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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 05/14/2009 :  08:16:52   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dude wrote:
Name one thing that can actually be called "supernatural". You can't. It is a nonsense word, one devoid of actual meaning.
In this modern age, I tend to agree with you and I find it unfortunate when religious people use it at all. It was a word which had some meaning before we had a system (science) which could reliably give us facts about the very laws of nature. But now most people really seem to consider mysteries in nature to be things which science hasn't yet figured out, opposed to actual supernatural events.

Hess refers to the supernatural in terms of metaphysics, but he doesn't make himself very clear. The only times the term "supernatural" is used in his NCSE essays, he writes:
Science also restricts itself to explaining things through natural, rather than supernatural causes. Biologists cannot explain how the modern horse descended from an Eohippus-like ancestor by saying "God did it." They can, however, examine evidence from living as well as fossil horses and devise testable hypotheses about the relationship between them.
But Hess makes no reference to a single claim of the supernatural which conflicts with what science knows about reality. And religious progressives and moderates tend to take more and more former claims as myths and parables rather than literal claims about reality. So in my view, they are moving in the right direction. They are thinking, and thinking critically. Again, I'll assert that if the theological progressives are guilty of anything, it is of stretching the common use of certain terms. But I don't think they are guilty of compartmentalization (although I do think most moderate religious people are guilty of compartmentalization.)

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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13463 Posts

Posted - 05/14/2009 :  08:58:55   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Marf:
But I don't think they are guilty of compartmentalization (although I do think most moderate religious people are guilty of compartmentalization.)

Just to reiterate my thinking on this. I don't give a rats ass how they work it out as long as it's good science being taught in the classroom...

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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 05/15/2009 :  18:13:59   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I don't give a rats ass how they work it out as long as it's good science being taught in the classroom...
Well, when it comes to political and social policy, I totally agree with you there.

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Dave W.
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Posted - 06/03/2009 :  16:52:33   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Apparently, Chris Mooney has restarted the blogwar. Jason Rosenhouse has links and commentary in his "Coyne is Right, Mooney is Wrong."

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Dave W.
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Posted - 06/11/2009 :  17:46:02   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think one can safely ignore most of Ken Miller's response to Coyne, as it involves Miller distorting Coyne's arguments while complaining that Coyne distorted Miller's arguments.

The last paragraph is the important one. In it, Miller basically says that he and his fellow theistic scientists are willing throw science under the bus if people push philosophical naturalism. Since Coyne doesn't seem to have done so, instead arguing for philosophical neutrality from the NCSE and NAS, Miller appears to have gone waaay overboard. As PZ puts it, perhaps he should just take his ball and go home, if he's going to throw tantrums.

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Dave W.
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Posted - 06/28/2009 :  22:33:41   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
And now John Wilkins has joined the fray. He should have stayed out, as he has defined "accommodationist" in such a way as to include Jerry Coyne, who is clearly not an accommodationist. Wilkins contrasts his version of accommodationists with what he calls "exclusionists," who are (according to Wilkins) people who demand that defending science requires one to assert that science and religion are incompatible, a position that nobody appears to hold.

The massive irony in all this is that people who are arguing in favor of Wilkins' version of accommodationism are accusing PZ Myers' and other "New Atheists" and their fans of being rude and succumbing to "groupthink," yet they can't seem to find the common courtesy to get the anti-accommodationist position correct before criticizing it. That, of course, precludes the possibility that they will make any sort of decent argument against it, but they march onward as if their premises are sound, and so wind up at some rather peculiar destinations.

PZ has a more-detailed dissection of Wilkins' post.

Another idea that comes out of Wilkins' post is that because we're not perfectly rational creatures, we should excuse any lack of rationality. Basically, if we can't be totally rational, we shouldn't even strive for rationality. May as well say, "if I'm unlikely to bowl a 300 game, I shouldn't even try." Is part of the problem with accommodationism such obvious defeatism (religion will always exist, so we better suck up to it)?

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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13463 Posts

Posted - 06/29/2009 :  08:04:09   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dave:
Is part of the problem with accommodationism such obvious defeatism (religion will always exist, so we better suck up to it)?

First off, I hate the term "accomodationism" as it applies to the NCSE. This war seems to have become independent of what they are in the business of doing. While it may be that they have gone too far with their "faith project" I think it's a matter of pragmatism to convince the faithful that teaching good science will not burn down their houses, destroy their lives, and cause their children to be damned. I note that so far, Scott seems to have placed herself above the fray. Perhaps she sees this debate as counter productive. I know, at least to some extent, I do.

That I believe religion is here to stay does not mean that it should not be kept out of the science classroom. And I don't see anyone from the NCSE saying otherwise. When they take action, they have fought every attempt by school boards and state governments to inject religion into the science classroom, which to my way of thinking is really the bottom line.

So let the war go on. Personally, I think there are wrong headed people on both sides of the argument.




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Dave W.
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Posted - 06/29/2009 :  14:26:01   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

While it may be that they have gone too far with their "faith project" I think it's a matter of pragmatism to convince the faithful that teaching good science will not burn down their houses, destroy their lives, and cause their children to be damned.
And that strategy is what's been used for the last umpty-ump decades, and hasn't lowered the amount of creationist anti-science education in the U.S. by any appreciable amount, despite getting lots of Kenneth Miller-types into the courtroom while avoiding the Richard Dawkins-types. And in that environment (where religious scientists are paraded around while atheist scientists are marginalized or were closeted - the "New Atheism" is new, after all), Ken Ham was able to gather together millions of dollars (many times the NCSE's annual budget) to build a museum devoted to the message that good science will damn everyone to Hell, and now has a deal with a major soft-drink company and many thousands of visitors per year. That's just one example.
I note that so far, Scott seems to have placed herself above the fray. Perhaps she sees this debate as counter productive. I know, at least to some extent, I do.
I think she's in a position where she can't enter the fray without pissing off one side or the other, which would hurt the NCSE no matter which people she angered. So regardless what she might like to say, she's got to maintain the status quo because it's bringing in cash for the mission, as a matter of pragmatism.
That I believe religion is here to stay does not mean that it should not be kept out of the science classroom. And I don't see anyone from the NCSE saying otherwise. When they take action, they have fought every attempt by school boards and state governments to inject religion into the science classroom, which to my way of thinking is really the bottom line.
And as Larry Moran points out (in a post about an NCSE article in which a professor said that it's time for the atheists to be shut up), the NCSE is winning lots of battles, but the war is still going on with no end in sight, with the "accommodationist" strategy in play the whole time.

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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13463 Posts

Posted - 06/29/2009 :  17:38:01   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I do not know of a single case where the NCSE stepped in to defend good science standards by keeping religion out of science classrooms, in which they brought anything with them but a scientific and legal argument to the battle.

Call me a "soft accomidationist" if you must, but I think it's important to undercut the religious arguments by pointing out that there are plenty of people of faith who accept evolution. And no way does Scott hide her atheism. And she is the lead person. If that's Morans contention, and it seems to be, I call bullshit on it.

The thing is, this narrow fight is about science classrooms, and not about the bigger battle that the "new atheists" have a hard on for. And it is acknowledged by just about everyone, including the "new atheists" that the NCSE has been mostly successful in keeping religion out of science classrooms. It seems to me that if you want to win the bigger war, first you must have a more scientifically literate population. And Scott has been addressing that problem by imploring teachers to do a better job of teaching science, and by pushing for scientists to do a better job of popularizing science. That is how this war will be won.

I won't defend the paper that Moran criticized. But you could practically here him hiss as he called at least two reasoned responses "soft accommodationism". I happen to agree that it would not be particularly helpful to have atheism and evolutionary science, or any other science, "become synonymous in the public mind".


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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13463 Posts

Posted - 06/29/2009 :  17:55:37   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dave:
And that strategy is what's been used for the last umpty-ump decades, and hasn't lowered the amount of creationist anti-science education in the U.S. by any appreciable amount, despite getting lots of Kenneth Miller-types into the courtroom while avoiding the Richard Dawkins-types.

She has brought atheists with her. And what do you mean by "mostly Kenneth Miller-types"? Hell, she didn't even bring Miller to Dover. Miller wrote the book that was under attack! And hey, do you really think it will move things along, in the direction that we want them moved, by bring scientists who say that it was by way of science that they became atheists, to do battle with mostly Christian school boards? Even you said that bringing in Dawkins would be counter productive. Have you change your mind on that?

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

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26006 Posts

Posted - 06/29/2009 :  19:23:05   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

I do not know of a single case where the NCSE stepped in to defend good science standards by keeping religion out of science classrooms, in which they brought anything with them but a scientific and legal argument to the battle.
And they only call witnesses like Kenneth Miller, because they know that if they call someone like Richard Dawkins, the defense would grill him on cross examination, get him to say that evolution led him to atheism, and then shout, "yer honor, evolutionary science is a religious position."
Call me a "soft accomidationist" if you must, but I think it's important to undercut the religious arguments by pointing out that there are plenty of people of faith who accept evolution.
Nobody is saying otherwise. What you've said is simply a fact. The "accommodationist" position is not simply a matter of stating that fact, but instead assuming that that fact will "undercut the religious arguments." It hasn't yet, and it's had decades to show its value.
And no way does Scott hide her atheism. And she is the lead person.
Doesn't matter if she doesn't hide her atheism. My point (my point, not Moran's) is that she's got damn good pragmatic fiscal reasons for not "joining the fray" which have nothing to do with her staying above it. From what I've seen, she's not one to be stingy with her views, yet her silence on a matter which affects the perception of the group she leads is deafening. In other words, I think she would happily get down in the dirt with the rest of us, except that she knows it'd hurt the finances of the NCSE to do so.
The thing is, this narrow fight is about science classrooms, and not about the bigger battle that the "new atheists" have a hard on for.
And it doesn't much matter when "progress" in the science classrooms is measured by an increasing number of school-board nightmares in Texas, Ohio, Georgia, Florida (etc.), not a reduction in them. An increase in the number of battles being fought each year does not signify that the NCSE is winning.
And it is acknowledged by just about everyone, including the "new atheists" that the NCSE has been mostly successful in keeping religion out of science classrooms.
As a purely defensive action, yes, which means there's no appreciable forward movement.
It seems to me that if you want to win the bigger war, first you must have a more scientifically literate population. And Scott has been addressing that problem by imploring teachers to do a better job of teaching science, and by pushing for scientists to do a better job of popularizing science. That is how this war will be won.
Except now the NCSE is branching out, and claiming that some religious views are better than others.
I won't defend the paper that Moran criticized. But you could practically here him hiss as he called at least two reasoned responses "soft accommodationism". I happen to agree that it would not be particularly helpful to have atheism and the evolutionary science, or any other science, "become synonymous in the public mind".
Of course he's hissing at that weak-ass nonsense. That's his point! Accommodationism, soft or otherwise, has had over 50 years to work its magic, and it hasn't done squat. Moran is saying that the only way to win the war is to go after the superstition, head on. He's not advocating that atheism be taught in the science classroom (that'd be unconstitutional), he's advocating for a fight against superstition everywhere that it's possible. The problem is that the NCSE is now actively fighting against that, because it's teaching, in no uncertain terms, that some religious views are acceptable to the NCSE, a tacit endorsement by a science-education group of liberal theology.

You also wrote:
She has brought atheists with her. But hey, do you really think it will move things along in the direction that we want by bring scientists who say that it was by way of science that they became atheists, to do battle with mostly Christian school boards? Even you said that bringing in Dawkins would be counter productive. Have you change your mind on that?
No, I think it's a wise legal move to keep those who claim that evolution led them to atheism out of the courtroom. But it only wins battles and maintains the status quo. It does nothing to help win the war. Surely there's an atheist biology professor out there who's willing to say that atheism and biology have nothing to do with each other, yes? Why isn't the NCSE getting them on the witness stands?

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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13463 Posts

Posted - 06/30/2009 :  09:54:28   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dave:
And that strategy is what's been used for the last umpty-ump decades, and hasn't lowered the amount of creationist anti-science education in the U.S. by any appreciable amount, despite getting lots of Kenneth Miller-types into the courtroom...

First off, you keep saying that they bring Miller-types into the courtroom to the exclusion of atheists. But is that so? I'm assuming that you're bugged, based on the above, that they don't announce that they are atheists. But who are these theists that they keep bringing in? I don't think you should confuse the NCSE website with who they bring to court or before school boards. Mostly they draw on local educators who are against the proposed changes in science standards, because locals carry the most weight. I don't think there is a theist litmus test to determine who will testify. I am challenging that assertion.

Also, I think this is a cultural battle that is much wider than what the NCSE focuses on. Along with the rise of the religious right, and their theocratic views, came an increase in attacks on many areas of concern to us, along with the increase in attacks on evolution. The list is pretty long. It may be unfair to blame the NCSE, given how narrow their focus is, even in part, for not winning a war that has touched so much of our culture and our governments from local to federal. The fact that they have managed to a win so many battles in hostile territory, maintaining the statuesque, is a lot more than can be said for other battles on the culture front. For example it's absolutely true that Roe V Wade has been chipped away at, and is not nearly as strong as it was when it was ruled on. That the RR is now the most loyal part of the Republican base has changed the equation. The rise of the RR as the Republican base has meant that whole state governments under Republican control, have bent over backwards to do their biding, including attempts to change science standards, among other things.

It's against that cultural and political backdrop that the NCSE has done their thing, and been very successful in at least the area's of their concern. But of course, they haven't won the war. It isn't in their power to do that.

As Scott has said, better science teachers, or at least a change in the way science is taught, and more scientists stepping up to popularize science is the way to go on that front. I would argue that any success that Ken Ham has had has nothing to do with the efforts of the NCSE or a failure on their part. That's like blaming Planed Parenthood for laws that have weakened a woman's right to have an abortion, no matter how much they have lobbied against every proposal to take any part of that right away.

It's the times we live in.


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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26006 Posts

Posted - 06/30/2009 :  12:43:02   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

First off, you keep saying that they bring Miller-types into the courtroom to the exclusion of atheists. But is that so? I'm assuming that you're bugged, based on the above, that they don't announce that they are atheists. But who are these theists that they keep bringing in? I don't think you should confuse the NCSE website with who they bring to court or before school boards. Mostly they draw on local educators who are against the proposed changes in science standards, because locals carry the most weight. I don't think there is a theist litmus test to determine who will testify. I am challenging that assertion.
Good on ya. How many school-board hearings or other such venues has Kenneth Miller himself testified at? Dover was one. I believe he testified in Texas recently, too (as did Genie Scott). But this is pointless, because I say that this is a good legal strategy, and yet you think I'm bugged by it. I'm trying to point out the short-term pragmatism going on.
As Scott has said, better science teachers, or at least a change in the way science is taught, and more scientists stepping up to popularize science is the way to go on that front. I would argue that any success that Ken Ham has had has nothing to do with the efforts of the NCSE or a failure on their part. That's like blaming Planed Parenthood for laws that have weakened a woman's right to have an abortion, no matter how much they have lobbied against every proposal to take any part of that right away.
Sigh. What I'm saying is that the NCSE appears to be trying to adopt a policy which we know doesn't work, because that policy has failed to advance our side in the war in any appreciable way over the past 50 years, and in the wider context, seems to be actually losing us ground. People have been trying to drive screws with a hammer for the last five decades, and the NCSE seems to be reaching for that very same hammer when faced with more screws. I'm not blaming the NCSE for the failure of the war, I'm blaming the NCSE for bringing to the war a weapon that we know doesn't work.

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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13463 Posts

Posted - 06/30/2009 :  14:21:38   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dave:
Dover was one. I believe he testified in Texas recently, too (as did Genie Scott).

Just to clarify, Miller did testify in Dover. He wrote the book that the school board wanted to paste their sticker on. Genie Scott did not testify in Dover. The NCSE was represented by Barbara Forrest as the lead and included, of course, Kenneth Miller along with other scientists, a historian, a math and probability expert, an education expert, and a theologian.

Miller was not at the Texas hearings.

As for the NCSE, you and I are going to continue to not agree on what counts as "advancing our side". Consider this. ID was born out of the ashes of the complete failure of the "scientific creationists" to get their "science" into the public school system, anywhere.

ID is failing too. Dover was a major blow in there effort to get into the schools. And in part that's due to a "policy which we know doesn't work".

If ID fails in the way that "scientific creationism" failed, how is that not advancing our side?

I will go along with the much of the criticism of the Faith Project. It bothers me too. It goes too far in some places. I see it as a problem. But the Faith Projectis a new thing. Hardly a 50 year old mistake.

I have no problem with people being critical of the NCSE. No organization should be above criticism. But to say that their methods have been losing "us" ground might depend on who "us" is. If our public schools turn out students who understand science, which is the ultimate goal of the NCSE, what have we lost?

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Dave W.
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Posted - 06/30/2009 :  15:38:31   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

I will go along with the much of the criticism of the Faith Project. It bothers me too. It goes too far in some places. I see it as a problem. But the Faith Projectis a new thing. Hardly a 50 year old mistake.
Why is this so hard to communicate?

The Faith Project is the NCSE picking up a tool that has been in use for 50 years, thinking it's going to make a difference when it clearly has not. The Faith Project is the NCSE branching out, trying to get involved in the "broader context" and so not restricting themselves to keeping religion out of the classroom.

Let's say that the scientists have been fighting zombies and on a regular basis they pick up knives, and we've got 50 years of experience with the fact that knives don't help in the battle against the zombies, and in fact sometimes scientists wind up stabbing each other (accidentally, one hopes). The NCSE, meanwhile, has been doing a fantastic job of keeping the zombies out of several specific buildings with the help of a mysterious weapon called "The Law." But now the NCSE decides to come out and try to help in the larger war against the zombies. And they make the obvious mistake of first picking up a knife. Are they going to help that way, or do they just increase the risk of another person getting stabbed?
I have no problem with people being critical of the NCSE. No organization should be above criticism. But to say that their methods have been losing "us" ground might depend on who "us" is.
With regard to the Faith Project, "us" are those who value rationalism.
If our public schools turn out students who understand science, which is the ultimate goal of the NCSE, what have we lost?
If the Faith Project has anything to do with students in public school science classrooms, then it is unconstitutional on its face and the NCSE ought to be ashamed of itself.

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