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Guest Post: Dan Brown’s History of Science

October 23rd, 2009 by Matt

This guest post was submitted by Dr James Hannam. Dr Hannam is a UK based historian with degrees in physics and history from the Universities of Oxford and London and a PhD in the history of science from the University of Cambridge. He blogs at Quodlibeta.

The film adaptation of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons was released this year and, on top of Brown’s new novel, appears to have done a roaring trade. Reports suggest that this is a better effort by director Ron Howard than his The Da Vinci Code, although most critics would feel that making a worse film would have been a stiffer test.

For those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the book, Angels and Demons is set in Rome where hunky Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, played by Tom Hanks, is trying to prevent the Illuminati from detonating an anti-matter bomb.  According to Dan Brown’s alternative view of history, the Illuminati are a secret society of scientists (Copernicus and Galileo were, of course, members) who were persecuted by the Catholic Church.  After a great purge in the seventeenth century, we learn, the society went underground and plotted revenge. For some reason, it has taken them over three hundred years to get their act together.

The Da Vinci Code launched the literary careers of a whole faculty previously-obscure professors of New Testament Studies. Admittedly, they had good reason for wanting to put the record straight about Brown’s distortions of early Christian history.  This time, it’s historians of science who might be upset by Brown’s misrepresentation. Because his contention that the Catholic Church has spent the last two millennia holding back the advance of science is as wrongheaded as the story that Mrs Jesus retired to the south of France with her kids.

Of course, it’s not just Dan Brown who believes in the battle between science and religion. While few people think that the Illuminati really were a group of scientists suppressed by the Church, the perception of an eternal conflict between reason and faith is widespread. It’s true that the Church did make a single significant mistake in 1616, when it banned Copernicus’s opinion that the earth orbits the sun. But the subsequent trial of Galileo over the issue had more to do with papal self-esteem than astronomy. And even in this case, the Catholic Church was siding with the scientific consensus of the time. Still, you can’t manufacture an eternal conflict from a single example, so proponents of the hypothesis have had to resort to a different strategy – inventing the evidence.

For example, in the book of Angels and Demons, Brown alleges that the Church had Copernicus murdered for his heliocentric model. While this is a more extreme allegation, there is a general belief that Copernicus feared persecution for his ideas. It’s widely thought that he refrained from publishing them until he was on his deathbed. In fact, he had circulated a pamphlet outlining his theory decades before he died. This was favourably received by senior churchmen and he was urged to publish by a cardinal. He even dedicated his great book, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, to the Pope.

Alas, as long as the likes of Dan Brown sell far more books than historians of science, this is a myth that is unlikely to go away.

James Hannam’s book God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science is published by Icon. The best price we could find for it from a New Zealand bookseller, with free delivery, was through The Nile Online Bookstore at the above link. International readers can buy it through Amazon. As I have previously stated elsewhere, it would make a good Christmas gift…

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The “Dark Ages” and Other Propaganda
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Contra Mundum: The Flat-Earth Myth

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135 responses so far ↓

  • “As I have previously stated elsewhere, it would make a good Christmas gift…”

    Subtle much?

    I just ordered it for your birthday so you can read it sooner and write a review for Investigate.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Christian Libertarian Blog Carnival September 09 =-.

  • One word…. its fiction…. Duh!

  • You can tell that it is fiction Anonymous but lots of other people think that when read novels or watch movies that the historical backplots are accurate.

    At a funeral (of all places) we had a friend of the family start having a go about our Christianity. He asked how we could believe the Bible was the word of God given it was written by Constantine during the council of Nicea.

    He was serious.

    Matt asked where he’d hear that and he replied, equally seriously, the Davinci Code. He proceeded in the conversation to assume that he had seriously debunked our faith.

    This guy was not a nut, he was university educated, he was not aggressive or anything either but he genuinely believed the Constantine wrote the Bible based off the Davinvi Code.

    I recall not that far back hearing about a test of history knowledge of teenage school children; they all knew about the invasion of Normandy but the thought that Private Ryan led the attack. One student knew all about the big air battles in WWII which really impressed the examiners until they found out his knowledge stemmed from a playstation game. The playstation game happened to have fairly factually accurate details but Private Ryan is a fictional hollywood character and Dan Brown’s novels cannot be described as fairly factually accurate but how do I know that? Because I have read both fiction and non-fiction and that was James Hannam’s point.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Guest Post: Dan Brown’s History of Science =-.

  • If it were only ineptly written potboiler fiction, few would care. But he constantly represents his fiction as being solidly based on facts — of history, of art and architecture, of science — and he gets these so wildly garbled that they do not pass the giggle test. A simple desk-top encyclopedia would have been sufficient to correct most of the errors. Why state that Copernicus had been murdered when a quick lookup in a reputable source book would have shown otherwise? Answer: he heard it somewhere and never questioned it because it fit so well with his deeply held beliefs, or he just made it up and didn’t care.

    The key to writing Secret History is that it doesn’t contradict actual known history.

  • I have yet to read Hannan’s book but can see from this brief article why Nina Power, in her (otherwise favourable) review of the book, raised a serious objection. She commented:

    “Hannam’s deeper motivation, namely to exonerate the Catholic Church from some of the worst excesses of which they stand accused (the persecution of Galileo, the holding back of scientific developments in astronomy, anatomy and physics), leads him to make some extremely convoluted and, at times, very unconvincing arguments. Just because persecution wasn’t as bad as it could have been, and just because some thinkers weren’t always nice people doesn’t mean that interfering in their work and banning their ideas was justifiable then or is justifiable now.”

    1: Personally I find the current apologetics fashion of rewriting the history of the Galileo affair strongly parallels that of the small band of Stalinists who seek to justify and explain away the Stalin terror. No doubt they could do what Hannan has done with Dan Brown’s Angels and demons. Hold up a cheap cold war fictional thriller as a straw man to knock down. There would be plenty of factual inaccuracies to use there!

    This being the International Year of Astronomy there has been quite a few scientific sources celebrating Galileo’s achievements. Those I have read and watched do give an honest account. And let’s face it – the church did not behave well.

    Hannan excuses the church as “siding with the scientific consensus of the time.” What a desperate excuse! That is the way you kill science. Especially if it results in life long house arrest and suppression of scientific work for centuries. The Church took 200 years to remove Galileo’s major work on the solar system, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems from the Roman Catholic index of prohibited books. And it didn’t lift Galileo’s conviction for heresy until 1992!

    This reminds me of how Stalin’s regime treated Nikolai Vavilov (except his reputation was rehabilitated within years rather than centuries. Seems like the communist regime of the time was far more responsive than the church).

    Scientists work hard to demolish the “scientific consensus of the time.” (They are an ambitious lot, aren’t they?) Do you advocate that the church should have arrested Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Richard Dawkins, Fr Georges Lemaître, etc., etc. and suppress their work for centuries? Just because they were doing the normal scientific thing of challenging current “scientific consensus?”

    Of course not – and that is why we must not excuse the church for what they did to Galileo and others. I have written more about this in “Blaming the Victim.”

    2: Apparently Hannan seeks to deny a conflict between science and religion. It seems to be all the rage for religious apologists at the moment with very similar articles popping up on their web sites. But, deny as much as you want – facts are still facts.

    It is inevitable that conflicts arise between people whose world view is evidence-based and those whose world view is based on wishful thinking. In fact, it is surely obvious that there are inevitable conflicts within the later group because they just don’t have the ability to test their ideas and claims against objective reality.

    The conflict exists because religion insists in making truth claims. This brings it into the province of science. Here religion is at a major disadvantage (there’s nothing like testing against reality). This has often led to aggressive and militant attacks on science. When you don’t have evidence why not use emotion?
    Noticeably, these attacks seem to basically flow one way. There is a whole industry and a number of institutes devoted to such attacks on science. Your own web site indulges in such attacks from time to time.

    Most scientists have been happy to live and let live. However, people do get pissed off when they are continually attacked like this and a certain amount of retaliation, even reminders of a few home truths, will flow back.

    You are quite welcome to believe whatever nonsense you want. But of course I will retaliate when you try to impose that nonsense on my science.
    .-= My last blog-post ..The Galileo Lectures =-.

  • I find Ken’s tactic, unfortunately, predicatable.

    There is a popular, rarely substantiated, negative view of the role of the church in the history of science. A lot of people – not serious historians of science, but the hoi poloi who have a negative view of religion – buy into this not-well-substantiated view of the church and history, at least in part because it reinforces their stance towards religion.

    Then someone points out the ways in which this popular understanding of history is flawed and not well grounded in fact.

    Then someone who holds that popular view (in this case Ken) notes that the correction does not coincide with his own view (the popular view mentioned above) of the church. Since it doesn’t match his view, it is deemed non factual, and is described as “rewriting history.”

  • Ok. Fair enough Madelaine. There are people that will believe all sorts of nonsense out there. I just think that taking Dan Brown seriously (other than as a competent fiction writer) gives him credibility he would not otherwise have.

    When Theology departments (of all places!) discuss his work seriously they are almost admitting that he has legitimate arguments that need countering.

  • “It is inevitable that conflicts arise between people whose world view is evidence-based and those whose world view is based on wishful thinking.”

    So Ken, which one are you?

  • Ken I have not read the book yet either but in response to your comments,

    “Hannam’s deeper motivation, namely to exonerate the Catholic Church from some of the worst excesses of which they stand accused (the persecution of Galileo, the holding back of scientific developments in astronomy, anatomy and physics), leads him to make some extremely convoluted and, at times, very unconvincing arguments. Just because persecution wasn’t as bad as it could have been, and just because some thinkers weren’t always nice people doesn’t mean that interfering in their work and banning their ideas was justifiable then or is justifiable now.”

    You call this a serious objection, I disagree. The first half of the paragraph simply consists in pejoratively labeling an argument convoluted and unpersuasive, and castigating Hannam’s motives, neither of these amounts to a substantive objection. For this to occur we would actually need some reasons given for why his arguments are wrong.

    The second part argues that that none of the factors Hannam cites entail that that the persecution of Galileo’s ideas was unjustified. The problem is that Hannam is not arguing it was justified in fact if you read the post above Hannam states the banning of Copernicus opinion was a mistaken. What Hannam does argue in the above is that the case of Galileo does not substantiate the thesis that religion and science have locked in longs standing historical conflict. Attacking a straw man is no more a serious objection than a string of pejorative terms are, whats needed is an actual argument showing that the alleged historical conflict existed

    1: Personally I find the current apologetics fashion of rewriting the history of the Galileo affair strongly parallels that of the small band of Stalinists who seek to justify and explain away the Stalin terror.”

    Well that’s hardly a valid objection either, first simply stating that someone is re-writing history does not mean they actually have and apart from mere assertion all you provide here is a hysterical insult. You suggest that if you argue that the Galileo affair does not show that religion and science were historically in constant conflict you are on par with people who justify the killing of 90 million people. I am sorry but slander and character assassination is not an argument.

    “International Year of Astronomy there has been quite a few scientific sources celebrating Galileo’s achievements. Those I have read and watched do give an honest account. And let’s face it – the church did not behave well.”

    Again that might be relevant if Hannam had claimed that the Church has behaved well in this matter but he didn’t. What he did argue was that (a) the matter has been frequently distorted (b) its inaccurate to portray it as religion vs science and (c) it does not prove the conflict thesis. To address these points actual arguments against them are needed.

    “Apparently Hannan seeks to deny a conflict between science and religion. It seems to be all the rage for religious apologists at the moment with very similar articles popping up on their web sites. But, deny as much as you want – facts are still facts.”

    Sorry Keen but simply stating facts are facts does not mean the conflict thesis is true. And nor does distorting the evidence. and your claim that denying it is “all the rage for religious apologists” and referring to “very similar articles popping up on their web sites” is rather inaccurate. Its actually the rage amongst historians of science to make this claim and they do it in peer reviewed publications, in fact few historians of the history of science and religion give the conflict thesis any credit.

    “It is inevitable that conflicts arise between people whose world view is evidence-based and those whose world view is based on wishful thinking. In fact, it is surely obvious that there are inevitable conflicts within the later group because they just don’t have the ability to test their ideas and claims against objective reality.”

    Again no argument simply a caricature of both religion and science. One I have dealt with repeatedly before, simply repeating a false picture does not refute it

    “Noticeably, these attacks seem to basically flow one way.”

    Again this is an assertion and a false one. In fact since Huxley many have used science to attack Christianity and today many still do. Dawkins, Dennet, Quentin Smith, Stephen Jay Gould, P Z Meyers come to mind. In fact attacks on religion in skeptical quarters are frequently justified on the grounds of being “scientific” or “justified by a scientific world view” etc etc.

    You are quite welcome to believe whatever nonsense you want. But of course I will retaliate when you try to impose that nonsense on my science.

    Well Ken, simply asserting your position, attacking caricatures, suggesting people who disagree with you are like Stalin and dismissing others arguments with pejorative terms, repeating a claim after its been refuted with no counter argument and is what I call nonsense. I certainly is not science or philosophy.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Guest Post: Dan Brown’s History of Science =-.

  • I think its really funny that this site argues that the church is not the enemy of science… and at the same time is full of anti-science anti-evolution arguments!

  • Can you point out specifically the “anti-science” arguments in this blog?

  • I’ll second that request and ask where precisely the anti-evolution arguments are too.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Guest Post: The Rise and Fall of the New Zealand Christian Blogosphere =-.

  • Madeleine. If you look on the left about half way down there is a “Search MANDM” search box. If you put in ‘evolution’ or ‘science’ it should bring up the posts you are looking for. If you need any further help let me know.

  • The equivocation on evolutionary science, and its misrepresentation, is of concern here. However, I think the more serious anti-science aspect is the continuing attack on scientific epistemology. Underlies everything, really. Its a very common anti-science attitude among religious apologists at the moment – one clearly outlined in the Wedge Strategy document.

    Matt, I see neither you or I can really comment on Hamman’s book, having not read it. My quote was from a reviewer who had read it.

    I find the subject (minus the religious apologetics of the author) interesting however and have requested a review copy of the book. It could fit in with other books on ancient science I will be reviewing in the coming months.

    My comments on it must await my actual review, after I have read it. The comments here were based on his above article – and my concern is that the article is typical of a number currently being promoted which closely parallel Stalinist excuses for the Stalin terror. I think the comparison is very apt.

    Anon- “So Ken, which one are you?” Obviously I go for an evidence-based world view. The experience of changing my beliefs/views as new evidence comes in, or I have investigated things more deeply, is not new to me. It’s common to most working scientists.

    To be a little bit provocative, but honest about my own change of views based on evidence – I recommend you have a read of my article Putting Dawkins in his place
    .-= My last blog-post ..The Galileo Lectures =-.

  • Ken you write

    I think the more serious anti-science aspect is the continuing attack on scientific epistemology. Underlies everything, really. Its a very common anti-science attitude among religious apologists at the moment – one clearly outline in the Wedge Strategy document.

    Thanks for the clarification, I have not attacked science (and certainly have not attacked evolution) on this blog. I have attacked an epistemological stance which views science as the only source of knowledge about reality. This is often called scientism and contrary to what some contends science and scientism are not the same thing.

    And for the record its simply not the case that only religious apologists or the ID movement contest these things. Once again Ken you try and distort the situation by insinuating that your own controversial philosophical claims are only denied by a few people whom you can write off as a few pseudo scholars instead of actually engaging with the substantive arguments.

    As far as I can tell the only other comments I have made have been simply to note that there is a disagreement between philosophers of science over wether one should interpret science in a realist or anti-realist sense and asking for reasons for accepting one over the other in certain contexts. But raising the question of the cogency scientific realism is quite different to questioning science per se . Scientific realism and science are not the same thing. The former is a particular philosophical view the latter is not.

    From memory the only response to this was again to simply falsely claim that anyone who rejected realism was a pseudo scholar, another attempt to engage in character assassination rather than engage the arguments.

    The problem then is not theologians attacking science, its scientists mistaking philosophical views involving science as science itself and then using those philosophical views to draw theological conclusions.

    Scientists’ are free to do this if they wish, but if they do Theologians and Philosophers are free to call them on it. To respond by accusing these people of being “anti science” is to simply continue the confusion and conflation that initiated the conflict in the first place.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Guest Post: The Rise and Fall of the New Zealand Christian Blogosphere =-.

  • Obviously I go for an evidence-based world view. The experience of changing my beliefs/views as new evidence comes in, or I have investigated things more deeply, is not new to me. It’s common to most working scientists.

    Ken the insinuation that theologians never change their minds or engage in deep investigation is rather patronising as well as being outright false. I have changed my opinions on many theological and philosophical opinions over the years based on my examining and reflecting on the relevant arguments.

    What I don’t accept is the flawed epistemological view which affirms that if something cannot be proven empirically it does not exist. That however is different from saying one simply dogmatically asserts whatever one likes based on emotion.

    Again caricaturing a position is not an argument against it. Especially when you yourself have critcisied Hannam for “Hold[ing] up a cheap cold war fictional thriller as a straw man to knock down. There would be plenty of factual inaccuracies to use there!”

    Cheap straw men accounts of the epistemology of religious believers is hardly any better.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Guest Post: The Rise and Fall of the New Zealand Christian Blogosphere =-.

  • Matt – the attack on scientific epistemology is an attack on science. The very use of the word “scientism” (usually very inappropriately and opportunistically) is a red flag warning about an oncoming attack.

    None of this is new.

    And the Wedge Strategy is clearly an attack on science with the declared aim of replacing it with a “theistic science.” Your attacks on scientific epistemology mirror closely the wedge strategy.

    Now, for some reason, you see my declaration of having an evidence-based world view as “insinuation that theologians never change their minds or engage in deep investigation.” Perhaps there is a sensitivity there, as I can’t see how you logically get to that conclusion.

    However, I did raise the example of my attitude to Richard Dawkins – and how it changed after 30 years when I actually read one of his books. You, yourself have a strong attitude to Dawkins (similar to the one I previously held). I wonder if you have actually read any of his books – and if you did whether your world view would be sufficiently evidence-based to handle it in the way I did.

    This is what I mean by evidence-based.
    .-= My last blog-post ..The Galileo Lectures =-.

  • Ken you write: Matt – the attack on scientific epistemology is an attack on science. The very use of the word “scientism” (usually very inappropriately and opportunistically) is a red flag warning about an oncoming attack.

    This is simply an assertion that scientism and science is the same thing along with another attack on the motives or sincerity of the person who points the distinction. Unfortunately simply asserting something and then casting appearances on those who disagree is not an argument.

    You state “Now, for some reason, you see my declaration of having an evidence-based world view as “insinuation that theologians never change their minds or engage in deep investigation.” Perhaps there is a sensitivity there, as I can’t see how you logically get to that conclusion.”

    The full quote is here

    “It is inevitable that conflicts arise between people whose world view is evidence-based and those whose world view is based on wishful thinking. In fact, it is surely obvious that there are inevitable conflicts within the later group because they just don’t have the ability to test their ideas and claims against objective reality.

    The conflict exists because religion insists in making truth claims. This brings it into the province of science. Here religion is at a major disadvantage (there’s nothing like testing against reality). This has often led to aggressive and militant attacks on science. When you don’t have evidence why not use emotion?”

    Read this carefully and you’ll see where I got the insinuation.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Guest Post: The Rise and Fall of the New Zealand Christian Blogosphere =-.

  • Which Dawkins books in particular Ken? I think it is necessary to make a distinction between the ones where he is writing in his iown area, and the ones where he ventures into areas where he lacks the expertise to really contribute to the debate.

  • …. I just read your review of the God Delusion Ken and got as far as:

    “He never attacks his critics by stooping to the personal level.”

    …. before my jaw hit the floor. Have you REALLY read this book?
    .-= My last blog-post ..Vote on the WordPress Logo Entries =-.

  • Max – my anti-Dawkins prejudice started in the 70’s – as a result of the way that “The Selfish Gene” was used by conservatives to advocate selfish capitalism and social Darwinism. There were issues at the time which made it easy to fall into that trap but I consider it silly on my part that I didn’t just go and read the book. That I wasted 30 years because of that.

    Max, I have never reviewed “The God Delusion”, although I have commented on it from time to time. It’s the first of Dawkin’s books I read and it was a real eye opener.

    Yes, one thing that does impress me about Dawkins is his politeness and the fact that he is a real gentleman. Surprising really seeing he is so often viciously attacked and misrepresented.

    He doesn’t stoop to the personal level. Many have commented on that.

    However, I can understand creationists being offended when he calls them ignorant. But he does make the point that there is nothing wrong with being ignorant. Everyone is ignorant about something. He is admittedly ignorant about lots of things. However, ignorance is easily cured by information. And those people who reject scientific information are worse than ignorant. They are evil – especially if they seek to impose that ignorance on children (as Matt has advocated here with his opposition to teaching evolutionary science in schools).

    Notice Dawkins doesn’t attack anyone at a personal level, does he? (Except perhaps, and with humour, The Banana Man!)

    Yes, I have read the book (have your, Max?). I then went on to read some of his other books. I read, at last, “The selfish Gene.” I am looking forward to reading “The Greatest Show.”

    He is a great writer and a clear thinker. I can see why his books sell so well – which from a scientist’s viewpoint is very welcome. I can also see why he has won literary prizes as well as scientific ones.

    His next book will be aimed at young adults – about science and scientific thinking. Many people are looking forward to that one.
    .-= My last blog-post ..The Galileo Lectures =-.

  • “I have read the book (have your, Max?)”

    Yes I have Ken – I also read the God Delusion first, and then a couple of his speculative evolution books – which I found rather cringe worthy too to be honest.

    I must admit I came away with a very different impression of the man. Far from a gentleman he seems self righteous, patronizing,and full of vitriol. The God Delusion made me cringe in embarrassment many times, because I must admit I said similar things, and used equally weak arguments in my own atheist phase (I got over it). Unlike Dawkins when opponents pointed out counter arguments to what I thought I took the time to investigate the issue – rather than ignoring them and printing the same misconception time after time. If there is one thing Dawkins is NOT when it comes to investigating religion it is scientific. He has decided on the answer and is unwilling to listen, consider, or learn. Its a sad fall from grace for a man who did have some innovative ideas earlier in his life.

    I think its odd that you consider people who don’t support your views to be “Evil”. Even Dawkins presents such people as being infected with some sort of illness of “meme” (don’t get me started on the pseudo-science of memes….). Why is being ill in some way considered Evil? Is it evil to have the flu too then – or evil to suffer from a mental illness? (clearly i dont think this is what religious belief is… but Dawkins does… is this “Evil”)

  • Hi Rig,

    There are lots of articles on science and evolution in this blog. Can you point out particular phrases that are anti science?

  • “I think the more serious anti-science aspect is the continuing attack on scientific epistemology.”

    I have never seen Matt or Madeleine at this blog attack scientific epistemology. Having never (knowingly) done so either, I believe this is just a case fo Ken believing that one is unscientific to the extent that one doesn’t share the approach that Ken shares. I see no other way to read this.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Alvin Plantinga: Christian. Philosopher. Movie Monster. =-.

  • Hi all,

    First let me thank Matt and Madelaine for hosting my short article and also to Madelaine for buying Matt a copy of the book. It is most kind. I’m also very grateful for Ken for getting it too and would be thrilled if he found time to review it.

    Nina’s review from the New Humanist pleased me because, although she was worried about my motives, she didn’t dispute my presentation of the facts. She also praised by treatment of the seminal debate during the Middle Ages on Averroism.

    Nina’s mistake was to say that I thought it was OK to ban ideas. Obviously I don’t think that and I’m not sure where she found the idea that I did.

    “1: Personally I find the current apologetics fashion of rewriting the history of the Galileo affair strongly parallels that of the small band of Stalinists who seek to justify and explain away the Stalin terror.”

    I thought this a bit unfair. State some historical facts not disputed by the experts in the field, and suddenly I’m compared to a Stalinist. Of course the Church behaved badly over Galileo but that’s not an excuse to either to overstate the case against it or to generalise from a single example.

    “Apparently Hannan seeks to deny a conflict between science and religion. It seems to be all the rage for religious apologists at the moment with very similar articles popping up on their web sites. But, deny as much as you want – facts are still facts.”

    Actually, there has been no historical conflict historically and there is no overall conflict today. We have a conflict over evolution that is made worse by atheists insisting that evolution and religion are incompatible. And historically, the Church has been a huge support to science and metaphysically, Christianity provided a very important base upon which science could be built.

    As you say, facts are facts. Can you provide examples of this conflict through history? You’ll need a few to prove a metaphysical conflict which is, essentially, what you’ve argued for. All you’ve shown so far is that scientism and religion are incompatible but I’m afraid we all know that.

    Best wishes

    James

  • You are most welcome James, we appreciate your patronage. I see you’ve met Ken; nicely argued.

    Matt has always enjoyed your articles and is an academic through and through – he takes his academic texts with him on vacation. I had to negotiate to get him to leave them behind on our honeymoon (well not really but almost!) He does not covet many material possessions; his sport, karate, does not lend itself to gag gifts generally, so books are about the only thing I can ever buy him that make him smile for birthdays and Christmas and it is his birthday in about two weeks so his interest in your book is timely! He still says that in all our years of marriage the best gift I ever gave him was the then unpublished manuscript for Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief… other people’s husbands claim that the best gifts their wives have ever given them are their first born sons and so on… *sob*… LOL

    Our teenagers are both interested in your book too. Our eldest has a strong history interest; when she was homeschooled (now at Uni) she would always tag along with Matt to the Uni library and have him get out piles of history texts on his PhD lending pass which meant she could have them for the whole year. She was fascinated by the facts in Matt’s blog posts on historical and cultural myths, of which your article originally featured on our blog. Our next eldest, our only schooled child, has a particular dislike of Social Studies and loves to trip his teachers up with obscure historical facts that they have wrong; so he wants it for ammo. (I forsee another round of angry phone calls from the head of social studies – last time we let Christian read the very un-PC but historically astute, Paul Moon’s This Horrid Practice: The Myth and Reality of Traditional Maori Cannibalism.)

    Rig O. Mortis the only posts on this site that are on evolution itself are:

    God, Darwinian Evolution and The Teleological Argument

    Darwinian Evolution, Chance and Design

    Darwinian Evolution, God and Ockham’s Razor

    I cannot see where, in any of them, Matt says anything anti-science or anti-evolution. Care to give some evidence to back up your assertions?

  • Madeleine – isn’t it a bit disingenuous to omit Evolution should not be taught in State Schools: A Defence of Plantinga Part I and Part II.

    Matt and I have had a few run ins where I have had to defend scientific epistemology. Some of them on my blog in which, I think, you have also commented.

    There is a clear difference between us on this and related questions (eg. evolution, the nature of knowledge, etc).

    My interest in these debates have been solely to counter the inherent anti-science messages. And to attempt clarification of the actual scientific positions.
    .-= My last blog-post ..NZ blogs sitemeter ranking – October ‘09 =-.

  • Max, clearly you and I will disagree on the value of “The God Delusion”. Not surprising with our different world views. The fact remains, though, that it is a very popular book.

    However, I really want to follow up on your sarcastic put-down of my statement “He never attacks his critics by stooping to the personal level.”. This implied my judgment of this book was wrong on that aspect.

    As you have read the book – could you tell me specifically where Dawkins did stoop to a personal level in attacking someone (a person not an idea).

    This information is important to me – I am willing to acknowledge I could have missed these examples and it would certainly help me to know that. Until I am shown otherwise my assessment of Dawkins’ personal approach stands.

    On the other hand if you are mistaken that is also useful knowledge.
    .-= My last blog-post ..NZ blogs sitemeter ranking – October ‘09 =-.

  • Ken wrote: “Madeleine – isn’t it a bit disingenuous to omit Evolution should not be taught in State Schools: A Defence of Plantinga Part I and Part II.

    No it is not. Just because those posts have the word “evolution” in the title does not mean that they are on the merits of evolution or that they make an attack on science. This was pointed out to you many times both in the comments attached to those posts and in your own commentary on them on your own blog.

    Again, I suggest you actually read both those posts as you are still missing the point of them.

    “Matt and I have had a few run ins where I have had to defend scientific epistemology. Some of them on my blog in which, I think, you have also commented.”

    I will not dispute the fact you have had run ins. I will not dispute that you tried to defend (what you believed to be) scientific epistemology in said run ins both on this blog and your own. However, I will dispute the suggestion that Matt ever attacked scientific epistemology. He did not. He has attacked scientism…

    “There is a clear difference between us on this and related questions (eg. evolution, the nature of knowledge, etc).

    I was not aware that Matt and I have ever articulated our position on evolution.

    I will concede that there is a clear difference between you Matt and I on the nature of knowledge but this was not over whether scientific epistemology was correct. From memory, you were disputing that knowledge involved true belief – something no epistemologist of any standing contests. That knowledge involves true belief is a basic, elementary starting point for the discipline; I suggest you do not confuse your ignorance of epistemology with scientific epistemology, they are not the same Ken.
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  • James – I am looking forward to reading your book. But, of course, the publisher will determine if I get a review copy or not. A good word from you might help?

    As a retired scientist I am interested in the history of science and scientific philosophy. It concerns me that the apologetics presentation of this is ideologically driven and I am pleased to see some good books coming out on this now which look like giving a more objective history. Recently I reviewed Critique of Intelligent Design: Materialism versus Creationism from Antiquity to the Present, and The Scientist’s Atom and the Philosopher’s Stone. I am looking forward to Richard Carrier’s new book on ancient science (Greeks and Romans) and his essay in the Loftus’s new book coming out in April. There are also a couple of others I am hunting down.

    Now, I am pleased you thought my Stalinist analogy was only a “bit unfair.” It might help if I say that I don’t think modern day Stalinists (or more correctly Stalin apologists) are bad people. Certainly, in my mind no worse than Christian apologists. The ones I know are great people, warm, human, jolly – but they are not (in my view) objective about Stalin, or the period of the Stalin terror. Perhaps understandable, they have so much ideological investment (and sometime national pride) in the Stalin myth.

    They will say that “of course the (Party) behaved badly over (Vavilov, etc., etc.) but that’s not an excuse to overstate the case against it or to generalise from a single example(s).”

    And I can sympathise with that attitude After all, I think the popular assessment of Stalin in the West (and possibly Russia) today is overstated. (Matt’s claim of 90 million deaths is a new high in my experience). And they can certainly complain about cold war fictional novels. However, I think they could have a more serious claim about scholarly analysis of the Stalin period as I think this still suffers from ideological motivations.

    That is why I am critical of the current fashion of using books like Dan Brown’s. There is just so much around these days about the Galileo affair, by reputable scientists and historians. Presumably you don’t object to the quality of their contributions? If you do an article on those would have been more significant than one on Dan Brown – an easy target? And, if I may say so, a red herring.

    Now, James, I talk from experience in saying there is a current conflict between science and religion, and that this conflict is understandable as a clash of world views. After all, we scientists currently find we are often attacked by all sorts of people pushing their own commercial product. And religious apologists often fall into this group. The Wedge strategy is a clear example of this conscious attack. Those wedge arguments are often presented on this web site (MandM).

    Your indulge in a bit of an attack yourself with your unwarranted reference to “scientism” – always a sign of an anti-science attitude. (The “scientism” label is often used – it has been here – against me by people who are attacking scientific epistemology – people who basically adopt the wedge Strategy). And, I believe your characterisation of Christianity as a “base upon which science could be built” is not supported by history but shows an attempt at an ideological imposition on that history. (Mind you I might think differently after reading your book – let’s not prejudge the arguments. My world view is, after all, evidence-based).

    The world view of science (evidence-based) and religion (revelation-based?) is undeniably different. No getting away from that. But, of course, I personally know many religious scientists who have absolutely no problem with that. Like most of us they compartmentalise their ideological and scientific world-views and get by great. So there doesn’t have to be a conflict at the personal scientific level. And you are quite wrong, and misleading, to claim that there is a problem “made worse by atheists insisting that evolution and religion are incompatible.” We know it’s not. We understand people like Ken Miller who do great work defending science against the attacks from apologists following the Wedge Strategy.

    But the fact is that science is under attack from people with religious motives. In NZ polls show 40% of Christians reject evolutionary science. This has consequences. It is of course worse in the US and Turkey.

    So it is disingenuous to deny a conflict between science a religion. I think this is understandable because of the different world views. This does not have to be manifested at the personal level where people can compartmentalise their various aspects of life.. And I just wish more Christians would get stuck into their brethren who attack science and point out their mistakes. (These people don’t listen to scientists like me).

    In the long run, if the anti-science elements within Christianity are not put in their place it will be Christianity as a whole that is brought into disrepute (happening already) and dragged down.
    .-= My last blog-post ..NZ blogs sitemeter ranking – October ‘09 =-.

  • Ah Madeliene – we obviously disagree about what constitutes an attack on science – because those posts were, in my mind, clear attacks on scientific epistemology.

    But then again our perspectives are different. I feel a bit like the beaten wife whose husband denies attacking her (and justifies the lie to himself by thinking his god gave him permission, anyway)!

    And of course, the attacks continue – and even get personal (“I suggest you do not confuse your ignorance of epistemology with scientific epistemology”).

    It would be best to discuss your specific complaint against my epistemological claim, rather than personalising it. That approach is surely childish.
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  • In defending Dawkins Ken says
    “Yes, one thing that does impress me about Dawkins is his politeness and the fact that he is a real gentleman. Surprising really seeing he is so often viciously attacked and misrepresented.

    He doesn’t stoop to the personal level. Many have commented on that.

    However, I can understand creationists being offended when he calls them ignorant. But he does make the point that there is nothing wrong with being ignorant. Everyone is ignorant about something. He is admittedly ignorant about lots of things. However, ignorance is easily cured by information.”

    So, here Ken argued that calling other people ignorant is not a personal attack.

    But then, only a few comments latter Ken says to Madeleine

    And of course, the attacks continue – and even get personal (”I suggest you do not confuse your ignorance of epistemology with scientific epistemology”).

    Now apparently calling people ignorant is a personal attack.

    Ken, try and not insult our intelligence with outright contradictions like this.

    .

  • Come on, Anon, Dawkins called himself ignorant about lots of things.I am ignorant about rugby and golf,among other things. And hi cments were not specific to individuals. That’s why Ihave asked for examples of specific personal attacks. I am still wIring.

    Madeleine’s attacks on me are hardly in a serious class. She is just retaliating because I caught her out denying the anti-science posts here.
    .-= My last blog-post ..NZ blogs sitemeter ranking – October ‘09 =-.

  • Ken.

    I am a little too busy to comb through the book and give you a list of page numbers. When I have less work pressure I will do this. Or you could do it yourself… but don’t wait eagerly for my reply!

    Max.

  • Some Atheists really have no shame. Christianity was a major driving force of modern science. The Church did some mistakes, of course, but using a couple of cases to override the overwhelming facts is just low.

  • Ken

    Actually the denial is from you.

    As I have repeatedly pointed out to you, and you can see if you read the posts in question. I did not oppose the teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools in fact in those posts I say it should be taught, what I do say is that in certain situations its should be taught a particular way the ‘conditional’ way suggested by Plantinga.

    I would also note ( as I have also noted before) that even if I did oppose the teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools it does not follow I am anti-science, I after all think it would be unjust to teach Christianity as true in public schools, it does not mean that I am anti-Christianity, its simply a realisation that in a pluralistic society justice requires some true things not be taught. Both these points have been made to you over and over again.

    those people who reject scientific information are worse than ignorant. They are evil – especially if they seek to impose that ignorance on children (as Matt has advocated here with his opposition to teaching evolutionary science in schools).

    This is clearly an inadequate response here you simply (a) caricature my position and (b) respond by calling me evil. What you do not do is provide any actual argument against the position I have articulated.

    When you actually have an argument for your position as opposed to a repetition of an unsubstantiated assertion, let me know.

    Lets note what has occurred. Rig originally stated this site is full -science anti-evolution arguments! When challenged he said he refered to a heap of posts, when challenged again you provided single post, when it was pointed out I did not actually attack science in this post or attack evolution, you asserted I did and repeated it over and over and called me evil. Hardly compelling argument for the claim that religion and science have been historically in conflict.

  • Ken,
    come on, Anon, Dawkins called himself ignorant about lots of things.I am ignorant about rugby and golf,among other things. And hi cments were not specific to individuals. That’s why Ihave asked for examples of specific personal attacks. I am still wIring.

    Nice evasion but none of it addresses my point. In one post you said that calling people “ignorant” was not a personal insult. In the next you said it was. What counts as an insult seems to shift depending on how it suits your purposes. Anyone can see it from reading your posts.

    Whatever Dawkins may have said on other topics or what he is ignorant of (such as religion and philosophy) is beside the point.

    Is calling someone ignorant a personal attack or is it not ? If it is then retract your claim about Dawkins if it is not apologise to Madeleine for accusing her of personal attacks

  • Hi Ken,

    “That is why I am critical of the current fashion of using books like Dan Brown’s. There is just so much around these days about the Galileo affair, by reputable scientists and historians. Presumably you don’t object to the quality of their contributions?”

    You will be pleased to hear that all three chapters in my book on Galileo are based on reputable historians. You’ll find reputable historians take a pretty dim view of the idea that there is some great conflict between science and religion. I tend to avoid history written by scientists (and medicine written by gardeners). That said, I do have a physics BA to go with my history of science PhD so have dabbled in science myself.

    As for using Dan Brown, it’s a nice short article that has provoked a lot of debate. What’s not to like?

    Email your details (bede@bede.org.uk) and let me know what magazine or journal you might be able review the book in, and I’ll see if I can get you one.

    Best wishes

    James

  • Thanks James.

    I have had a response from the publishers but a review copy will depend on its appearance in NZ. Let’s hope it does.

    the review will be on my blog Open Parachute which is also syndicated at SciBlogsNZ. its part of a fast growing group of blogs by scientists in NZ.

    Sad to hear you avoid reading scientists. As you are aware, I am sure, ideological prejudice/bias plays a significant role in presentations of history. This particular area is very prone to that influence. So I think it’s essential that scientists and pro-science historians and philosophers are listened to. I think, at last, their analyses are starting to be made. Hence the heightened interest in medieval Islamic science and the science of the Greeks and Romans. Hopefully we can look forward to similar histories of ancient science for the Indians, Chinese and Egyptians.

    it’s a fascinating area. And the history has largely been denied us because of our Euro-centric view.
    .-= My last blog-post ..NZ blogs sitemeter ranking – October ‘09 =-.

  • Max – OK, just give the name(s) of people Dawkins personally attacked in that book. I have a copy, it has an index. I can easily check it out. Surely you can remember the names.

    Meanwhile I will stick with my assessment that Dawkins usually does not go in for personal attacks – but I am willing to update that if new evidence comes in.

    Be aware, of course, that if, in fact, you are unable to provide these names I then have to draw some conclusions from your reaction to my comment (“before my jaw hit the floor. Have you REALLY read this book?”). I have noticed a marked tendency for some people to make unwarranted claims about Dawkins which obviously come from some sort of prejudice rather than objective evidence.

    I can understand that – As I said my opinion of Dawkins also used to be hostile – for no good reason. Just prejudice.

    I am glad I finally looked at the evidence.
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  • “a review copy will depend on its appearance in NZ.”

    That is strange Ken. I just ordered a copy of James’ book from New Zealand online bookstore The Nile.

    BTW Loftus’s new book looks interesting, we have a full copy of it, including the chapter by Carrier. I am sure it will be right up your alley.

  • “Be aware, of course, that if, in fact, you are unable to provide these names I then have to draw some conclusions from your reaction to my comment ”

    …. you can draw whatever conclusions you like Ken – but the logical conclusion for you to draw would to take me at my word that I am too usy right now. But I will go to the library and get the book and give you full listing in a couple of weeks when I don’t have a thesis due.

    Its not high on my list of priorities Ken. To conclude that I am wrong/dishonest/prejudice/stupid because I don’t reply to your “request” within hours is a little silly… but a common “argument” on forums.
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  • Madeleine – the online bookstore presumably gets each copy it sells overseas (sent direct I think). The publishers tell me that local review copies will have to come from the local distributors, Allen and Unwin. Presumably I will get a copy if, and when, it is released in Australia/New Zealand.

    Which of Lotus’s books are you referring to? I am looking forward to “The Christian Delusion” – which I understand is aimed for publication in April. Carrier’s essay is the last one – “Christianity Was Not Responsible for Modern Science “.

    You don’t have a draft of that do you? (If so I would love to get a copy of Carrier’s essay).

    Loftus’s other recent book is “Why I Became An Atheist: Personal Reflections and Additional Arguments”. I haven’t seen it but I wouldn’t think it would include Carrier.

    However, Carrier has a full book coming out soon on ancient science (Greek and Roman) which is the one I am really looking forward to as it’s an area he researched for his Ph D work. I have been impressed with his writing in articles of his I have read in the past.
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  • Strange, Max, for you to react so sharply and quickly to my assessment of Dawkins not making personal attacks – and yet you have absolutely no recollection of what your reaction is based on. Not even a name for the victim!

    Unfortunately this is characteristic of much of the negative reaction to people like Dawkins. So, understandably, I usually ignore it.

    Until evidence is produced, of course.

    It is the same with the word “scientism” which is used to label the so-called “new atheists” (and me, incidentally). Victor Stenger’s comment on this is just so true:
    He points out that those critics “cannot quote a single new atheist who has said that science is the only means that can be used to learn about the world and humanity. We fully recognise the value of and participate in other realms of thought and activity such as art, music, literature, poetry, and moral philosophy. At the same time, where observed phenomena are at issue, we insist that scientific method has a proper role. This includes questions of the supernatural and the existence of any god who actively engages in the affairs of the universe.”
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  • “Was Christianity Responsible for Modern Science?” is the correct name of the title in Loftus’ forthcoming book The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails. Yes I have a copy of it, however, I am bound by contractual copyright obligations so I cannot forward you it sorry. John Loftus asked Matt to write a blurb for it so naturally we had to be sent a review copy.

    If you want to review James Hannam’s book and you are not keen to buy a copy then Matt will probably not mind lending you his once he has read it. We go to Hamilton periodically and we really should catch up one day and have a coffee so I am sure we could work something out.
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  • “Strange, Max, for you to react so sharply and quickly to my assessment of Dawkins not making personal attacks – and yet you have absolutely no recollection of what your reaction is based on. Not even a name for the victim!”

    When Max returns to you, you will just argue about the definition of personal attack. Someone already pointed out here about your blatant inconsistency. Yes, pretty blatant, but not surprising to anyone following your comments around here.

  • “Strange, Max, for you to react so sharply and quickly to my assessment of Dawkins not making personal attacks – and yet you have absolutely no recollection of what your reaction is based on. Not even a name for the victim!…. ETC ERTC”

    I have said I will provide you with this when I have time. Please stop being petulant. Wait a couple of weeks and I will have all the spare time in the world. You WILL get a response. Just not now. Get over it. The fact that I don’t go rushing off to the library does not prove anything other than that I am busy. Have patience.
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  • Ken,

    The book is out in Australia and we can probably get you sent a review copy. As mentioned above, please email me your details and I’ll pass them on to Emma at Allen and Unwin who I’ve been dealing with.

    You’ll be relieved to hear that I read lots of books by scientists (Pinker, Dawkins, Smolin, and Greene so far this year) but they are about science rather than history. You’ll also be relieved to hear that I am a pro-science historian. In truth, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who is anti-science and would think them a bit odd if I did.

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Best wishes

    James

  • Max – as the book is in Australia I am sure my review copy will arrive in due course. So thanks for the offer of help but I am sure everything is in hand.

    I agree that anti-science people are odd (more than a bit in some cases). Unfortunately I come across them all the time (I often listen to the Discovery institute’s ID podcasts too). And I am aware that many scientists are concerned about this aspect of the culture wars.

    Madeleine, A coffee would be great some time you are down this way. Don’t worry about the book, though as I am sure I will be getting a copy.

    You are privileged to have the draft copy of Loftus’s book. All I have are the list of contents at The Christian delusion. Still, I can wait until April as I have plenty of reading to keep me busy in the meantime.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Defending science and reason =-.

  • Sorry Max (and James) – I got you names mixed up in the last post. Not a Freudian slip – more senility (for which I have a good excuse)!

    Clearly I was responding to James’ questions.

    However, Max – good luck with getting “The God Delusion” from the library. The copies in our local library seem to all have waiting lists.

    I do enjoy challenging people who make statements like yours though. I have done this several times with people condemning Dawkins – always with the same result. It’s an interesting phenomenon. Just underlines to me how we may be an intelligent species but we are not a rational one. More rationalising. We respond to things emotively – and then try to explain away our position afterward.

    I believe there are good evolutionary reasons for this and non-one is immune. The amazing thing is that we have developed methods and approaches to limit this and produce a more objective picture of the world. That’s what science is all about and why I argue for a evidence-based, rather than revelation-based, world view.
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  • Ken I am stunned that you have read Dawkins and didn’t notice his vitriol towards Christians.

    Google and you’ll find heaps of examples – the man is famous for suggesting that Christian parents engage in child abuse for teaching their children about their faith. Frankly I find the suggestion that I am a child abuser incredibly offensive and ridiculous.

    How about actually arguing for the falsity of Christianity instead of asserting it, assuming his own position is true and labelling those he disagrees with as abusers.

    Why you waste your time with inept popularist writers like Dawkins, writing out of their field, when there are really good atheist philosophers out there writing in their fields is beyond me!
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  • Madeleine – “vitriol towards Christians” – he actually claims to be a cultural Christian.

    Anyway, your being “stunned” is just like Max (”before my jaw hit the floor. Have you REALLY read this book?”). Max actually couldn’t even remember, even vaguely, one example.

    Perhaps you can do better. Provide me with a specific example.

    Have your “wasted your time” reading Dawkins? (I find most critics who claim they have really only read the books title).

    This is a great game – challenge people to back up such statements. See if they are factual or just emotional.

    I am ready to learn. As I said, my world view is evidence based.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Defending science and reason =-.

  • I have not read Dawkins’ LATEST book. But according to reviewers one of his arguments is to compare people who don’t belief his particular scientific views to holocaust deniers!

    That sort of emotional and offensive argument has no place in a “science” book. I am the equivalent of a genocidal racist murderer apparently because I don’t agree with Dawkins?! I have not read “the greatest show on earth” yet – but it seems even more offensive than his usual works.

    Isn’t there a pop-culture term which says something like the first person to resort to calling their opponent a Nazi loses 😉 …..

  • Ps. Ken. Can you stop this patronizing “have you really read this book” nonsense. Cheers.
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  • “Max actually couldn’t even remember, even vaguely, one example.”

    Ken. When talking to someone like you I thought it would be wise to actually check my source before making claims. Would you prefer I use my memory – which is imperfect – and give you an answer within minutes – or give you a real answer with the book in fromnt of me – which requires you to wait a longer time.

    This online debating strategy you sink to of saying basically “Aha! He has not replied since I last logged on. THEREFORE I am right and he must be a wrong (and probably never read the book anyway). It is just silly. But if you want a general impression of Dawkins without specific references:

    1. Insults the intelligence of people usually merely because they hold different views.
    2. States that people are immoral because they do not hold to his world view.
    3. Lies about what Christians (both living and dead) have said – and often after having been corrected by the person themself.
    4. Uses childish name-calling.
    5. Is sarcastic and bitter when talking about people who differ in world view from him.

    Now he does the above for large groups. But at times he also uses the same tactic to launch attacks on individuals.

    NOW Ken is going to say “give me an example” “what page does he say that on” or something of the similar. So by goading me over and over he has forced me to make statements without a book in front of me – and now he will claim that what I say is not true because i can’t tell him the exact page it is on.

    I know I have fallen for his trap, but just wrote this to demonstrate what would happen. Now Ken. If you will (as I first asked) have a little patience I will provide you with exactly where he does this at a later time. OR: you could be honest yourself – pick up his book and with an open mind look for these things yourself. It won’t take long.
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  • Max – you can check out Dawkins’ reference to holocaust denial – the first few chapters of his book are freely available online. I think the comments are made in the first chapter. Do a wee search.

    Interesting that you should interpret it the way you have though (although, you actually haven’t read it yourself – but that raises another issue – why come to that conclusion? Why trust the particular reviewers you do?).

    Dawkins was actually making the comparison of two groups of history deniers. Those who deny the history of the holocaust (or more specifically the existence of the Romans) and those who deny evolutionary history. (He was comparing the common plight these days of a biology teacher with a teacher of Roman history who had to deal with students who denied that Romans had existed).

    He also points out that as our knowledge of the history of evolution is at least as good as our knowledge of the holocaust, there is even less reason to deny the former.

    Nowhere, from my memory, does he actually make the comparison in the moral sense you imply. In fact, in an interview I saw recently he said that the idea had never occurred to him until it was pointed out after the book’s publication.

    I think the lesson here is that on issues like this it’s best to go to the source yourself (and in this case it is readily available online). Or at least only rely on reviewers you can trust.

    The particular reviewers you have used have surely discredited themselves as reliable sources.

    While I have been flippant and treated this a bit like stamp collecting (besides your comment I have Madeleine’s and now Ropata’s at Open Parachute) there is a more serious side.

    A lot of emotional energy is being wasted by people who have jumped to the wrong conclusion, relied on untrustworthy sources, interpreted statements emotionally rather than rationally, etc. Of course they lose out personally because they cut themselves from a source of knowledge.

    But more sinister is the way people like Dawkins have been demonised so that some people will automatically think bad and hateful things – things that are most likely false or outright lies (I don’t recognise anything on your list, for example).

    This “them vs us” attitude is very easy to promote in human groups – but it can have unfortunate consequences.

    Personally I would keep away from it.

    PS – I am sorry if you think my comments patronising. They were far from it – having fun if anything. Although I think there is a serious side in helping us understand how we think and come to conclusions by considering these examples.

    But, should I remind you – it was you, not me, who exclaimed “Have you REALLY read this book?” My only intention when asking that was simply to check. (I find that often people making these sort of comments haven’t.)
    .-= My last blog-post ..Defending science and reason =-.

  • “Dawkins was actually making the comparison of two groups of history deniers. Those who deny the history of the holocaust (or more specifically the existence of the Romans) and those who deny evolutionary history.”

    I know his writing style well enough to hazard a pretty good guess that although he phrases it in terms of “oh – its just another example of intellectual dishonesty” he is playing an emotional game as well. Its clever because he can play the emotional game of comparing his opponents of being Nazis but then can turn around and say “Oh! I never meant that!” (as you have done)

    But I will read it when I have time and see if my intuition is right.
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  • “Nowhere, from my memory, does he actually make the comparison in the moral sense you imply.”

    There is no possible way anyone could be that gullible, Ken. That’s just painful to watch. Are you really willing to look that duplicitous for Dawkins’ sake?

    “Here’s one group who denies history – Holocaust deniers. Here’s another – Creationists? What? That’s offensive to you? Oh come on… it’s, you know, a coincidence! I swear!”
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  • Max – I guess the evidence is not going to change your mind. You are determined to think badly of Dawkins – even if that requires reading your own message into his written words.

    However, other readers may be more open to the actual evidence. As I said the first chapter of the book is available on line. I will hunt it down and post the relevant paragraph here. He mentions the holocaust only once. Hitler once (pointing out the fallacy of the apologetics argument that Hitlers ideas are based on Darwin and evolution).

    The concept of History Deniers comes up in several places – referring to evidence he discusses. For example his comments on K/Ar dating and creationist claims about that. Personally, I would have used the term science deniers because these creationists actually deny basic science as well as historical biological events. But I guess we are familiar with the holocaust denial phenomenon. And the parallel is clear.

    Oh – and Max. The conflict is not personal. These “history deniers” actually have a disagreement with all reputable scientists – not just Dawkins. Take Dawkins away and the facts don’t change. He is irrelevant to the creations vs science conflict.
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  • OK you can read the first chapter at “Creationists, now they’re coming for your children” (The title is Timesonline’s humour predicting how some apologists misinterpret Dawkins’ statements – nothing to do with the content).

    The first page of the chapter sets up an imaginary situation where a history teacher must confront children who deny Romans existed and organisations campaigning against teaching about Romans. then he goes on:

    “If my fantasy of the Latin teacher seems too wayward, here’s a more realistic example. Imagine you are a teacher of more recent history, and your lessons on 20th-century Europe are boycotted, heckled or otherwise disrupted by well-organised, well-financed and politically muscular groups of Holocaust-deniers. Unlike my hypothetical Rome-deniers, Holocaustdeniers really exist. They are vocal, superficially plausible and adept at seeming learned. They are supported by the president of at least one currently powerful state, and they include at least one bishop of the Roman Catholic Church. Imagine that, as a teacher of European history, you are continually faced with belligerent demands to “teach the controversy”, and to give “equal time” to the “alternative theory” that the Holocaust never happened but was invented by a bunch of Zionist fabricators.

    Fashionably relativist intellectuals chime in to insist that there is no absolute truth: whether the Holocaust happened is a matter of personal belief; all points of view are equally valid and should be equally “respected”. “

    The only other mention of the Holocaust in the whole book (that I could find) comes a few pages later with the comment:

    “The evidence for evolution is at least as strong as the evidence for the Holocaust, even allowing for eye witnesses to the Holocaust.”

    It all seems pretty reasonable to me. A good parallel to draw. And Max – notice that the Nazi label isn’t used. (Although as I said Dawkins does have to criticise the way that apologists like Ben Stein and the Discovery Institute have been promoting the lie that Hitler’s policies were based on Darwin and evolution.)

    OK – let the mental gymnastics begin!
    .-= My last blog-post ..A Universe From Nothing =-.

  • Ken.

    Where from me saying:

    “But I will read it when I have time and see if my intuition is right.”

    Do you get:

    “I guess the evidence is not going to change your mind.”

    You are either trying to be insulting or dishonest or you just don’t read what other people say. Actually look at what people say rather than reading what you want to see into their words. Sound familiar?
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  • Max – I got the feeling that you would not be willing to consider the evidence objectively from your comment:

    “I know his writing style well enough to hazard a pretty good guess that although he phrases it in terms of “oh – its just another example of intellectual dishonesty” he is playing an emotional game as well. Its clever because he can play the emotional game of comparing his opponents of being Nazis but then can turn around and say “Oh! I never meant that!” (as you have done)”

    However, I will be pleased if you can consider it objectively. That’s all I can ask – I have presented the evidence. It won’t take long to read. And you did say: “Actually look at what people say rather than reading what you want to see into their words.”

    It’s now up to you.

  • In Line with your own advise, Ken, I will wait until I have read the book myself so I can see it all in context rather than taking your selected sections to make a decision. I am sure you would agree that is the wise thing to do.

    One reason for this is that even when you take MY words you place them out of context to create a false impression. I can only assume that you do this routinely.

    Leaving out: “But I will read it when I have time and see if my intuition is right.” changes what I said as an initial guess which I will check out with the evidence into a dogmatic claim.

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  • Max – Chapter 2 is also online at Richard Dawkins: the truth dogs reveal about evolution

    Mind you, I don’t think that, or the rest of the book is going to supply any more context than chapter 1 does to your stated interpretation taken from the review. All the information required is in Chapter 1.

    Again, I imagine there will also be waiting lists at libraries – so why not read the free text online?
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  • Thanks Ken. I will add it to my list of things to do after 10 Nov when my thesis is due.
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  • Ken, having just handed in my research project, with 30 seconds to spare no less, due to this mornings monster power cut trapping it inside the computer. I had a brief moment before I switched gears to exam prep mode to find you a couple Dawkins quotes to back up my claim that Dawkins has suggested that Christian parents engage in child abuse for teaching their children about their faith:

    Both quotes come from the same article cited below.

    “Priestly groping of child bodies is disgusting. But it may be less harmful in the long run than priestly subversion of child minds.”

    [So basically, allowing children to learn church teachings is on par with paedophilia.]

    “Odious as the physical abuse of children by priests undoubtedly is, I suspect that it may do them less lasting damage than the mental abuse of bringing them up Catholic in the first place.”

    [Teaching children about religion is more harmful to them emotionally than being the victim of paedophilia.]

    Both quotes can be found in Richard Dawkins Religion’s Real Child Abuse (2006).

    This is just one article Ken. There are far more examples out there of Dawkins hurling vitriol at his opponents.

    This statement of yours made me laugh “Have your “wasted your time” reading Dawkins? (I find most critics who claim they have really only read the books title).

    This is a great game – challenge people to back up such statements. See if they are factual or just emotional.”

    You write off Christianity and its philosophers but you have not read them – you have not even read the top atheist philosophers of religion.

  • “just handed in my research project,”

    CONGRATULATIONS!
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  • Madeleine – thanks for the link. People might actually be encouraged to read what is in the article. Especially the quote from the women which is relevant:

    “Being fondled by the priest simply left the impression (from the mind of a 7 year old) as ‘yuchy’ while the memory of my friend going to hell was one of cold, immeasurable fear. I never lost sleep because of the priest ? but I spent many a night being terrified that the people I loved would go to Hell. It gave me nightmares.”

    Thia particular quote brings back a memory of mine of being terrorised by a religious women when I was a child (something about being a “sinner”).

    Psychological abuse can be very painful and is often underestimated. I have written on this and especially relevant is Psychological and religious abuse of children and Psychological abuse of children which include a video of an interview with Jill Mytton by Dawkins. She is a psychologist who specialises in counseling people who suffered from religious abuse as children.

    People claiming Dawkins equates religious teaching with “child abuse” have to work hard at distorting articles and quotes like that. It’s a bit like the old story of atheists eating, children, isn’t it?

    I am not familiar specifically with anything I can quote on Dawkins attitude towards religious education but I understand he does endorse Dennett’s proposal that religious education should be a compulsory subject in schools – provided that it teaches about all religions and ethical systems, including humanism.

    I can appreciate that you want to see Dawkins as some sort of evil person – but that has nothing to do with the man or his books – which I suspect you have never read. It’s based on your ideology and prejudices. But I see the fact that you and Max must make claims like this (without being able to back them up) as a weakness. Playing the man – not the ball. And then when someone like me asks for the actual evidence your inadequacies show.

    Now Madeleine, you are not in a position to know exactly who I have read – so be careful from making more sweeping claims. However, one does not have to read your “philosophers of religion” to make up one;’s mine about the existence a gods, elves, fairies and goblins. One just relies on the evidence. Having done that there is no strong incentive to read people who make an assumption one finds faulty. My article The naked emperor has already made that point – especially into the way people like you repeat Eagleton’s complaint about Dawkins.

    Although discussions here had encouraged me to read, for example Plantinga (whose articles on evolutionary science I had already read) on his justification for a special theistic knowledge. I am not convinced and don’t see why anyone else should be.

    However, I will not make sweeping comments about him, but am happy to discuss his specific points based on actual reading. I wish you and Max could have given the same respect to Dawkins.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Judging the internet – and books =-.

  • Now Madeleine, you are not in a position to know exactly who I have read – so be careful from making more sweeping claims. However, one does not have to read your “philosophers of religion” to make up one;’s mine about the existence a gods, elves, fairies and goblins. One just relies on the evidence. Having done that there is no strong incentive to read people who make an assumption one finds faulty.

    Ken, this is your most revealing comment to date. It demonstrates two things.

    First it shows your position is inconsistent and contradictory. In the previous few comments you have repeatedly insisted one should not criticize the position of Dawkins unless one has actually read him.

    Here on the other hand you suggest one can dismiss the arguments of Christian philosophers even though you have not read them.

    Which is it, is it Ok to dismiss someone’s position without reading them or is it not? It seems to me that your answer changes depending on what is convenient for your purposes.

    Second your comments show quite clearly your don’t confuse me with the facts I have made up my mind attitude. You think the philosophical case for theism is weak. But you have never actually read or the philosophical case for theism, and you have not read it because you think its weak. This is clearly and quite obviously circular.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Power Cuts and Deadlines =-.

  • Ken most likely left these inconsistent comments for unsuspecting visitors of this blog, just to spread some doubts. Dirty tactic.

  • Matt – you distort what I said with your comment: “Here on the other hand you suggest one can dismiss the arguments of Christian philosophers even though you have not read them. “

    I do nothing of the sort. I have made up my mind (always provisional for a scientist of course) about the non-existence of god on the basis of evidence and thinking. I am always happy to consider new evidence and ideas – but not really interested in theological arguments which start with the assumption of gods – for obvious reasons. My conscious decision on this was probably made at the age of 10 – 12. And in the subsequent almost 60 years I have not come across any evidence to change that.

    Of course I don’t reject the arguments of any philosophers without reading them. (Nor do I automatically accept them without reading them). Nor do I label such people without reading them – especially I don’t demonise them. I think, though, that Madeleine, you and Max have done this with Dawkins. And I find that attitude quite common amongst religious apologists.

    That’s why I sometimes challenge people who make these sweeping claims. Entertaining but it does have a serious message.

    My attitude towards Plantinga is based on my reading of him. So far restricted to articles on evolutionary science, his characterisation of scientific epistemology and his arguments about warranting knowledge leading to deriving “truth” without evidence. (I have never read him to answer the question – do gods exist because, as I have said, I think he starts with that assumption anyway). I disagree with him on the above matters, I can argue my case – and I suggest that anyone who bases their ideas on these subject on those reading will not understand science. However, I have never descended to the character assassination of him that many people do (unjustifiably) with Richard Dawkins.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Judging the internet – and books =-.

  • Ken!

    “you and Max must make claims like this (without being able to back them up)”

    “…am happy to discuss his specific points based on actual reading. I wish you and Max could have given the same respect to Dawkins.”

    ETC ETC…

    How many times must i tell you I have a thesis due soon and I WILL back up what I said after that. Stop saying I don’t back things up just because you lack patience! 🙂
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  • Ken you write I think, though, that Madeleine, you and Max have done this with Dawkins. And I find that attitude quite common amongst religious apologists.

    Actually I did not say anything about Dawkins in this thread, but seeing you asked..

    My opinions on Dawkins are based on numerous reviews I have read of the God delusion from professional Philosophers both theists and atheists ( not religious apologists) there is quite a consistent criticism that emerges that (a) he does not address any of the serious scholarly arguments or positions advocated by Christian theologians for the doctrines he rejects (b) he caricatures his opponents and (c) his lack caricature and lack of argument is backed up by sarcasm and insults. These are claims made by multiple reviewers of different perspectives many of whom are highly respect philosophers ( I treat popular level reviews with a degree of skepticism)

    In addition I have read some of Dawkins work and it did fit this description. In an article in Think: the Journal of the Royal Institute of Philosophy Dawkins attempts a critique of oxford Philosopher of religion and science Richard Swinburne.

    Bear in mind that this is an article in a Philosophy journal in the field of Philosophy or religion, my own particular subject. (in fact I have been published in the same journal twice) Moreover, Swinburne is widely regarded as one of the leading Philosophers of religion in the world. I have read his book The Existence of God twice (have you?) and while I do not agree with everything in it, its widely considered as a highly competent peace of work by both atheists and theists writing in the field. I also have read several important criticisms I have read several critques of Swinburne such as those by Plantinga, Mackie and more recently read a text book by an agnostic which gave detailed criticism of Swinburne’s arguments (again have you?). Some of these critics make important points worth considering. However, it is rare for me to have ever read a “critique” as poor as Dawkins was.

    Dawkin’s critique was terrible. First he ignored Swinburne’s scholarly books and focused on a popular level pamphlet summary of the book. This violates the normal canon of scholarship where one responds to the best examples of ones opponents position and attends to all the details of it. Second the critique was loaded with sarcasm and insulting digs at Swinburne’s academic credibility as well as of the field Swinburne writes in generally. Third when one looked at the actual critique it was clear Dawkins did not actually understand Swinburne’s argument he caricatured what Swinburne said, seemed incapable of grasping Swinburne’s actual argument and then saracastically attacked the straw man he had created.

    What was cringe material however was the condescending insulting tone Dawkins adopted speaking of Swinburne a leader in the field as though he were some kind of second rate moron, when in fact it was Dawkins who seemed to have not even understood the issues thoroughly. William Vallicella a professional Philosopher in Arizona has a similar critique of Dawkins here .http://maverickphilosopher.powerblogs.com/posts/1125109986.shtml

    You’re a scientist Ken, perhaps you should ask yourself why so many Philosophers who work in the field Dawkin’s tries to write in (philosophy of religion). Who are often violently opposed to each others philosophical views, all come to the same agreement about Dawkin’s attempts to argue for the non existence of God. There is such a thing as peer review and Dawkins has been reviewed by peers in the field most of them consider his work substandard. If the scientific community had delivered a similar response to a work published by a non scientist writing popular science I doubt you would take that person seriously.
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  • A question for all:

    Imagine that two people meet, and have a disagreement about what is (or is not) the best way to contrue epistemology. Because they disagree over what the best view of epistemology is, they disagree over the best way to understand – in theoretical terms) – how knowledge is acquired, and as such, they disagree about just what it is that makes the practice of science possible.

    In this scenario, imagine that these men are both professional scientists. One is named Albert Einstein, the other is named Louis Pasteur.

    Is it actually honest for one of those men to re-tell this discussion to another person by summing it up, saying: “That guy is anti-science, and I had a run-in with him in which I defended scientific epistemology, and the other guy opposed it?”

  • Sure Matt – I know you haven’t referred to Dawkins in this thread. My comments related to specific comments of yours made elsewhere which I believe are in the same class as those made by Madeleine and Max.

    Now I have not read the specific paper of Dawkins you refer to or Swinburne’s book – so I obviously can’t, and won’t, comment on them. I suggest that might be a policy you also follow regarding other books of Dawkins.

    The reviews of Dawkins book The God Delusion basically fall into 2 groups – completely condemning Dawkins or very supportive of him. That tells you something about the ideological influence that reviewers submit to.

    My perception is that some of the reviewers have not got past the title and just don’t deal with any of the substance of the book at all. Strawmannery and quotes out of context.

    Eagleton set the tone for those who push the argument you do – one should not decide whether you believe there is a god or not until you have extensively studied theology and religious philosophy! PZ Myers has a simple response to the “The Courtiers Lament” – which I have reproduced as The Naked Emperor.”

    Now, it’s noticeable to me that your criticisms of Dawkins don’t involve anything of substance. Don’t involve anything from his book. They are subjective judgments, based on reviews from those critical of Dawkins (for ideological reasons). I have read the book, and I have a number of criticisms of it to make (although I think it is a very important and significant book), and have made some of my criticisms at Open Parachute. it would be interesting to discuss these criticisms and hear any specific criticism of yours – but we can’t. Because you have not read the book. You are relying on a few reviews (which are possibly suspect) and actually can’t deal with anything of substance from the book.

    And it is really weak for you to make vague comments about Dawkins, without any support for them.

    Dealing with these 3 vague commments:

    1: “he does not address any of the serious scholarly arguments or positions advocated by Christian theologians for the doctrines he rejects;”

    I agree – and his book is better for it. In general I find theological tracts quite dishonest. My comment – The Naked Emperor”. Dan Dennett has an interesting talk on this based on research he has done on covert atheist ministers. Fascinating (“The Evolution of Confusion.”).

    2: “he caricatures his opponents”

    Give me some examples. This may be true but I am not aware of a single case. So let me know some – I will learn something. Mind you, I also learn something if you are unable to give me any examples.

    3: “his lack caricature and lack of argument is backed up by sarcasm and insults.”

    My perception of his “sarcasm and insults” is that he will ridicule silly ideas. I am with him on that. Sometimes ridicule is the best way of handling some arguments.

    But as I said to Max and Madeliene – my perception is that he never (or very rarely) makes it personal. He attacks, ridicules, ideas – not people (compare that with the way many critics attack him personally). The only slightly personal attack I am aware of is his reference to Comfort as “The Banana Man.”

    So, again, Matt – give us some examples. I am sure I will learn from them, or lack of them.

    My world-view is, as I have said, evidence-based. I try to be objective in my assessments of books and ideas. I am aware of your attitude towards Dawkins – but as you, Max and Madeleine have not provided any evidence – I just can’t accept it.

    But then again, I don’t have to. My community doesn’t exert the sort of peer pressure on such matters that your community probably does.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Judging the internet – and books =-.

  • Silly me – I should have realised that noone will follow up my article The Naked Emperor from here. So here is the Courtiers Lament – I am sure you will recognise the tone of the reviews you have read:

    “I have considered the impudent accusations of Mr Dawkins with exasperation at his lack of serious scholarship. He has apparently not read the detailed discourses of Count Roderigo of Seville on the exquisite and exotic leathers of the Emperor’s boots, nor does he give a moment’s consideration to Bellini’s masterwork, On the Luminescence of the Emperor’s Feathered Hat. We have entire schools dedicated to writing learned treatises on the beauty of the Emperor’s raiment, and every major newspaper runs a section dedicated to imperial fashion; Dawkins cavalierly dismisses them all. He even laughs at the highly popular and most persuasive arguments of his fellow countryman, Lord D. T. Mawkscribbler, who famously pointed out that the Emperor would not wear common cotton, nor uncomfortable polyester, but must, I say must, wear undergarments of the finest silk.

    Dawkins arrogantly ignores all these deep philosophical ponderings to crudely accuse the Emperor of nudity.

    Personally, I suspect that perhaps the Emperor might not be fully clothed — how else to explain the apparent sloth of the staff at the palace laundry — but, well, everyone else does seem to go on about his clothes, and this Dawkins fellow is such a rude upstart who lacks the wit of my elegant circumlocutions, that, while unable to deal with the substance of his accusations, I should at least chide him for his very bad form.

    Until Dawkins has trained in the shops of Paris and Milan, until he has learned to tell the difference between a ruffled flounce and a puffy pantaloon, we should all pretend he has not spoken out against the Emperor’s taste. His training in biology may give him the ability to recognize dangling genitalia when he sees it, but it has not taught him the proper appreciation of Imaginary Fabrics.”
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  • Does this sound like anyone:

    “The emperor is naked! And what’s more his shirt doesn’t fit, his trousers are too long, and his shoes clash with his hat!”
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  • Hey, Max, I like your comment:

    “The emperor is naked! And what’s more his shirt doesn’t fit, his trousers are too long, and his shoes clash with his hat!”

    I imagine it is a criticism of Dawkins – if so I agree completely. It was one of my disappointments with the book “The God Delusion.”

    Everyone likes to quote the beginning of chapter 2: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction . . . ” I can understand that as a literary device (and it is worth reminding people how horrible is that god as presented in those texts). But Dawkins’ obvious point is that this god is fictional. It was an invention of mankind (as are all gods). So why bother with discussing details of that fictional character.

    It would have been far more worthwhile to develop a discussion of why humans should want such a device, and the origins of those unpleasant characterstics in humans (after all Dawkins wrote a whole book on evolution of positive human features such as altruism – “The Selfish Gene”). I would have liked to see a discussion of the evolution of religion and the use of “supernatural” stories to justify wars, ethnic cleansing, racism, slavery, etc.

    Dawkins didn’t do this. He had very little on the origins of religion – and others have criticised him for this (eg. David Sloan Wilson).

    Of course a book of 400 pages can’t cover everything, and Dawkins did reference those who have done work in those areas. I myself have read up on those topics in books by Daniel Dennett, Pascal Boyer, Jared Diamond and others.

    Nevertheless – it was one disappointment I had in “The God Delusion.”

    But that is my constant experience. Even excellent and socially important books like this will always have some flaws.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Promoting confusion =-.

  • The reviews of Dawkins book The God Delusion basically fall into 2 groups – completely condemning Dawkins or very supportive of him. That tells you something about the ideological influence that reviewers submit to.

    I dealt with this in my last post, the criticisms I raised came from both atheist and theist reviewers. Moreover the theists have reviewed other atheist writers before and done so in a fairly favourable light, so ideological influence is not a plausible explanation, moreover many of them do make substantive criticisms ( some I mentioned and you actually concede latter on) sorry Ken constantly asserting things does not make them true. Especially when I have already pointed out they are mistaken.

    Eagleton set the tone for those who push the argument you do – one should not decide whether you believe there is a god or not until you have extensively studied theology and religious philosophy!

    I did not mention Eagleton or rely on him, moreover you have misread my objection. I don’t claim that you have to study theology and religious philosopher to decide wether there is a good. What I suggest is that if you write a book putting forward a conclusion on a topic you have to (a) be familiar with the issues involved in the discussion and (b) address those authors who have offered arguments against the conclusions you propose.

    For example if I was going to write something critical of the big bang I would need to have read enough to understand what the big bang theory stated and would have to have read those authors who argue for it, be familiar with there arguments and actually address them. To ignore there arguments and simply assert things they have addressed would not be adequate. Especially if what I asserted had been addressed by my critics or involved misunderstanding the theory.

    PZ Myers has a simple response to the “The Courtiers Lament” – which I have reproduced as The Naked Emperor.”

    Well an if Myers offered an actual argument that might be interesting, but simply assuming that religious beliefs are on par with the emperors new clothes and then using that assumption to argue they are silly and not worth listening to is not an argument. Its actually known as begging the question and is a straightforward informal fallacy.

    I will note however that here again you contradict yourself. You have just repeatedly criticised Max and Madeliene for criticising Dawkins work as mediocre without reading it. Then in the next breath you claim you can dismiss as not worth reading all. That again shows your so called scientific standards of evidence are anything but.

    Now, it’s noticeable to me that your criticisms of Dawkins don’t involve anything of substance. Don’t involve anything from his book.

    See below

    1: “he does not address any of the serious scholarly arguments or positions advocated by Christian theologians for the doctrines he rejects;”
    I agree – and his book is better for it. In general I find theological tracts quite dishonest. My comment – The Naked Emperor”.

    I dealt with the naked emperor above, but note here two things here. First, you actually concede the reviewers are correct in what they say ( no straw man then despite your assertions).

    Second, despite what you say his arguments deeply flawed because of his failure to address the arguments I mention. Here are a couple of examples

    (i)“The argument from design is the only one still in regular use today” (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 103).” By saying this Dawkins can focus on attacking the argument from design, if it’s the only argument in use a critique of it will be a critique of the only major argument for Gods existence, the problem is this argument is false. There are at least twelve ( arguably more) arguments still in use and in fact the most widely discussed is not the argument from design. Dawkins therefore by ignoring the arguments of others actually fails to actually rebut the case for theism.

    (ii)When Dawkins critiques the argument from design he suggests that God is postulated to explain complexity, he then argues that this is a bad argument because God is complex.

    Now in fact I know of no person who argues for Gods existence by postulating him as an explanation of complexity, moreover most theists in fact have argued that God is not complex and there is an important body of literature (theological/philosophical) which defends this claim. These arguments could be mistaken but Dawkins needs to show they are mistaken, ignoring them and then simply assuming an important tenent of classical theism is false to show thiesm is false is, is hardly and argument.

    (iii) Dawkins assumes that complex things are improbable, contemporary probability theory however disputes this, on many versions if a necessary being is highly probable even if its complex. Theists however have historically argued that God is a necessary being, now again this could be a mistake but Dawkins can’t simply assume a central doctrine of classical theism is false and then on this assumption to show theism is false, he needs to actually show whats wrong with these arguments , again however he ignores them.

    (iv) Dawkins assumes that theism is rational only if there is a good argument for it. However, many theists have offered detailed epistemological critques of this claim. They might be wrong, but Dawkins cannot simply assume they are if his position is to be defensible he needs to argue they are. And so on. Adopting a stance many leading theists have offered arguments against and ignoring them is not really rebutting them.

    All of this is spelt out in the critical reviews some of it by atheists.

    Imagine a creationist wrote a critique of evolution and (a) did not understand what contemporary evolutionary theory actually asserts (b) ignored all the evidential arguments put forward in favour of evolution, and when challenged responded by saying “I don’t need to after all the emperor has no clothes” I doubt you would find this terribly satisfying. When Dawkins ( and Myers) do not understand what contemporary theists actually assert and ignore the arguments they actually make they are doing the same thing.

    2: “he caricatures his opponents”

    I actually gave an example in my previous post. But seeing you missed it heres one

    “For him it would be simpler, more natural, less demanding of explanation, if all electrons were different from each other. Worse, no one electron should naturally retain its properties for more than an instant at a time, but would be expected to change capriciously, haphazardly and fleetingly from moment to moment. That is Swinburne’s view of the simple, native state of affairs.” (Dawkins “A review of Swinburnes “Is there a God” Think Summer 2003)

    And this

    “Enter God. God comes to the rescue by deliberately and continuously sustaining the properties of all those billions of electrons and bits of copper, and neutralising their otherwise
    ingrained inclination to wild and erratic fluctuation. That is why when you’ve seen one electron you’ve seen them all, that is why bits of copper all behave like bits of copper, and that is why each electron and each bit of copper stays the same as itself from microsecond to microsecond. It is because God is —constantly hanging on to each and every particle, curbing its reckless excesses and whipping it into line with its colleagues to keep them all the same.”

    I have read Swinburne’s work several times no where does he assert this positon, moreover I have read many of his leading critics, they all fail to interpret his position this way as well. This is clearly a caricature, I pointed this all out in my last post. Dawkins goes on to say

    “That said, there is no limit to the explanatory purposes to which God’s infinite power is put. Is science having a little difficulty explaining X? No problem. Don’t give X another glance. God’s infinite power is effortlessly wheeled in to explain X (along with everything else), and it is always a supremely simple explanation because, after all, there is only one God. What could be simpler than that?”

    Swinburne actually points out earlier in his book that this is not the case. He distinguishes carefully those things which need scientific explanation and those that do not. Dawkins nowhere addresses these arguments, he simply attributes the denial of any such distinction to Swinburne and ridicules him for it. I could go on, Dawkins here simply caricatures. In fact Swinburne has a chapter on the distinction. How did Dawkin’s miss a chapter?

    He largely ridicules Swinburne’s views of simplicity too, which Swinburne actually spends several pages carefully spelling out. Dawkins apparently can’t be bothered reading and understanding it .

    3: “his lack caricature and lack of argument is backed up by sarcasm and insults.”

    My perception of his “sarcasm and insults” is that he will ridicule silly ideas. I am with him on that. Sometimes ridicule is the best way of handling some arguments.

    Actually ridiculing an argument is a logical fallacy, but see above for an example there is sarcasm and ridicule but no actual addressing of Swinburnes actual arguments, which even leading atheist philosophers respect even if they disagree with

    My world-view is, as I have said, evidence-based. I try to be objective in my assessments of books and ideas.

    Your quote of Myers actually says the contrary, you suggest people should not criticise Dawkins without reading them, but people can criticise the views of theists without reading them because you assume their views are on par with the emperors new clothes.

    This is hardly an “objective method” assume theism is silly, base your method of inquiry on this assumption refusing to view any argument from a person who disagrees and unsurprisingly you find your iquiry discovers no reason to accept theism. Its called reasoning in a circle, the fact that Myers and you think circular reasoning ( couched in ridicule) somehow is a profound rebuttal is astounding. Do scientists not grasp the basic canons of logic such as ad hominems and circular reasoning are fallacies?
    .-= My last blog-post ..Contra Mundum: “Bigoted Fundamentalist” as Orwellian Double-Speak =-.

  • Great thread so far.. Max, I dug up a few references of Dawkins in ad-hominem mode.. (not to mention his intemperate rant already outlined by Madeleine).

    1. Richard Dawkins Compares Rabbi to Hitler, Then Refuses to Apologize
    Dawkins’ latest target for invective is Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, one of America’s most popular rabbis. Rabbi Boteach is skeptical of Darwinian evolution, and he’s a critic of Dawkins’ effort to misuse science to disprove theism. In a speech last year at a conference where he appeared after Dawkins, Rabbi Boteach picked apart Dawkins’ misuse of science. That was too much for poor Prof. Dawkins, who a few days ago denounced the Rabbi’s comments as “a shrieking rant, delivered with an intemperate stridency of which Hitler himself might have been proud.”

    2. Jung
    “Jung also believed that particular books on his shelf spontaneously exploded with a loud bag” (74). This is almost a textbook example of ad hominem: he notes that some people hold a belief “without adequate reason” (which is a rhetorical assumption made about theists, also) and then points out this about Jung to discredit him. In reality, what Jung thinks about spontaneously exploding books is not relevant to Jung’s theology. This is a personal attack, and not real reasoning.

    3. Swineburne
    Later, after describing one of Swineburne’s more dubious comments, Dawkins goes on to quote the man’s credentials and say, “If it’s a theologian you want, they don’t come much more distinguished. Perhaps you don’t want a theologian.” The first sentence is an implication that, because Swineburne is a theologian, he stands for all theologians, and the second sentence is actually a sentence devoid of meaning, especially given the context of the sentence. (p. 89)

    4. Melanie Philips, John Lennox
    Lennox is the author of God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? which demolishes Dawkins by showing not only that there is no inherent conflict between science and faith but that the argument for faith is now being bolstered enormously by the remarkable developments in science. Dawkins was on the back foot because Lennox was attacking him from his own platform of science. He was on safer ground only when, in a further debate between the two at Oxford’s Natural History Museum last October, he attacked Lennox for his Christian faith which he could more easily ridicule.

    [Dawkins accusation of Philips]> Lying for Jesus! Oh dear oh dear. Not only did Dawkins falsely accuse me of distorting his position, but he accused me of doing so because he assumed I was a Christian. Five minutes’ research maximum would have told him that I am a Jew.
    .-= My last blog-post ..How Should We Live? =-.

  • Ropata

    I note you refer to the “Swinburne” article. I would simply add two more points there, first the so called “dubious comments” Swinburne allegedly made actually were not made by him, they were Dawkin’s caricatures. Second, you refer to the comment “If it’s a theologian you want, they don’t come much more distinguished. Perhaps you don’t want a theologian.” in fact Swinburne is not a theologian he is a philosopher. So again Dawkin’s shows he actually does not know what he is talking about or is even familar with the work of the person he critques. Anyone who has studied Philosophy of religion knows Swinburne is a philosopher.

    The reality is Dawkin’s waded into an area he does not understand, misunderstood the arguments Swinburne put forward ,largely because he choose only read a short popular summary and ignore Swinburne’s published works on the subject, and after putting forward his own distorted interpretations of Swinburne, makes the saracastic comments you refer to. To anyone familar with Swinburne’s work this is actually rather funny. But when scientists then refer to this as a scholarly contribution to the feild of Philosophy of religion its a travesty.

  • Matt, I have no interest in getting into the jelly wrestling of theology so will basically just deal with the only substance in your comment – the two quotes from Dawkins (after all this is what I have been asking for – evidence).

    Both of these were (I understand) comments on Swinburne’s arguments – what might be expected from a book review. At the very worst they could be caricatures of the original arguments (I would have to read the book and review to make up my mind about that). They are certainly not personal caricatures. So it’s very noticeable that you, Madeleine and Max have just not been able to supply evidence for your claims of Dawkins going in for personal attacks. Despite several requests. It was easy for you all to be disparaging about my original comment – but you just can’t back up your emotional reactions.

    Ropata is indulging in the same sort of deception – quoting the claims of critics of Dawkins rather than Dawkins actual statements. I must conclude that you guys actually have nothing to justify your anti-Dawkins prejudices.

    However, I see that you all seem to interpret the normal vigorous debate (which we are all used to in science, politics, sport, etc.) as “personal attacks” when they involve religion. Well – grow up. This sort of healthy debate is quite normal. Stop expecting us to treat you with kid gloves, like children or animals. If your make claims about reality expect them to be scrutinised. Generally we play the ball – not the man. We attack the ideas not the person. Stop taking it personally!

    Others have noticed this interesting phenomenon that religious people who may have no understanding of the point being discussed will take any negative comment about religion as a personal attack. A good subject for psychologists to investigate. I discussed this briefly in my review Why We Are Atheists with respect to Adele Mercier’s ideas of religion being about social identity rather than any facts.

    I’ll just finish with some comments on theology – because like a child with a hammer who sees everything as a nail, Matt, you choose to see everything in terms of religious philosophy – because you have a wand.

    You criticise Dawkins as a bad “philosopher of religion” – something he never claims to be or aspire to be. Why should he. He is a scientist and surely science is the appropriate response to reality. You are actually flattering him. (Have a look at Dan Dennetts lecture in Promoting confusion . I think that his position is very similar to Dawkins and mine).

    I have no time for theology and am glad Dawkins doesn’t either. His book would have been a complete failure if it had fallen into that jelly wrestling trap.

    I am reminded of a comment by Rinny Westra, a former Presbyterian pastor in New Zealand, in his book The Disappearance of God:

    “After years of struggling with theological questions and frequently enjoying myself doing so, I have to conclude that theology is not a proper academic discipline but a self-serving and self-authenticating project with little or no scientific integrity.”

    Now, you may feel inadequate when it comes to scientific epistemology and to scientific understanding of reality. Many people do. But don’t expect others to play you jelly-wrestling game just because you have a wand. And stop judging people inappropriately. Judge Dawkins, and his writings, for what he is – a scientist. Not a religious philosopher – which he unashamedly is not.

    That is how most people judge him (as a scientist) and that is why his books sell so well.

    He is also a very nice personally, never (as far as I am aware) indulging in personal attacks.
    .-= My last blog-post ..RIP – Theo van Gogh =-.

  • No – I am not falling into the jelly wrestling trap. Just wanted to illustrate how ideologically driven prejudice can sometimes be hidden behind an academic veneer and claims of scholarly work.

    Matt – you say
    ““The argument from design is the only one still in regular use today” (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 103).” By saying this Dawkins can focus on attacking the argument from design, if it’s the only argument in use a critique of it will be a critique of the only major argument for Gods existence, the problem is this argument is false.”

    Interesting your refer to page 103 – it is on page 79 in my copy! (Perhaps p 103 refers to the secondary source you used?)

    This is in a section entitled “Thomas Aquinas’ ‘proof’.” Here he deals with 5 ‘proofs’ asserted by Thomas Aquinas – one by one. His comment is on argument 5 – “The Teleological Argument.”

    It is certainly the most common of the 5 arguments used today. Most of the other ones are never used – certainly at the popular level. Number 3 – The cosmological argument – does sometimes get used.

    So you misrepresent Dawkins here and your argument against him is irrelevant. A caricature of his argument (but not, I agree, a personal caricature.)

    However, I believe you fell into this trap because you were looking for “evidence” to ‘prove’ a preconceived point. You wish to ‘prove’ that Dawkins doesn’t addrees “the arguments I mention”

    I guess this is the way theology (sorry “philosophy of religion”) operates. I, personally am more used to the method of deriving ones conclusions from the evidence rather than altering the evidence to fit the preconceived conclusion. In my profession the latter approach is considered shoddy work.
    .-= My last blog-post ..RIP – Theo van Gogh =-.

  • Ken
    You criticise Dawkins as a bad “philosopher of religion” – something he never claims to be or aspire to be. Why should he..

    I agree Dawkin’s is not a Philosopher of religion he is a scientist. The problem is he choose to write in the field of philosophy of religion. Philosophy of religion is a discipline that critically analysis’s religious questions, such as does God exists and studies the veracity or arguments for and against God’s existence etc. Dawkin’s decides to write criticising arguments for Gods existence or defences of theisms rationality, when he does so he does so poorly. As I pointed out and you ignored he does not even understand the arguments, nor does he represent them accurately, nor is he even aware of the issues he raises and as such his work is mediocre.

    He is a scientist and surely science is the appropriate response to reality. You are actually flattering him

    That’s the problem, the assumption the assumption that because you are a zoologist you are an expert on all areas of reality and therefore can write in another subject despite knowing nothing about it. The fact that some scientists think that such ignorant huibris is flattering tells us a lot about them.

    However, I see that you all seem to interpret the normal vigorous debate (which we are all used to in science, politics, sport, etc.) as “personal attacks” when they involve religion. Well – grow up. This sort of healthy debate is quite normal. Stop expecting us to treat you with kid gloves, like children or animals. If your make claims about reality expect them to be scrutinised. Generally we play the ball – not the man. We attack the ideas not the person. Stop taking it personally!

    This is just further evidence of what am talking about. You assume that other disciplines do not conduct rigorous debate. That’s simply more scientist hubris.

    In fact if you were familiar with Philosophy of religion, you’d know that it contains very rigorous arguments for and against the existence of God. I actually regularly read rigorous criticisms of positions I agree with. I could name several atheists who offer rigorous criticism of theism that I have read recently and whose work I respect ( despite disagreeing with) My issue with Dawkin’s is not that he offers “rigorous” criticism of theism. As I pointed out ( which you ignore) in fact pretty much most of his argument consists on inventing straw men, asserting positions as true and then indulging in sarcasm.

    But as for your suggest you “attack ideas” not people see the suggestions that I am childish and your attempts to pscoloanalysis religious people below.

    Matt, I have no interest in getting into the jelly wrestling of theology

    Actually it was Philosophy of religion not theology.
    I pointed out several errors in Dawkin’s claims ( such as his claim about the argument from design) also point out how his argument consists of making mere assertions and ignoring counter arguments or evidence, and your response is to dismiss it as “jelly wrestling” Again we see name calling instead of substantive argument.

    Both of these were (I understand) comments on Swinburne’s arguments – what might be expected from a book review. At the very worst they could be caricatures of the original arguments They are certainly not personal caricatures.

    Ken I pointed out several caricatures, ( more than just the two you mention) one of them in fact shows Dawkin’s does not even understand the method which Swinburne spend several chapters clarifying. Instead Dawkin’s mistakenly attributes a position to Swinburne and then as Ropata notes that after he does this he cast aspergences on Swinburne’s academic competence. The evidence has been provided you choose to ignore it.

    (I would have to read the book and review to make up my mind about that).

    Funny, only a few posts ago you defended Dawkin’s commenting on Philosophy of religion without reading anything on it. Once again we see the contradictions being asserted.

    So it’s very noticeable that you, Madeleine and Max have just not been able to supply evidence for your claims of Dawkins going in for personal attacks. Despite several requests.

    Well Ropata provided some, I did provide some and the claim that Max has been “unable to” has been repeatedly pointed out to you is false. Simply asserting things which are false does not make them true Ken.

    Ropata is indulging in the same sort of deception – quoting the claims of critics of Dawkins rather than Dawkins actual statements. I must conclude that you guys actually have nothing to justify your anti-Dawkins prejudices.

    Well I spelt out several reasons why I consider his views to be poor and you have not addressed them instead you describe it as “jelly wrestling”. Of course its not suprising that follower of Dawkin’s and PZ Meyers thinks ignoring others arguments and caricaturing them as jelly wrestling “emperors” new clothes” “spaghetti monsters” etc constitutes a rebuttal the problem is any philosophy student learns that these tactics are fallacies in their first year of study, perhaps scientists need to learn a bit more about academic rigor.

    Others have noticed this interesting phenomenon that religious people who may have no understanding of the point being discussed will take any negative comment about religion as a personal attack.

    Yeah, the numerous reviewers who have hundreds of peer reviewed articles, on the topic of Theology and Philosophy both atheist and theists reject Dawkin’s ( a zoologist with no publications of note in the field) do not understand religion.
    This is just more scientist hubris. The assumption that because X is a good zoologist he knows everything about some other subject and does not need to actually study the discipline to make competent analysis.

    A good subject for psychologists to investigate. I discussed this briefly in my review Why We Are Atheists with respect to Adele Mercier’s ideas of religion being about social identity rather than any facts.

    After ignoring the counter evidence provided, calling all critical comments, “jelly wrestling” and insinuating that people known to be experts in the field “don’t understand” your response is to phsycoloanysis religious people as somehow intellectually deficient. Once again ad hominens and no substance.
    Again Ken, perhaps scientists need to learn that ad homienen fallacies are fallacies, particularly before they go on about rigor and critical thought and how wonderful they are at it relative to everyone else.

    I’ll just finish with some comments on theology – because like a child with a hammer who sees everything as a nail,

    That’s right, now accuse me of being childish, still ignore the arguments.

    Matt, you choose to see everything in terms of religious philosophy – because you have a wand.

    No I did not talk of “religious philosophy” I mentioned philosophy of religion they are not the same thing. The reason I mention it is because that’s what Dawkin’s choose to write on, he choose to write a book claiming theism was irrational, that there are good reasons to reject it and the arguments for theism are unsuccessful. In that context its quite appropriate to ask what theists have actually argued, and wether the arguments he offers have already been addressed.

    I have no time for theology and am glad Dawkins doesn’t either. His book would have been a complete failure if it had fallen into that jelly wrestling trap.

    Again contradiction, apparently we should not criticise Dawkin’s unless we have read what he actually says> On the other hand you can criticise theology without reading any. Is this part of your “scientific epistemology” Ken, assert a contradiction over and over like a mantra.

    I am reminded of a comment by Rinny Westra, a former Presbyterian pastor in New Zealand, in his book The Disappearance of God:
    “After years of struggling with theological questions and frequently enjoying myself doing so, I have to conclude that theology is not a proper academic discipline but a self-serving and self-authenticating project with little or no scientific integrity.”

    I see theology is not a discipline because one former pastor says so. Wow I am so overwhelmed by this argument.

    Now, you may feel inadequate when it comes to scientific epistemology and to scientific understanding of reality. Many people do. But don’t expect others to play you jelly-wrestling game just because you have a wand.

    Again ignore my arguments and accuse me of insincerity
    And stop judging people inappropriately. Judge Dawkins, and his writings, for what he is – a scientist. Not a religious philosopher – which he unashamedly is not.

    Fine, then Dawkin’s should stop writing philosophy and theology, if he choose to write in this field then I will judge him accordingly. In the same way if I choose to write a book on quantum mechanics, it would be appropriate for physicists to criticise me for any scientific mistakes I made. I could not claim “well I am a theologian so I can ignore science and write what I like” .

    That is how most people judge him (as a scientist) and that is why his books sell so well.

    Well creationist books probably sell a lot better than many dry academic scientific texts. I guess you consider them more academically respectable then

    He is also a very nice personally, never (as far as I am aware) indulging in personal attacks.

    Except for the ones we have already noted.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Contra Mundum: “Bigoted Fundamentalist” as Orwellian Double-Speak =-.

  • Rather than another long diatribe caricaturing my points I would have thought you would respond specifically to my charge off “shoddy work.” Your reference to page 103 (sic) of “The God Delusion.” And you seem to want to repeat that mistake.

    What is the story there?

    After all, my charge was specific and, I believe, damning.
    .-= My last blog-post ..RIP – Theo van Gogh =-.

  • Ken: Don’t jump to the conclusion so quickly that people who disagree with you are being dishonest. You must have the paperback edition of The God Delusion. On the hardcover edition, it’s page 103.

  • Ken
    Actually your comments reinforce my point
    Interesting your refer to page 103 – it is on page 79 in my copy! (Perhaps p 103 refers to the secondary source you used?)

    Nice try, but in fact its p 103 you can actually see it here http://www.amazon.com/God-Delusion-Richard-Dawkins/dp/0618680004#reader_0618680004 type in the phrase I used and amazon will give you p 103. Similarly if you go to table of contents it will tell you that the chapter you refer to starts on p 100.

    It is certainly the most common of the 5 arguments used today. Most of the other ones are never used – certainly at the popular level. Number 3 – The cosmological argument – does sometimes get used.
    Err No, Thomas offers five arguments two versions of the cosmological argument, one argument from morality, and an argument from laws of nature and an argument from function. In fact versions of all five of these arguments are being defended today in the literature. Dawkin’s in making this comment shows that he is fact has not studied the arguments, yet that does not stop him writing a book attacking them.
    This is in a section entitled “Thomas Aquinas’ ‘proof’.” Here he deals with 5 ‘proofs’ asserted by Thomas Aquinas – one by one. His comment is on argument 5 – “The Teleological Argument.”

    This actually substantiates my point. Dawkin’s writes a chapter on the arguments for the existence of God, and takes Aquinas five ways as representative. There are a couple of problems here. (a) the five ways are actually just summaries Aquinas presents the arguments fully in summa contra gentles, Dawkin’s is again identifying the weakest presentation and ignoring the strongest. (b) Dawkins treats five arguments proposed 800 years ago as representative of the case for theism and ignores the vastly more sophisticated and vigorous versions being defended today. Attacking theism on by attacking the arguments of one 12 century theologian/philosopher is a bit like me attacking evolution on the basis of evidence for it gathered in the 17th century.

    A serious scholarly work would look for the best representative examples and attack those.

    Can you answer me Ken though, when Dawkin’s goes on to criticise the ontological argument, does he mention or attempt to refute any of the versions of this argument developed out of contemporary modal logic which are still being discussed and debated by modal logican today, or does he attack the 10th century version and ignore this?

    Moreover when he attacks the argument from religious experience does he address the detailed and rigorous defence of this argument proposed by Willaim Alston which is widely regarded as one of the best defences of this argument or does he ignore it?

    Imagine if someone wrote science like that they ignored several of the most important lines of evidence proposed for a theory, and then stated they had refuted it.

    I could also go into Dawkin’s incompetent treatment of the cosmological argument if you like. For example he seems to think Aquinas is invoking God to explain the origins of the universe and contends that an intial singularity as a more “simple” hypothesis. Actually as any competent scholar of Aquinas will tell you this is not Aquinas argument Aquinas in fact was agnostic about wether the universe had a beginning.

    He also seems oblivious to the fact that Aquinas argued that God was simple hence had already addressed the point Dawkin’s raised. Dawkin’s may think Aquinas is wrong, but simply misrepresenting Aquinas position and making an assertion is not a response.

    I could also mention example his comment on p 101 where he suggests defenders of the cosmological simply “arbitrarily” terminate the regress in God. Swinburne whom Dawkins claims to have read actually addressed this point directly in a way that counters Dawkin’s objections over 30 years ago.

    In fact most defenders in fact do give reasons for this, William Lane Craig does, Alexander Pruss, does, Bruce Reichenbach does, Leibniz did, Clarke did as well. Dawkins may not believe these are good reasons but then he needs to say way they are flawed, not claim they don’t exist.

    I am not falling into the jelly wrestling trap. Just wanted to illustrate how ideologically driven prejudice can sometimes be hidden behind an academic veneer and claims of scholarly work.

    I agree what you have shown me from Dawkins illustrates this point quite nicely.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Contra Mundum: “Bigoted Fundamentalist” as Orwellian Double-Speak =-.

  • There’s obviously a few editions. My hard cover one has page 79. So does the paper back edition accessed on Google books. The amazon link doesn’t work for me, but yes the index there says 103. The difference may be between UK and US versions, rather than editions.

    But, of course, that is beside the point. I would hardly argue about page numbers, would I?

    Confront the fact, Matt. Whereas Dawkins’ comment was related to specifically Thomas Aquinas’s ‘proof” – you took it to be denying any other arguments – by anyone.

    You actually said:
    “By saying this Dawkins can focus on attacking the argument from design, if it’s the only argument in use a critique of it will be a critique of the only major argument for Gods existence, the problem is this argument is false. There are at least twelve ( arguably more) arguments still in use and in fact the most widely discussed is not the argument from design. Dawkins therefore by ignoring the arguments of others actually fails to actually rebut the case for theism.”

    For some reason you interpreted Dawkins’ comment incorrectly. You don’t need a long screed to acknowledge that.

    But, I guess these sort of things often get obstructed by ego.

    Mind you – if you had consulted the book you would have seen that Dawkins hardly restricts his criticism to design arguments – by any means. He covers quite a few.

    You implicitly acknowledge that with your comment: “I could also go into Dawkin’s incompetent treatment of the cosmological argument if you like.”

    You should really avoid sweeping statements like: “By saying this Dawkins can focus on attacking the argument from design, if it’s the only argument in use a critique of it will be a critique of the only major argument for Gods existence”

    Again, your are attempting to support a preconceived prejudice about Dawkins by selectively distorting, caricaturing, his statements.

    Shoddy work.
    .-= My last blog-post ..RIP – Theo van Gogh =-.

  • Ken, would you mind defining “science” for me please? Perhaps you could write a few words on what science is and isn’t, and even give an example.

    Thanks.

    Rob

  • “The amazon link doesn’t work for me”

    It’s working, you just have to wait a bit for it to load. It opens up a new pop up (not a window pop up, but some insite popup). It took few seconds after the page is load for the pop up to show up.

    Great responses Matt. Don’t get frustrated by Ken’s usual ignorance and inconsistency.

  • Rob – what about you having a go and I can comment on how well you do? Making attempts is the best way to learn – even when we make mistakes.
    .-= My last blog-post ..RIP – Theo van Gogh =-.

  • Ken
    Your comment is fair enough I should not have suggested that Dawkins did not address other arguments, I actually already knew about his mention of the ontological argument, and mentioning Aquinas five ways is fairly normal pop-level atheist stuff as interpreting his first cause argument as an argument that the universe had a beginning.

    None of this however addresses my main points, which were this, Dawkins does not actually address the major arguments theists have made and attacks only caricatures. I pointed this out with regards to Swinburne, I also pointed it out with regards to Aquinas, in both cases he misunderstood their arguments and proceeds to raise objections and issues both actually addressed. I noted he makes inaccurate claims about the cosmological argument and raises issues that nearly every defender has addressed and simply asserts they haven’t done so. I also pointed out that he seems to take a summary of Aquinas written in the 13th century as representative of theism as though criticising that ( actually criticising his own misunderstanding of it) instead of addressing the best contemporary versions. I also noted he seems to not even be aware that these arguments exist ( hence his comment that no one defends them today) I queried ( and you have not answered) wether he actually addresses any substantive versions of the ontological argument and argument from religious experience.

    I also pointed out that numerous theists have offered epistemological critques of the claim that one needs to have arguments for theism for it to be rational, Dawkins offers no response to these.

    I also pointed out that Dawkins famous “master stroke(in Dennetts words)” is a caricature it suggests God is postulated to explain complexity when I know of know theist philosopher who has done this, it claims God is complex when contemporary theists have repeatedly argued that God is simple and Dawkins simply asserts he is complex ignoring their arguments. He makes claims about the improbability of a complex being which either are based on a caricature of classical theism or are contrary to influential probability theories. All this could easily have been discovered if he choose to actually read about the position he was attacking.

    The point is nothing in the chapter you refer to even remotely addresses the arguments for Gods existence that have been proposed today. and none of it esthablishes that God “almost certianly does not exist” Some of the arguments for theism can be criticised well, Dawkins however had not even touched them.

    You have not been able to contest any of this.

    I also pointed out that your own position is inconsistent, you repeatedly condemn people for criticising Dawkins arguments without having actually read them. Yet you also claim that there is nothing wrong with Dawkins criticising other peoples arguments and positions without reading them.
    Your response has been to simply repeat the inconsistency over and over in almost every post.

    Again, your are attempting to support a preconceived prejudice about Dawkins by selectively distorting, caricaturing, his statements.

    I think you have me confused with Richard Dawkins.

  • If you don’t mind Ken, I would appreciate just your definition. If you think that it would take too long, that’s fine, but I would have thought that since we/you are arguing about science, and you say you are a retired scientist, then such a definition would be reasonably easy to come by.

    I think you also used “scientific epistemology” in your postings below, so a definition of that would also help me out.

    Thanks again,

    Rob

  • Rob go to open parachute, search for Neil deGrasse Tyson – he has a beatifil definition along the lines of doing whatever it takes to avoid being fooled.

    But, why do you ask? I have surely made my uderstanding clear on several fora you attend.

    What are actally after, and why?

    And why avoid giving your own understanding?
    .-= My last blog-post ..RIP – Theo van Gogh =-.

  • […] Guest Post: Dan Brown’s History of Science | MandM The Da Vinci Code launched the literary careers of a whole faculty previously-obscure professors of New Testament Studies. Admittedly, they had good reason for wanting to put the record straight about Brown’s distortions of early Christian history. This time, it’s historians of science who might be upset by Brown’s misrepresentation. Because his contention that the Catholic Church has spent the last two millennia holding back the advance of science is as wrongheaded as the story that Mrs Jesus retired to the south of France with her kids. […]

  • To be quite honest Ken, I find this whole discussion very frustrating because it seems that we cannot even agree upon definitions. If we cannot agree on what science is and is not, how can we determine whether something (call it x) qualifies as science.

    Since you are a retired scientist and post quite a lot on this subject, I figured that you would be able to provide a nice simple concise definition that we could at least have a go at agreeing upon.

    Until we can get to that stage, I cannot see how there is really any further discussion to be had. I could put it back on you and ask why you are so reluctant to clearly answer such a simple request.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Greg Koukl Interviewed David Berlinski (Oct 18 2009) =-.

  • Just wondering about Ken’s comment where he said: “…the attack on scientific epistemology is an attack on science…”

    Would you also agree Ken that an attack upon the character of the Christian God is also a side-swiping attack upon Christians?

    If so (and with your comment about Dawkins not attacking people personally as cited by another person in these comments), do you think that Christians should feel personally attacked by Dawkins with his infamous long sentence of verbs to describe his perception of God’s Old Testament character?
    .-= My last blog-post ..Greg Koukl Interviewed David Berlinski (Oct 18 2009) =-.

  • Rob – you talk about agreeing on definitions” – that, to me, implies a moral responsibility on your part to participate with your own definitions or critiques of mine.

    As you say, I have written a lot on this. The article Intelligent design and scientific method may be the best for you to read as it will probably define best for you differences we may have (I understand you are a creationist and this article deals with the attacks on science by the Wedge/creationist/ID people).

    Tyson’s quote (“Do whatever it takes to not fool yourself when trying to understand the world around you.”) is discussed in Do whatever it takes….

    And a quote relevant to scientific epistemology which is one of my favourites is Karl Marx’s “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” – Theses On Feuerbach No 11. The latter requires contextualisation and thought but, I think, is powerful.

    So there should be enough there, in brief form, for you to consider and respond to.
    .-= My last blog-post ..The clash of science and politics =-.

  • Thanks for your acknowledgment, Matt.

    As I said I have no interest in jelly wrestling with theology. If you feel Dawkins should do so – contact him and make your criticisms. I suspect, like me, he would see no point in participating in that discussion.

    Really these matters are best dealt with by science – theology cannot provide any better answers today than it did in Galileo’s time. The Church then sentenced Galileo to imprisonment (for the rest of his life) and banned his book for 200 years because they thought his attitude was “that one may hold and defend as probably an opinion after it had been declared and defined contrary to holy scripture.” The sentence also claimed a geocentric universe was factual because it was ordained by “the sacred and divine scriptures.”

    That attitude (from the sentence delivered by the Church Inquisitors) really defines the religion – science conflict then – and today. I am not going to dirty my mind by buying into consideration of such theological considerations.

    My intention here was to argue against the Christian apologetic fashion of attempting to deny, or downplay, the Church’s treatment of Galileo. And subsequently to challenge attacks on Dawkins by asking for actual evidence where Dawkins had made personal attacks on others. Despite my willingness to listen to any evidence and change my own assessment as a result none has been presented.

    So – no point in you making any more theological/religious philosophy arguments to me. However, anything related to reality, to scientific investigation and consideration – that’s right up my street.
    .-= My last blog-post ..The clash of science and politics =-.

  • Rob – you complaint about Dawkins’ description of the fictional god of the old testament: I have dealt with that specific point in previous comments in response to Matt (Nov 3, 2009 at 9:48 am) and in my response to Max (Nov 2, 2009 at 11:02 am)
    .-= My last blog-post ..The clash of science and politics =-.

  • “So – no point in you making any more theological/religious philosophy arguments to me. However, anything related to reality, to scientific investigation and consideration – that’s right up my street.”

    So what the heck are you doing here? Why not go to science blog and rant there with your own fellow?

    No wonder you defend Dawkins … you are just like him

  • Thanks for the links Ken. I am having a read…

    You may want to look at this conference (from your side)…

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/11/more_from_the_university_of_ch.html
    .-= My last blog-post ..Greg Koukl Interviewed David Berlinski (Oct 18 2009) =-.

  • Ok Ken, since you have essentially refused to provide a simple definition of science (why???) I will try to extract a definition that I think you WOULD provide if a gun was held to your head.

    Here goes:

    Science is humanity’s attempt to gain knowledge about the external world (the “objective” world) by way of the so-called “scientific method”.

    This “scientific method” is then:

    1. Begin with observation and data gathering.

    2. This is followed by the formation of an hypothesis which is generated by applying logic and reasoning to the gathered data.

    3. From the synthesis of reason and hypothesis, testable predictions (basically reasoned guesses) are formulated.

    4. The predictions (reasoned guesses) are tested using “experiments”.

    5. Any difference between the predicted and experimental results is then fed back to the hypothesis stage (step 3) such that the hypothesis is modified to either a minor or major degree.

    The hypothesis (3) is continually tweaked until such time as the predictions (4) match as closely as possible the “objective” world (5). So steps 3,4,5 may be repeated many times.

    This is not quite following your diagram Ken, but I think your diagram’s “new hypothesis” should be incorporated with the “hypothesis” box, so actually I think they are basically identical.

    What do you think?
    .-= My last blog-post ..Greg Koukl Interviewed David Berlinski (Oct 18 2009) =-.

  • Getting there, Rob. However, these are important points:

    1: Predictions are not “reasoned guesses.” If a specific hypothesis is a good description of (part of) reality then it describes things we have, as yet, not investigated. These can be called “predictions.”

    2: Testing or mapping against reality is not necessarily by “experiment.” We collect data, observations – but very often the “experiment” is done by nature. Often this “real world experiment” provides better testing because it simultaneously checks several lines of evidence. This means that a validated hypotheses can be supported by several converging lines of evidence.

    3: “Feeding back results into an hypothesis” is probably the exception – rather than the rule. True, often the early stages of “testing” enable refinement of an hypothesis (or perfection of technique) before the decisive test. However, very often the test is binary. Either the hypothesis is validated or not. Very often we move on to another different hypothesis. As I have said before – Most ideas in science are wrong – and we know that because of our interaction with reality.

    Usually the “new hypothesis” is very different to the “old hypothesis.”
    (When it comes to scientific theory we recognise that our knowledge is provisional. However, the usual situation when we upgrade theories is different to hypotheses. Usually a newer theory contains within it elements of the old theory as a limiting case. Consider Einsteinian and Newtonian mechanics).

    The problem with flow diagrams is that a living process can be presented as a dead recipe or description. In reality scientists don’t have rule books or method sheets. Science in practice is far more messy, lively and exhilarating. Olivia Judson has a nice article on this in the NYT (License to wonder). That’s why the short descriptions like Tyson’s and Marx’s can actually capture the essence of the scientific endeavour better.

    Principles from these quotes worth considering are:

    1: Humans are easily fooled. We are an intelligent species but not a rational one – more rationalising. That is the way our brain works for very good reasons. So scientific processes must recognise this and work to overcome subjectivity, preconceived ideas and the role of ideology. We do this by interacting with, and testing against, reality and by the social nature of science. These help to reinforce an ethos of honesty and objectivity. (Compare that with the creationist “methods” of “Design inference” and “inference to the best explanation” which do none of this.

    2: There is a dialectical unity of theory and practice. We get very worried when we are unable to validate ideas against reality (That is the subject of philosophical discussion within some areas of science – particularly areas like “string theory” – at the moment).

    Do you accept this general outline?
    .-= My last blog-post ..Richard Dawkins in Wellington next March =-.

  • When it comes to scientific theory we recognise that our knowledge is provisional.

    Ken, you’ve been told before that there is no such thing as “provisional” knowledge. You continue your long trend of intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy. Knowledge is defined as warranted or justified true belief. That is what knowledge is. If a belief is not warranted and true, then it is not knowledge.

    By your own admission, then, scientific theories don’t constitute knowledge.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Determinism and the authorship of sin in Calvinism and Arminianism =-.

  • Bnonn, what if you hold a belief that is true, but not for the reasons you think? Is that warranted or justified?

    PS. re Ken “…but do so with gentleness…” 🙂

  • Bnonn, what if you hold a belief that is true, but not for the reasons you think? Is that warranted or justified?

    No; not by most sophisticated accounts of warrant. Plantinga, for instance, speaks of warrant in terms of “proper function”—namely, the belief must have been formed properly. I would tend to phrase it differently and perhaps more loosely, and say generally that if one holds a belief because it is true, then that belief constitutes knowledge.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Determinism and the authorship of sin in Calvinism and Arminianism =-.

  • I’m always (well, OK, only sometimes) amused by the way that some skeptics declare that they don’t “need” to interact with theological points of view because to do so is jelly wrestling (or some other derisive term), yet when they think that in their coffee-sipping musings they’ve accidentally stumbled onto the world’s most brilliant critique of theology, they rush in, sword unscatched, slashing blindly (only to immediately prove to the world that maybe they should have spent a bit of time injelly wrestling boot camp first). Ken and Dawkins really do have something in common!
    .-= My last blog-post ..On the crushing of historical fables about religion, science and culture =-.

  • Bnonn – for an example of the mess that dogmatic descriptions of knowledge get you into – have a look at my discussion with Glenn and Matt over the jar of jelly beans.

    Rob – no response? After all you requested my comments.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Why Evolution Is True =-.

  • Bnonn – for an example of the mess that dogmatic descriptions of knowledge get you into – have a look at my discussion with Glenn and Matt over the jar of jelly beans.

    Ach well, I guess if you are happy to ignore how experts define knowledge when you’re debating them, you won’t mind if we ignore how you define science when we debate you. I believe that ID is good science. I know you disagree, but I don’t want to get into any jelly wrestling about this nonsense, so you’re just going to have to accept that ID is science now.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Determinism and the authorship of sin in Calvinism and Arminianism =-.

  • Ken: Can you give even one good argument not to believe in God?
    .-= My last blog-post ..rssCloud Update =-.

  • Oh Look!

    Ken has not responded. His lack of response clearly proves he has no arguments at all – and his views have been fully discredited.

    If he had any arguments he would obviously have responded in the since my last post!

    (just teasing Ken…)

  • Bnonn – Matt and Glenn experts!!
    Have you read their latest rubbish claiming Galileo was wrong in his proposition that the earth orbited the sun?

    And they even drag poor old Einstein in as support. He must be spinning in his grave.

    Mind you – its based on a very weak aside made by Plantinga – so they treat it as gospel – maybe as “knowledge.” After all Plantinga “warranted” it.

    But do you believe that they are right? Won’t be suprised if you do after your comment on ID.

    OK Max – enough of that.

    But Rob was quite insistent on getting a comment from me – and all he has to answer is yes or no. (Mind you, out of respect I think “no” should require a justification in response).
    .-= My last blog-post ..Why Evolution Is True =-.

  • “Have you read their latest rubbish claiming Galileo was wrong in his proposition that the earth orbited the sun?”

    Wow Ken, shouldn’t you at least post the link of the article? Or are you afraid that people will actually read it … and just may be find your rubbish comments there?

    Galileo’s theory was wrong, swallow your pride Ken.

    Here’s the article:

    http://www.beretta-online.com/wordpress/index.php/einstein-v-the-church-v-galileo/

  • Bob – explain youself. Do you think that the earth does not orbit the sun? Because that’s what Galileo proposed.

    I was surprised at Glenn & Matt – but are there more of you deniers.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Why Evolution Is True =-.

  • Sorry Ken, read what you wrote, just been a bit busy. I will get back to you soon I hope…
    .-= My last blog-post ..Greg Koukl Interviewed David Berlinski (Oct 18 2009) =-.

  • Not only does Ken flagrantly admit his intention to lie int he comments at my blog (as you’ll see if you read it), but now he lies here about me. “Mind you – its based on a very weak aside made by Plantinga.”

    I said nothing about Plantinga. Not a word. Nor have I read Plantinga make a comment on this.

    But it’s the same old same old, just make up nonsense about other people. There really is nothing new. *yawn*

  • “Bob – explain youself. Do you think that the earth does not orbit the sun? Because that’s what Galileo proposed.”

    Galileo was wrong because he insisted upon something that he could not prove as scientific truth. I don’t know if the earth orbits around the sun or the other way around or both orbit one another to some degree. This is the point of Einstein’s relativity theory.

  • Bnonn – Matt and Glenn experts!!

    In the area of philosophy, yes they are experts. And, while I know this will shock you, epistemology is…an area of philosophy! Oh no!

    But I notice that you’ve once again managed to divert attention away from the objective facts which refute your position, by engaging in rank ad hominem and lying about your opponents. Par for the course eh.

  • Come on Bnonn – couldn’t you add your voice to Matt’s, Glenn’s and Bob’s and say that Galileo was wrong?

    So we now have three people who insist that Galileo was wrong, claim that it is impossible to determine if the earth orbits the sun or vice versa.

    What about other readers here? Are you going to hide away in shame, diplomatically point out their errors – or militantly line up behind them?

    This sort of question is routinely asked in US polls and something like half of the respondents get it wrong. (Similar to the response to questions on creationism). Americans attribute that to ignorance and lament the eduction system.

    Now, I don’t think ignorance is the problem here – more ideological commitment. There is a desire to excuse the church for its treatments of Galileo (similar to how some modern day Stalinists deny or explain away the Stalin Terror – as I pointed out here).

    Hence all the articles on Galileo in local apologetics blogs lately. How about the latest claim (It is a myth that “Galileo was imprisoned for his heretical ideas of the heliocentric solar system”) spouted at Thinking Matters and Glenn’s blog.

    In face of this from the sentence of Galileo by the Inquisition:

    “You have rendered yourself vehemently suspect of heresy, namely of having held and believed a doctrine which is false and contrary to the Sacred and Divine Scriptures, that the Sun is the center of the world and does not move from east to west, and that the Earth moves and is not the center of the world; and that one may hold and defend as probable an opinion after it has been declared and defined contrary to Holy Scripture.”

    Now, Bob, Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity and General Theory of Relativity are very relevant to astronomical objects and orbiting planets. (After all these helped explained the anomalies in Mercury’s orbit didn’t they?).

    You say “I don’t know if the earth orbits around the sun or the other way around or both orbit one another to some degree. This is the point of Einstein’s relativity theory.” If that is true you should be able to back it up with a quote from Einstein, or a reputable astronomer, that it is impossible to determine which orbits which and that Galileo was wrong on this. He must say something somewhere because these relativity theories are so relevant to planetary systems and astronomical objects. Astronomical observations were used to experientally test relativity theories.

    Now if you can find such a quote, and I can verify it, I will happily admit I am mistaken, and have been mistaken all my adult life, in my understanding of the relativity theories and of planetary motion.

    I will happily admit my mistake here – put it in writing. I wouldn’t care about the inevitable derision (I get that here anyway!) because I would have learned something. And that is valuable.

    So there is the challenge Bob. Find a quote relevant to planetary motion, orbits, etc. (not a distortion based on objects undergoing uniform motion as Glenn did). You must at least believe that there is something quotable for you to be so sure in your assertions.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Why Evolution Is True =-.

  • No Glenn, you didn’t quote Plantinga – Matt did. The quote was very confused, demonstrated confused thinking on Plantinga’s part. Matt probably realised this because he was coy about acknowledging its origin.

    Of course – my reference was in humour. I was having a dig at Bnonn’s reference to warranted knowledge because Plantinga does take this idea to a caricature – a ridiculous extreme which removes the requirement of evidence.

    Just a dig, that’s all.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Why Evolution Is True =-.

  • Ken, why can’t you just engage with my point, instead of this ad hominem and misrepresentation, ad nauseum? Are you mentally ill? I know you’re getting pretty old. Maybe it’s time to stop blogging before your mind fails utterly. This is just embarrassing for you.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Determinism and the authorship of sin in Calvinism and Arminianism =-.

  • Ken

    I have to side with Glenn here and say you are lying. Nowhere have I ever claimed that the earth does not move. Glenn noted a line of argument that relativity theory means that the claim that the earth moves depends on ones frame of reference and that in the absence of an absolute reference point the claim the absolute claim that the earth moves is mistaken. I myself neither endorsed or denied this line of argument, your claim I did then is simply false.

    Of course I did provide a quote where someone else said this, but this is because you (a) suggested that Glenn’s argument was novel one that you had never ever seen anyone make it before and (b) asked for an example where someone had made it. I provided an example from an article you claim to have read simply to answer your request and also to show your comments about never encountering were clearly not correct. The only reason I did not provide the citation is because you told me you were familiar with the article in a previous comment here at MandM when I asked you if you had read the person in question.

    Once again however your response is to caricature and impinge peoples motives. Misrepresenting what I said and ignoring what I did say and ignoring the context of comments . Oddly enough only a few days ago you were condemning people allegedly doing this to Dawkins, once again we see your inconsistency showing.

    What I did point out to you and which you have ignored is that your claim that the Church said “it could not be wrong” is false. In a letter made available to Galileo in 1615 Cardinal Bellermine of the Inquisition stated clearly that if proof of Galileo’s theory could be provided the Inquisition would change its position.

    The Inquisition was following a hermeneutical principle ( which Galileo himself had defended in his letter to Christina) that stated that an interpretation of scripture which was (i) accepted by the consensus of interpreters and (ii) reflected the literal sense of the words was to be accepted in the absence of compelling proof to the contrary This was actually reflected in the order the Inquisition made to Galileo , which was acccompanied by a comment on the part of Bellarmine that he could teach helocentricism as a useful hypothesis but not as established truth. The order states that it is contrary to scripture because the literal reading and the consensus interprets it this way. Galileo had in fact traveled to rome to try and provide proof (which was actually scientifically mistaken) because he recognized this point.

    Again an actual understanding of the Theology and Philosophy of the time as well as the historical facts actually helps avoid error. Ignoring this stuff as “jelly wrestling” and then making comments in a vacuum of self imposed ignorance simply leads you into error.

    Instead of responding to the fact that once again you have been shown to make factually inaccurate and uniformed comments about theological positions of others. Your response is to caricature, and engage in ad hominem attacks ignoring the actual arguments made.

    I really do not understand why Scientists like you, Myers and Dawkins don’t understand that ad hominem’s or making comments on things without reading them first are basic scholarly errors. Perhaps the “evidence based” world view you keep referring to is actually anything but.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Audi and the Infallibility of Religious Reasons =-.

  • Sorry Matt – I agree you didn’t actually come out in direct support of Glenn’s claim that Galileo was wrong. I apologise for misrepresenting you. It would have helped, though, to make your disagreement with Glenn’s position clear at the time. You should make these arguments clearer.

    Your quote from Plantiga was hardly reputable. It was new to me though, so I have learned something. That some apologists are using Einstein’s Special Relativity inappropriately to claim Galileo was wrong. (A bit like the inappropriate use of thermodynamic laws to claim Darwin was wrong – which is rather common).

    So, thanks for the lesson. I definitely learned something. My initial reaction was to be gobsmacked with Glenn’s claim and I can now see that a few other people may have used it.

    Still, I hadn’t come across it before.

    OK – we are down to 2 people, Glenn and Bob, who think Galileo was wrong and that we can’t tell if the earth orbits the sun or vice versa.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Why Evolution Is True =-.

  • By the way, Matt. I had never claimed to have read the article, or the footnote. However, I do have a copy of it now.

    And that footnote is really garbled. Shoddy work on Plantinga’s part.

    Do you know of anyone else besides Plantinga who has used this argument? I would certainly like to follow them up. And, as I have said, I have never seen this argument in any reputable scientific source.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Why Evolution Is True =-.

  • One thing I’ve learned is that you’re not worth anyone’s time to argue Ken.

    You’ve decided that Galileo was not wrong. On the other hand, I thought Galileo was right, but in light of new information, I now doubt that he was right.

    And while we’re at it … Darwin was wrong too …

  • So, Bob, that’s an admission you have nothing to back up yor belief? Even the “new evidence” you quote you are too ashamed of to provide references?

    I guess you are one of those poor souls who claim evolution violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics?

    The stupidity of this is that you will probably also claim there is no conflict between science and religion when it is claims like this which are causing the conflicts.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Why Evolution Is True =-.

  • Not at all. I’ve read your comments around this blog. Life’s just too short to play your game.

  • Macro-evolutionism is simply the creation myth of the false religion of Secularism. There is no serious evidence to prove it, and a growing mountain of evidence to suggest that Darwin got it badly wrong. The total lack of support from the fossil record being one example.

    Evidence based? Yeah right.

    http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org/

    http://www.truthinscience.org.uk/

  • Evolutionists usually respond by asking what’s stopping micro changes become macro over long period of time …

    if that’s the case, in relation the existence of God, we should just ask them what’s stopping God from existing?

  • “Evolutionists usually respond by asking what’s stopping micro changes become macro over long period of time … ”

    Lack of any empirical evidence that this has ever happened is a pretty good answer to that….

    Selective breeding examples (which ironically people like Dawkins lean upon heavily) are notorious for leading to dead-ends and infertility (in both animals and plants).
    .-= My last blog-post ..rssCloud Update =-.

  • It should be no surprise how far the Illuminati will go to gain control of the world.

    Here is a book that will detail the mind control techniques used by the illuminati to create mind control slaves.

    These are TRUE MIND CONTROL SLAVES that are being made and used for drug mules, international assassins, sex slaves, suicide bombers and secret messengers. This could be anyone, from your congressman to your cable guy.

    It is 350 pages of detail descriptions with illustrations.

    http://mindcontrolpublishing.com/book_illuminati.html

  • The Illuminati?

    Okay…
    .-= My last blog-post ..Anna’s Last Post =-.

  • The Irrational Atheist is Vox Day’s contribution to the anti-Dawkins (and Harris and Dennet) literary storm.

    Relative motion, as used by engineers, does make determining the centre of the Earth-Sun system imprecise. Because every body in the solar system is in motion relative to every other body we can take any body as an arbitrary fixed point.

    Galileo had no evidence for the motion of the Earth, except for the movement of the tides, which we now know has nothing to do with the Earth’s motion. He was less wrong than the Aristotelians who opposed him, but he was less wrong for the wrong reasons. When he took his book and put the words of the Pope (a former sponsor) in the mouth of his character Simplico, he guaranteed that he would find himself on trial.

    What is science?

    1. Science is a changing and growing collection of knowledge, characterized by transparency (all methods are documented, and the lineage of ideas can be traced) and testability (prior work can be repeated or its results evaluated). It is an edifice of information that contains all of the details of its construction.

    2. Science is what scientists do. We have institutions that train people and employ them in the business of generating new knowledge and we have procedures like the bestowal of degrees and ranks that certify one’s membership in the hallowed ranks of science.

    3. Science is a process. It is a method for exploring the natural world by making observations, drawing inferences, and testing those inferences with further experimentation and observation. It isn’t so much the data generated as it is a way of thinking critically about the universe and our own interpretations of it.

    This applies to most things, except anthropogenic climate change of course.

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