his assertion that Nick is dishonest.

Here's a though: I think it would be helpful if you encouraged Jason to take it back. Go over to his blog and tell him that John has retracted the harsh language but not the criticism, and it would be helpful for the discussion for him to retract his unfaiir label.

If not, well, I appreciate your concern but I think you're missing a pattern of abuse and in doing so, - again, honestly not meaning to offend - you're helping Jason get away with it.

John, for what it's worth, I think you should retract your retraction.
 
"Crude reduction is always an exaggeration, and exaggeration feeds on opposition. When Tweedledee shouts that man is (after all) only a naked ape, a device for making more DNA, an economic unit, a polluter, a set of behavior patterns, or a consignment of chemicals, he is usually responding to Tweedledum's over ambitious assertions of transcendental status. Once this game starts, indignation and narrowness on both sides interact and increase each other. Each party is liable to become so obsessed with the other's vices that eventually it mirrors them and the contestants become indistinguishable. But we ought to be looking for the serious message behind the shouting."

--Mary Midgley, Heart and Mind, 1981

It seems to me that Jason and Jerry are making an argument from discomfort here. Sober points out that biology does not entail atheism. This opens the door for all kinds of theistic speculation about how god is rigging the process, most of which will be tiresome. They want to shoot the messenger, in this case Matzke, since Sober isn't engaging the debate at the blog level (and rightly so, it's Lord of the Flies down here).

But in any case, as we're not likely to get a new crop of disputants anytime soon, I think it's worth observing, with some gratitude, that however ideologically blinkered Rosenhouse can be, he's not as impervious to reason as Ham/Hovind, and nor are his readers anywhere near the same unthoughtful bunch.

If the debate is still worth having (and it still beats pitchforks), then I think we have to be prepared to let a little indignation go from time to time. As someone who has "demanded satisfaction" on at least one occasion, I'm glad to see John walk this one back.
 
Chris, you're still discussing this at Rosenhouse's, so I'll delay my response until you're done there.
 
@Chris
Sober points out that biology does not entail atheism.
Ho hum. Jason has written many posts on why he thinks evolution causes problems for Christians , even those who aren't flat out creationists.
Since he (and to my knowledge even Coyne) hasn't ever made a statement close to what you are saying , you can either provide a link or retract your statement.
 
@John
That was nice of you.
 
Deepak, what statement are you asking me to substantiate or retract?

I wrote that Sober argued (which he did) that evolution does not entail atheism (which it doesn't), and that this is likely to have an effect that Jason doesn't care for, i.e. theists attempting to integrate their views with evolution. I prefaced this with "it seems to me," which I hope signaled to you this was an impression of mine, not an indisputable fact.

Which part of this is slanderous, exactly?

I still owe you a response to your comment on the other thread. You got a lot wrong there, which will take a little time to sort out, after I catch up on some other things.
 
TB,

I think I'm done over there, unless Jason responds, which I don't expect.
 
@Chris
your statement that Jason/ Coynes discomfort over Sober "biology does not entail atheism"
Since Im fairly confident that Jason has never made the assertion that biology => atheism , i would like to see a link for the same. Im fairly confident that Jason thinks evolution causes issues for a good number of Christians , especially as it relates to the problem of evil - however at no point has he ever implied that evolution causes or leads to atheism. (to my knowledge , neither does Coyne).
 
Since Im fairly confident that Jason has never made the assertion that biology => atheism , i would like to see a link for the same.

This still makes no sense. I didn't assert that Jason ever said "biology => atheism" so why would I need to substantiate it?

Now, I do think that both Jason and Coyne, like most Gnus, have come very close to this position. Coyne has written more than once that "absence of evidence is evidence of absence," which is the illegitimate move Sober alludes to. The very fact that the Gnus call themselves "incompatibilists" points to something like logical incompatibilty, even if it isn't expressed in such decisive terms.

Rosenhouse has taken the Dawkins line that there is no reason, after Darwin, to be a theist, and you in the other active thread here, wrote that non-atheist (or at least non-agnostic and non-Deist) evolution does not "support" true evolutionary theory. So I agree that almost everyone is a little bit agnostic on the matter when the chips are down, for whatever that's worth.

I see Sober as making the argument that evolution does not entail atheism not to refute specific arguments to the contrary but rather to anchor the discussion. Once we agree that evolution does not entail atheism, we have created a certain amount of logical space, which as I wrote at Rosenhouse's place, has the virtue of not alienating people off the bat who might make good scientists. We can have God wars with them too if we like--I doubt Sober would shy from a philosophical argument over the merits of naturalism. It's the setting up of the shibboleth before the fact that is the problem.
 
Chris

That's too bad, because I think you make some interesting points.

You and John have always been less hot-headed than I, so when something sets off John's BS-ometer, I pay attention.

In this case, it was Jason utilizing an accusation that has been hurled at Nick before, in at least one place (Coyne's) where we know he could have noticed it.

And if we're - as Jason recommends in an earlier post on his own site - a little bit more cynical, we get to the idea I mentioned earlier, that Jason fell back on unintellectual shorthand to try and automatically discredit Nick.

Now, maybe Jason was having a bad day, I know you and John seem to think he's an honest operator. 

So we should at least have more than one example of Jason being disingenuous and resorting to unintellectual innuendo instead of the kind of insightful discussion you seem to think he's capable of.

So what should  we make of this?

#75
Thanks for providing the reference. It's interesting that the paper was published as a contribution to the philosophy of religion.

Posted by: Jason Rosenhouse | May 14, 2012 4:47 AM

Same thread, different day. What does this even mean? Why is this even pertinent to the discussion other than to insinuate something without being specific - in exactly the same way he used dishonest against Nick?

My impression of Jason is that he's an apologist - if he disagrees with his peers, it has been gently - Coyne was spot on with his review of Miller's book, but maybe we shouldn't call Miller a creationist.

But of  course it can only be gentle for an apologist, anything more forceful and he risks someone taking his criticism as seeking real change rather than a friendly wink and a shrug.

This time, he wasn't the apologist - twice he adopted the tactics of the Internet mob. This time, it wasn't the usual tweedledum and tweedledee players. This was different, this was Jason himself. Twice.

That may not be enough for you, that's fine. I respect your opinion. It's enough for me to look at Rosenhouse a bit more cynically than before.
 
I know you and John seem to think he's an honest operator.

Actually, no. For my part, I think he's kind of a concern troll, with huge logical blind spots. (Much like Russell Blackford.) I don't think he's intentionally dishonest, just a little ideologically rigid. I noticed that comment too, and thought it was pretty ad hom.
 
@Chris
I didn't assert that Jason ever said "biology => atheism"
So Sober says biology != atheism and this causes much discomfort to Jason/Coyne and this is not a reasonable inference? why then does Sober's view cause discomfort to Jason?

Now, I do think that both Jason and Coyne, like most Gnus, have come very close to this position
Ah ok - so you do believe the above then. fine where has Jason come close to this position?

incompatibilists
So science is incompatible with religion (because the methodologies are different or whatever) => biology => atheism?

Rosenhouse has taken the Dawkins line that there is no reason, after Darwin, to be a theist,
as far as I remember he says post-Darwin you have to tweak your religion to maintain some minimal kind of sense , so its silly to say that evolution has nothing to say about religion. He hasn't said there is no reason to be a theist as far as I know , post darwin, but you can always provide a link.
almost everyone thinks that the problem of evil is a bigger problem for theists (and evolution magnifies that because now the suffering has been added to animals not just humans)

wrote that non-atheist (or at least non-agnostic and non-Deist) evolution does not "support" true evolutionary theory
Just as the demon theory of disease where the demons act in ways that look to us as if germs cause diseases is not supported by true disease theory. Again where is the biology => atheism?.

evolution does not entail atheism
Again a link please , where Jason implies anything close to the above. I dont believe Dawkins says anything close to this (his closest if memory serves me correctly is that evolution made him a fulfilled atheist) nor can i recollect PZ myers or Coyne ever come close to this sentiment. The argument has always been over is science(construed broadly) compatible with religion - given a specific definition of compatibility.
 
Chris

Oh good! I was afraid of offending you and John. All right then!
 
Oh good! I was afraid of offending you and John.

I (well, usually) have a better opionion of Jason and Russell than Chis (the not "Sylas" one) does. But it (usually) takes a lot more than disagreeing to offend me ... as Deepack should now know by now. ;-)
 
TB: Thanks for your comment above. I know quite a lot about the context; these are all people I read regularly and have done so for some time. (Jason, Nick, and John in particular; and a number of others who might be relevant on "history".)

(For what it is worth, I consider Jason and Nick to be right up near the top of people worth reading for contrasting perspectives in the gnu atheism wars. Both rank high on substance and low on invective; though neither one is a great match for my own views.)

John Pieret and I know each other from way way back in talk.origins. We can probably each get away with criticising each other more easily given our longstanding mutual high regard.

I read John as retracting the over reaction that Jason is "no better than Ham or Hovind", but NOT retracting his criticism of Jason for the dishonesty accusation.

I didn’t it worth my saying anything about this at all over at EvolutionBlog. Once the d-word has shown up, Jason and Nick both show a couple of points worth emulating... attack actions not people; keep substance uppermost; don’t get angry.

Good to see this thread getting diverted back into more of the substance and less of the style. So I will return to reading those and trying to sort out better what I think. Better stick to calling me "sylas" and reserve Chris for Chris Schoen. Good to meet you, Chris.
 
Deepak Shetty said...

evolution does not entail atheism
Again a link please , where Jason implies anything close to the above. I dont believe Dawkins says anything close to this (his closest if memory serves me correctly is that evolution made him a fulfilled atheist)


I assume we all have the same quote from The Blind Watchmaker in mind:

An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: "I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn't a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one." I can't help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

I was always struck by Dawkins's choice of the word "possible". I interpret the passage to mean that although the Darwin provides an account of how life has evolved which is intellectually satisfying for atheists it does not entail atheism.
 
Hello Sylas

Good, we're all friends here. So you won't take it the wrong way when I tell you that I think your explanation for why you didn't post over at Jason's didn't really work for me. And the criticism of style over substance over here seems to be more of a distraction.

The kind of tactics that I've described are specifically used to interfere with more substantive discussion - it encourages his "tribe" to close their minds reflexively against Nick's arguments - and after all, isn't that what Creationists do with their followers? So while you find John's analogy extreme, there is truth in it.

Yes I know, not to the same degree you may argue.

But he still did it, and John called him on it. And instead of really being fair and calling out the problem on both side, you chose to let Jason off the hook, come over here and urge John to weaken his criticism instead of simply refining it to be more precise but still effective.

And then, as I noted above, Jason turned around used an ad hom, winking and nodding all the time to his tribe.

The guy is acting like a tool, but you're over here chiding John.

Again, don't mean to offend, but we're dealing with the actions of a member of a political movement. In this instance, lamenting about substance or style is like insisting someone take a knife as they head to a gun fight.
 
Ian: You don't think Dawkins has changed since the Watchmaker? He did help spark the whole accomodationist thing, which sparked that goofy "you don't fully accept science if you believe in god" crap.
 
Shrug. I have some MAJOR disagreements with you in that summary, TB. Which is ok by me so I'll let it go. We can't agree on everything.

More crucially... I don't aim to correct every failing in civility or tone on the net, nor is it simply a measure of how bad something is that I happen to comment. You're reading much too much into that.

Perhaps, on reflection, one of the reasons I responded here is because (my judgement again) it's much more likely to be helpful here. John's comment (as I think he agrees) was over the top, in a way that Jason's was not. Not "worse" so much as just "you can't possibly really mean that as you said it".

I think you're going to miss out on a lot if you really think "we're dealing with the actions of a member of a political movement". We are dealing with individuals who write independent and thoughtful pieces which are worth reading, even if you don't share their perspective on things, or their approach. That's both Nick and Jason.
 
That's cool, Sylas. Glad you took it in the spirit it was intended. Sometimes I don't phrase things to accurately reflect my intentions.

However, at this time I'd like to reserve the right to say "I told you so" at some point in the future :)
 
Sure, TB. For my part, I think I can *already* say I told you so by pointing to Jason's blog achives.

He's periodically critical of various leading lights in the gnu atheist movement; his independence of thought is already amply on record. His writing is his own, his failings are his own; seeing him as just "part of a movement" (that I'm guessing you don't like) can be seen right now to be selling him short by anyone who takes the time to look.

Same can be said for John Peiret (and me, I hope). We're not reliably predicted in terms of any movement; we're all of us quite capable of being critical of people with whom we are normally in agreement.
 
Sylas

I would disagree that your evidence proves your point, but I've given you my analysis - including an instance where I thought Rosenhouse was fair but still an apologist.

A more interesting example of the apologist genre can be seen in his description of the reason rally, where he acknowledges nuggets of truth in criticism but then reassures his readers that they don't have to worry about those things. (this essay seems to be all over the place - google Rosenhouse and reason rally and nuggets).

"Honesty forces me to concede there was some of that at the atheist gatherings as well. The Reason Rally featured a great many speakers, and some of them, let us say, would have benefited from a bit more nuance. Likewise at the convention, some of what was on sale in the bookstore fell short of proper academic rigor, and some in the audience were too quick to applaud arguments that were less than cogent. Heeding the call of the tribe inevitably leads to tribalism.

So, yes, there is a nugget of truth in this line of criticism. But only a nugget. For one thing, there was a huge difference in degree. Whereas the creationist conferences were wall-to-wall nonsense, the infelicities I noticed at the atheist gatherings were the exceptions."

Hand wave, wink and a shrug.

What were the instances that lacked nuance, the books that lacked rigor or the less than cogent arguments that gained applause? He doesn't say. How do we know they're exceptions? Rosenhouse tells us they are. Yet this blog has documented quite a few of those instances that lack nuance and less than cogent arguments. Instances that would have promoted howls of outrage if done by creationists.

So can we trust Rosenhouse's word? Well, we've documented a couple of lapses here haven't we?

So, no, I'm not ready to close the book just yet. I'll take Rosenhouse's advice and be a bit more cynical as we see how much movement evolves.
 
@Ian
I interpret the passage to mean that although the Darwin provides an account of how life has evolved which is intellectually satisfying for atheists it does not entail atheism.
Its my interpretation too - though I recollect his sentiment from some interview, not from the book.
 
@John
But it (usually) takes a lot more than disagreeing to offend me
I can always try harder.
 
TB said...

Ian: You don't think Dawkins has changed since the Watchmaker? He did help spark the whole accomodationist thing, which sparked that goofy "you don't fully accept science if you believe in god" crap.


My impression is that Dawkins's atheism has hardened significantly over the years.
 
why then does Sober's view cause discomfort to Jason?

That's a good question.

Again a link please , where Jason implies anything close to [evolution entails atheism]. I dont believe Dawkins says anything close to this (his closest if memory serves me correctly is that evolution made him a fulfilled atheist) nor can i recollect PZ myers or Coyne ever come close to this sentiment.

Shall I say again, a third time, that I don't attribute that statement to Rosenhouse? I don't.

In fact the only Gnu I know who argues explicitly that evolution entails atheism is Paul Draper. I don't know what citations Sober has in mind when he says that Dennett, Provine and Dawkins argue this. My sense is that this was a sloppy move on Sober's part. All three believe that evolution overwhelmingly suggests atheism, and feel that this suggestion is powerful enough to argue against theism, but none of them to my knowledge believe evolution formally refutes theism.

I'll be curious to see if Sober retracts the statement, now that Dennett and Coyne have called him on it.
 
I can always try harder.

Well ... if you really want to be Avis to my Hertz.
 
Shall I say again, a third time, that I don't attribute that statement to Rosenhouse? I don't.

Now, I do think that both Jason and Coyne, like most Gnus, have come very close to this position

where the context is (biology => atheism)

So what am I to make of these two statements now?
 
?@John
Im not sure I got that quip correctly - but I have a feeling it would go better with the seventh planet.
 
"So what am I to make of these two statements now?"

Why, you can make a hat or a brooch or a pterodactyl...
 
So what am I to make of these two statements now?

Well, you could combine them into a single coherent statement along the following lines: Gnus such as Coyne, Rosenhouse, Dennett, and Dawkins appear to believe that atheism (or naturalism) is a warranted metaphysical conclusion given the facts of biology. However none go so far as to say that the facts of biology logically prevent any other metaphysical picture.

That seems to be a matter of complete consensus, now that Sober has retracted the specific attribution to Dennett that evolution "entails" atheism.
 
He did it in quite a fine way:

"Let me conclude by apologizing to Dan Dennett for the parenthetical remark I made in my paper “Evolution without Naturalism”, in which I say that he holds, in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, that evolutionary theory “entails” that there is no God.  What I should have said is that he thinks that there is a conflict between evolutionary biology and theism. Dennett thinks that evolutionary theory shows that it is irrational to believe that God exists; he thinks that the theory has this consequence because he thinks that the Design Argument was the only remotely plausible argument for God’s existence and evolutionary theory destroyed that argument.  This interpretive error on my part doesn’t affect the points I was making in that paper."

Translation: Oh you want to split hairs? Sure, you can split hairs.
 
@Chris
Gnus such as Coyne, Rosenhouse, Dennett, and Dawkins appear to believe that atheism (or naturalism) is a warranted metaphysical conclusion given the facts of biology.
So here we go again.
Please provide a link or book or whatever where Jason (or Dawkins) come close to implying that they believe that atheism is a warranted conclusion , given the facts of biology. As far as I know Jason even has posts where he thinks that the problem of evil is a bigger issue for theists , rather than any biology - but even that implies only theists who believe that God must be good.
 
Hi all -- I just came across this. The Rosenhouse thing didn't hugely bother me in this particular case, I think he was just annoyed because he was getting more than the usual pushback when he and Coyne were going after Sober. I think I accused him of hairsplitting first, whether that is true depends on how important you think some distinction is, if you interpret that differently then someone hot under the collar could call it dishonest, etc. The whole thread was very complicated because the gnus were basically accusing Sober of splitting hairs while (IMO) themselves splitting hairs.

Anyway, I consider Jason and friend and usually the discussion there is much better than the internet average, or especially better than, say, Coyne's blog. Jason usually puts the Gnu perspective in maximally persuasive terms, with a lot less loose and insulting rhetoric than they usually provide, so it's a good place to hang out. I think his interpretation of what the gnus say has lately been overly rosy, but that's what discussion is for after all...
 
Deepak, I completely fail to understand your objection. The bulk of The God Delusion is a sustained argument for atheism based on a Darwinian analysis (the ultimate 747 argument, etc.) I am not arguing that no other arguments besides evolution are employed by Dawkins or other Gnus, just that evolution (or science generally) is generally considered sufficient reason to reject theism. Do you disagree?

How many times has Dawkins referred to the Watchmaker analogy as theism's last gasp, obviated by Darwin's theory of natural selection? In book after book. As Sober writes to Coyne about Dennett (this applies to Dawkins, too) "he thinks that evolutionary theory shows that it is irrational to believe that God exists; he thinks that the theory has this consequence because he thinks that the Design Argument was the only remotely plausible argument for God’s existence and evolutionary theory destroyed that argument."

Dawkins:

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

My personal feeling is that understanding evolution led me to atheism.

The more you understand the significance of evolution, the more you are pushed away from the agnostic position and towards atheism.

Or, here's Dennett:

The Darwinian perspective doesn’t prove that God – in any of these guises – couldn’t exist, but only that we have no good reason to think God does exist.

If you think there is some more compelling reason that the Gnus appeal to as warranting atheism, I'd really like to know what it is. I know that Dawkins doesn't put much stock in things like the Ontological argument, but the real thrust of his (and Dennett's) reasons for atheism come from evolutionary science. This point is made over and over again in his work.
 
Hi, Nick.

The Rosenhouse thing didn't hugely bother me in this particular case

Yeah, I knew that. Which in a perverse way may have helped to trigger my over reaction ... knowing you would be reasonable in the face of such charges.

I usually count to ten before posting but this time I reacted (badly) to what I saw (and still see) as an unjustified attack on someone I admire.
 
just that evolution (or science generally) is generally considered sufficient reason to reject theism. Do you disagree?
Evolution yes, I disagree. The scientific method taken broadly (in that it includes some parts of reason and some parts of logic) is generally considered good reason to reject theism. But you can take that as Science + reason + logic + philosophy = no theism.

How many times has Dawkins referred to the Watchmaker analogy as theism's last gasp
But you don't seem to understand what he's saying. theist's specialize in God of the gaps style argument and evolution filled a pretty big gap. I wouldn't say its the last gasp (because the origin of life and the origin of the universe are two more gaps which reasonable people have to say I don't know to which the theists triumphantly proclaim God!)

The first quote is nothing to do with biology.

My personal feeling is that understanding evolution led me to atheism.
Now Im going to quote his entire response.

Is atheism the logical extension of believing in evolution?

They clearly can't be irrevocably linked because a very large number of theologians believe in evolution. In fact, any respectable theologian of the Catholic or Anglican or any other sensible church believes in evolution. Similarly, a very large number of evolutionary scientists are also religious. My personal feeling is that understanding evolution led me to atheism.
Much more nuanced , huh?
So the first half of the response clearly doesn't say what you think, and the second half is probably one of the factors that led Dawkins to Atheism (for e.g. I can state that the lack of answered prayers led me to reject religion , but I will also say that was an emotional response , not a logical one)

Your last quote is from a more complete
The more you understand the significance of evolution, the more you are pushed away from the agnostic position and towards atheism. Complex, statistically improbable things are by their nature more difficult to explain than simple, statistically probable things.

You'll notice he says pushes you from agnosticism to atheism (instead of theism to atheism). And the reasoning he uses, expanded in other places is if God is complex , he must have evolved. i.e. if you believe the answer to does God exist? is I dont know , then you must answer how a complex, uncreated being came into existence => whereas evolution would imply that such a being would have to evolve .

I dont see these quotes supporting your position (I also notice no quotes from Jason)
I haven't read Dennett much(or truthfully at all) so Ill refrain from commenting on his quote.
 
The first half (of that Dawkins quote) says exactly what I said it meant--that evolution doesn't *logically entail* atheism (since lots of religious people support it) and the second half at the very least implies what I said it did: belief in atheism is warranted by evolution ("understanding evolution led me to atheism.")

The next quote also says just what I said it would. It hardly matters that the movement is from agnosticism, and not theism. The point is still that evolution warrants atheism.

As for the "expanded reasoning," this reasoning is directly extrapolated from the logic of Darwinism: complexity accrues over the course of evolutionary development, one trait at a time. Therefore, if there is a God, its complex features would have to have evolved from something more simple. Which is to say that if we believe in the facts of evolution, we are led to question and reject the existence of god.

This is something Dawkins says over and over again in his work.

I'm not trying to say that no other factors played a role in his reasoning. On those grounds perhaps you could say no single thing "warrants" a belief in atheism. At one point Dawkins relates a story from his childhood, where God didn't protect him from bullies. Surely this had a role in his thinking. But when he is making the case for atheism, the biggest tool in his toolbox is evolution. The greatest argument for God (to Dawkins) is argument by design. Darwin obviates the design argument, and furthermore shows how everything complex emerged from some simpler form.

It all rides on evolution. The rest is ancillary. (e.g. whether or not the ontological argument is sound.) The same is even more true for Dennett, who writes in my cited quote that evolution makes belief in god "unreasonable."

I didn't look for Rosenhouse quotes. I've had conversations with him that specifically dealt with Paley and the Watchmaker analogy, leading me to believe he was basically a Dawkinsian in this regard. If you think his atheism owes more to the problem of evil than to Darwinism, I won't argue.

The thing is I think it's reasonable for evolution to warrant atheism. I don't mean by that that it's sufficient as an argument, just that I can understand why it would be such a strong influence. For many, many people, the argument from design is the biggie. And Evolution pretty much dispenses with that. So I don't really have a problem with the basic reasoning. I think there are other reasons to believe and disbelieve, not all of them empirical in nature. But that's a different conversation,
 
@Chris
"understanding evolution led me to atheism."
No I disagree , it means what it says - this is what happened to Dawkins , its a description of events. The emphasis is on "for me personally"
For e.g. the reasons that lead you(or I) to be agnostic , need not be logical - but you'd still phrase it as this caused (or started me down the path or led me) to my agnosticism. So whatever you read into Dawkins statement , for me , is just your bias. Do you see no difference between , For me personally , unanswered prayers led me to be come agnostic - v/s Since prayers are not answered in the real world , there is no God or he doesnt interfere in this world?

It hardly matters that the movement is from agnosticism
Of course it does - because you are failing to see what he's saying.

Which is to say that if we believe in the facts of evolution, we are led to question and reject the existence of god.
No , it means you must give up the notion on an uncreated,un evolved - complex being - just as people have had to give up the notion of a God who created the earth 6000 years ago. But you would be the first to argue that giving up creationism doesn't mean giving up belief in god , no?
I would think that the objection to Dawkins statement is that it only covers one reason to be an agnostic and isn't an argument against agnosticism per se.
 
You cannot read The God Delusion, Deepak, and not come away with the conclusion that the reason Richard Dawkins believes you should be an atheist, if you are not one already, is primarily because of Darwin. Split as many hairs as you like. I think it is silly to argue over this.

My Dennett quote epitomizes this view. If Dawkins has never said anything quite so pithy, more's the pity, but this is the argument. Darwinism obviates theism. It's doesn't flat out logically refute it, but it obviates it sufficiently that one may release the belief.
 
@Chris
and not come away with the conclusion that the reason Richard Dawkins believes you should be an atheist, if you are not one already, is primarily because of Darwin.
No actually I dont, but I guess we will have to agree to disagree. If I remember correctly (and this is not from the Book) - Dawkins has stated he was already an atheist before he was a biologist.

He keeps hitting the theistic argument from design in the book , but then I would think that's logical, evolution does severely damage the argument from design. he even says it right in the preface , that he isn't going to deal with a deistic God so why would you think that he's making an argument against all forms of God with evolution?

And if you follow Pharyngula , you should see that most gnu's rarely reference evolution as the turning point or the cause that made them atheists.

The gnu view , as I see it , is that evolution causes severe damage to the view of God creating life as we see it , and human exceptionalism , both of which are usually very near and dear to theists.
 
Others do not for some reason minister to figure this out not everybody can mount a good fight or flight response when they need it so in many clinical situations such as backs a nation surgery infection and some types of cancer we could turn on in ad Jenna's immune inHansmann to augment protective .


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