Hitchens in the lions’ den

I have never seen debates as a way of improving understanding. They are basically a sport – producing more heat than light. Michael Ruse once commented that he found he was a good debater because he could crack jokes. This just underlines that debates are about techniques, personality, turns of phrase, etc., not about facts.

Similarly the current preoccupation with the religion/atheism debates and who “won” them (eg. Craig v Hitchens: Dissecting the Debate UPDATE 2). Frankly I think a panel or one on one discussion is  a far better way of producing understanding. Richard Dawkins has recently been promoting this discussion format (eg. Lawrence Krauss – Richard Dawkins discussion).

However, for those wanting to treat the whole god debate as a spectator sport I can recommend this video for a bit of fun. Christopher Hitchens was invited to participate in a debate with four Christian apologists (five if the chairman, who participated freely is included). And in front of a motivated Christian audience. The subject: Does the God of Christianity exist, and what difference does it make?). Christopher Hitchens debated Lee Strobel, Douglas Wilson, William Lane Craig and Jim Denison at the Christian Book Expo in Dallas Texas during March. The discussion was “moderated” by  Christianity Today’s Stan Guthrie

It was a bit like a one against five tag wrestling match. And Hitchens clearly showed them all up. But, as several speakers admitted, Hitchens was brave to take up the challenge.

He certainly comes across as fearless. One can’t help but admire his skills.

Enjoy.

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64 responses to “Hitchens in the lions’ den

  1. I watched this a few days ago. (I have no idea why Hitchens agreed to debate so many at once. I’d say it was courageous, but that was diminished because he didn’t engage, and resorted to wise-cracks)

    It was a bit like a one against five tag wrestling match. And Hitchens clearly showed them all up.

    What!? You talk about “the current preoccupation with the religion/atheism debates and who “won” them”, and then you say that Hitchens ‘showed them all up’?

    The only way he possibly could have showed them all up would be in the areas of sarcasm and using wise-cracks.

    I must say I think the wisecrack debating style is just poor debating. Sure, debating can (and even should at times) be fun, but lets distinguish between a mutually appreciated joke – and a wise-crack in response to a serious question. Hitchens is funny and quick-witted, no doubt, but (as Craig rightly points out in his closing statement) doesn’t engage the points raised in the debate. You can’t call beliefs ‘stupid’ and not interact with them.

    Interestingly, Hitchens admitted that their presentation of the theodicy ‘problem’ made sense – but didn’t engage further. His style, when getting cornered with a strong point, seems to be to throw up a wise-crack based on a point of detail (i.e. ‘but you think you know what this God wants’, etc.).

    Again, debating can/should be fun at times, and using wise-cracks and jabs is indeed a ‘skill’, but not a ‘skill’ for fruitful debate. Sure, debating might not be the best tool to get at ‘the truth’, but not engaging with the points makes it even worse.

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  2. Dale – of course one basic problem with debates is that people don’t engage with the arguments. That’s not the point in this sport. They push their own (and this is exactly what Craig does with his 5 point mantra he has been pushing for a decade now). Neither side engages with the arguments of the other. Personally, I can only appreciate that as a sport rather than an intellectual exercise – and clearly Hitchens “won” in those terms (helped by the fact that he was the underdog – in the lions den).

    Unfortunately, humour, jokes, sarcasm, ridicule is what gets used in debates – and I suspect people who enjoy debates do so for those characteristics.

    No, Hitchens didn’t engage with Craig’s mantra, any more than Craig engaged with Hitchens arguments. I don’t think he is the one to do it. Basically Craig attempts to use science to prove his god – and needs to be challenged on scientific grounds.

    I personally would like to see Craig debate someone like Lawrence Krauss or Sean Carroll. I think Craig’s arguments need to be exposed scientifically. They are actually very weak and dishonest in an opportunist way. I gave an example of this opportunist distortion in Fiddling with “fine-tuning” regarding the cosmological constant. I have also dealt with aspects of Craig’s mantra in Bad science, bad theology and Cosmological cranes – not skyhooks.

    Craig’s arguments are easily countered scientifically but in practice (because he usually doesn’t debate cosmologists) they are usually ignored by his opponents. However, they are avidly taken up by Christian apologists, and have an influence with wider groups of Christian, because they are seen as scientific “proofs”. They need to be countered more frequently – from everyone’s perspective because they are bad theology ( as Father Georges LeMatre pointed out) as well as bad science.

    I have been considering do a short series of posts briefly dealing with each of Craig’s arguments form a scientific perspective. What do you think? Would there really be interest in discussing those specific arguments?

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  3. Would there really be interest in discussing those specific arguments?

    Absolutely!

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  4. I’m interested in which ‘arguments’ Hitchens put forward that were not engaged by any of the others…

    As for a short series on “Craig’s arguments from a scientific perspective“, (and this is VERY key), it’s key to recognise that these are philosophical arguments; which touch upon science. If the science is being inaccurately handled, by Craig, then do correct the data he uses, etc. but philosophical arguments have to be engaged philosophically. Again, that’s not pushing science to the side, science should be discussed to whatever extent that Craig uses (or mis-uses) it.

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  5. With Hitchens one’s never quite sure if he’s being brave getting into these scraps or if he was just drunk when he agreed to it.

    SJ Gould had a nice pithy line about debates in a speech that was recently included in the ABC’s science podcast.

    “The truth is one weapon in debate, certainly not the best one”

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  6. Oh, and I’m with Dale. Science can have philosophical implications, and if you base a philosophical point on bad science then you’ll go wrong, but you can’t approach philosophical problems with scientific tools.

    I don’t know alot about Craig’s arguments, but if they rest on faulty science then by all means expose them!

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  7. David W – I guess he could have also been drunk during the debate itself. I’ve noticed that the more he drinks, the more he talks, and his eloquence seems to persist. I certainly couldn’t operate that way.

    Dale – There is philosophy and then there is “philosophy”. And often I find people use that word to really mean theology. But I don’t know how it applies here, unless, like Stuart, you maintain that questions like the origins and cause of the universe are not scientific questions but philosophical (meaning theological) ones. I reject that approach completely.

    It is a philosophical issue about how one approaches these sort of questions – are we going to derive our ideas from reality, from the evidence, and test them against reality. Or are we going to start with a preconceived belief and then opportunistically select and use scientific evidence to “prove” that belief. I believe Craig does the latter.

    The questions (proofs) Craig poses are, I think:
    1: The origin and causes of the universe;
    2: Fine tuning of physical constants;
    3: Origins of human morality/ethics;
    4: The historic reliability of biblical narratives relating to the life (and death) of Christ, and
    5: Proof by personal experience.

    It seems to me that all these can be, and should be, approached scientifically (historical science for 4 and perhaps psychology for 5). To claim these are philosophical questions seems to me a tactic for subverting, ignoring or denying, the scientific evidence. In practice the tactic seems to be a common procedure for muddying the discussion. When “philosophy” is dragged into an argument facts can be ignored, discussion partners can be vilified, etc. (This is where words like “naturalism”, “materialism”, etc. can contribute to muddying).

    A great debate technique but not a way of getting at the truth.

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  8. all people have pre-conceived beliefs – and as for testing against ‘reality’, we’ll go ’round in circles trying to argue how that word should be used… (as we have before) suffice to say that I think it’s such a large word, it’s a bit like a ‘trump card’. but I don’t time to argue all this… just do your posts and try to keep philosophy and science distinct.

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  9. Theology is a second-order discipline that employs philosophy as source and norm. So philosophical questions can be theological questions, and theological questions can be philosophical questions. Like the question “What is the absolute origin of everything that exists?” That is chiefly philosophical and the answer to it will have theological implications, so its also a theological question. Its only been in the last century that cosmology has started to be considered a science, as data and information is beginning to come in. But still many have reservations about calling it a science at all. Science, because it only deals with the physical universe, can only take you to moments after the ultimate origin, and anything beyond that is rightly metaphysics.

    Any way, you have misread Craig’s commonly employed arguments. Definitely stated them incorrectly above (most grievously #4).

    1: Cosmological: from the cause of the beginning of the universe;
    2: Teleological: from the fine-tuning for the existence of life in the universe;
    3: Moral: from the ground of objective moral values;
    4: Historical: from the resurrection of Christ;
    5: That belief in God is Properly basic.

    And those are only five of ten arguments from the panel discussion referred to above. My reading of it was totally different to Ken’s, as it was clear to me that Hitchen’s was obstinate but totally out gunned in the argument department.

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  10. Stuart – April 17, 2009 at 7:14 pm
    ““What is the absolute origin of everything that exists?” ” -That is chiefly philosophical and the answer to it will have theological implications, so its also a theological question. – couldn’t disagree more.

    No theologian or philosopher is ever going to provide a “truthful” answer to this (one with a strong correspondence to reality). Of course theologians and philosophers of various flavours have given already a whole range of “answers” – but none have attempted to map them against reality.

    However if you want myths or stories and psychological satisfaction rather than truth – just choose the philosophical or theological answer that appeals to you most – you have plenty to choose from.

    Meanwhile humanity is working quietly away providing us with more and more answers in these areas and, importantly, also providing us with plenty of questions for further consideration.

    I know where I would put my money.

    Stuart & Dale – could you provide me with what you could consider appropriate and acceptable links to Craig’s specific arguments. I am familiar with them but want to be able to refer to “acceptable” sources.

    I think your assessment of the debate really just reflects your personal commitment to one side. The same with me. It’s like watching any game – its very hard to acknowledge the faults of your own team or the good points of your opponents. I saw this as a game rather than a rational discussion (debates never are). Personally my emotional reactions told me that Hitchen’s “won’ – especially as he was in the lions den. Surprisingly he remained a gentleman throughout – acknowledging he was there as a guest.

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  11. Debates where both parties lay out their views then over the course of several rebuttals/right of reply engage each other’s views and respond and develop the argument further are very informative and constructive for those who have come to watch the debate with an open mind.

    I agree that rarely will a debate make one of the debaters change their view but debates are about what they give the audience. Audience members, genuinely interested in the issues can definately gain a lot from an informed, well matched debate – a lot more so than from two presentations with no interaction.

    Of course, those who come to a debate fixed in their own view who only go ‘rah rah’ to every point the debater on their side makes and who dismiss without considering the points made by the other, I agree leave having not benefitted at all but then is that the problem of the debate format?

    So Ken, I assume your blog is supposed to be the answer to MandM and Beretta, NZ’s philosophy of religion blogs, and it just so happens that Dr Peoples, of Beretta will be in Auckland mid-may.

    Are you keen for a two on two panel discussion say at Auckland university? Thinking Matters Auckland will put up Dr Peoples and Dr Flannagan. You can put your own hand up and I am sure we can find someone else, Damian are you keen?

    You know how to contact me to make the arrangements.

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  12. Ken wrote: Craig’s arguments are easily countered scientifically

    Craig is coming back to NZ in 2010 and I have yet to find a debating partner for him. Do you want to put your hand up, you can demonstrate to everyone watching, should be easily over a thousand people in the audience, the ‘ease of how to counter Craig scientifically,’ show Hitchens how he should have done it.

    You guys would all like to see that wouldn’t you? Shall I pencil you in Ken?

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  13. Madeleine – April 18, 2009 at 12:32 pm
    I think I have made my attitude towards the debating sport clear here. It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly change my mind for the sake of personal glory. In a way presentations without interaction may well be better (although less entertaining) as it is the gladiator-type interaction which does not help understanding and in fact appeals to some of the worst human instincts (the them vs us problem).

    A civilised discussion is a different matter. As I have said I am impressed by Dawkins current approaches to this format – as for example with Lawrence Krauss, Craig Venter, Father Coyne, and multiple discussion/interviews used for some of his TV programmes which are now available uncut.

    If you are serious in your suggested panel you can contact me via About me with proposed format and details and we can discuss the possibilities. Be aware I do not reside in Auckland.

    “I assume your blog is supposed to be the answer to MandM and Beretta, NZ’s philosophy of religion blogs,”


    No, you are wrong. I was not aware of those blogs when I started. My motivation was to advance the human rights concept that the non-religious are an important and valid part of NZs religious diversity (which was being ignored by the National Statement activity) and of course to counter attacks on, and misunderstanding of, science common in our society. This perhaps reveals my likely motivations in participation in any discussion panel (unity based on common interests rather than the conflict paradigm).

    I will probably go ahead with a series of posts on Craig’s arguments which hopefully will generate some discussion here. (I am waiting on advice for links to these arguments which his supporters would find acceptable.) I actually think getting something down in writing and opening it up to a written on-line debate should be more useful than a transient sporting event. If you are a supporter of Craig’s arguments I hope you will participate in that discussion. (You will be equally welcome if your aren’t). Hopefully that will be more civil than any “debate.”

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  14. I have to agree with others in that I think debates are really for “entertainment” not achieving practical outcomes. Unless the audience is extremely knowledgeable (and even then), in my experience, debates are not about substance so much as “winning the audience” with style of presentation, bluff and bluster, humour, one-upmanship, etc. There isn’t really time to present true substance, anyway.

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  15. Stuart @ Stuart April 17, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Re your comment:

    “Like the question “What is the absolute origin of everything that exists?” That is chiefly philosophical and the answer to it will have theological implications, so its also a theological question. Its only been in the last century that cosmology has started to be considered a science, as data and information is beginning to come in. But still many have reservations about calling it a science at all. Science, because it only deals with the physical universe, can only take you to moments after the ultimate origin, and anything beyond that is rightly metaphysics.”

    You are dogmatically claiming for theology and “philosophy” questions which, demonstratively, they have never been able to give a good answer too (plenty of mythology though). If you disagree with me – then give me the name of a theologian or “philosophical” “cosmologist” who has produced a significant understanding of these sort of questions, together with the specific theory they have produced.

    In contrast we can find plenty of scientists, cosmologists, who have produced good answers, solutions, and continue to improve our understanding of these questions. Even, possibly, as to what preceded the “big bang” or the inflationary period.

    George LeMaitre, although a Catholic Priest, produced the initial big bang theory as part of his scientific work developing relativity theory. Who produced our knowledge and ideas on the cosmic microwave background (which has told us so much about the origins of the universe) inflationary theory, etc.? No theologian has produced anything like this.

    Surely your attempt to claim these questions for theology and “philosophy” is irrelevant and dogmatically silly. Scientists continue with this work and if we ever do have complete answers they will come from humanities scientific endeavours – not from theologians.

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  16. Two kinds of ‘answers’/’explanations’/’knowledge’ (with two kinds of ‘evidence’ used)…
    One is a scientific answer (‘big bang’, inflationary cosmology, etc.). One is philosophical (‘first cause’, etc.).

    It is so tiring to see people blur these distinctions, and continually speak past each other with out listening to what the other is saying.

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  17. Dale – how about being specific. Surely we (humanity) are investigating (or trying to with the limited theoretical understanding we have) what “caused” our universe.? Or even what came before the “big bang”, was there a prior universe, does eternal inflation occur, etc.? Isn’t this implicit in development of inflationary “big bang” theory? And isn’t humanity doing this using scientific processes?

    I haven’t noticed any theologian or “philosopher” contributing to this in a credible way without using science. (As I said, I am happy to be informed of anyone, together with their contribution).

    I recently watched this panel discussion from the Origins Conference early this month. It had some pretty big names (Andrei Linde, Alan Guth, David Gross, Sheldon Glashow and Alex Vilenkin) who have contributed, and are contributing to our understanding of the formation and “cause’ of the universe. None of them presented themselves as a theologian or “philosopher” so I am at a loss to see specifically what theologians and “philosophers” have contributed.

    I can’t help but think that dividing the issue between “scientific answers” and “philosophical answers” is trying to preserve a respectable place for what is probably more correctly seen as mythology and superstition.

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  18. you see the distinction as an attempt to preserve a space for ‘mythology and superstition’, and others would see the lack of a distinction as an attempt to deny the validity (indeed, even the possibilitiy of any validity) of other layers of explanation other than the scientific.

    for example, with the ‘origin of the universe’ question. scientific answers will have to do with measurements of expansion rates, and distance/time, etc. philosophical/religous answers will have to do with measurements of things like purpose/intent and desire/will.

    Purpose and desire are not measured with – say – scales and stopwatches. So any attempts at ‘measuring’ them (or denying that they are worthwhile enquiries!) will be other-than-‘scientific’ (’empirical’) ventures.

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  19. Well, Dale, when these theologians and “philosophers” come up with some evidence for “purpose/intent and desire/will” in their study of the origins and causes of the universe we can all have a look at it and evaluate it. I have yet to see it (although I’m aware of the “fine-tuning” argument – where empirical measurement is suddenly respectable – in this respect).

    I guess this is a personal thing as there are plenty of people who might agree with your position. That doesn’t worry me one bit until, like Stuart, they attempt to impose such attitudes (and epistemological methods) onto humanity’s scientific efforts. And they attempt to dictate to humanity how their science should be carried out and what areas science can investigate. Really takes us back to Galileo’s time – and let’s face it this strategy is well proclaimed in the Discovery Institutes Wedge Strategy. (Interesting – it all ties in with Stuart’s definition of which “scientists” are acceptable.

    My reaction to Stuart is just that. A reaction. In other words I wouldn’t be saying these things without the provocation. In good humour, though, it is interesting and probably understandable that your reaction was apparently motivated by my comment rather than Stuart’s. (Sorry, I don’t know how to do smileys!).

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  20. Dale,

    A lack of distinction cannot be an “attempt to deny the validity (indeed, even the possibilit[i]y of any validity) of other [layers of] explanation[s]”, essentially by definition. A lack of distinction allows for all things that can (positively) contribute to the issue at hand, without arbitrarily discarding some. Creating arbitrary distinctions, on the other hand, such as you suggest, can be used as “attempt to deny the validity (indeed, even the possibility of any validity) of other explanations”.

    (I object to the use of the word ‘layers’, hence the suggested edits: this word “attempts to preserve/create a space” or create an arbitrary distinction.)

    The reasons scientists, etc., reject mythology, etc., isn’t arbitrary, but because these things lack substance and hence cannot move an examination of an issue towards a solution or understanding.

    More importantly, can you see that your insistence on “distinctions” and “separate categories” and “kinds of evidence” that “cannot be examined by the other” is precisely the things people are concerned about? To my reading you are illustrating the thing people are objecting to, even in your “explanations” against it, but you seem to be quite unaware that you are doing that.

    For what it’s worth—and as something of an aside—when the stem cell issue came up here, I tried to look at it from a “purpose” or “intent” point of view, by looking at the molecular biology of development (but didn’t have the time to explore it).

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  21. Heraclides,
    (I’ve got a busy week, so can’t go much further now, so forgive me if I’m not able to follow up any long responses after this)

    The reasons scientists, etc., reject mythology, etc., isn’t arbitrary, but because these things lack substance and hence cannot move an examination of an issue towards a solution or understanding.

    But of course, there are plenty of scientists are able to do both science and religion. I’d actually want to say that all scientists engage in both scientific and religious thinking. Some scientists engage in religious thinking and conclude that there is substance, others not. But it’s still religious thinking, not empirically-based thinking. I’ve got to run, so will have to leave it there for what may well be a few days (if I can control myself and focus on assignments, etc.!). 🙂

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  22. Dale,

    Your reply doesn’t address the main point of my comment (that you are making arbitrary distinctions, etc.) and I don’t think your reply even relates to what you quote from my comment. Excuse my forthrightness, but you seem to be avoiding what I am saying and just saying whatever you want to think regardless.

    Regards what you did write, of course religious thinking is religious thinking, that’s a tautology and I never said otherwise. This isn’t addressing anything I’ve written.

    But of course, there are plenty of scientists are able to do both science and religion.

    Yes, and I believe we have tried to point out to you before that because some people claim to have both does not imply that religion has anything to offer in “solving” the “gaps” in scientific knowledge, because these people compartmentalise their religion and their science. In particular, they use their religion in the familiar “god of the gaps” manner.

    I wrote to you some aspects of this to you quite recently in the ‘Scientific laws and theories’ thread. To quote part of what I wrote:

    In that article you have “granted” to the scientists that you list that they investigate a religious basis for events, when in practice they assume a religious basis for some events, just like other religious people do. To have both the science and religion in the heads, they must compartmentalise, as Ken wrote.

    That these people “have” both science and religion does not say that religion has anything to offer in solving problems (choose some other phrase if that suits you better). These people ascribe (arbitrarily give) religious “solutions” to unsolved problems, in the same “god of the gaps” manner that “lay” people do. They do not “use religion to solve a problem” as it were; they use science for that, and limit their religion to the “gaps”. The two are compartmentalised.

    Ascribing a religious reason to a “gap” in knowledge does not solve that gap in knowledge, it offers an arbitrary unsubstantiated “placeholder”, leaving any actual explanation unresolved.

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  23. Heraclides,

    …because some people claim to have both does not imply that religion has anything to offer in “solving” the “gaps” in scientific knowledge, because these people compartmentalise their religion and their science. In particular, they use their religion in the familiar “god of the gaps” manner.

    …and who says that religion ‘solves’ the gaps in scientific knowledge? And I’ve precisely heard serveral (Ken Miller, Guy Consolmagno, Francis Collins, John Polkinghorne, among many no doubt) believing scientists express their extreme distaste for the ‘god of the gaps’ way of thinking…
    But of course, you’ll find some way no doubt to tell us all how grossly idiotic these (or all – by default?) believing scientists are – for you seem unable to respect them even for the briefest of moments.

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  24. ((to be more specific/clear: “you seem unable to respect them their intellectual integrity even for the briefest of moments.”))

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  25. An interesting discussion, I think you guys are getting somewhere 🙂

    I think that this issue of “respect” is perhaps fundamental.

    I can respect the people stated, but I will respect them for their scientific ideas/work or for their principles or actions that they take in this world. I have however, no respect for their religious beliefs, apart from perhaps a bit for how successfully they can compartmentalize them.

    The problems start to come about when the compartmentalization is not so successful. In these cases, where people start to believe that their theological or philosophical reasoning trumps empirical reasoning that we have a problem. Perhaps you could also agree on what type of reasoning has precedence here Dale?

    They gray area in the argument here lies where the evidence is not clear or even available. It is obvious that in these cases empirical reasoning starts to breakdown. What sort of reasoning do you then use? I would posit that most people rely on intuition in these cases (this type of reasoning probably happens first in most cases, very few people seem to apply explicit empirical reasoning in any case). I would further posit that some segment of the population will also accompany their intuitive response with a load of theological/phillosophical/faux empirical post facto justifications.

    In my opinion, when the facts/evidence are thin on the ground, I would recommend trusting the intuitions of smart people with deep experience in the particular subject area that you need to make a decision in. Also, I think it is prudent to have a very conscious awareness of how much is unknown and what the distribution of your risks are.

    I think this financial crisis is an example of this, where people have allowed their faux empirical reasoning to blind them to the fact that financial market risks do not follow a Gaussian/normal distribution. In other words, we have been making bets in a pseudo rational fashion based on a complete misunderstanding of the risks involved.

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  26. Cheers Nick,
    ((the tone and content of your reply I appreciate!))
    I must be short. The ‘sort of reasoning’ that these scientists use is not at all hard to find (many have written books on science and faith – which it should not be hard to find informative reviews of). I recommend Alistair McGrath. He’s written MUCH on the subject and it is all excellent, IMHO. 😉

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  27. ((“The science of God” would be an excellent place to start – as it summarises a much larger 3-volume work of his…))

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  28. …and who says that religion ’solves’ the gaps in scientific knowledge? And I’ve precisely heard serveral (Ken Miller, Guy Consolmagno, Francis Collins, John Polkinghorne, among many no doubt) believing scientists express their extreme distaste for the ‘god of the gaps’ way of thinking…

    I can’t claim to understand what it is that you are trying to say. Who is the ‘you’ you are referring to in the first sentence? Regards your second sentence: they certainly present their religion in the “god of gaps” manner, so if they have actually expressed distaste for this, surely this suggests that can’t see what they are doing very clearly? (No offence, but this doesn’t entirely surprise me as blindness to contradictions in their own statements seems to be a common trait of many religious people, which I suspect follows from the nature of religious thinking, or how it’s taught. They’re only people; they have the same failing as other people.)

    But of course, you’ll find some way no doubt to tell us all how grossly idiotic these (or all – by default?) believing scientists are

    You shouldn’t really try put words in other’s mouths, y’know 😉 I didn’t say this, please try not imply I am or will, it’s a bit offensive. I can speak for myself after all 😉

    for you seem unable to respect them even for the briefest of moments.

    I never wrote anything about disrespecting them, certainly not in the broader, sweeping way that you are implying: could you not retrospectively load meanings onto my comments? I wrote that they don’t apply their religion to science problems, in the way your comments implied they do. That’s it, nothing more. There was nothing about their science or “respect” (or not).

    I in fact agree with Nick and was saying much the same thing, but you seem to want to load other tones and meanings on my words, which I suspect is because you see it is me that is writing. That is to say, you seem to be reacting personally to me, and wish to “damn” me rather than read my words as just words written. (I’d experiment with writing under another alias to see if I’m right, but the icons are based on IPs…)

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  29. Nick,

    I agree.

    You’ve got a good point about it becoming problematic when these people stop compartmentalising, and apply religion in place of the science when the science is available. I was thinking of those who are productive scientists, as—for the most part—they don’t seem to fall into this trap too often, hence my remarks about them not applying their religion to their science.

    I’m also being a little simplistic in that I am thinking of scientists and their own area of science. One obvious exception are those who limit themselves to applying religious points to the gaps in their own fields of study, but apply religious thinking in place of science to fields they don’t study; engineers & physicists talking about biology is the usual example given. This would have the compartmentalisation not being all science vs. all religion, but their particular area of science vs. everything else.

    I agree that “In my opinion, when the facts/evidence are thin on the ground, I would recommend trusting the intuitions of smart people with deep experience in the particular subject area that you need to make a decision in.” Part of their strength is in knowing the field over a long time, so that they understand the (recent) history of the field, why it is at the point that is it, the various dead-ends that were run into in the past, etc., i.e. not just the current “facts” at this point in time, but how they were arrived at.

    I’d add that I suspect many of the “lay” public probably are judging when to move to intuition based on their (lay public) knowledge of the subject at hand, not that of scientists. I think that many of these people don’t appreciate the sheer mass of knowledge in most areas of science. There may be an element of wanting control of their lives in this (I am thinking of the “anti-vaccine” proponents as an example).

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  30. Thanks Hericlides, good point about compartmentalisation abilities not being restricted to the religious. I agree.

    It appears to me as though most people must have a congenital fear of the unknown. It seems very difficult for people to simply say “I don’t know”, or even “we do not know yet”. Instead, somehow, philosophical logic, or even worse theology, open up the doors of understanding to all the hidden meaning and purpose in the universe. I think its a crock! I enjoy a good philosophical debate as much as the next person, but without a connection back to reality (such as evidence, or observable utility), this is more game than fundamental truths.

    Of course when I refer to philosophy here, I have in mind an open ended searching style, not the “we already know the answers” but we need the justifications style of the apologetics. I really had to laugh at the “because god could exist, then god exists argument”. That’s definitely a cue to leave the room if I ever heard one 🙂

    I personally am perfectly happy to exist as evolved animal on this planet, I can’t see any grounds for life to be any more complicated than this, but am happy to reconsider if somebody has some evidence of other purposes or meanings that they want to share. There is a lot of things that I don’t know about the world/universe that we live in, but I aim to learn as much as possible about it in the time that I have.

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  31. if they have actually expressed distaste for this, surely this suggests that can’t see what they are doing very clearly?

    …and that’s precisely what I’m talking about. You don’t seem to be even trying to see how someone could have both faith and be a rigorous and good scientist, and so by saying things like this, you are insulting many good scientists.

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  32. …and that’s precisely what I’m talking about.

    Thanks for clarifying: this wasn’t clear from your earlier comment.

    You don’t seem to be even trying to see how someone could have both faith and be a rigorous and good scientist, and so by saying things like this, you are insulting many good scientists.

    Could you please stop trying to say what it is that I think? If I think something, I can say it for myself. I explicitly told you earlier, my comments didn’t even refer to this at all, neither “for” nor “against”:

    I never wrote anything about disrespecting them, certainly not in the broader, sweeping way that you are implying: could you not retrospectively load meanings onto my comments? I wrote that they don’t apply their religion to science problems, in the way your comments implied they do. That’s it, nothing more. There was nothing about their science or “respect” (or not).

    Let me emphasise: my comments don’t even deal with this at all, basically, because my point wasn’t “these people are disreputable (or not)” or something along those lines, but how these people manage this. It does sound very much like you are trying to retrospectively make up an “alternative” version of what I’ve written so that you can self-justify “dismissing” me. If you don’t like me pointing this out, just stop doing it: as you keep making me out to saying things I’m not, I’ll keep pointing out that these aren’t my words, but yours.

    My thoughts on this are far more nuanced than the sweeping statements you make me out to be thinking, and relate more to each specific use of “religious thinking” and it’s context than broad brush dismissals of people. (I’ve touched on a little of this in reply to Nick, but there is a lot more to it.)

    In any event, your comment that I “don’t seem to be even trying to see” is wrong, as I like others here I have pointed out how they achieve this apparent contradiction: compartmentalising. Note, however, this means that they are not applying religious thinking to science problems (in their own field), as I wrote earlier. It means that they keep the two separate.

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  33. scientific thinking and religious thinking

    two distinct things – agreed

    atheists think one has worth, the other worthless – noted

    the believing scientists mentioned above obviously value both – agreed and noted

    question – can scientific and religious thinking in any way be related (i.e. compared, contrasted, etc.)? Atheists say they are related such that the one (science) always is in direct and total conflict with the other (religion), and science wins. Above believing scientists say they are not always in direct and total conflict, but are rather two different modes of contemplating or accounting for the same set of phenomena.

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  34. Dale, I think you are so sweeping you are not going to characterise either theist or non-theist views correctly.

    I have personally known many “believing scientists” and really don’t think it would be correct to say that they saw “scientific and religious thinking” as “two different modes of contemplating or accounting for the same set of phenomena.” I suspect that would actually lead to a great deal of personal confusion.

    My beliefs is that they in most cases used the “different ways of thinking” for completely different subjects. I can’t recall anytime seeing any evidence that they approached their work, their specific research topics, with a relgious way of thinking at all.

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  35. What do you mean by “approached their work, their specific research topics, with a relgious way of thinking…”?

    What I’m suggesting is that the believing scientist is able to cheerfully employ scientific methodology in his/her scientific work without at all having to renounce his/her religious beliefs. The scientist who happens to be an atheist views their rigorous scientific work as studying nature, and the scientist who happens to be a theist views their rigorous scientific work as studying creation.

    What I’m also suggesting is that the rigorous scientific work of believing scientists in general (in particular the sort mentioned above) is most harmonious with their religous views (which – as i was saying – are not ‘god of the gap’ views).

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  36. Again, Dale, I wouldn’t be so sweeping and assume the viewpoint of either type of scientist. And words have different means for different people. Many, theist and non-theist alike, would see studying nature and studying creation as exactly the same thing.

    And I disagree with your last paragraph – or at least see at as blinkered to your own outlook. Ideally scientists should be able to feel that their rigorous scientific work is in harmony with their philosophical/ideological world views. I personally felt that throughout most of my life (although I can see from personal experience how easy it is for political/ideological views to distort one’s approach to science, to undermine the scientific ethos of honesty). And I certainly can’t accept the idea that there is more harmony for the “believing” scientist.

    It is my impression that many religious scientists actually do compartmentalise the two sides of their life. I have even heard of one, a geologist explorer for oil, who was able to compartmentalise a young earth creationist viewpoint while at the same time using a scientific approach to his exploration work.

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  37. ((clarifyer: when I said ‘most’ I meant it in the sense of ‘quite’))

    Yes, I do think there are cases where a particular belief will necessarily require temporarily forgetting (as you say ‘compartmentalising’ as opposed to ‘distinguishing’) whilst doing science, etc. And yes, 6-day creationist beliefs would obviously create such a case.

    But as is the case with many believing scientists who accept (and in some cases are at the forefront of) modern physics, cosmology and/or biology, their work is most quite harmonious with their religious beliefs; meaning – they don’t have to momentarally suspend, ignore, forget or otherwise ‘compartmentalise’ their beliefs when thinking/acting as a scientist.

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  38. I wouldn’t like to be dogmatic about this – after all we can’t get into others’ minds, can we.

    But my impression was that good scientists did compartmentalise the scientific processes from the ideological ones (not just religious). There were problems when they didn’t.

    I am aware that there are some who say otherwise and write books about it. But I did have the impression that most of the ones I worked with very much kept their religious attitudes for Sunday (or lunchtime in the case of those who used to have prayer sessions on my campus). And they probably would have argued strongly against anyone who publicly tried to connect their work to their religion (or politics, or world view).

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  39. Well, some ‘religious attitudes’ would indeed need to be suspended for scientific work. What I was talking about, though was not religious ‘attitudes’, but religious thinking/beliefs – like, say, the belief that all things were created (by whatever process/means) by God. That is a belief that would not be in conflict with scientific work – and thus would not need to be ‘compartmentalised’ away.

    And yes, there is a sense in which in order to focus on a given task at hand, one would need to protect their work from biases from commercial (i.e. ‘clinical tests’ funded by a corporation, etc.) or ideological interests.

    I’m basically only asserting (and trying not to be dogmatic in doing so) what I see to be a basic point that religious beliefs (in general) do not (by default) need to be ‘compartmentalised’ in order to do good science. There was, I think, the implicit (explicit?) suggestion above that believing scientists (always?) have to compartmentalise – which I can’t agree with.

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  40. [The a]bove believing scientists say they are not always in direct and total conflict, but are rather two different modes of contemplating or accounting for the same set of phenomena.

    Nope: as I have tried to say several times, these people apply these two types of thinking to different things, not to “the same set of phenomena”. You could even argue that they do this illustrates that the two types of thinking are in conflict, regardless of whatever they might say, with the evidence of their actions speaking louder than words as it were.

    (I’d add I, and I suspect Ken and others, are thinking of a far wider range of people than the few you named, in particular people with much more modest “conflicts”.)

    You seem to keep persisting in trying make a space to allow “religious thinking” to solve the problems science addresses, when the whole point that these people compartmentalising is that they don’t do this. As I wrote earlier, they restrict their religious thinking for the “gaps” (or in some cases areas of science that they don’t study).

    The belief that “all things were created (by whatever process/means) by God” is most definitely inconsistent with a number of areas of science; people with these beliefs are either not going to be able to work in these areas, or will have to thoroughly compartmentalise their religious beliefs from their work (to an extent I think very few would be able to do).

    is most harmonious with their religous views (which – as i was saying – are not ‘god of the gap’ views).

    This seems to completely contradict your earlier statement, which I though you agreed they were:

    (a) they are “god of the gaps” views;
    (b) these people claim they are not, which is contradictory to what they practice.

    Should I now take it that your reply to me …and that’s precisely what I’m talking about. in reply to my words “Regards your second sentence: they certainly present their religion in the “god of gaps” manner, so if they have actually expressed distaste for this, surely this suggests that can’t see what they are doing very clearly?” was incorrect or is somehow misleading?

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  41. I have tried to say several times, these people apply these two types of thinking to different things,

    what ‘different things’?

    You seem to keep persisting in trying make a space to allow “religious thinking” to solve the problems science addresses

    When have I used the word ‘solve’? Please demonstrate where I say (or imply that) religious thinking can “solve” scientific ‘problems’…

    The belief that “all things were created (by whatever process/means) by God” is most definitely inconsistent with a number of areas of science; people with these beliefs are either not going to be able to work in these areas, or will have to thoroughly compartmentalise their religious beliefs from their work (to an extent I think very few would be able to do).

    Please demonstrate how.

    As regards my earlier reply – maybe it was misleading or misunderstood. One of my points was that many/most? believing scientists (proper ones) will be quite against the ‘god of the gaps’ mindset.

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  42. scientific thinking and religious thinking

    two distinct things – agreed

    atheists think one has worth, the other worthless – noted

    I think the above is a interesting quote. For the reason that this is not strictly accurate. It is not just atheists who think of religious thinking as worthless, but in fact every theist that does not subscribe to the same brand of religion also. The fact of the matter is, that the scientific method has utility in finding and agreeing on facts about reality (regardless of which or whether you have a religion). This is not a quality of religion, and as such, I see that religion provides little or no hope for the pursuit of objective knowledge. Having said this, I could accept some worth in some/all religions in the extent to which they may have a positive effect on outcomes, but would consider these effects to be byproducts rather than caused by religion.

    I really liked an idea that I picked up from reading something Heinz Pagels had written. He looked upon the scientific method/community as providing the selection function in an evolutionary system that is evolving better and better approximations of reality. That has inspired me to order one of his books.

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  43. One further point about “fine tuning” arguments. To me, this is a classic example of the compartments breaking down. The problems with these arguments have been very clearly stated by Ken in the past. That is, our current understanding of the universe and the theories that have been developed are neither complete, nor perfect. There are many things that as yet remain unknown. It is unhelpful in the extreme for somebody to come along labeling all the strange or unknown aspects of reality as “god did it”. That is not an answer, but an attempt to shut down the effort to find the answer. It is revealing that these people do not then change their mind about the existence of their gods when science subsequently comes along with a much better explanation for the for mentioned aspect of reality. The essence of dogmatism and why people spend a lot of time and effort arguing against it.

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  44. Dale,

    It should be obvious what is meant by different things: you have omitted from the quote the part that makes it obvious: its the anthesis of what you wrote (‘for the same set of phenomena’). I would suggest you read my full sentence, not a excerpted part of it 😉

    When have I used the word ’solve’?

    I’m not interested in word games. You know perfectly well I’m writing casually (this is a blog) and you know perfectly well it goes opposite your words ‘accounting for’, or the equivalent in your other posts.

    Please demonstrate how.

    I don’t have to demonstrate how: you are hardly demonstrating your earlier claim, are you? I will give one very simple example, one I know you are already familiar with: abiogenesis. (Your familiarity with this raises the question of why you even made your original claim.)

    As regards my earlier reply – maybe it was misleading or misunderstood. One of my points was that many/most? believing scientists (proper ones) will be quite against the ‘god of the gaps’ mindset.

    In that case, why did you agree with me earlier when I pointed out this means that they are contradicting themselves by using their religion in a god of the gaps manner, but saying words to the effect that they are against that?

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  45. Nick,

    I agree, a broader issue is holding ideologies (of any kind) too strongly.

    Even holding particular scientific views in an irrational way could be considered ideological, in it’s own way. (Such as when there are two or more distinct “camps” in a field and a few people stubbornly refuse to even consider other points of view!) Putting ideology ahead of looking at evidence, etc., is asking for trouble.

    You can’t “solve” something by forcing an ideology on it. As religious thinking consists of imposing a pre-set ideological view on something, rather than laying out the possibilities, etc., I can’t see that it can contribute much to “solving” anything, as it pre-empts looking at other solutions.

    I saw a wonderful example of this in the newspaper not so long ago where a local senior theologian (a professor) listed all the “problems” of Africa, then declared that Christianity was the solution, with no inquiry at all!

    Reading our latest comments, I think in some respects we’re catching up with Ken’s latest article! (‘Belief not the same as truth’) I guess Ken anticipated where this would head… 🙂

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  46. It should be obvious what is meant by different things: you have omitted from the quote the part that makes it obvious: its the anthesis of what you wrote (’for the same set of phenomena’). I would suggest you read my full sentence, not a excerpted part of it

    OK, I’ll quote it again in full and ask it again then… 🙂

    my statement[The a]bove believing scientists say they ((…scientific and religious thinking…)) are not always in direct and total conflict, but are rather two different modes of contemplating or accounting for the same set of phenomena.
    your response
    Nope: as I have tried to say several times, these people apply these two types of thinking to different things, not to “the same set of phenomena”. You could even argue that they do this illustrates that the two types of thinking are in conflict, regardless of whatever they might say, with the evidence of their actions speaking louder than words as it were.

    OK, so I read you saying that the above believing scientists do not apply these two types of thinking ((religious and scientific)) to
    “the same set of phenomena” (my words), but rather apply them to “different things” (your words). Now, I meant (this could be part of the confusion) ‘the same set of phenomena’ in the sense of ‘any given (particular/one) set of phenomena’.

    To say this with different syntax would be to say: ‘any given (particular) set of phenomena have these two types of thinking (religious and scientific) applied to it by the above believing scientists. Or in other words, a believing scientist can apply scientific thinking to a given set of phenomena, whilst at the same time apply religious thinking to that same set of phenomena. Does that help clarify what I was saying? (opinions from others welcome)

    When have I used the word ’solve’?I’m not interested in word games. You know perfectly well I’m writing casually (this is a blog) and you know perfectly well it goes opposite your words ‘accounting for’, or the equivalent in your other posts.

    Sorry, but the words matter. Especially when the point being asserted is a specific and nuanced one. I’m talking about believing scientists having two kinds of appreciations for the same ‘thing’ (event/phenomena), and have never ever implied (much less said) that one appreciation (religious) does away with or replaces the other (scientific).

    Please demonstrate how ((“The belief that “all things were created (by whatever process/means) by God” is most definitely inconsistent with a number of areas of science; people with these beliefs are either not going to be able to work in these areas, or will have to thoroughly compartmentalise their religious beliefs from their work (to an extent I think very few would be able to do).”))
    I don’t have to demonstrate how: you are hardly demonstrating your earlier claim, are you? I will give one very simple example, one I know you are already familiar with: abiogenesis. (Your familiarity with this raises the question of why you even made your original claim.)

    OK, so you said that belief in a creator is inconsistent with many areas of science and would cause them to have to compartmentalise. I asked you to demonstrate how, and you say i should already know, but give ‘abiogenesis’ as an example. Please don’t be frustrated with me, but I’m not making the connection here. How does ‘abiogenesis’ (the origin/genesis of life/bios) demonstrate that belief in a creator is inconsistent with science?

    In that case, why did you agree with me earlier when I pointed out this means that they are contradicting themselves by using their religion in a god of the gaps manner, but saying words to the effect that they are against that?

    I honestly don’t know where I agreed that they use “their religion in a god of the gaps manner”?

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  47. Now you are trying read so much into specific words and make such an overworked fuss about them, that you “forget” to (or avoid or side-step) simply reading the message! It looks like a smokescreen to avoid what’s being said to me.

    Does that help clarify what I was saying?

    You have repeated what I already understood you to say. It is not complex: ‘different things’ in to different things, not to “the same set of phenomena” is very clearly the antithesis of ‘the same set of phenomena’ (as in ‘different sets of phenomena’), as I have already explained to you. Then, you promptly go off and travel around in a circle to the extent that my reply to “To say this with different syntax … that same set of phenomena., were I to give it, would be to literally repeat what you are “replying” to! It’s clear you are merely repeating what you want to hear from yourself regardless of whatever is pointed out. Obviously there is no point in me repeating myself, as you obviously won’t consider any points made.

    Sorry, but the words matter. Especially when the point being asserted is a specific and nuanced one.

    To repeat, I’m not interested in word games. You are being the overactive pendant, trying to invent issues where there are none. Read the message, or don’t bother.

    Regards demonstrating things: You made a claim, don’t demonstrate it, then demand that others (I) demonstrate a something that would refute it. That’s a fallacy I don’t have to answer to. If you don’t demonstrate your claim, it’s an empty claim; if the claim is empty, there is nothing for anyone to answer to. It’s a standard “tactic” from creationists, apologists, etc., and I’ve seen it again and again and… you get the drift.

    The example I gave is obvious. Abiogenesis asks what chemical process might start with organic chemicals and end with life. It’s very obviously in conflict with creation stories, etc., as you very well know. To say otherwise is just playing games to me: I cannot imagine even the most “lost cause” fundamentalist christian not knowing this.

    I honestly don’t know where I agreed that they use “their religion in a god of the gaps manner”?

    You excerpted a smaller part of the sentence I wrote, and agreed to that. Normal people would take this as either agreeing the quoted portion in the context it came from. The context it came from includes that they use their religion in a god of the gaps manner. (You’re an millimetre from quote mining, by the way.)

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  48. Let’s back up, shall we?

    My claim: simple – a) the above scientists don’t like the ‘god of the gaps’ thinking and b) they don’t have to suspend or compartmentalise their beliefs when doing science.

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  49. “they don’t have to suspend or compartmentalise their beliefs when doing science.”
    I wonder.
    Surely the approach of the scientific method is different to that of “faith” or religious knowledge.
    It seems to me that when doing science we have to use the scientific methods relying very much on evidence and verification. I don’t think these are a compulsory part of the religious approach or of faith.
    Therefore I think there has to be a compartmentalisation of the two approaches when doing science. Otherwise its not science.

    This might be very similar to a scientist who has a strong belief/faith about an aspect of life which intersects with her field of investigation. A pre-committed smoker studying health effects of smoking (science) but having a faith/belief that smoking was harmless. A believer in astrology (I knew such a scientist) who investigates phenomena which astrologers may have commented on, a “new earth” person believing in the power of crystals, yet having to study mineralogy., etc., etc.

    In these sorts of cases such scientists may continue with their beliefs/faith for reasons which have nothing to do with science. But in the practice of their science they would have to disconnect/compartmentalise when these beliefs intersect with their work. Otherwise they just couldn’t do their job – they wouldn’t be considered reliable in such a job.

    I think there are many people who have arrived at their faith/religious positions quite independently (and by a different process) to that of science. Such people may well wish to preserve those beliefs or items of faith even if the conflict with their day to day scientific work. In these cases compartmentalisation seems to be the safe way out.

    I think a lot of people are able to compartmentalise when it comes to beliefs, values, etc., and jobs.

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  50. Thanks ken, there’s some good analogies there which will be helpful…

    What I’m saying is that the kind of beliefs that the above scientists have are the sort that do not conflict with their work as a scientist.

    To use Ken’s (excellent) analogy, rather than the above scientists being like a smoker studying the negative effects of smoking, they would be like a lover of animals studying zoology or animal behaviour, etc.

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  51. …and it would go without saying that there would of course be some scientists with beliefs which would indeed be in conflict/tension with their work. A 6-day creationist studying physics (where the age of the universe appears much, much, much older, etc.) would be an example…

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  52. Let’s back up, shall we?

    With the caveat that I’m not interested in travelling around in circles, maybe.

    My claim: simple – a) the above scientists don’t like the ‘god of the gaps’ thinking and b) they don’t have to suspend or compartmentalise their beliefs when doing science.

    Firstly, these are claims, not facts. Care to back your claims? (Without backing they are just empty claims.)

    The evidence would be what these people do, not what they, or you, claim.

    I pointed out that from what I’ve seen of them, what they do is use their religion in a “G-d of the gaps” fashion and compartmentalise. They may well claim otherwise, but that really doesn’t matter.

    I have to agree with Ken that do this is essentially a given, that you couldn’t hold ideological thinking of whatever kind and a successful scientist without either limiting you ideology to a restricted range of subjects that doesn’t conflict with your work, or compartmentalising. To look at an issue properly, you have to put aside any thing the might be a bias, especially if your bias is ideological. (I briefly alluded to this earlier.) Good science tries to catch this out, setting up tests to catch any bias, including the scientist’s own. I recall writing about this on this blog some time ago, saying words to the effect that the majority of my time on a project isn’t trying to come up with ideas, or “prove” them, but rather testing my ideas by trying to disprove them, as if the were hell by an arch-rival. The aim is to weed out any biases I might have. If, after I have subjected my ideas to scrutiny, they still stand, then I have something I can show to others. Any ideology, including religious ideology, would get in the way of this.

    Given that using a “G-d of the gaps” approach and compartmentalising seems to be what these people do (as opposed to claim), this brings up the other points I raised, but I won’t repeat them here.

    By the way, why limit this only to these people you have selected? I, and I believe Ken, was referring to all scientists who in some way have religious or ideological beliefs. These people are just people who come to work, do their thing and go home. (They include Muslims and other religions by the way as well as other ideologies as Ken was saying.)

    The people you list are those who have made a public nuisance of themselves, if you like. I don’t think a tiny number of “loud mouths” is really representative of the any group. All professions have a small number of oddballs who claim things that are at odds with everyone else. There are certainly plenty of examples of outspoken oddball priests or religious followers and I am sure you would not want me to have these represent the majority or what should be accepted.

    Finally, bear in mind that the number of scientists with religious beliefs are only a small fraction of the number of active scientists, e.g. ones that are publishing in the peer-reviewed literature. In saying this I am distinguishing technicians and support staff, administrators (like Collins), former scientists who have “moved” to religion (like Polkinghorne or, if we believe him, Johnson), etc. These people do not need “scientific thinking” to the same extent as those designing or running the research projects.

    I would venture a guess that the more successful the scientist, the less often you will find they hold a mix of religious belief and conduct scientific research. My anecdotal experience is that this that this is true. It would be useful if there were statistics to this effect, as the correlation would make the point that they don’t productively mix clear.

    What I’m saying is that the kind of beliefs that the above scientists have are the sort that do not conflict with their work as a scientist.

    But that was the very point Ken (and I) was making. You seem to want to just have this true, regardless of what is said. I think you need to show evidence that this is the case. “Just saying so” isn’t enough, really.

    To use Ken’s (excellent) analogy, rather than the above scientists being like a smoker studying the negative effects of smoking, they would be like a lover of animals studying zoology or animal behaviour, etc.

    The thing is not that they are smokers or animal lovers in itself, but if they can put their bias aside in doing their work, which is a form of compartmentalisation in a way. I, and I think a lot of others, do this by trying “disprove” your own ideas as a counter to any bias. That, in turn, is why logical methods—e.g. the “scientific method—are used. Ideologies, or more simply bias, are an obstruction to carrying out the logical testing, but only if you insist on putting them giving them priority over evidence.

    For example, I would question that you give priority to a claim that these people do not practice a “G-d of the gaps” approach, over evidence that they do 😉

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  53. well then.
    I doubt either of us know any of the above believing scientists personally, so I’ll freely admit that I’m only working on what I’ve heard/read, etc. When you say “The evidence would be what these people do, not what they, or you, claim.” …from what I’ve seen of them, what they do is use their religion in a “G-d of the gaps” fashion and compartmentalise. They may well claim otherwise, but that really doesn’t matter., what behaviour/actions of theirs do you have in mind?

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  54. Dale, seeing you are offering nothing supporting your claims, only repeatedly “demanding” that others do, it’s clear your “debate” is insincere.

    I have read interviews with Collins, etc., and this is my recollection from them. I’m not going to waste time trying to track them down again as you started with the claim that they don’t use the G.o.t.g approach and it is really for you to back this claim first, or admit that you don’t have a case, in which case you shouldn’t have made the claim. My reading of your first sentence is that this is the case.

    Offered with no comment (nor expectations of relevance): http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/12/the_courtiers_reply.php

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  55. The claims I made, Heraclides, were (I freely admitted) based on their words. Your counter-claims, appear to also be based on things they (or at least Collins?) has said.

    Here are a couple quickly found references to some statements of Christian scientists criticising the GOTG thinking:

    (Collins mentioned a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_the_gaps#Criticism” />here )

    Polkinghorne “We are not talking about a God of the gaps, an agent acting among other agents in the process of the world, and just invoked to explain the currently scientifically inexplicable.” (here)

    What other words or actions of theirs contradicts these?

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  56. oops – missed a ‘<‘ 🙂

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  57. Dale,

    *Sigh*. One thing I hate about sort of thing is that I find myself having to spell out the obvious 😦

    The claims I made, Heraclides, were (I freely admitted) based on their words.

    I pointed out that what they, or you, claim is not relevant quite a while back.

    Your counter-claims, appear to also be based on things they (or at least Collins?) has said.

    Come on, Dale. Re-read the very passage you quoted me:

    …from what I’ve seen of them, what they do is use their religion in a “G-d of the gaps” fashion and compartmentalise. They may well claim otherwise, but that really doesn’t matter

    It says very clearly that my observations are based on how they applied their religion and their science (separately), not what they claimed. I even emphasised words to make that absolutely clear. Our bases are not the same as is already quite clear.

    Very quickly as I have little time:

    1. You haven’t backed your original claims, so the whole thing is pointless, anyway :-/

    2. The people you have named aren’t appropriate for what you want to claim anyway. I have already pointed out to you that Polkinghorne and Collins are not working scientists, They are not examples of “believing” scientists “using” religion, etc., because neither Polkinghorne nor Collins are scientists to start with… You don’t seem to have “gotten” that. I could “deal” with the others, too, but I haven’t time. (Miller in particular is an example that runs against your notions, but you don’t seem to realise that.)

    I would add that I know personally scientific staff who have religious beliefs, and I can assure you that behave in the manner I outlined, contrary to what you claim. I can’t help but think that you want to make it only about these selected people because you are parroting what you have read elsewhere and think that by doing and restricting it to them that you can “win”. You should really have tried to read others’ comments against the claims made about these people, which are widely available, before you started and you would have found that they are inappropriate, e.g. do your homework first.

    3. You have consistently avoided/ignored the points that have been made. You have consistently tried to make me out to have particular views I don’t or said particular things that I haven’t. As a result, there is little incentive for anyone to want to bother with this. And neither do I 😉

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  58. 1 how have i not?
    2 wow – you have a very exclusivist boundary as who is/is not a real scientist – I guess Dawkins isn’t either?
    3 no, my claims were basic and you’ve not named even ONE example in which any of these scientists ‘use’ their religion in a GOTG way…

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  59. Dale,

    1. You haven’t: you said so yourself.
    2. Don’t try change my words, I wrote “active”, not “real”.
    3. See my earlier point: that’s your claim to establish or not, not mine. See also 1: you said you haven’t.

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  60. 1 – no, the actual claims I made I’ve backed up
    2 – well, apparently you think their credibility/expertise vanishes when they’re no longer ‘active’?
    3 – i’ve backed up my claim (they say what they say). you have not backed up yours (what it is that they DO that contradicts what they say)

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  61. I’m discontinuing this as you have your fingers your ears and are blabbing away not taking any notice of the points that have been made.

    1. No, you haven’t. I have repeatedly pointed out it’s what they do that matters, not what you or they claim. You know who haven’t presented anything about what they do. Since you haven’t done this there is nothing, just an empty claim. Since it’s an empty claim, it’s all moot.

    BTW: I note Collins “reserves a special space” for G-d separate from science on his website, the GOTG argument… 😉

    2. Still trying to twist my words! All I said is that they are not scientists, which is true. I have already explained why and it has nothing to do with credibility. Your argument was that some scientists use religious “stuff”; the people you list aren’t scientists. That’s it. Nothing to do with credibility. Just that they are not scientists. That’s true, a fact. You can’t wriggle out of it by trying to change my words.

    3. See 1, as I pointed out to you previously.

    End of discussion since you clearly won’t listen. Or think.

    But one final thought. You seem to claim that you are better than Bnonn, etc. In one sense that’s true: you don’t fly into hot-headed silliness quite the way they can (or ban people because they can’t face being wrong). But in terms of logic I have to say I think you’re not as different from them as you make out to be. In fact, you’re almost identical in that sense. If you want to claim on your blog to do better than them, then do better. Note the same two words that matter recurring… think about it: it’s what you do that matters, not what you claim…

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  62. I have repeatedly pointed out it’s what they do that matters, not what you or they claim.

    yes, and you haven’t given any examples.

    “reserves a special space”

    If you’re not going to give the context for a quote, don’t mine it for your own purposes.

    All I said is that they are not scientists, which is true.

    Wow. So the moment someone stops doing active working science, the label ‘scientist’ is immediately wrong, innacurate and probably dishonest, eh??? That’s a first for me… 😉

    For Bnonn sake (and for the sake of the helpful use of language), no, I don’t think that I am “better than Bnonn”. We engage with atheists in very different ways, and we would have different understandings of various issues – and of course we would have similarities. So what? (random!)

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