Tag Archives: creationism

Get in the sack!

Whoops! I know this has a slightly risque meaning in New Zealand. But I am using it here in the way that Irish comedian Dara O’Briain does. It’s what he suggests for all those who carp on about the supposed deficiencies of science.

Have a watch of these brief videos to get the full meaning.

Dara O’Briain – If science knew all the answers it would stop!

Dara O’Briain and Frankie Boyle on religion and creationism

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The philosophy wars

Book Review: Critique of Intelligent Design: Materialism versus Creationism from Antiquity to the Present by John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Monthly Review Press (November 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1583671730
ISBN-13: 978-1583671733

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Scientific writers usually critique intelligent design (ID) creationism using scientific facts. And why not? After all, as the saying goes, “we have the genes and we have the fossils.” And creationist arguments often do rely on flagrant distortion of the facts.

This doesn’t get to the real emotion and ideas motivating supporters of creationism. So we sometimes need to deal with personal beliefs and feelings. The question of randomness behind evolutionary mutations. The violence and waste implied by “survival of the fittest.” And the unwarranted application of “social Darwinism” to society.

But this book takes the struggle to the most fundamental level. That of the philosophical approaches underlying science, on the one hand, and teleological explanations preferred by religion on the other. This struggle has been going on for millennia, and will no doubt continue for a long time yet.

It’s an important struggle because of the current attacks on science.  But the struggle is wider than that – it is central to the “culture wars” of today. Read the Wedge Strategy and you can see that ID is also attacking society, religion and freedom.

Scientists have usually not bothered to engage with ID philosophically. So it is refreshing to read a book which takes these design arguments head on.

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Disputing respectfully?

Here’s an interesting article by Sean Carroll at Cosmic Variance (The Grid of Disputation). It could be topical here because some have suggested that I may have been a bit harsh in my criticism of theists who have, in my view, been giving an incorrect description of science.

Sean provides a grid of the possible disputes one could get into. The implication is that it is pointless arguing with young earth creationists and similar crazies. “Victories” are easy and meaningless. The more fruitful discussions are with the “worthy opponents” – those capable of listening and making reasonable rejoinders. Often we can learn a lot from such discussions – both about our opponents thinking and about subtleties of our own position.

There is also the implication that the debate itself should be respectful, not derogatory. However, Sean is clear that mockery does have a place. I agree – sometimes the only way one can handle a silly idea is the mock it or use sarcasm. And, often one should call a spade a spade.

PZ Myers, noted for his humorous and often sharp debating style on his blog Pharyngula, comments on Sean’s article in The dilemma of the anti-creationist. He basically agrees , but does wonder if restricting discussion only to those “worthy opponents” could make for a boring life.

See also:
Thank You, Richard Dawkins
Blogging Heads: Science Saturday – The early Universe: Sean Carroll & Mark Trodden

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“Knowledge” from ignorance

Recently, I came across the very relevant statement in a paper I was reading:

“Ignorance cannot support a knowledge claim of any sort except perhaps for the trivial claim that we simply do not know.”

I think this is something we should keep in the front of our minds when we consider those creationist and religious apologetics arguments justifying anti-science positions. You know, Bill Dembski‘s “design filter” – “if we cant show something is caused by chance, or by laws of nature, then it must be intelligently designed.” Or Michael Behe‘s irreducible complexityargument. Or the “cosmological” argument, the “fine tuning” argument, etc., etc.

If we don’t have evidence we should be happy to say: “I don’t know.” And, ideally follow that with: “Let’s find out.”

To use lack of information to support a knowledge claim is just not logical.

By the way – the paper is by Carol E. Cleland & Shelley Copley (2005). “The Possibility of Alternative Microbial Life on Earth,” International Journal of Astrobiology 4, pp. 165-173. It discusses the possibility that life may have originated on earth more than once and these forms may be basically different. Peter Ward, in his book Life as We Do Not Know It also discusses this possibility.

It’s intriguing. Maybe we will discover “alien” life on earth before we discover extra-terrestrial life.

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The purpose of purpose

dawkins lectureMy previous post on Purpose seems, from the discussion, to have hit a raw spot with some people. Just to add fuel to the fire, have a look at this video of Richard Dawkin’s’ recent presentation during his March USA tour. Entitled “Purpose of Purpose” he discusses how the word is often used inappropriately. Along the lies of the theological “why” questions. Quoting Peter Atkins he points out that often “why” questions are just silly.

However, Dawkins does point out that humans are obsessed with purpose, and discusses why that may be so. He describes how purpose has evolved and why the human brain can derive humanitarian and religious purposes which are not necessarily seen as evolutionary adaptions.

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