MandM header image 2

The New Zealand Association of Rationalist Humanists and the Privileging of Secularism

December 20th, 2010 by Madeleine

The New Zealand Association of Rationalist Humanists (“NZARH”) has a statement of aspirational ideals for the New Zealand state on their website. Entitled “The Tolerant Secular State” it is anything but.

The first two sentences of the document exhibit a confusion which is inherent throughout (and commonly found in discussions of church and state):

Lord Voldemort

“The NZARH strongly believes that government should be secular; that is dealing with the issues of this world rather than following a religious agenda. Our law should not give one set of beliefs privilege over another and the state should treat religious organisations the same as any other organisation.”

An equivocation on the meaning of the word “secular” in the very first sentence is immediately apparent.

Stephen Smith notes that the word secular has two distinct meanings. Etymologically, “secular” refers to things pertaining to this world and life as opposed to the next. In this sense of the word “secular” is not opposed to religion; many religious beliefs and values pertain to life in this world, beliefs about: marriage, sex, human life, killing,  justice for the poor, what one’s duties are in this life, what God’s purposes are in this life and so on are all secular beliefs in this sense. The second and more common meaning of “secular” is to say it excludes, is in opposition to beliefs and values that are religious in nature; this is usually the first definition one will find in a dictionary.

The NZARH use both meanings in the first sentence of their “Tolerant Secular State” document. They start by defining secular in the first of these senses, in terms of “dealing with the issues of this world.” The switch to the second definition occurs immediately in the claim that a secular state must not follow a “religious agenda.” From what the NZARH subsequently argues it is clear that this second sense is what it really has in mind as much of what it says simply does not follow from the first sense.

It is important to note here what the NZARH mean by “privilege” in “our law should not give one set of beliefs privilege over another.” The NZARH specifically mean that the viewpoint of religion must not be a source of law or public policy and by implication, cannot be a motivation or a justification for a source of law or public policy. If this is not what they mean by privilege then their argument makes no sense; the claim that the government must not follow “a religious agenda” and must “be secular” is supported by the contention that religious beliefs should not be privileged. If basing a law on a religious agenda is not privileging it then the argument does not follow.

That clarified, the NZARH’s argument is essentially:

1) The government should be secular, not religious;

This means the state should make a clear distinction between secular views and non-secular views and it should treat them differently. It should base its policies on the former type of view and not the latter. As such, on the understanding of “privilege” outlined above, the State should privilege secular beliefs over religious ones.

The basis for this is that,

2) Our laws should not privilege any one view over another, the state should treat religion the same as any other view.

So let us get this straight. Secularism is a type of viewpoint that 1) the NZARH seeks to privilege over religion but then 2) states that viewpoints must not be privileged.

Of course, if one assumes from the outset that secularism is not a specific view and is somehow some kind of neutral position that everyone can subscribe to then the statements read together might make sense but that is an erroneous assumption.

Secularism is a Viewpoint under New Zealand Law
The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act (1990), which the NZARH’s “Tolerant Secular State” document holds out as “key legislation that upholds the principles of the fair and tolerant society” identifies and treats secularism as a view or a set of beliefs. The Bill of Rights has three relevant sections:

13 Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief, including the right to adopt and to hold opinions without interference.
14 Freedom of expression
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.
15 Manifestation of religion and belief
Every person has the right to manifest that person’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, or teaching, either individually or in community with others, and either in public or in private.

The gist of these three sections is that in New Zealand anyone can form and identify with whatever belief, viewpoint or idea they please, find out more about it, discuss and share it with others and act in accord with it, in public as well as private, as long as they do so with regard to the other rights present in the Bill of Rights. What a lot of people miss however is how the Bill of Rights treats viewpoints.

Section 13 is typically thought of as the Freedom of Religion section. But read it closely you’ll see that “thought”, “conscience”, “religion” and “belief” are listed – all described as “opinions” not religious views. Had the drafters wished to make s13 solely a religion section then they would have kept the language that of religious terminology only.

Sections 14′s “information and opinions of any kind and in any form” and s15′s “religion and belief” tell us that under New Zealand law non-religious beliefs are intended to be treated and dealt with by the state in precisely the same way as religious beliefs.

This is backed up in the various commentaries and government documents that have been published on these sections of the Bill of Rights – here are a couple from New Zealand Human Rights Commission Documents. (I note that the NZARH’s Tolerant Secular State document also praises the Human Rights Act 1993 which was the source of law which created the Human Rights Commission). The first is speaking of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990;

What religions or beliefs are covered?
Religion or belief includes mainstream religions, minority or atheistic beliefs and the right not to have a belief.”

[The Right to Freedom of Religion and Belief]

This one is a reference to the International Bill of Rights of which New Zealand has bound itself by and which is widely acknowledged to form part of the source of  the wording and meaning of our Bill of Rights:

“What is the right to freedom of religion and belief?
The right to freedom of religion and belief includes the right to hold a belief, the right to change one’s religion or belief, the right to express one’s religion or belief, and the right not to hold a belief. The right to believe is not limited to religion. It also includes atheistic beliefs, as well as matters of conscience such as pacifism and conscientious objection to military service.”

[Chapter 9: The right to freedom of religion and belief]

Evidence that these sections of the Bill of Rights Act were intended to include non-religious beliefs such as atheism, agnosticism, humanism, secularism, etc and place them on par can be found in this document put out by the Ministry of Justice, “The Guidelines on the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990: A Guide to the Rights and Freedoms in the Bill of Rights Act for the Public Sector:”

Further discussion on the meaning of section 13
The protection in section 13 is far-reaching. The section is likely to include “freedom of thought on all matters, personal conviction and the commitment to religion or belief“. The freedom extends to thoughts and beliefs of any kind including theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs.

How should I interpret the term ‘religion or belief’?
The United Nations Human Rights Committee states the terms “religion” and “belief” should be interpreted broadly to include theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs. The protection in section 15 extends beyond obligatory doctrine and applies to all religions and beliefs, even those without the established doctrines and customs of traditional religions.

Now given the NZARH’s principle 2) that no one view should be privileged over another, all views should be treated equally, this is all perfectly compatible but this reading of the Bill of Rights Act (and the International Bill of Rights) conflicts radically with the NZARH principle 1). It also radically conflicts with the vision for New Zealand that the NZARH have clearly held out as aspirational in the six examples they identify in their document as areas of public life which need improving on. Their proposed solutions for the examples they have set out clearly demonstrate a call for one view (theirs) to be significantly privileged over another.

The most telling is their section on education which I will now briefly fisk:

“The New Zealand public education system was set up to be secular and still is in most cases.”

The education system must inculcate one type of viewpoint alone: secular views and not non-secular views.

“There are however too many cases where those running a school try to force their own beliefs on their students through religious observance.”

But it is ok for secular beliefs to be forced on students through the inculcation of unchallenged secular viewpoints in the classroom.

“The Education Act (1964) has incorporated a loophole to allow primary schools to “close” sections of the school for religious instruction where outside volunteers indoctrinate the children whose parents haven’t opted them out.”

and

“The NZARH strongly believes that public education should be free, secular and available equally to all children.”

The teaching of secular viewpoints are to be taught at all times, to all children – teachers can teach no other viewpoint. Religion can only figure if the school is willing to close and volunteers are available and parents choose to not opt students out. This is an extremely asymmetrical treatment of two types of viewpoints, secular viewpoints and religious viewpoints but even this asymmetry is not good enough for the NZARH, they want to tip the weight even further towards the bias of secularism, they strongly believe that all state funded education should be secular. Any citizen who wishes for an alternative to their view must pay more than citizens who do not.

As Paul Rishworth, Professor and outgoing Dean of Law at the University of Auckland, an expert in New Zealand’s Rights and Freedoms law, stated to the Human Rights Commission’s Diversity Forum on Religion in Schools:

Though I am perhaps the only person in the world who has not read Harry Potter, the point is well made in an extract from the seventh and last volume (p. 210):

“What’s Voldemort planning for Hogwarts?” she [Hermione] asked Lupin. “Attendance is now compulsory for every young witch and wizard,” he replied. “That was announced yesterday. It’s a change, because it was never obligatory before. Of course, nearly every witch and wizard in Britain has been educated at Hogwarts, but their parents had the right to teach them at home or send them abroad if they preferred. This way, Voldemort will have the whole Wizarding population under his eye from a young age.”

Tags:   · · · · · · · · · · · 189 Comments

Leave a Comment


189 responses so far ↓

  • Madeleine : Of course, if one assumes from the outset that secularism is not a specific view and is somehow some kind of neutral position that everyone can subscribe to then the statements read together might make sense but that is an erroneous assumption.

    At birth secularism is not a specific view , as all babies are simply born secular.So in that sense yes it is a neutral position. Every single one of us was secular at one time in our life when we were babies .

  • By “the outset” I had in mind the outset of the argument, not birth.

    In any event, I am Presbyterian in the reformed tradition so I do not hold that all babies are born secular.

    Further, I don’t buy into the tabula rasa view of religious knowledge anyway – a lot of evolutionary psychology suggests this view is false anyway that young children think in teleological and broadly theistic terms. This is supposedly a common human way of thinking.

    Finally I do not accept that having to leave information I consider relevant to a question out of a discussion because other people do not like that information remotely constitutes neutrality or respectful dialogue when the request to leave such information out can only move one way.

  • Madeleine – you still avoid the question. What are these “secular views” you complain about?

    The “secular views” for which you believe schools should be closed and class run by volunteers?

    Is it mathematics, science, biology, physics, reading, religious studies, social studies, geography, etc.?

    Come on what are they.

    Your refusal to answer is rather revealing. It rather destroys you whole argument.

  • I think that you’re trying to say that you’ve found a loophole that allows you to view secularism as opposing religion.

    Is that it?

    Can we assume that this somehow starts a chain of logic where teaching Evolution to children is not allowable, due to your technicality, because, well, you fill in the details for us, please.

    I wouldn’t miss this for the ‘world’.

  • Ken, by law if the school can teach Marxist analysises of social studies, the can teach that evolutionary theory shows God does not exist and they can propose Dawkins God Delusion as a text book ( I know schools that have suggested this) all this is teaching of secular nature and hence legal.

    If I teach religious instruction its illegal.

    Your welcome to your fantasy that this legal situation is some how fair or unbiased, but its just that a fantasy.

    BTW I have already given you an example teaching evolutionary theory as true and then saying teaching fundamentalism is illegal is pretty clearly allowing schools to teach a religious perspective is false but not allowing a religious group to teach their views are true.

  • Matt if your taught “Marxist instruction” in the way that you mean by “religious instruction” I am sure the law would come down on you.

    How about teaching Marx as one of the philosophers in a philosophy class. Equivalent would be teaching Christianity, Islam or Buddhism as components of a religious studies class. That would be great (in both cases).

    You guys still ignore the whole issue. What do you define a secular viewpoint in your complaint? Mathematics, geography, social studies, literature, etc. What specific area of our kids education do you want to remove because you consider it a “secular viewpoint.”

    Your refusal to answer that really exposes you. Your real motive is to justify and extend religious privilege.

  • Madeleine : In any event, I am Presbyterian in the reformed tradition so I do not hold that all babies are born secular.

    That might be the case that you dont hold to something . However you not holding to something doesnt do anything at all to change the evidence we all see that no babies are born Muslim when living in a Presbyterian household ,or vice versa . All babies are born secular making a secular view the natural neutral position . It is not a inherent inclination for new born babies to suddenly cross their hearts and point to God as babies are born secular , and outside of the inherent inclination of a secular view babies move through indoctrination into all the many different religious cultures .

    What you personally might want to hold onto Madeleine does nothing to change this phenomena that can be freely observed by all humans . And until the day the inherent inclination phenomena of a Catholic or Islamic or Presbyterian or voo doo baby being born say to the Pirahã tribe has been freely observed and documented . What you personally hold onto is beside the point.

    At birth the innate phenomena oberved with babies is they eat , poo , cry , sleep , wake up and are void of religious faith until after indoctrination . This suggests the innate phenomena is that secular is indeed the neutral position .

    Madeleine : Finally I do not accept that having to leave information I consider relevant to a question out of a discussion because other people do not like that information remotely constitutes neutrality or respectful dialogue when the request to leave such information out can only move one way.

    Ok so if thats how you honestly feel , then you will be able to admit in public here on this blog . That you are of the opinion that black magic and voo doo and the practice of satinism and seances should all be options we include within public schooling along side Christianity and Islam and Hinduism and anything else .

    Will you and your faithful friends agree to be happy with implementation of this situation Madeleine ?.

  • Actually, I am pretty sure that any attempt to teach “Marxist instruction” in the slot reserved for religion (school closed and volunteers used) would also not be allowed. That provision only seems to apply to religions (Another privilege?).

  • “BTW I have already given you an example teaching evolutionary theory as true and then saying teaching fundamentalism is illegal is pretty clearly allowing schools to teach a religious perspective is false but not allowing a religious group to teach their views are true.”

    But teaching fundamentalism ought to be illegal, no one should be allowed to believe that. They should be put in mental institutions and medicated for public safety.

    Opening the door to this would be a)opening the door to teaching any old drivel and b)putting science in the same class of knowledge as opinion, which c) would give any facts the same weight as any opinion.

    If someone says to me, “I believe that the World was created out of nothing, 6000 years ago.”, and I reply, “You are an ignorant fool.”, there’s only one fact there.

    And from this fact it is plain, we cannot allow ignorant fools to teach our children.

  • Matt and Madeleine, you seem to want religion to be given some kind of equality, some kind of equal status as a discipline, in the learning of which we can gain knowledge.

    Then you propose that school boards seriously consider teaching fundamentalist Christianity as some kind of ‘rebuttal’.

    Come on guys. You’re laughing at us.

  • Actually i think it might do us all well to introduce voo doo and black magic and satinism and seances into schools for awhile here in NZ . The Christian and Islamic and Hindu kids might find it seemed like real fun for a change , and start taking to it in droves like kids addictions to lollys .

    This situation would possibly really help us sort out a few NZ faithful folks true honest feelings on this type of subject . It might not be so very long before they would all soon be suddenly screaming , our schools should be secular

  • Matt said
    Marxist analysises of social studies, the can teach that evolutionary theory shows God does not exist

    This is just silly. Schools can teach about Marxist (or whatever) interpretations of history, but they can’t instruct students to belie them. And schools certainly can’t teach that evolution shows God does not exist.

  • “And from this fact it is plain, we cannot allow ignorant fools to teach our children.”

    Have you met any teachers? :-)

  • @ Ken, I’m pretty sure that the school committee and the Principal would have something to say to some university students trying to convert high school students to Pastafarianism(may you be touched by his noodly appendage).

    And that ‘something’ would be, “NO!”

  • Social studies is not secular. The discussion is whether social studies should be taught from a secular viewpoint or a Christian viewpoint; and geography, and English, etc.

  • What needs to be noted is the desire of secularists to have a universal schooling system that teaches all all children from their perspective. Whereas I am happy that different schools teach different ways and parents send their children to the school of their choice. While I may have sympathy for the poor child who is sent to the local atheist school, I have no desire for the government to force atheists to send their children to Christian schools.

  • ” While I may have sympathy for the poor child who is sent to the local atheist school..”

    There’s atheist schools now? I’m not sure which one of you has the more vivid imagination.

    Oh yea, bethyada, you’re not supposed to say “Christian perspective” like that since it kind of gives away your proselytizing agenda.

    It’s ‘religious perspective’, for the religious kids. You know, “Foaming at the mouth 101″, kind of thing.

  • I’m curious…

    How many of the Christians here would prefer the government get out of the education business?

    How many of the Atheists here would prefer the government get out of the education business?

  • bethyada :While I may have sympathy for the poor child who is sent to the local atheist school, I have no desire for the government to force atheists to send their children to Christian schools.

    Bethyada so you would be quite happy to fill out a referendum and give your own personal vote that schools should be also allowed to teach Satanism ,Voodoo , Black magic and Seance etc ? . And if Schools started teaching these subjects and society suddenly became infested with practice of these beliefs , you can be totally honest and make the public statement here on this blog that with a clear conscience you can say you would not ever take any action whatsoever to try and oppose this ?

  • Well, Reed, you probably won’t believe this, but I’m an atheist. There, I said it. I think that you guys in NZ should give that a go. Burn all your secular text books and just go by The Good Book for awhile. Really give it a good go though, everyone talking like, “Behold!”, and, “It came to pass..”, and such..

    How long should we give that a chance? You know, how long before we should come and rescue you?

  • Bethyada, your comment “Social studies is not secular” – what does that mean? Why bother using the term “secular.”? Only because you desire to impose a biased theistic “social studies.”

    We should expect our children to be taught the facts – whether social studies, science, etc. Some of those facts may be descritions of beliefs and culture in social studies. Some of them may be descriptions of reality and our current theories using those facts in science.

    In a diverse muti cultural, multi belief, pluralist society we want the subjects to be taught properly to our children – not filtered through the primitive beliefs of one religion or another (that is more “properly” done in the home or Sunday school). This would violate the human rights of others.

    So Matt and Madeleine continue to ignore my request to give example if what they call “secular viewpoints” which they want to stop schools teaching. Thry ignore my request because their real motive is the promotion and extension of religious privelige.

  • Ken
    “Matt if your taught “Marxist instruction” in the way that you mean by “religious instruction” I am sure the law would come down on you.”

    Which of the tenets of Marxism does the law prevent being promoted in a secular school?

  • For what it’s worth….

    Speaking as a teacher of some 20 years experience, both in the UK & NZ, both in secondary & primary, both in single sex & co-ed, both in public & private, both in religious & secular schools and currently having two daughters of school age plus being an atheist myself.

    I feel that Madeleine’s perspective could have far reaching implications, much as those outlined by Steve.

    Namely, if every religious faction was to be given equal status within the curriculum, the following could happen.

    1 – There would be real pressure on the time-table from a time perspective to accomodate them all, in what is already a “Crowded Curriculum”. What should we sacrifice to achieve this? Maths? Literacy? Social Studies? Etc?

    2 – If you include all religious points of view, then you are stuck having to also allow satanism, voo doo, etc.

    3 – You would also create huge problems with regard to the personal perspectives of the teaching staff. I personally experienced this first hand when I was employed by a private Anglican girls school, who were informed of my atheism at the interview. This was no problem as they understood that it would be impratical to expect all of their staff to be practising Anglicans, so they asked only staff that were comfortable delivering the religious component of the curriculum to do so. The shortfall was made up by volunteers, and remember, this is a private fee paying school that we are talking about and they still had to use outside volunteers as well.

    Perhaps Madeleine evisages teching staff to be forced to teach a religious perspective?

    As a final thought, I don’t see what is so flawed with simply extending the current “Values & Virtues” programmes that NZ schools use, to cover the larger topic of “Beliefs”, as I said on my comment on the previous thread, I feel that is long overdue given the rapidly multi-cultural, multi-religious make-up of modern 21st century NZ.

    If we can help our younger generation to understand eah other better, it may well avoid some of the pitfalls other nations have had with regard to these issues.

  • Ken this is getting tiresome – stretch your brain a little and try to think outside the paradigm you are stuck in, you are missing what is being said to you.

    “What are these “secular views” you complain about?”

    God is part of everything I do, therefore any view that requires me to omit him is an affront to my faith. Secularism on either of the two definitions above is an affront.

    “The “secular views” for which you believe schools should be closed and class run by volunteers?”>

    For flips sake Ken, when did I ever say state schools should be closed and classes run by volunteers? I objected to that as unjust as a means of privileging one view by another.

    Given, as you has been put in front of you oodles of times, I am calling for dialogic pluralism why on earth would I support such a thing? I support all views being taught in school.

    Perhaps you do not understand dialogic pluralism, here is a clue, we are doing it here on this blog in the comments section. Anyone can turn up on this blog and present their ideas from any framework they like and hash things out from there. There are no viewpoints that are not allowed – ok, well viewpoints that could get me sued are not allowed but apart from that there are no limits. On this blog Matt and I do not set the rules up so that only those speaking from Christian viewpoints and offering Christian arguments can comment. We would not be respecting out atheist commenters if we said to them, you are most welcome to comment, you just have to refer to God and draw from scripture for your arguments.

    “Is it mathematics, science, biology, physics, reading, religious studies, social studies, geography, etc.?”

    *sigh* you really do not get it do you Ken?

    When I do all those subjects I bring God to them with me. I do not and cannot approach any subject at all without bringing God with me to it. Any viewpoint that says I must omit God from studying any other subject is an affront to my faith.

  • Ken I did give you an answer, Marxism is a secular philosophy, the law does not prevent it being taught as true in school it does prohibit Christianity or any other religion this way, ergo the law privileges secular beliefs over religious ones.

    If you want a less exotic example how about sex ed teaching which among other things teaches that homosexual conduct is one morally acceptable choice, or teaches that teenagers to have sex when they are ready and feel like it wether married or not, or encourages condom use. All of which contradicts the moral teaching of various religions.

    Once again Ken you ignore the answers given to you and start impugning motives, that’s actually a well know fallacy.

    You add

    “How about teaching Marx as one of the philosophers in a philosophy class. Equivalent would be teaching Christianity, Islam or Buddhism as components of a religious studies class. That would be great (in both cases).” Actually I have taught philosophy classes at high school involving this.

    But note what your doing here, when its religion you adopt the “teach the controversy approach” and suggest alternative views even ones you consider false such as Catholicism or Islam be taught as alternatives. When its evolutionary accounts of origins you rail against this approach and claim it be taught as true a fact.

    What I found most telling was your epistemologically naive comment

    “We should expect our children to be taught the facts – whether social studies, science, etc. Some of those facts may be descritions of beliefs and culture in social studies. Some of them may be descriptions of reality and our current theories using those facts in science.

    In a diverse muti cultural, multi belief, pluralist society we want the subjects to be taught properly to our children – not filtered through the primitive beliefs of one religion or another (that is more “properly” done in the home or Sunday school). This would violate the human rights of others.”

    this suggests that facts can be presented uninterpreted without any presuppositions via which they are interpreted. That there is some neutral universally agreed upon unbiased perspective from which we can present our findings. That is simply false, and I doubt many epistemologists today would take this picture seriously.

    The reality, is that there is no answer to any substantive question which does not somewhere rely on a presupposition that is not accepted by all in a pluralistic society.

  • Steve and Paul,

    I fail to see why your argument provides a reason for thinking only secular view points should be taught in public schools.

    You argue something like the following: If we open it up to some religious viewpoints we’ll have to open it to all, seeing we can’t open it to all, including Voo Doo and Satanism we should open it to no religious viewpoint.

    You argue something like the following: If we open it up to some non Christian viewpoints we’ll have to open it to all, seeing we can’t open it to all, including Voo Doo and Satanism we should open it to no non Christian viewpoint.

    The Muslim of course can push the same argument as well. If we open it up to some non Muslim viewpoints we’ll have to open it to all, seeing we can’t open it to all, including Voo Doo and Satanism we should open it to no non Muslim viewpoint and so on.

    Whats abundantly clear is those with a secular perspective on the world seem very willing to reject religion in public life on the basis of arguments and reasons which if sound would drive secular viewpoints out as well, yet oddly when the very same arguments are applied to their own view point they reject them as absurd.

    This is special pleading.

    Again an answer to my question please,

    Why is it a violation of freedom of religion to teach Christianity is true to an atheist child and not a violation to teach evolution is true to a Christian fundamentalist child?

    Why is it a violation of freedom of religion to teach Catholic sexual morality to a liberal child, but not a violation of freedom of religion to teach contemporary contraceptive education to Catholic children.

    When I ask this, no straight answer is forthcoming, instead we get speculation about my motives, allegations about what I apparently support school boards doing and so forth but no answer to the above question.

    Why is one a violation of freedom of religion and not the other?

    I will simply reiterate my point that freedom of religion is not limited to those who hold to correct or true religious beliefs. Its supposed to be a right that even unorthodox and unpopular religious practioners have?

    I find it ironic that Ken apparently thinks freedom of religion does not extend to those who have scientifically unorthodox views, because the scientific community thinks they are wrong, their rights are trumped. Just as in past ages freedom of religion did not extend to those who held theologically unorthodox views, now its ignored to those who have scientifically unorthodox views? Why is this any less intolerant.

  • No Madeleine Ken doesn’t get it, when its his own beliefs they are just “facts” unbiased that every child must be taught to get by in life.

    When its other peoples views they are “controversial” and “biased” opinions in which it would be unfair to teach as true but rather as one possible option.

    Looking at the world ethics, society, from a perspective where God plays no role and has no relevance at all, is not a controversial way of looking at the world disputed by many people at all. Everyone thinks this, didn’t you know?

  • Steve writes

    “That might be the case that you don’t hold to something . However you not holding to something doesnt do anything at all to change the evidence we all see that no babies are born Muslim when living in a Presbyterian household ,or vice versa . All babies are born secular making a secular view the natural neutral position”.

    I am not sure what evidence you are referring to because many empirical studies suggest that people are not born with a secular perspective. Lots of evolutionary Psychology for example argues that people naturally and instinctively believe in a supernatural beings or a god of some sort See, e.g., Justin Barrett, “Exploring the Natural Foundations of Religion,” in Trends in Cognitive Sciences 4, no.1 (2000): 29-34; Barrett, Why Would Anyone Believe in God? (Lanham, MD: Altamira Press, 2004); Pascal Boyer, The Naturalness of Religious Ideas: A Cognitive Theory of Religion (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994); Boyer, Religion Explained: Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought (New York: Basic Books, 2001); and Deborah Kelemen, “Are Children ‘Intuitive Theists’? Reasoning about Purpose and Design in Nature,” Psychological Science 15, no. 5 (2004): 295-301.

    In fact most cultures and people observed throughout history have not held to secular views at all but have been religious. The existence of a large number of people holding to comprehensive secular perspectives on life is fairly recent. Suggesting it is secular beliefs which are the result of enculturation and indoctrination. I always find it odd when 21st century secular liberals speak as though they hold a view that is some how uncontroversial and accepted by every intelligent person in the world.

    But suppose your second response is to say so what, children aren’t born, speaking, English, they are not born scientists, they are not born mathematicians, and so on, does that mean that schools should adopt a no math no English, no science stance? No we teach these things to our children because we think that these cultural practises are important and true, religious people teach their kids religion for the same reason.

  • Dialogic pluralism does not entail that anything goes, voodoo and other irrational beliefs are excluded.

    As philosopher Philip Devine wrote in We: A Study in Social and Political Philosophy:

    “Many people, including those [whom] secular philosophers find it hard to repudiate, have let their religious beliefs shape their public life. Socrates firmly held views that, though they may have been tested by rational arguments, did not derive from them,[ii] and Martin Luther King and the abolitionists did the same. I here assume that some forms of relatively traditional Jewish and Christian faith are rational in the sense that we cannot dismiss their advocates as delusional, even if we should disagree with them. I shall likewise assume that atheists are sometimes rational (and the same is true of Buddhists, Muslims, and so on). I leave open the possibility that some views of the world, e.g., voodoo, are irrational, to a degree that excludes them from dialogue from the outset.

    The public reason project is one member of a family of strategies of bringing order into contemporary discourse by ruling some positions off the table. It is an attempt to find common ground among people who not only have clashing material interests, but also disagree about many normative issues, including ones that go all the way down. It is an attempt to fashion a moral and intellectual We where one is evidently lacking, and to do so without appeals to the shared sentiments which are important to the cohesion of actually existing communities, and without requiring conversion of any party.”

  • Madeleine, This comment of yours is fundamental: 

    “God is part of everything I do, therefore any view that requires me to omit him is an affront to my faith. Secularism on either of the two definitions above is an affront”

    So you see that teaching anything in a school which doesn’t incorporate your god or any social arrangement which doesn’t acknowledge your god as an affront.

    Well that must make life tough for you but you bring it on yourself. The fact is you have a minority belief, as do I. Now I don’t go through life being offended because others believe differently to me. Or because others worship gods, pixies, pasta or spaghetti. Or because believers choose to have a Christian or Buddhist funeral or wedding.

    As long as those sectarian views and rituals are not imposed on me I am happy. The thing is though when we do things together our arrangements must be secular to avoid such offense or violation of our human rights. We don’t impose our beliefs or cultures on each other. Our ceremonies are secular in the sense that they avoid being religious or atheist. Or if we incorporate religious and atheists aspects we try to do that inclusively and fairly.

    But your attitude towards such secular arrangements can only mean either that you must opt out of secular celebrations and arrangements or try to subvert them by 
    imposing your god on them. Despite the fact that your god is not accepted by most other members of the community.

    Perhaps you should lighten up and instead of accusing others of “requiring you to omit your god” appreciate that by participating in a secular arrangement they are not requiring you to accept their god or lack of god.

    If you would only reciprocate you could participate in human society without feeling resentful. After all it is arrogant to expect others to have the same beliefs. Different beliefs are part of the rich diversity of our species. And most of us get on quite happily even though out beliefs are not commonly accepted.

    This is the advantage if secularism.

  • Matt, your claim that “Marxism is a secular philosophy” indicates either your own uncomprehendion of the issue or your intention to confuse the issue.

    Marxism is not a secular philosophy by any means. What philosophies are. Secular describes arrangements which are inclusive giving space for believers and non believers. It implies equal rights of participation but also non-sectarian structures to make this possible.

    A philosophy course could be described as secular because it covers both materialist and idealist philosophers. Similar a course of study on religions and other life stances.

    Bloody hell, we can describe the comment policy on your blog, as well as mine, as secular because it enables participation of people with different beliefs. Despite the non secular nature of your blogging and my blogging we have secular comment structures because we don’t impose our own beliefs on comment policy.

    A motive for misunderstanding the meaning of secular by equating it with atheism is to undermine the ability of people with different beliefs working and celebrating together.

    Similarly equating secular education with atheist education is an intentional distortion.

  • But teaching fundamentalism ought to be illegal, no one should be allowed to believe that. They should be put in mental institutions and medicated for public safety.

    This response pretty much proves my point.

  • @ Madeleine & Matt

    Madeleine, you said: Dialogic pluralism does not entail that anything goes, voodoo and other irrational beliefs are excluded.

    Yet religious “faith” of any type, is by definition irational as: It is a belief “not resting on logical proof or material evidence.” so rationally speaking, the natural world is all that we can detect with our 5 senses and instruments used to interact with those senses. When the scale of perception surpasses their limitations, then the supernatural world would be that which we cannot detect with senses or instruments (at the present time).

    This means that to date there is no evidence which we can discern supporting the supernatural. Hence the reason why, on rational grounds, education, especially Science, deals with that that we can prove beyond reasonable doubt.

    Matt, you said: I fail to see why your argument provides a reason for thinking only secular view points should be taught in public schools.

    That was not my intent at all. I will now re-post what I suggested as a possible practical solution once again.

    To achieve this and given your perspective, I would suggest the adoption of a similar model to the one put forward by the British Humanist Association, namely that “all pupils in all types of school should have the opportunity to consider philosophical and fundamental questions, and that in a pluralist society we should learn about each other’s beliefs, including humanist ones”.

    They would like to see a reformed subject such as “Belief and Values Education” which was inclusive of secular, atheists and all other belief positions and – unlike Religious Education at present – covered by the national curriculum. For many years they have also supported local humanist volunteers on the SACRE bodies which currently determine the RE syllabus for each local authority area.

    This would then become an integral part of the normal school timetable, such as the Health component that already exists.

  • Hmm. Still surrounded by the fleas Matt?

  • 1. Madeleine : Finally I do not accept that having to leave information I consider relevant to a question out of a discussion because other people do not like that information remotely constitutes neutrality or respectful dialogue when the request to leave such information out can only move one way.

    2. Madeleine : Dialogic pluralism does not entail that anything goes, voodoo and other irrational beliefs are excluded.

    Madeleine : I consider relevant

    Madeleine : As philosopher Philip Devine wrote

    Oh ok so its actually more about what Madeleine and this Philip Devine might consider as relevant . Madeleine would like to have had us believe she was honestly on a crusade for equality .

    But no Madeleine really only wants equality that goes as far as equality happens to suit Madeleine or this Philip Devine . As i had already imagined the faithful would still be standing at the wailing wall screaming blue murder and crying foul play if schools were really opened up to also equally include these dark faith beliefs that the faithful found abhorrent .

    So its not really about any honest equality that Madeleine and many other faithful in this country are on a crusade for . No its more about a crusade to have the right to indoctrinate children in schools with faiths involving God . They still wish to be allowed to retain the privileged right to continue to suppress the indoctrination of Satanism or Voodoo or Black Magic or the craft of Seance in our Schools . And they drag out what this philosopher dude Philip Devine wrote , as if this proves that makes everything all sweet and dandy .

    Im fine with religious views being taught in schools so long as this faith crusade for equality agrees to keep it all upfront and totally honest and doesnt try any sly dog tricks of trying to still retain the faithfuls privilege to still suppress peoples right to be teaching Voodoo , Satanism , Black Magic , Seance or any other faith in schools either.

    Would Madeleine agree to allow people the freedom to teach these other faiths ? . Or does Madeleine actually wish to suggest the faithful should still retain the privileged right to keep suppressing these types of views from being taught in our schools ?

  • Sorry Ken but once again its you who does not understand. You write
    Secular describes arrangements which are inclusive giving space for believers and non believers. It implies equal rights of participation but also non-sectarian structures to make this possible.
    The problem is this definition of secularism is false, as Madeliene has already noted She provided several dictionary definitions.
    1. (Philosophy) Philosophy a doctrine that rejects religion, esp in ethics
    Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary:
    secularism NOUN
    ˈsekjələrɪzəm ˈsekjələrɪzəm
    the belief that religion should not be involved in the organization of society, education, etc.
    WordIQ:
    Secularism means:
    in philosophy, the belief that one’s own life can be best lived, and the universe best understood, with little or no reference to a god or gods or other supernatural concepts.
    Your Dictionary:
    secu•lar•ism (-iz′əm)
    noun
    worldly spirit, views, or the like; esp., a system of doctrines and practices that disregards or rejects any form of religious faith and worship
    WordNet:
    Noun
    S: (n) secularism (a doctrine that rejects religion and religious considerations)

    she also noted this is how the term is understood in the law. She the article in the Texas Law Review “Seperation and the Secular which notes this is how the definition is used in legal discussions about religion and public life and public education. Moreover, this is seen in how the leading defenders of secularism define it. Robert Audi for example in his definitive article on Seperation of Church and State defines it in this Eberle and Cuneo in their definitive summary in the Stanford Encyclopedia on the issue defines it this way. Madeleine also noted the law appears to adopt this definition, certainly that’s the way the literature on religion and public life in Philosophy and law use the term.
    So you don’t get to claim Marxism is not a secular perspective or claim secularism does not exclude religious viewpoints, by ignoring how the term is used and giving a non standard definition.
    Secularism by definition excludes religious perspectives, arguments, premises and reasons. It begins a discussion by excluding certain voices from the discussion and then claims to have had a fair and objective debate.

    I’ll finish with an example, when I was teaching philosophy through the RE department at a local school. I showed the students a video on cosmic fine tuning, the video interviewed several philosophers, scientists and theologians, who were asking what fine tuning was and what were the theological and metaphysical implications of it, some of the people on the video were from the discovery institute others were not. I followed this with a long class discussion where I allowed all views to be aired and critiqued. In this discussion offered my reasons for rejecting various positions giving the arguments I relied on and responding to students counter arguments. A few days latter the physics teacher approached me and said the boys had been more interested in physics than they had previously and were asking really engaging questions, latter he approached the RE department to ask how they could integrate the circululia better. I could do this because the school was a Christian school with an RE department which could pretty much do its own thing under the special character.

  • Steve apart from your misrepresentations and typical attack on the character and honesty of religious people I am still trying to see your argument. In particular I see no response to the response I gave to this argument in the thread.

    I

  • Madeleine : God is part of everything I do, therefore any view that requires me to omit him is an affront to my faith. Secularism on either of the two definitions above is an affront

    Any view that requires somebody to omit Voodoo or Black Magic or Satanism or the practice of Seance might be an affront to somebody elses faith also Madeleine . But i doubt you will care anything much about their right to not be subjected to any view that is an affront to their faith .

  • Matt wrote: Why is it a violation of freedom of religion to teach Christianity is true to an atheist child and not a violation to teach evolution is true to a Christian fundamentalist child?

    Well, we have a definition problem to begin with. What do you mean by “Christianity”? As defined by William Lane Craig or John Shelby Spong? Should we have a class for each? I would be happy to have Craig spend an hour with the kids as long as Spong received equal time.

    pboyfloyd seems to have nailed it when he wrote: If someone says to me, “I believe that the World was created out of nothing, 6000 years ago.”, and I reply, “You are an ignorant fool.”, there’s only one fact there.

    I think we have reached the point of critical difference between the way I want my kids taught and the way you want your kids taught. You see Matt, evolution is true or, at the very least, it’s the best explanation we have to explain the diversity of life around us. I don’t want sciences classes suggesting that there is any chance the world is only 6000 years old any more than I want them to be taught that there is a chance that the world was created ten seconds ago and that all our memories were implanted at that time. Save those kinds of discussions for philosophy class.

    Matt, I don’t believe that you deny the fact of evolution either. What I find interesting is how you reconcile that position when you are fraternizing with your fundy friends at evangelical conferences. I have friends who profess to believe that the world is 6000 years old (and that people described in the Bible lived for hundreds of years, etc.) and I don’t pull any punches – I tell them that they are bat sh*t crazy in that regard.

  • Matt : Steve apart from your misrepresentations and typical attack on the character and honesty of religious people I am still trying to see your argument. In particular I see no response to the response I gave to this argument in the thread.

    To be honest i was still trying to figure out if you really mentioned anything much really worth replying to Matt .

    You say there are studies that argue people are not born with a secular perspective . And say these studies argue that people naturally and instinctively believe in a supernatural beings or a god of some sort .

    Its not surprising to me that ancient people instinctively believed in a supernatural beings or a god of some sort .There was much phenomena they never understood.

    However putting that argument aside for the moment , i still have seen you post nothing that suggests these studies omit the idea that these supernatural beings people supposedly instinctively believed didnt also include the supernatural beings involved with Voodoo or Black Magic or even Seance . It could be argued that people are often afraid of the dark and often instinctively believed in ghosts also , which under the line of argument you seem focused on pursuing here could just as easily suggest that maybe teaching Seance in school should also become allowable too ?.

    What is the force of your actual line of argument here Matt .Was there some amazing main point of yours im missing ?

    I will continue to read back over what you wrote again to see if i can see anything outstanding this time that looks startlingly important and defeating .

    By the way Matt now that you have judged what i have said as just being a : misrepresentations and typical attack on the character and honesty of religious people

    Please let us know Matt will you and Madeleine promise to continue to stick to your original claim that you are honestly against schools being allowed to teach views that are privileged . And if this is your honest agenda will you agree to publically pledge right here on this blog that in future you and Madeleine will be also fighting for the freedom of schools to also be allowed to teach Voodoo , Black Magic , Satanism and Seance in keeping with the faith that some people have of the human ability to converse with the dead ?

    Maybe i could even agree with you that its wrong for certain groups to be privileged . So maybe its long overdue that the privilege of banning the teaching of Voodoo and Satanism etc in schools should be removed ?

    If you agree to do this . Then i might agree that maybe i have actually made some misrepresentation of the agenda of faithful folk.

  • Matt : In fact most cultures and people observed throughout history have not held to secular views at all but have been religious. The existence of a large number of people holding to comprehensive secular perspectives on life is fairly recent..Suggesting it is secular beliefs which are the result of enculturation and indoctrination.

    No i disagree . In my opinion this obviously points toward the likelihood that the ancient people simply had to try and deal with much natural phenomena that at that time they had not yet gained enough knowledge to understand.. This would point towards answering why people in past history assumed Gods existed and also explain why a larger number of people now have more secular perspectives .

    Matt : I always find it odd when 21st century secular liberals speak as though they hold a view that is some how uncontroversial and accepted by every intelligent person in the world.

    Matt might you like to point out where i suggested anything ive said is accepted by everyone ? . I could possibly turn around and say the very same things about you but i cant see what it would gain .

  • Matt : You argue something like the following: If we open it up to some religious viewpoints we’ll have to open it to all, seeing we can’t open it to all, including Voo Doo and Satanism we should open it to no religious viewpoint.

    No not at all . Im fine with opening it up to some religious view points . Just so long as the faithful also dont mind opening it up to some other view points such as maybe the Voodoo , Satanism , Black Magic or maybe ever the practice of Seances for people to also learn how to converse with the dead . I disagree with you that there isnt the possibility that certain ways coulded be devised that would allow for us to accommodate all viewpoints . It seems obvious to me that maybe you have totally misunderstood what my argument is , that is unless you are purposely trying to screw what i argue around in some way so as to try and suit your own purposes.

    Matt : Whats abundantly clear is those with a secular perspective on the world seem very willing to reject religion in public life on the basis of arguments and reasons which if sound would drive secular viewpoints out as well, yet oddly when the very same arguments are applied to their own view point they reject them as absurd.

    Once again i disagree with you . Im fine with religion being taught in schools just so long as the Theists also agree to cease pushing for the priviledge of banning the teaching of Satanism , Voodoo , Black Magic , Seances or any other view people might have an interest in .

    Matt : This is special pleading.

    No Matt it becomes special pleading when Theists wish to have Christianity , Islam , Hinduism and suchlike taught in our schools . But wish to also continue having the privilege to ban the teaching of Voodoo , Satanism , Black Magic , Seances etc

    Thats what is special pleading Matt . I happen to fully agree with your wife Madeleine , i agree its jolly disgusting that privlege still exists in our schools whereby teaching Satanism , Black Magic ,Voodoo and Seances have for a long time traditionally been allowed to be banned by the overbearing Theists agenda .

    Now seeing i can tell you are a man who so dispises this type of special pleading Matt . I can honestly say i look forward to you in future starting to also blog about how this type of privlege really needs to be curtailed .

    Matt : Again an answer to my question please,

    Why is it a violation of freedom of religion to teach Christianity is true to an atheist child and not a violation to teach evolution is true to a Christian fundamentalist child?

    Matt if you can honestly say with a totally clear conscience that you dont believe evolution happens , then honestly im not going to even bother wasting much time arguing with you about it . Its really no skin off my nose if certain Theists still wish to come across looking this way. Denying what is obvious wont stop the children from finding out the truth unless certian groups of faithful folks are going to run into the hills and try and hide away in caves. And even then they will possibly see sign of plants and flowers evolving . And will notice how their own personal features have changed compared to what yours are.

    But like i said if certian folks of faith wish to make this type of stand its not my problem.

    But with regards to your question as ive already pointed out im happy for religion to be taught as long as Theist will agree to help dispose of the disgraceful Theist privledge of banning the teaching of Voodoo , Black Magic , Satanism and Seances

    To be honest personally i can see quite a big difference between teachers simply teaching children that evolution actually does take place on our planet as being true , compared to teachers teaching that its true that Satan is real , and that humans can converse with the Dead , and that Voodoo and Black Magic works or Gods can be contacted etc.

    Can you honestly say you cannot see there is a bit of a difference here Matt ?

  • The epistemological claims involved in the idea of a “public sphere” are broadly pragmatist.

    The general idea is that, when as a democratic citizen you make a claim that would impose restrictions or obligations upon others (e.g. “having two homosexual parents has a negative impact on child welfare”), the claim has to be in a practical sense testable by everyone else. There are obvious reasons why this is a good thing, one being that it helps reduce conflict, another that it means we aren’t imposing claims by fiat. Indeed, I would argue that some sort of restriction along these lines is required to make communal political life possible.

    Let’s take, for example, a community where everyone was a Christian and had very similar beliefs. In such a community, scriptural authority would be a useful means of solving disputes. The equivalent of “secularism” in such a community would be the acceptance of standards as to what counts as good interpretation of scripture (at the basic level this would include things like “the interpretation must not contradict itself). Such norms are necessary if disputes are to be resolved effectively. Such a community would clearly be non-secular, but to function democratically it requires the same basic mechanism as a secular society. Note that many religious communities “solve” this problem by dictatorship, by giving one person or a group of people absolute authority over the truth (think David Koresh).

    Now our society is one in which this won’t work, since scriptural authority doesn’t count for most people. What you will get in our society is a scale, whereby empirical confirmation is going to be the gold standard of proof, because experiments can be demonstrated to anyone. Philosophical claims are going to be less acceptable, because philosophical claims involve more nebulous standards of proof. Religious claims based on scripture or revelation will score even lower on the scale, since they offer no standards of proof that non-members have reason to accept.

    Hence, you end up with a society in which science is pre-eminent and in which people don’t object in principle to philosophical arguments about God being made in public life (which is one reason why even atheists don’t mind if philosophy, including philosophy of religion, is taught in public school). However, revealed religion just won’t cut the mustard.

    Secularism wins purely on practical grounds. Even if religious claims were true, qua religious claims they are of little use in public discourse. Similarly, it is wrong to complain that secular society privileges a non-religious viewpoint arbitrarily. It is not arbitrary, for the non-religious viewpoint in question is better at solving community disputes than the religious viewpoints.

    No sane theist could argue that it is a matter of fact that religious reasons are more practically efficacious at solving disputes in our community than science.

    That’s not to say that science is even close to perfect. Of course it is not. There are many deep disputes between members of our society. Science is just better at resolving them than philosophy, and both are better than religion.

    That is why we have a secular society.

  • Matt , your’s and Madeleine’s arguments rely on a selective definition of “secular”, easy to select from dictionaries isn’t it? And therefore easy to avoid the fact than some if these words historically have been used in different ways.

    Moreover, you use a biased incorrect and inappropriate definition to rant about the nature of “secular” education where your definition is inappropriate.

    Taking a dictionary off my bookshelf I find this definition (among others) “not within the control of the church”, “having no particular religious affinities”. Now I think these are more accurate descriptions of our public education system and much of our social arrangements which enable people of all beliefs to live and work together. And provide for freedom of religious and non-religious expression. But avoid the travesty of censorship, imposition of dogma on all and diktat by men wearing dresses.

  • ken wrote “Matt , your’s and Madeleine’s arguments rely on a selective definition of “secular”, easy to select from dictionaries isn’t it? And therefore easy to avoid the fact than some if these words historically have been used in different ways.”

    No Ken as I pointed out, in addition to the dictionaries, this is the way the term is used in the legal litertature and the philosophical literature on religion in public life and this is the definition that defenders of the secularist position, such as Robert Audi uses. What’s selective is to ignore what terms mean in a given debate or context.

  • A, I am well aware of the sort of arguments you make. The problem is two fold.

    The key point you make is here

    “Now our society is one in which this won’t work, since scriptural authority doesn’t count for most people. What you will get in our society is a scale, whereby empirical confirmation is going to be the gold standard of proof, because experiments can be demonstrated to anyone. Philosophical claims are going to be less acceptable, because philosophical claims involve more nebulous standards of proof. Religious claims based on scripture or revelation will score even lower on the scale, since they offer no standards of proof that non-members have reason to accept.”

    In fact the idea that scientifically claims are always empirically testable, is one few philosophers of science accept. But putting that to one side. There are three problems here.

    First, however testable or susceptible of proof scientific theories are, science cannot answer moral or normative questions about what is just, whats right, whats wrong and so on, so to determine what we ought to do its of little help at all by itself. Moreover, claims that science alone can answer moral questions involve highly controversial meta-ethical premises which will be more controversial than religious premises are.

    Similarly, claiming science is true in a realist as opposed to an anti-realist sceince involves those nebulious philosophical standards of proof.

    Second, your response relies on a caricature of religious claims. I would argue and many critics of secularism have. That religious statements are no less epistemically accesible than most major secular ethical theories are. No philosophical claim of any substance can be proven from premises that all the detractors of the claim are compelled to accept, and the standards of what counts as a acceptable theory itself is disputed, hence they are pretty much on par with religious claims.

    So if your position was consistent, one could only accept scientific findings, interpreted neither in a realist or anti-realist sense, this by itself would provide no answers to questions of what public polices ought to be implemented at all. To get an answer to these ought questions we would need to utilise normative philosophical premises, and once this is done it would be arbitrary to include premises from secular ethical theories and exclude religious premises, as the epistemological limits you suggest apply to both.

  • [But teaching fundamentalism ought to be illegal, no one should be allowed to believe that. They should be put in mental institutions and medicated for public safety.

    This response pretty much proves my point.]

    What?
    That you can’t understand a joke when you read it.

    Hey, Matt, I thought it was obvious that I was rebutting your ‘joking’ that teaching kids Evolution being rebutted by Fundamentalist(literalist) Christians to kids, imagining that this might further advance their understanding of nature and prepare them for university courses in biological sciences, including medicine.

    From reading Madeleine’s commentary though, I’m sensing that you respect all views just so long as they are Christian views whether or not they are obviously ridiculous.

    So, you are actually implying that you WOULD indeed be constrained to believe a Christian if he told you that he saw a four hundred foot Jesus in a field on the way to church then? Or at least you’d be constrained to respect his belief?

    Funny how that respecting beliefs seems to only work in certain situations though. Madeleine, at least, is not willing to respect our definition of secularism.

    Seems you guys are all tarred with that stick, demanding respect while not being willing to give an inch. (“Hmm. Still surrounded by the fleas Matt?”)

    So, do you all have a different word which ACTUALLY means what we mean when we say secularism, or is it that you simply CANNOT respect others beliefs at all and need to paint compromise as disrespecting your opinion?

    How DO you define ‘life’?

  • Guess I just couldn’t wrap my head around your implication that Evolution is just some nutter’s opinion which is neither here nor there as far as reality is concerned, much like the opinion that some Bronze Age cosmology is valid today.

  • The point you miss Matt is that the primary theme of secularism is the bridge between society and truth. It could be said that an abundance of narratives concerning the predialectic paradigm of context exist. The deconstructivist narrative denotes the rubicon, and thus the meaninglessness, of secularist society.

    In the works of Eco, a predominant concept is the concept of neocultural art. However, the subject is interpolated into a dialectic Marxism that includes truth as a whole. Sartre promotes the use of the predialectic paradigm of context to challenge sexism.

    If one examines the secularist paradigm of reality, one is faced with a choice: either accept the predialectic paradigm of context or conclude that culture serves to exploit the underprivileged. Thus, the characteristic theme of the secularists paradigm of reality is the difference between language and society. Derrida suggests the use of the predialectic paradigm of context to deconstruct sexual identity.

    Thoughts?

  • Pboyfloyd, its abundantly clear to me you cannot read what people say without writing your own sterotypes and bigotry towards “religious fundamentalists” into the text.

    But to your comments, I don’t have a formal definition of “life” nor do I need one to argue on this issue. Most people cannot accurately define what “meaning” is or what “knowledge” is { if you disagree simply look at the debates in analytic philosophy over how to define these terms] it does not follow that people cannot recognise that “the cat is on the mat” is a meaningful sentence and jkjcckjccjcjjccfc is not. Similarly one can recognise we know the moon exists and don’t know whether the first person to set foot on New Zealand shore did so with his right foot.

    As to your other comments, you seem to think that defining a word as it is defined in the relevant topic and discussion is selective. Its not. Nor is pointing this out disrespectful.

    AS to your other odd comments I am at loss to see what they have to do with the points I have made, though its interesting when I ask secularists direct questions so much diversion and subject changing occurs. I’ll spell it out again.

    If a public school taught the children of an athiest that a particular interpretation of the bible is true, then according to NZARH that would violate freedom of religion.

    This implies that: Freedom of religion entails the state should not teach that a particular religious doctrine is true to students of parents who don’t hold that doctrine.

    This seems to be whats behind the notion ( with which I agree) that one can’t use public schools to teach non catholics that Catholicism is correct and so on.

    The problem is this principle has implications beyond the case mentioned above, take the case of a public school that teaches evolutionary theory is the truth to children of fundamentalist parents. In this case, the school is teaching that a particular religious perspective is false.

    I fail to see how one of these can violate freedom of religion and the other note, either they both do or neither does.

    Your answer has been that you think fundamentalists are ridiculous as well as a whole lot of other sterotypes and negativity towards this group.

    So it appears to me that the only answer you give is that you think freedom of religion does not apply to “ridiculous” religions. Apparently the state should decide which religions are not ridiculous and attribute rights of freedom of religion to them.

    Is that your position?

    Whats more it seems that the definition of “ridiculous” here is determined by wether they accept scientific orthodoxy on a particular subject.

    So is it your position that freedom of religion only applies to those religions who do not question religious orthodoxy?

    If freedom of religion does apply to fundamentalists then the state needs to uphold it. Regardless of how much you or others like fundamentalists, think them ridiculous and so on.

  • Matt, I disagree with your claim that the use of the word “secular’ meaning atheist as you and Madeleine imply, “is the way the term is used in the legal literature and the philosophical literature on religion in public life.”

    To illustrate this I quote from Paul Cliteur’s book “The Secular Outlook: In Defense of Moral and Political Secularism.“ Cliteur is a Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Leiden, and a former Professor of Philosophy at the University of Delft. The Netherlands provides a rich example of secularism and the problems of religious diversity. I reviewed this book in
    “Secularism is Important.“

    So some relevant quotes to give the flavour:

    “We should carefully distinguish between “secularisation” and “secularism.”
    The secularist contends that the best way to deal with religious differences is a morally neutral vocabulary that we all share and a morality that is not based on religion.”

    “The words “secular” and “secularism,” in the sense that I use them, do not entail any negative attitude to religion.”

    “Secularism should also be clearly distinguished from the position of those who predict the demise of religion (i.e. “secularisation”).

    “Secularism has nothing to do with a ‘brutal attack upon religion’ but with fostering a moral attitude and developing moral institutions that make it possible for people from different religious and non-religious persuasions to live together.”

    “It would be a serious mistake to consider the values espoused in the secular outlook as in any way inimical to religion or the rights of religious believers. On the contrary, secularism is the only perspective under which people of different religious persuasions can live together.”

    And finally:

    “In an age when religious terrorism seems an important challenge, the adoption of the secular outlook is even more necessary than in times when religion manifests itself through its gentler side.”

    Now, I realise that this won’t convince you. You and Madeleine have bought into the current attack on secularism by religious militants.

    But they indicate that you are attempting to hide behind legal and philosophical authority rather than honestly considering what the legal and philosophical positions are.

    One can lead a horse to water!

  • pboyfloyd:

    Small issue – but a kind of pet hate of mine. Could you please tell me when you think the “bronze age” was? And what mythologies you think originated in this era?

    Cheers.

  • Matt you keep saying different versions of this:

    take the case of a public school that teaches evolutionary theory is the truth to children of fundamentalist parents. In this case, the school is teaching that a particular religious perspective is false.

    But that’s not what gets taught at schools, evolution is taught as a scientific fact and a theory (because that’s what it is) but a school can’t instruct students to chose the scientific perspective on biology over a religious one.

  • Steve

    Regards your first point, I think the distinction that should be drawn is wether one has (i) a centralised public school that teaches Voo Doo and Satanism to all children even those of Christian parents or atheist parents and (ii) Satanist parents can choose to send their children to a school where Satanism is taught and parents can choose to send their children to a different school and the state does not privilege either school by giving one special funding or public status over the other.

    In a pluralistic society (ii) might well be necessary, I oppose however (i). (i) if you replace satanism with secularism in the example above (i) is precisely what we have at the moment. I think this is unjust. I also think it would be unjust for a centralised public school to teach Christianity is true, or Islam is true and so on if there parents from other religions send their children to the school. I do agree that in a public school children could be given some kind of comparative religion class where they are taught what different views exist, what their practioners believe and so on, I would simply apply the same logic to teaching evolutionary theory, students should be taught evolution is the dominant scientific theory, but also “taught the controversy” in the same way secularists want religion taught.

    What I oppose is the selective logic whereby secularists support certain views they agree with be taught as true and then demand conditions on the teaching of rivals on the basis of rights which they seem to forget apply to everyone else as well.

    But to your comment you say .” Im fine with opening it up to some religious view points . Just so long as the faithful also dont mind opening it up to some other view points such as maybe the Voodoo , Satanism , Black Magic or maybe ever the practice of Seances “ Here you seem to saying we should allow religious viewpoints to be taught in public schools provided certain conditions are met. I’ll simply ask you don’t also say “secular views” should not be taught unless these same conditions are met? Why is it OK ( as we do no) to teach one kind of view only ( secular views) and wrong to teach only one kind of religious view? Again I see only special pleading in the arguments here

    As to your second question, you ask do I believe evolution happens. Yes I do, however even staunch creationists accept some evolution happens so this is really an irrelevant point. Although I am not a Creationist they would also accept that different species of flowers evolved, and some ID theorists in fact accept almost the entire evolutionary picture, so your comments here are simply irrelevant to the debate.

    You then state “ To be honest personally i can see quite a big difference between teachers simply teaching children that evolution actually does take place on our planet as being true , compared to teachers teaching that its true that Satan is real , and that humans can converse with the Dead , and that Voodoo and Black Magic works or Gods can be contacted etc.” Yes I agree, I do see a difference I think its true that evolution occurred and I think its false that humans can converse with the dead, or that Voo Doo is correct and so on. The problem is that is the same difference I see between teaching Islam and Christianity. I think the former is false and the latter true.

    The issue is not whether there is a difference, the issue is whether there is a difference that justifies claiming the “freedom of religion rights” parents have can be overridden. I think its patently obvious that freedom of religion is not supposed to be limited only to parents who hold the true religious perspective. If we claim the state can decide which religions are true and which are false and then deny freedom of religion to the false ones then we really have not advanced very much have we.

    The fact that its no scientific naturalism which defines orthodoxy as opposed to the Monarch or the Pope really does not seem to me to matter much.

    So all the talk about it being true and so is irrelevant to the question of wether it violates freedom of religion rights.

  • Playing catch up here.

    ” Yes I agree, I do see a difference I think its true that evolution occurred and I think its false that humans can converse with the dead, or that Voo Doo is correct and so on.”

    Are you talking physically dead or spiritually dead? It seems to be an important distinction, at times.

  • Ken your definition is as follows

    “The secularist contends that the best way to deal with religious differences is a morally neutral vocabulary that we all share and a morality that is not based on religion.”

    That definition seems to assume that adopting a morality “not based on religion is ” and one we all share.

    This however is pretty evidently false. A large number of people today do hold to a morality which is based on religion and which religion plays a significant part.

    To claim that denying these peoples religious perspectives a consideration and then claiming you are being neutral and simply accepting what is “shared by all” is simply nonsense.

    Similarly adopting a moral position which rejects what people consider significant and important and which contradicts many leading theologically based positions and then claiming you are not opposed to these systems is simply empty rhetoric. I suggest you read the critique of this kind of Rhetoric by Christopher Eberle, Nicholas Wolterstorff and various others.

  • max, the Bronze Age, 3300 – 1200 years before the Current(Common, Christian) era.

    Here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia on the hisoricity of Moses, who is credited with authorship of the first 5 books.

    “Thus, the motif of “slavery in Egypt” reflects the historical situation of imperialist control of the Egyptian Empire over Canaan after the conquests of Ramesses II, which declined gradually during the 12th century under the pressure from the Sea Peoples and the general Bronze Age collapse[”

    Now, max, I’m not sure if your problem concerns your interpretation of the Bible or what you imagine entails ‘The Bronze Age”, or what, but I suggest you take it up with Wikipedia if you imagine that they are ‘way off’ on any topic that you happen to be expert in.

  • Matt – firstly this is not my definition. I was quoting Paul Cliteur – the philosopher and legal expert.

    As for your claim that “large number of people today do hold to a morality which is based on religion and which religion plays a significant part.” That may well be a claim and a perception. In reality we usually find most moral positions are the same – irrespective of religion. And the few that religion might rightfully claim for itself are usually abhorrent (eg justifying religious terrorism or imposing ignorance on children). I think society is justified in declaring slavery, stoning, racial and gender discrimination illegal despite the fact that some individuals justify these actions on religious grounds.

    That is why our secular society can adopt laws expressing a common morality which are acceptable to most people irrespective of religious belief.

    Perhaps you need to justify your claim that secular society is guilty of “adopting a moral position which rejects what people consider significant and important and which contradicts many leading theologically based positions” by providing examples.

    I maintain there would be very few moral positions most Christians could claim for themselves which are not also accepted by most non-Christians – at least in our society. As for the few that possible could be advance like working on a Sunday (or Saturday in Israel), blasphemy (defamation of religion) or tithing surely this is a matter of respect and human rights. Those minority groups can live by those moral codes without obliging others to be coerced into obeying them.

    Simple human rights and respect for people.

  • So am I to take it then pboyfloyd that you accept that Moses was the author of the first 5 books of the bible.. and that they were written at the time they were set?

    Do you think these books were composed before 1200?

  • Matt, ” I don’t have a formal definition of “life” nor do I need one to argue on this issue.”

    Science has a definition of life, which they’d be happy to teach you in Evolution class.

    “..don’t know whether the first person to set foot on New Zealand shore did so with his right foot.”

    He fell off the boat onto his bum.

    “As to your other comments, you seem to think that defining a word as it is defined in the relevant topic and discussion is selective. Its not. Nor is pointing this out disrespectful. ”

    I’m simply pointing out that we seem to be, sort of arguing two different definitions of the word secular.

    “If a public school taught the children of an athiest that a particular interpretation of the bible is true, then according to NZARH that would violate freedom of religion.”

    Yes, teaching the doctrine of a particular religion should be offensive to everyone who respects people of other faiths.

    “This implies that: Freedom of religion entails the state should not teach that a particular religious doctrine is true to students of parents who don’t hold that doctrine.”

    I’m with you so far.

    “This seems to be whats behind the notion ( with which I agree) that one can’t use public schools to teach non catholics that Catholicism is correct and so on.”

    Here I believe you have covered this already but you’re qualifying it, twisting it a little to allow you to twist it again.

    “The problem is this principle has implications beyond the case mentioned above, take the case of a public school that teaches evolutionary theory is the truth…”

    Yes, here is the other half of the twist. Evolution is not a religion, it is science.

    “.. to children of fundamentalist parents. In this case, the school is teaching that a particular religious perspective is false.”

    You cannot blame science for pointing out flaws in some people’s religion.

    “I fail to see how one of these can violate freedom of religion and the other note, either they both do or neither does.”

    Under your rules here, we cannot teach ANY science to children for fear of offending Catholics, who believe that wine turns into blood and bread turns into flesh, under the right circumstances.

    “Your answer has been that you think fundamentalists are ridiculous as well as a whole lot of other sterotypes and negativity towards this group.”

    With your attack on Evolution, you are, incidentally attacking all the sciences which support it, Transmutation being a good example.

    “So it appears to me that the only answer you give is that you think freedom of religion does not apply to “ridiculous” religions.”

    You can believe anything you want to Matt and call it a religion. Far be it from me to try to stop you, or even to care. But when it comes to people who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, precluding the student body from being taught Evolution, Astronomy, Geology, Biology etc. etc, there HAS to be a point where we can agree that religion is for the parents and clergy to teach and science is for teachers to bring the students up to speed on subjects they will be expected to know something RELEVANT about in university..

    ” Apparently the state should decide which religions are not ridiculous and attribute rights of freedom of religion to them. ”

    No, not at all. The state ought to teach students science in the science class, and exempt students of anti-science parents.

    “Whats more it seems that the definition of “ridiculous” here is determined by wether they accept scientific orthodoxy on a particular subject.”

    Of course ‘ridiculous’ is that, and the idea that Evolution cannot be taught because it might offend anti-science parents, who, in this day and age, ought to know better than to try to hold school responsible for them simply trying to prepare students for higher learning.

    “So is it your position that freedom of religion only applies to those religions who do not question religious orthodoxy?”

    Certainly not. All religions ought to be taught by parents, clergy and such, not public school.

    “If freedom of religion does apply to fundamentalists then the state needs to uphold it.”

    Fundy parents are perfectly welcome to refuse to allow their kids to learn science, as far as I’m concerned.

    Biology(the science of life) may well be a complete mystery to you Matt*, and I imagine that you thank your Lord each time a loved one gets ill that it’s not a complete mystery to us all.

    *since you are willing to forego looking up the scientific definition of life, the same definition of life that the entire field of biology, and by extension the entire field of medicine is based on.

    Science works. Pseudo-science, like I.D. doesn’t. Scientists promoting their religion by using their authority is NOT “alternative science”. Religion has no basis to dispute science which has nothing to say about gods.

  • max.

    Obviously I’m saying that the Genesis story is at least as old as the character who is purported to have written it, who, if he is based on an actual person, lived around the time of the Pharoah that he had some kind of interaction with.

    Not sure where this is supposed to be leading or what ‘irked’ you about my original comment yet.

    Are you saying that the Genesis story is newer than the Moses story then??

  • Ken the definitions I cited came from leading writers in the field. Robert Audi for example, moreover the definition you cited actually was in fundamental agreement, in that it demanded a morality not based on religion. I also mentioned several leaders and experts in the field in my previous post.

    Note the definition stated they must be common and not based on religion. Why the reference to religion. Suppose its not common but based on a secular theory? Would that be ruled out? Why not. Suppose its common but based on a religious position would that be allowed? Why not?

    You go to argue t “large number of people today do hold to a morality which is based on religion and which religion plays a significant part.” That may well be a claim and a perception.

    Actually it’s a fact a large number of Muslims, Jews, Christians for example shape their moral vision through sacred texts, hearing a preacher, see morality in terms of sin, divine forgiveness and so on. It always strikes me as odd that secularists seem to be blind to the fact that non secularists exist.

    “ In reality we usually find most moral positions are the same

    This seems to me evidently false, there is huge debate over affirmative action, capital punishment, abortion, euthanasisa, prostitution reform, the role of animals, what counts as correct sexual morality, and so on. Moreover in all these debates there is significant debate over what the criteria are for deciding these answers, utilitarians differ with Kantians, who differ with virtue theorists, who differ with contractarians. And so on. So this claim seems pretty evidently false

    “And the few that religion might rightfully claim for itself are usually abhorrent (eg justifying religious terrorism or imposing ignorance on children).”

    This simply mischaracterises religious ethics, suggesting that the paradigm or norm for religious ethics is defending terrorism . I suggest you actually inform your self of the literature before you make slanderous ignorant and stereotypical claims Ken.

    In the literature on war for example, religious ethicists like Dongan and Ambrose have defended the absolute position on non combatatant immunity justifications for terrorism in the literature have been proposed by secular ethicists like Walzer and Primatoz. Moreover, utilitarianism the leading secular ethical theory would also allow the killing of non combatants, where as conservative deontological views would not.

    Moreover, in medical ethics one of the big differences between religious and secular ethicists is over issues like infanticide. Leading secular ethicists like Singer Tooley and so on have claimed infants have no right to life and can be killed if the parents and society consider it in their interests to do so, and have done so frequently by noting that contrary views rely on religious premises.

    I could go on but your suggestion that everyone agrees except when its terrorism and then religious people support it and secularist don’t is simply a load of crap.

    ”I think society is justified in declaring slavery, stoning, racial and gender discrimination illegal despite the fact that some individuals justify these actions on religious grounds.”

    So what? If they offered secular grounds society would be justified in doing so as well. This really has nothing to do with secularism but it does have a lot to do with bigoted sterotypes of religious people you and other secularists like to peddle.

    I think we are justified in making Marxist revolution illegal as well, even some people justify it on secular grounds. I also think laws against infanticide, beastality, necrophilla are justified even though some secular ethicists appeal to secular grounds to justify these practises.

    ”That is why our secular society can adopt laws expressing a common morality which are acceptable to most people irrespective of religious belief.”

    Get an issue like affirmative action, abortion, and see if you can find a common morality on it, a common set of premises all people agree to, which does not appeal to some comprehensive view of the world which not all people accept. I wish you luck.
    John Rawls the leading proponent of the kind of view you proposed failed miserably on this. Greenwalt and Wolterstorff show I think on many other substantive issues the result will be the same.

  • It’s simply amazing to see people like Ken and Paul being absolutely oblivious to their own perspective being a contentious one that is no less non-neutral than any other.

    This was an absolute gem from Paul:

    Yet religious “faith” of any type, is by definition irational [sic] as: It is a belief “not resting on logical proof or material evidence.”

    The naivety here is excruciating. So faith doesn’t just happen to be irrational, it’s irrational by definition?

    And the criteria for rational beliefs is logical proof or material evidence? Good night! This combination of blindness and partisanship makes conversation a sheer waste of time.

  • Pboyfloyd
    I am aware of the scientific definition of life as I pointed out earlier I think its mistaken as a of life in general, as opposed to an account of what constitutes a living material object. The concept of a living immaterial being is coherent, and it would be a living being that did not fit the definition. I pointed this out earlier snarky repetitions of points I have already rebutted does not count for much.

    “I’m simply pointing out that we seem to be, sort of arguing two different definitions of the word secular.” I am using the term as its used in discussions of this subject by those who propose secularism.
    “If a public school taught the children of an athiest that a particular interpretation of the bible is true, then according to NZARH that would violate freedom of religion.”
    Yes, teaching the doctrine of a particular religion should be offensive to everyone who respects people of other faiths.
    “This implies that: Freedom of religion entails the state should not teach that a particular religious doctrine is true to students of parents who don’t hold that doctrine.”
    Yes, here is the other half of the twist. Evolution is not a religion, it is science.
    That’s irrelevant, you are still teaching that a particular religious perspective is false. You seem to think that when religious people do this its unjust when scientists do its not unjust. Apparently the right to freedom of religion is only a right against religious people not against scientists. I don’t find the “scientists are immune to respecting rights” argument terribly seriously.
    You cannot blame science for pointing out flaws in some people’s religion.
    You Can’t blame Christian religious instruction for pointing out the flaws in someone else’s religion,
    Funny how this argument would never be accepted in any other context, you seem to think that an argument that is acknowledged to be flawed when used by religious people suddenly is really brilliant if a scientists uses it. Sorry logic does not work this way, ever one “pointing out flaws” in religious perspectives justifies overturning freedom of religion or it does not.
    ”Under your rules here, we cannot teach ANY science to children for fear of offending Catholics, who believe that wine turns into blood and bread turns into flesh, under the right circumstances.”
    No that simply shows you have a caricature as to Catholic theology, I doubt any sophisticated catholic theologian would consider science incompatible with transubstantiation.
    ” With your attack on Evolution, you are, incidentally attacking all the sciences which support it, Transmutation being a good example.”
    I did not attack evolution, I simply pointed out that in teaching it as true you are doing to fundamentalists what is recognised as an illegal human rights violation when done to atheists. I know its shocking to scientists but there are ethical and moral restraints on both their research and teaching methods.
    If there are moral restraints on how one teaches transmutation then that’s life, you don’t get to suspend the moral rules or human rights because its inconvient to scientists.
    “You can believe anything you want to Matt and call it a religion. Far be it from me to try to stop you, or even to care. But when it comes to people who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, precluding the student body from being taught Evolution, Astronomy, Geology, Biology etc. etc, Didn’t say its shouldn’t be taught, I said it should be taught as the bests scientific theory and not as the truth.
    “there HAS to be a point where we can agree that religion is for the parents and clergy to teach and science is for teachers to bring the students up to speed on subjects they will be expected to know something RELEVANT about in university..”
    Well on what basis do you claim learning how to be right with God is irrelevant and learning that the world is 6000 years old is relevant. I couldn’t care less about the latter but the former, it seems to me is far more important. I suspect almost all non secular people would agree with me. Why also is religion the prerogative of parents and science the prerogative of the state? Whats the basis for these distinctions apart from ensuring that secular perspectives get a monopoly in the education sector and no one challenges them?
    ”No, not at all. The state ought to teach students science in the science class, and exempt students of anti-science parents.” Already addressed this, I pointed out that if scientists say things with theological implications they can’t then exempt what they say from theological critique, and I also noted that allowing extra disclipinary critique of science is not anti-science.
    ”Of course ‘ridiculous’ is that, and the idea that Evolution cannot be taught because it might offend anti-science parents, who, in this day and age, ought to know better than to try to hold school responsible for them simply trying to prepare students for higher learning.
    If I had said it should not be taught because it “offends” people you might have a point. What I actually said was that it should not be taught as true in a public school, of a pluralistic because doing so means that the state is teaching children that a particular religious perspective is false. The claim the state should not teach the truth or falsity of a given religious perspective is the very reason secularists site to oppose religious instruction in schools.
    Consistency is a bumer I know, but being logical requires it.
    “So is it your position that freedom of religion only applies to those religions who do not question religious orthodoxy?” Certainly not. All religions ought to be taught by parents, clergy and such, not public school.
    So apparently, the state can’t teach they are true but can teach they are false. And that’s a neutral fair system…
    “If freedom of religion does apply to fundamentalists then the state needs to uphold it.”
    Fundy parents are perfectly welcome to refuse to allow their kids to learn science, as far as I’m concerned.”

    Sorry consistency requires more than this, it requires you to shut the school during biology lessons and only get volunteers. That what freedom of religion apparently requires in all other contexts.
    Biology(the science of life) may well be a complete mystery to you Matt*, and I imagine that you thank your Lord each time a loved one gets ill that it’s not a complete mystery to us all.
    Yeah because I said it was a complete mystery….. I see you think lying about others views counts for something.
    *since you are willing to forego looking up the scientific definition of life, the same definition of life that the entire field of biology, and by extension the entire field of medicine is based on.
    No that’s a definition of material carbon based life. You can’t call that a definition of life in general unless you have some substantive philosophical premises such as physicalism or materialism.
    Its not ignorance that causes people to not accept the naïve definitions scientistic people offer its actually knowledge of other subjects .
    ”Science works. Pseudo-science, like I.D. doesn’t.”
    Got any arguments for this pragmatist demarcation criterion. Given many leading philosophers of religion say such demarcations all fail, its very brave to assert one without argument and assume others will simply take your authoritative word for it.
    ”Scientists promoting their religion by using their authority is NOT “alternative science”. Religion has no basis to dispute science which has nothing to say about gods.” I see science has nothing to say about Gods, great, so I take it then scientists have nothing to say about wether God created the world in 6 24 hour days. Or whether God created the universe a finite time ago. If you don’t want theological critques aired in schools don’t make comments which criticise theological positions.

  • Glenn, of course because we all know that to find out what theologians have traditionally mean’t by faith you go to the dictionary not to the definitions they actually provided.

    and when you do assume an epistemology which has been known to be flawed for over 2000 years as the obvious definition of rationality.

  • “Broadly speaking, there are two categories of views regarding the relationship between faith and rationality:

    “Rationalism holds that truth should be determined by reason and factual analysis, rather than faith, dogma, tradition or religious teaching.

    Fideism holds that faith is necessary, and that beliefs may be held without evidence or reason, or even in conflict with evidence and reason.”

    See? Paul, you naive, blind partisan. Can you not see the difference between what you said and this Wiki comparison of faith and rationality?

    Actually, if there is a difference, it is SO subtle that calling you blind, naive and partisan seems a bit harsh.

    Maybe it’s an infinite regress thing where Glen can say, with no evidence or reason that you’re misrepresenting faith? When you point out his lack of evidence and reason for THAT faith, the faith that you have misrepresented the word faith, he starts foaming at the mouth all over again!

  • ["Biology(the science of life) may well be a complete mystery to you Matt*, and I imagine that you thank your Lord each time a loved one gets ill that it’s not a complete mystery to us all."

    You responded,
    "Yeah because I said it was a complete mystery….. I see you think lying about others views counts for something."]

    I don’t think that you are a stupid man Matt. You finally told me that you had no definition for life.

    I might be wrong here, but with no definition at all for life, life has to be a mystery to you, doesn’t it?

    I wish you would stop juggling philosophy, religion and science, it’s just disingenuous.

    “No that simply shows you have a caricature as to Catholic theology, I doubt any sophisticated catholic theologian would consider science incompatible with transubstantiation.”

    I’ve read the Catholic position on this. You may be right that they could talk their way around declaring anything at all incompatible with their faith, but so what? That’s standard operation procedure for them and it doesn’t mean that transubstantiation ISN’T against every single scientific principle that we know, which is what I said.

  • “Obviously I’m saying that the Genesis story is at least as old as the character who is purported to have written it”

    And the key word there is “purported” isn’t it?

    “who, if he is based on an actual person, lived around the time of the Pharoah that he had some kind of interaction with.”

    And the key word here is “if”.

    “Not sure where this is supposed to be leading or what ‘irked’ you about my original comment yet.”

    You will get there.

    “Are you saying that the Genesis story is newer than the Moses story then??”

    No – I was asking you to seriously answer two questions. Yes or no answers please:

    (1) Do you think Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible?
    (2) Do you think that these books were written before 1200 BC.

    Remember Yes/No answers. Cheers.

  • As I suggested, Matt, you were unable to suggest a single moral attitude derived purely from religion which cannot be accommodated in a secular arrangement either because non-religious people derive the same moral outlook or because as a minority view it can be limited to just that religious group and ignored by others (as is also the case with some non-religious outlooks).

    Your reference to abortion, revolution, affirmative action etc., are ethical questions we all face and on which there can be different views quite independent of religious conviction. No one said society’s decisions have to be simple or obvious. But pretending these differences are basically religious only confused the issues for you.

    I note that you continue to contrast religion with secular. As Cliteur explained, and as I have repeatedly said, this is not descriptive of secular society. Secular describes a social arrangement including the religious and non religious. It does not rely an ideological belief. (It is not the same ad sevilarisation). It is incorrect to equate secularism with atheism. However, religious militants have increasingly done this since 2001. That is part of their openly declared war on secularism. I think it’s clear your are part of this militant campaign.

    It is silly to attribute infanticide  to non-religious people (especially as it has in the past been a component of religious ritual). A secular society would, I imagine, rapidly pass laws prohibiting infanticide (as I am sure ours has) and this would be supported by a majority of religious and non-religious people.

    I believe Cliteur gives a thorough and modern description of what secularism means and why it is desirable as a way of arranging society (please note it is not a viewpoint, it is not atheism). If Madeleine is to be researching this topic for her thesis might I suggest she read the book. Given the status off the author and the thoroughness of his treatment I think she would be remiss not to.

  • Bring on postmodern relativism I say. The comments here just go to show that all viewpoints are equal and one can not be more right than another.

  • “No – I was asking you to seriously answer two questions. Yes or no answers please:

    (1) Do you think Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible?
    (2) Do you think that these books were written before 1200 BC.

    Remember Yes/No answers. Cheers”

    You’re not being serious asking for yes or no answers, now are you?

  • “You’re not being serious asking for yes or no answers, now are you?”

    I guess it is a more complex situation yes. But go on then. What is your take… basically what I am asking is do you really think the authorship belongs to the bronze age. In order to answer this I posed a couple of other questions. So in your own words:

    (1) Do you think Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible?
    (2) Do you think that these books were written before 1200 BC?

    If you refuse to answer – fine. But don’t bother sending another dodge the issue post. Cheers.

  • Ken,
    Ken, your arguments (which I assume you get from Paul Cliteur) have in fact been addressed and answered in the literature. I suggest you don’t arrogantly wade into topics outside your field, and make claims based on “a book” you have read and then suggest those in that field really don’t know what they are talking about.
    You state
    1. ”you were unable to suggest a single moral attitude derived purely from religion which cannot be accommodated in a secular arrangement” actually this is highly disputed. Wolterstorff has argued the notion of human rights can’t be accomadated within a secular perspective. Mackie argued moral obligation cannot. I also suggested infanticide could not. Your welcome to ignore the arguments if you wish but don’t claim they have not been made.
    But more significantly suppose every religious claim can be “accomadated in a secular outlook” so what? I am sure many secular moral claims can be accommodated within a religious outlook does that mean we should disallow secular premises from public life
    2. “either because non-religious people derive the same moral outlook or because as a minority view it can be limited to just that religious group and ignored by others (as is also the case with some non-religious outlooks).” Your last comment in brackets actually undercuts your case, because all known secular accounts of morality are controversial, just as controversial as religious ones, hence if the fact that the majority who do not accept religion can ignore it. The majority who reject every major secular ethical theory can ignore them
    3. ”Your reference to abortion, revolution, affirmative action etc., are ethical questions we all face and on which there can be different views quite independent of religious conviction. No one said society’s decisions have to be simple or obvious. But pretending these differences are basically religious only confused the issues for you. I did not claim these differences were obvious that’s your distortion. What I said was that there was no way to answer these questions if you limit your stance to positions “all people agree on” or what is accepted by all or most. That’s the problem when you advocate a “shared moral principles” approach. You simply cannot answer most of the important moral questions society faces.
    4. I note that you continue to contrast religion with secular. As Cliteur explained, and as I have repeatedly said, this is not descriptive of secular society. Secular describes a social arrangement including the religious and non religious. It does not rely an ideological belief. (It is not the same ad sevilarisation). It is incorrect to equate secularism with atheism. Ken your definition explicitly excludes religious premises. I pointed this out again you ignore my point and repeat the mantra
    . Moreover as I noted the standard definition in the literature and in law is the one I used. So simply asserting over and over that I don’t understand, and am dishonest is on your part dishonest.

    5.” However, religious militants have increasingly done this since 2001. That is part of their openly declared war on secularism. I think it’s clear your are part of this militant campaign.” that’s again you being dishonest as I pointed out, mainstream scholars in the field have been using the definition I cited for decades including the definitive defenders of secularism. You are welcome to continue to tell lies about it all being about a secret plot of extremists. You’d be wrong and a simple perusal of the literature would show you otherwise.
    6. “It is silly to attribute infanticide to non-religious people (especially as it has in the past been a component of religious ritual). A secular society would, I imagine, rapidly pass laws prohibiting infanticide (as I am sure ours has) and this would be supported by a majority of religious and non-religious people.” Sorry calling me silly is not a response. I actually noted secular ethicist who give arguments for this position. Moreover the question is not wether majority would support laws against infanticide the issue is wether such a law can be supported from solely secular premises. Many leading secular ethicists have argued it can’t Singer and Tooley are two examples. If you disagree with there argument you need to respond. Perhaps you can point to a property possessed by infants, lacking in other non human animals, that is non theological or religious, which justifies a strong right to life. Good luck.
    4. ”I believe Cliteur gives a thorough and modern description of what secularism means and why it is desirable as a way of arranging society (please note it is not a viewpoint, it is not atheism). If Madeleine is to be researching this topic for her thesis might I suggest she read the book. Given the status off the author and the thoroughness of his treatment I think she would be remiss not to. Ken your welcome to believe what you like about Cliteurs work, you’re a soil scientist. I have in fact researched the topic a section on my PhD thesis was on it. Glenn did his whole thesis on the topic and recently presented in oxford at a conference where the leaders of the field were there. I believe Cliteur was not. I have read pretty much most of the definitive articles on the subject. Nothing you attribute to hims is new and all has been addressed by people like Christopher Eberle, Philip Quinn and Nick Wolterstorff. Given the status of these thinkers in this field perhaps you should read a bit more before suggesting its all the work of militants.

  • at 11:48 am, Matt writes, “I don’t have a formal definition of “life”..”

    ..at 5:22 pm, Matt explains that he knows the scientific definition of life but doesn’t believe it, and has already rebutted my previous comment, which he is in the process of rebutting.

    What is this anachronistic b.s. Matt?? No need to argue in good faith with people of no faith then, is that it?

    Are you practicing for some Dinesh D’Sousa, ‘think on your feet” style, time limited debate with Daniel Dennett??

    Once again, Christian philosophy isn’t up to much if it amounts to this silly definition games and plays on words, though I’m sure inside your little bubble of ‘philosophers’ you’re ‘brilliant’.

    As for you, Madeleine, what’s your problem? You spend the weekend speaking in tongues or something? Your kids shouldn’t have to put up with people that disagree with you? Well, tough titty.

  • What do you think about my comment Matt?

  • Matt, your extensive tirade is a cop out and a confused one at that. Despite your self promoted expertise (and Glenn’s) our secular society has made it’s legal and moral considerations and decisions without your help. These decisions have been made by people of different religious and non-religious beliefs and this is possible because of our shared humanity. And because weigh under secular arrangements which enables input from the religious and non-religious.

    In fact most religious and non-religious people couldn’t give a stuff about the strange ideas of such self promoted “ethicists”. We don’t care want you think about infanticide or what you claim others think. We go ahead and make illegal because of our shared Hunan values on such issues.

    Matt, you and Glenn discredit yourself when you have to resort to self promotion like this and effectively deny that others can have any possible validity in such discussions.

    It’s is also an indication of your inability to engage with the real issues.

    No wonder society really doesn’t take you people and your self promotion seriously. We can get along quite well without you. One of the advantages of a secular arrangement. Our legal and moral structures are a clear indication of that advantage.

  • Matt before i go to your reply to my own comment i want to first look at a reply you made to Pboyfloyd.

    Matt to Pboyfloyd : If a public school taught the children of an athiest that a particular interpretation of the bible is true, then according to NZARH that would violate freedom of religion.

    This implies that: Freedom of religion entails the state should not teach that a particular religious doctrine is true to students of parents who don’t hold that doctrine.

    This seems to be whats behind the notion ( with which I agree) that one can’t use public schools to teach non catholics that Catholicism is correct and so on.

    The problem is this principle has implications beyond the case mentioned above, take the case of a public school that teaches evolutionary theory is the truth to children of fundamentalist parents. In this case, the school is teaching that a particular religious perspective is false.

    Then Matt replying to me : As to your second question, you ask do I believe evolution happens. Yes I do, however even staunch creationists accept some evolution happens so this is really an irrelevant point. Although I am not a Creationist they would also accept that different species of flowers evolved, and some ID theorists in fact accept almost the entire evolutionary picture, so your comments here are simply irrelevant to the debate.

    Matt i think the biggest problem you have as others here have already tried to point out , is that you are trying to make suggestions that teaching evolution in schools is teaching a religion . Evolution is not another religion its an actual science . You try to twist evolution into being a religion so that it might give you the right to try and claim

    Matt : The problem is this principle has implications beyond the case mentioned above, take the case of a public school that teaches evolutionary theory is the truth to children of fundamentalist parents. In this case, the school is teaching that a particular religious perspective is false.

    No they merely teach the truths of science.They do not teach religious perspective is false.

    You are either getting mixed up here or purposely trying to twist the argument around .

    Or are forgetting what you wrote.: [ If a public school taught the children of an athiest that a particular interpretation of the bible is true, then according to NZARH that would violate freedom of religion . ]

    1. Teaching religion is true or false is teaching religion is true or false

    2. Teaching evolution is true or false is teaching the science of evolution is true or false

    You try to play swifty tricks here Matt and drag religion into the argument .You try to drag religion in to try and push science out ! or make the fact that science will be permitted to be taught in our schools to mean that schools should also have need to agree to accommodate religion also . In effect in my opinion you are the one being guilty of not keeping our schooling free from religion .

    This is exactly why our schools should be free of religion

    Evolution is not religion Matt it is Science .

    Just because some fudamentalists dont happen to agree that evolution is actually a science doesnt mean society should have any need to bow down to their personal religious views

    What ever next Matt ? . Should we not be allowed to teach that snakes and donkeys cant talk , for fear that this view might offend somebodies fudamentalist religious views ?

    Its not teaching a religious view to teach that snakes dont talk . Its teaching the science that snakes dont talk .

    Sorry i dont see how the faithful can have the right to try and suggest science is simply religion . That is not being honest .

    You dont follow the religion of evolution when you also admit evolution exists do you Matt . You simply admit its part of science .

    If faithful thought science was another religion they would not be able to accept it , because they were Christian or Islamist .

    Our schools cannot be held under ransom of a few fundamentalist religious views .

    The fundamentalists wouldnt like it if Satanists suddenly started holding their churches to ransom .

    Fundamentalists do not have the right to make problems with their relgious views also become problems of science and our schooling.

    Its not anybody elses fault if science doesnt happen to match with their religious views.

  • Ken… so apart from attacking people and making silly statements that aren’t relevant, what are you offering?

    “our secular society has made it’s legal and moral considerations and decisions without your help.”

    Gee really? Becaue you know, Matt and I have been claiming all along that they consulted us! See ken, rhetorical rubbish like this just makes you look daft.

    What’s more, your clumsily stumble over differing senses of the word “secular.” The statement you have just made is perfectly true in accordance witht he first use of the word “secular.” And so what? How is this observation relevant?

    I get the feeling that you believe there’s some amazing point you’re making, but you never really say what it is – or else you have said it, and there’s nothing to see.

    The fact that a secular society like ours has succeeded in existing and passing laws is there for all to see. But how does this have any bearing at all on the normative question of the degree to which a person is obligated to suppress their religious convictions when participating in religious life?

    Why, none at all.

    But if you do think of something relevant to add, please go right ahead.

  • “Despite your self promoted expertise (and Glenn’s)”

    What is this character assassination for? I don’t deserve that. I never said anything to imply that I am the expert, or that nobody else can have a valid point of view.

    I have to admit though, this defensiveness on your part is telling. I have deliberately not done what you accuse me of, but let’s say that you and I were to compare CVs on this subject. Now, given that I completed a successful PhD specifically on the subject of religious convictions in politics – at a secular university – and you’re a retired dirt scientist, who do you think would fare better in this pissing contest that you have now tried to create by dragging this accusation into the mix?

    Why even go there, Ken? Insecure much?

  • Matt to Ken : But more significantly suppose every religious claim can be “accomadated in a secular outlook” so what? I am sure many secular moral claims can be accommodated within a religious outlook does that mean we should disallow secular premises from public life

    No of coarse not because it shows all claims are actually simply all human , and also plainly shows that religion actually has very little to do with any of it .

    The religion part is like those little woolen pom poms some folks used to sew onto the tops of their woolen tea cozys . Without the pom pom there is still little difference .Its still a woolen tea cozy

  • Max : (1) Do you think Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible?

    I have some doubt books were even invented yet back in the time that Moses was said to exist . Bits of bark off trees and scrolls etc maybe . So i`d say no i cant see how it can be honestly said that Moses wrote these books , for i had heard it was the scribes and whatnot that actually had lots to do with it .

  • “In fact the idea that scientifically claims are always empirically testable, is one few philosophers of science accept.”

    In an ordinary, practical sense, and insofar as they matter to most people, they are. For example, people aren’t going to care about problems regarding anti-realism in cosmology, but they will want evidence of the efficacy of pharmaceuticals.

    If you really want to split hairs, then all my argument rests on is the claim that the dispute resolution mechanism in the sciences, whatever it turns out to be upon closer examination, works more efficiently than that in philosophy or other disciplines that are less “scientific”. You have done philosophy professionally, so you know this. In no way, shape or form do I mean to assert the superiority of the sciences, or insist on the nonsensical character of metaphysics. My claim is solely a claim of fact about how easily disputes are resolved.

    For example, let’s say for the sake of argument that Christ returned to earth tomorrow and began to perform miracles. He furthermore submits his miracles to the observations of any sceptical person of the likes of Richard Dawkins. If such persons found no fault with the miracles, then people would convert en masse, for it would be reasonable to do so.

    I don’t think that there is much of a problem with normative questions. The same lesson applies. If a moral principle is widely accepted in the community, or is deducible from such a principle, then it is of practical utility in solving moral disputes. That’s more or less what students in applied ethics are taught to do, because it works better than any alternative.

    Of course, the principles held by religious people will be useful in contemporary moral disputes if others in the community hold them for whatever reason. However, moral beliefs that have as their only warrant something like “Its wrong because my God says so” are non-starters even if they are correct.

    “Second, your response relies on a caricature of religious claims. I would argue and many critics of secularism have. That religious statements are no less epistemically accesible than most major secular ethical theories are.”

    That’s not my point. My point is that statements of a particular religion are of little practical use in a society where there are a significant proportion of non-believers. If they are statements of fact, then science has religion beat, because, in actual practice, it has a much lighter burden of proof than religious claims. As for normative claims, the ones that have as their sole warrant scriptural or relevatorty justification are going to be next to useless for persuading people.

    My point was that no society can exist without some general agreement about what is relevant when it comes to solving certain sorts of dispute. In a monoreligious society, scriptural authority would work. But we don’t live in such a society. Hence, we just have to put up with the familiar forms.

    In the end, politics is a practical matter and we cannot avoid having to make it work.

    The point I am making is that secularism isn’t some nefarious anti-religious plot. It’s the consequence, in our particular democratic society, of every community’s need for general, non-violent dispute resolution mechanisms, which ends up having to be satisfied by forms of proof that are accepted by most members (unless one has a dictatorship). Everyone accepts mundane forms of empirical confirmation all the time, and science is just a more complicated version of that. Pretty much everyone also accepts moral arguments based on common sense principles. That seems about the best we can hope for. Yes, in many ways it does suck.

  • “the dispute resolution mechanism in the sciences”

    Not really. Science is good for collecting/confirming/refuting facts. But facts don’t speak for themselves.

    Let’s take abortion for example. Scientifically, we know a lot about early human development and pregnancy. Yet we still argue when does a human life begin and at what stage they are worthy of legal protection under the law.

    The dispute and resolution is not in the science. Science is just a tool to get the facts straight.

  • Matt : What I oppose is the selective logic whereby secularists support certain views they agree with be taught as true and then demand conditions on the teaching of rivals on the basis of rights which they seem to forget apply to everyone else as well.

    No i have no selective logic Matt .If snakes and donkeys are proved to be able to talk , im not at all against it being taught as scientific and true .I have absolutely no role in the slection of this Matt , thats the job of the peer reviewed tests and sciences etc .Im not at all involved in trying to selectively stop any theists whatsoever ! from also having the right of proving with the very same ways as science that snakes and donkeys can actually talk .

    So to be honest i cant see how you can make this claim stick that secular folk are being selective about anything .Do you honestly suggest Theist have been prevented from having the right to use methods of science to prove snakes and donkeys can talk ? .

    If not , i suggest to you that infact its the Theists that wish to have the right to introduce all the special pleading and slective logic

    Matt : Here you seem to saying we should allow religious viewpoints to be taught in public schools provided certain conditions are met. I’ll simply ask you don’t also say “secular views” should not be taught unless these same conditions are met? Why is it OK ( as we do no) to teach one kind of view only ( secular views) and wrong to teach only one kind of religious view? Again I see only special pleading in the arguments here

    But there are already some conditions when secular views are taught in our schools Matt , the condition is freedom of religion must exist , and as such it is against the rules to teach that anybody religion is untrue .

    This does not have mean that secular schools should need to teach that donkeys and snakes talk or that evolution is complete bull .

    Teaching the scientific truths is not about a religion teaching another religion that it is wrong . If anything its religion through exposure to science thats teaching relgion that maybe religion is actually wrong . However science only lays out the science , and religion still has freedom of religion to still pick and choose and decide to believe what it wants .

    Nobody has any special selective control over this .Like ive pointed out , science is available for all Theists use also ! .

    So where does this secular selective logic exist Matt ?. More honestly it actually exists with the Theists camp trying to impose it doesnt it ?

    We can talk about introducing introductions to Christianity and Islam and Hinduism and Black Magic and Satanism and Seance in schools if you really want to push that . But do you really think we need all this stuff taught in schools ? . Would you really be happy if kids start holding seances out in the playgrounds ? .You can be sure it will likely to happen !

    Wouldnt you far prefer if schools were kept more secular , and these type faiths were only promoted back in the homes and faith groups etc where ever they already exist ?

    Your problem is you personally feel that somehow Theist are getting the raw end of the stick here . I fail to see how .For the way i see it this deal tends to also protect you as much as it protects me or anyone else for that matter.

  • Anon : Not really. Science is good for collecting/confirming/refuting facts. But facts don’t speak for themselves.

    Let’s take abortion for example. Scientifically, we know a lot about early human development and pregnancy. Yet we still argue when does a human life begin and at what stage they are worthy of legal protection under the law.

    The dispute and resolution is not in the science. Science is just a tool to get the facts straight.

    So you personally feel religion has a far better chance of deciding when life equals life ..How does religion decide this ?.What tools does religion use ? …Is it Philosophy ? Theism ? Emotion ?

    So ok if maybe you really wish to try and suggest philosophy or theism or emotion etc should be what we used to confirm what constitutes life then surely that should mean it would also be the very best tool for confirming when death actually begins also too right ?

    Ohh how i would greatly fear a world thats run by the faithful .What a terrible nightmare

    I understand what you say that humans will still need to use their head to decide . But still that doesnt mean our heads should always be given the right to act over and above science

  • Anon : Not really. Science is good for collecting/confirming/refuting facts. But facts don’t speak for themselves

    Scenario : Intensive care ward downtown city hospital , bodies lined up in rows all conected to life support machines.

    Philosophers and Theists and Emotionalists …No sir , Science is good for collecting/confirming/refuting facts. But facts don’t speak for themselves

    Look we can better understand and see that these brain dead bodies are obviously actually still humans pumping blood , therefore even if we will need to subject them to abuse by depriving them privacy through endless body washes and bum cleanings its still obvious in our minds they are living

  • “Intensive care ward downtown city hospital , bodies lined up in rows all conected to life support machines.”

    Science: some of them are in deep comma, they’ll die without life support

    Atheist: unplug them, let them die, they’re good for nothing

    Christian: they’re human beings, let them live

    Science has nothing to say in regards to morality, it only gets the fact straight.

  • max :- “So in your own words:

    (1) Do you think Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible?
    (2) Do you think that these books were written before 1200 BC?”

    Um.. this is not as easy to put down in words what it is that I think about the story of Moses and his books.

    In the end I still feel that you’re boxing me in, because my assertion of the Beginning story is a Bronze Age cosmology doesn’t depend on whether Moses was an acual person who discussed the future of his people with the Creator of the Universe.

    There is just so much wrong with the idea that I’d have to say that while I don’t believe premise of the story, I’m inclined think that if there is any historicity to it, it may be based on Akenaten fleeing with his supporters to set up shop in the Palestine area.

    I’ve read that Christian historians have poo-pooed the idea because Moses is purported to have lived and ‘done his stuff’ some 60 years after Akenaten tried to convert Egypt to monotheism.

    This speaks to both of your questions though. That the stories are set in the late Bronze Age and that according to that story, the setting of the Beginning story would be in the Early Bronze Age.

    Now the writers of the Moses story weren’t stupid people, and I could very well be wrong about this, but I think it’s fair to assume that they’d use a story that had been around longer than their ‘time of the Exodus’ to make their case that their land claim had indeed been ‘from the Beginning of time’, and indeed was a deal made to them by the ‘Beginner of time’.

    So. Having said that, do I believe the story of the Exodus is a record of what actually happened? No. It follows that I don’t believe there was a Moses who led his people through the wilderness to a Promised Land.

  • Sorry max, the second question.

    Since the books are the supposed history of the Jewish people, I’m pretty sure that they wouldn’t have been written at the time the events supposedly happened. So, no.

  • max. I’m going to take another stab at this. My perspective on this is to grant as much as possible to the readers of the books of Genesis and Exodus as makes no difference one way or the other to us.

    It’s not acceptable to people with different perspectives that the supposed events were set in the Bronze Age?

    Well, max, what would be acceptable to you then? What is the ‘peeve’ thing about? Maybe that I’d had just read someone else say, “Bronze Age Myth’ and parroted it?

    I’m interested because I don’t really know where you are going with this at all.

    “Cheers” to you, amigo.

  • Glenn, if you do a little checking you will see that Matt was the initiator of this “pissing competition”. And the sole participant! Although for some reason he dragged you into it. Now, of course, you have jumped In boots and all. But still no one else is playing “match my degree” with you. After all it is largely irrelevant.

    Readers here may notice a pattern. When Matt is challenged and unable to counter effectively (because he is wrong usually) he will tip over the board and say anyway “I have a degree” and “all these experts are on my side” and “the person you refer to is unknown.”

    You should be intelligent enough to appreciate the impression this creates.

    What you and Matt should learn is that part of the democracy of blogging is that everyone can have their say – whatever their academic qualifications. The sensible academic will recognize this as an opportunity for learning. And even be prepared to admit a mistake if they make one.

    After all, in fields like this there are diverse points of view and schools. There is no one “philosophy,” as I seem to have to keep reminding you.

    Their are several people commenting here who don’t have your degrees or have different qualifications. But they have the interest and the ideas and there comments are therefore of value. You do yourself no credit by childishly “pulling rank.”

    To put an end to Matt’s little competition. No I don’t have the degrees he has and don’t suffer from envy over that. I am a scientist with a long interest in the philosophy of science, and in the science of morality and natural evolution of religious attitudes. As I am now retired I have time to indulge these passions and enjoy developing my thinking in these areas by reading and discussion. I have no formal qualification in soil science, pedology or “dirt science” as you emotively call it, although some of my research has been in soil chemistry. (The danger of assumptions).

    However, I admit I usually do call a space a spade, sometimes even a shovel. To compensate I have no trouble acknowledging and apologizing when I am wrong or make a mistake.

    So enough of the pissing please. Stick with appropriate comments and intelligent, even forceful, discussion comments.

  • Can’t help feeling you have made a mistake with this Glenn:
    “the normative question of the degree to which a person is obligated to suppress their religious convictions when participating in religious life?”

    I guess that is a problem but surely it is the nature of a religion to have a dogma and therefor one expects they would suppress the dogma of other religions where possible.

    If your concern was aimed at imagined suppression of religious convictions in public life – I am not aware of any real formal ruling aimed specifically at religion.

    I am aware that many religious people are hesitant about using their religious convictions in public discussion. I can understand that because many of these ideas are so ridiculous they would run the danger of not being seen as serious discussion partners.

    I can understand self restraint in such cases.

  • Pretty Boy Floyd:

    I know the stories are SET in the late bronze age… but then Anthony and Cleopatra is SET in the 1st century.. this does not make it a classical era play – nor does it make the cosmology and ethics which Shakespeare promoted classical in nature. Antony and Cleopatra is even possibly based on traditions that have survived since the first century… but this STILL doesn’t make it a classical era play.

    Or does it?

    And yes the “Bronze age” expression is overly parroted – so much so that it becomes meaningless and more a put-down expression than a descriptive one.

  • Still, max, a straight reading of the Genesis story paints a picture of the Earth as a flat land with a dome, or firmament over it that has stars fixed to it and so on.

    Matt would be outraged if we were to try to say that that is what they thought at the time of the Jesus story. He’d point out that ‘educated’ people were well aware that the Earth was a globe from 500 B.C. at least, isn’t that right?

    I just don’t see how we can ‘horn in’ a global Earth into the cosmology of Genesis. Some drivel about Isaiah saying ‘circle’ of the Earth doesn’t help. A circle is hardly a description of a globe.

  • I said, “You cannot blame science for pointing out flaws in some people’s religion.”

    To which you replied, “You Can’t blame Christian religious instruction for pointing out the flaws in someone else’s religion.”

    What? Are we living in a world of Matt’s total fantasy now? The definition of science is not hard to find in a dictionary, so it is very disingenuous of you to paint it as telling ‘the truth’ opposing Fundamentalist Christian’s ‘truth’.

    It’s so easy to play with words and imagine that science teachers are pretending that they aren’t teaching science, but ‘the truth’, on account of that ‘dirty secularism’.

    No one cares if your little darlings don’t know the scientific consensus on Evolution, although I, for one would be less than impressed if it turned out that they became my doctor AND rejected the scientific consensus on Evolution and Biology and Genetics and so forth.

    No one ought to be trying to teach your kids science as ‘the truth’ because science is a ‘work in progress’ and it will ALWAYS be a ‘work in progress’, as it ought to be.

    Nevertheless, I don’t think that the onus is on science teachers to point out the ‘scientificness’ of science all the time, or to point out religious ‘truth claims as alternative truth’ which science only incidentally happen to debunk hare-brained, ignorant religious points of view.

    Seems to me that this, putting the onus on science teachers to become religious apologists, is what you desire.

    We can only imagine Home Ec. teachers having their students scream, “It’s a MIRACLE!”, every time they pull a baked cake out of the oven, simply to appease the extreme fanatics who want them to learn, not only baking but, that God is involved in every aspect of their lives?

  • Anon : “Intensive care ward downtown city hospital , bodies lined up in rows all conected to life support machines.”

    Science: some of them are in deep comma, they’ll die without life support

    Atheist: unplug them, let them die, they’re good for nothing

    Christian: they’re human beings, let them live

    Science has nothing to say in regards to morality, it only gets the fact straight.

    Here we see another situation where a theist trys twisting the evidence to try and make it suit the theist agenda .

    1.Notice the deceitful premiss that anon uses : Science: some of them are in deep comma, they’ll die without life support

    2.Notice the double deceit premiss anon goes on to use also : Atheist: unplug them, let them die, they’re good for nothing

    1.So now not only has anon made the false suggestion that science will purposely make the false suggestions they will die simply for being in a deep coma .

    2.Anon paints atheists with the Theist propaganda brush suggesting atheist are simply all heartless uncaring people who are the type to be extra keen on being quick to turn the life machines off and gleefully watch their love one die .( IE:Atheist see family as good for nothing)

    This has been the deceitful type tactical practices of Theists in history ,whats worse is we hardy ever see any Theists reprimand any of their own for making these false type accusations either. Theists talk lots about wanting to hold to truths and yet by observing their own actions it seem to suggest otherwise.

    But thats quite ok . Because it does nothing to stop us atheist from simply keeping on pointing this out , so that more and more theist youth can also start to see that its happening . This way they can also start to see the full scope of the deceitful practices they have been following.

    This way we can use these underhand tactics Theist seem consistent in wanting to use , as ammunition that helps brings about the downfall of their own consistent use of such deceitful practice.

    Those wanting to be involved in a more honest Theism should be thankful rather than angry , for this type of service that atheists bring to the table . As this helps modern Theism become more like science by us ateists providing a type of peer review process.

    After all thats basically what Theists have also traditionally tried doing , when making their suggestions where they thought atheism was evil and bad .

    Further to what anon said.

    Anon Christian: they’re human beings, let them live

    Once again anon need to try and twist the situation , anon is simply faithfully focused on suggesting the honest premiss is that the human is actually living and that the evil non theist is looking at this human like a atheist animal . Anon while being intent to use Theist propaganda and paint atheists in a bad light , has willfully twisted the argument trying to gloss over the fact that hospital staff and specialists are most often required to actually be well trained in their jobs and will use extensive knowledge and any scientific inventions they have to help them make the prognosis with which they will use only as advice for the patients family to finally decide.

    And these trained people dont often purposely advise us there is absolutely no hope for somebody , when there is hope .

    Anon : Science has nothing to say in regards to morality, it only gets the fact straight

    If you are a Theist my friend then going by your display of Theist morality . Let me say i would rather put more trust in the type of moral advice that science can help provide us .Than ever dare trust your type morality which has shown itself to obviously be so willfully deceitful .

    By saying science has nothing to say in regards to morality ,shows how scary many theists are .

    By your very own remark you help prove your own ignorance .

    You say about science : gets the fact straight

    What is getting the facts straight if its not actually very much about saying something ? . Hense you remark that science has nothing to say about moral seems truly misguided.

    Getting the facts straight ! ….Should form the biggest part of our moral values … No ?

    Unless you advocate for morals built on Theist/philosopher/emotionalists guess work ?

  • “Getting the facts straight ! ….Should form the biggest part of our moral values … No ?”

    I never said getting the facts straight isn’t important. I only said that science part is to get the facts straight.

    Another example is abortion. Scientifically we know human life starts at conception (life as in a living creature). But what’s being debated is at what stage that human life is counted as person under the protection of the law (1 month? 2 months? after birth? why? what basis?).

    What’s being debated is not the science, it’s the interpretation of it.

    Science provides us with the facts, for us to then interpret.

  • Okay anon, here’s what I think about the abortion thing vis-a-vis science.

    I cannot imagine a single person suggesting that they, or the woman involved, get an abortion because it is legal, or because it is scientifically doable, or even because they don’t believe that the fetus or embryo is a potential human being.

    As horrifying as it sounds, put plainly, the woman who wants an abortion, wants it precisely because whats growing in her is going to become a baby if it isn’t stopped.

    I’m sure these are tough decisions made by the woman, who, if they had been brought up under different circumstances might find it no decision at all. i.e. they wouldn’t dream of having an abortion, never mind going through with it.

    Now of course we cannot blame the woman completely, because, it takes two for a woman to get pregnant.

    Nevertheless it is the woman’s responsibility to bear the child and her fault alone if she seeks to abort it.

    But, since this doesn’t seem fair, to somehow even it out, let’s blame the abortionist, let’s blame the system that allows abortionists to perform abortions, let’s actually take as much of the blame off the woman as we can, right?

    Seems to me that in Pro-Lifer’s eyes, many of whom ARE women who have had abortions themselves then later regretted it, in their eyes, as a person who is for their individual rights, suddenly I’m more to blame for them making this decision.

    How about registering pro-choice people and ‘decimating’ them, putting every 10th. one in prison, every time a woman comes to view the abortion she sought out as an evil thing??? This would seem just as fair to me as blaming that abortionist, no?.

  • One more thing, Anon. If we all decided that abortion was evil and should be breaking common law, what kind of prison time would you be willing to give to the women who were seeking abortion.

    I don’t know if you’ve seen ‘To catch a Predator’, where they sting pedophiles, having them show up at supposed young teenagers homes and find themselves face to face with a televison interview and arrest.

    Would you think it was fair for police forces to set up stings for pregnant women seeking abortion? How much jail time do you imagine the woman should get for seeking to murder her fetus???

    Or are women intrinsically blameless, in your eyes?

  • “Still, max, a straight reading of the Genesis story paints a picture of the Earth as a flat land with a dome, or firmament over it that has stars fixed to it and so on.”

    Possibly so! But that is Iron Age mythology not Bronze age mythology That was my ONLY point!

  • pboyflyod, I wasn’t really debating whether abortion is right or wrong, nor whether it should be legal or illegal.

    I was just using it as an example that science part is to get the facts straight, but facts don’t speak for themselves.

    In the case of abortion, scientifically we already know a lot of details about the stages of human development during conception and pregnancy. What week of pregnancy the heart is formed, the brain starts firing signals, etc.

    What’s being debated is at what stage does a fetus/unborn has a person status with a right to be protected under the law. Is it moral to abort a month’s old fetus? 2 months? 3 months? 7? why?

    On that, science has no say, because it is outside science.

  • Science has more to say on moral matters than religion does.

  • “Science has more to say on moral matters than religion does.”

    How so… big claim there. Want to give a couple of examples?

  • I don’t know anon. Behavioural sciences?

  • Anon :I never said getting the facts straight isn’t important. I only said that science part is to get the facts straight.

    No thats not all you said.You also tried saying Science has nothing to say in regards to morality

    I pointed out if its science that gets the facts straight . In the end what actually has the most to say , the scientific fact ? , or the guess work of philosphers/Theists/Emotionalist or even atheists or who ever else for that matter ?

    Anon :Another example is abortion. Scientifically we know human life starts at conception (life as in a living creature). But what’s being debated is at what stage that human life is counted as person under the protection of the law (1 month? 2 months? after birth? why? what basis?).

    No i disagree . Life cannot start where you suggest it does .For if that was deemed as life , then a totally brain dead body that would never ever live on its own again yet might be able last 50 years running on a life machine , only because of the life machine , amounts to life also . Even though it has no way of ever surving on its own . For instance say we removed a fetus from the womb at 4weeks , its going to be no more living than if we remove a totally brain dead body from life support machine is it .

    And it will be science in the end tha actually helps provide us the more rock solid facts about this matter . Because humans obviously cant provide these answers . If humans philophers and theist and such like could have provided these answers , we wouldnt have had so many different opinions .

    Take for instance that The Babylonian Talmud Yevamot 69b states that: “the embryo is considered to be mere water until the fortieth day http://www.religioustolerance.org/jud_abor.htm

    Other theist folk will suggest otherwise.Yet like you already even fully admitted Anon , its science that gets the fact straight

    How you could then also suggest that science has nothing to say about these issues is beyond me . Maybe its bias view of your theist indoctrination shining through . You dont like to admit science can actually have a lot to say about these type issues. You far prefer to let the Christians , Jews , Muslims , Mormons or who ever else try forever squabble it out . Often while trying to totally disregard scientific fact . Because science isnt religion

    Anon : What’s being debated is not the science, it’s the interpretation of it.

    Science provides us with the facts, for us to then interpret.

    Anon whats also being debated is that you had said Science has nothing to say in regards to morality, it only gets the fact straight

    Ive pointed out that if science helps us get the facts straight as you said , then its silly to say it cant have nothing to say about morality .

    That is unless you really wish to try and suggest , morals should not be founded on fact ?

  • “Glenn, if you do a little checking you will see that Matt was the initiator of this “pissing competition”. ”

    Hmmm, my checking points the finger at you, Ken, and you falsely accused me. I won’t hold my breath for an apology.

    Nobody ever once said that it’s impossible for other people to know something about the issue at hand. It’s all very well to say that everyone can have their say. Of course they can and nobody said otherwise and you’re just flailing at a straw man. But to just insist that you know that other people’s definitions are all wrong when in fact they do have formal expertise, you don’t, and all they are doing is using the standard definitions in the literature is a little arrogant, right? You wouldn’t do that, right? Of course not.

  • Thanks Glenn, for giving me your permission to make comments! Not that it bothers me one way or the other.

    The beauty of such discussions is that they are recorded and readers make up their own minds.

    And I find I always learn something. In this case something practical about local theological attacks on secularism. Pope Benny and King Abduhla have called for the campaign and here we see one of the manifestations.

    Definitions are of course blatantly part of the campaign and that is why Matt is defining secularism as atheism (I notice you seem to disagree). It’s a tactic which backfires though because most people see that secular arrangements work in favor of religion as well as non-religion. In fact that is why historically the push for secular education and other arrangements has been supported by at least a section of Christians in NZ..

  • “Matt is defining secularism as atheism”

    Ken, you’ll note that there’s more than one concept of “secular” noted in the article, and Matt is not denying either of them. You realise that, right?

    Nice trick trying to play the divide and conquer game.

  • “the dispute resolution mechanism in the sciences”

    Not really. Science is good for collecting/confirming/refuting facts. But facts don’t speak for themselves.

    Let’s take abortion for example. Scientifically, we know a lot about early human development and pregnancy. Yet we still argue when does a human life begin and at what stage they are worthy of legal protection under the law.

    The dispute and resolution is not in the science. Science is just a tool to get the facts straight.

    I’m not sure that this is correct. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the physicalist theory of the mind is correct. Let us then suppose that science advanced to such a point that we could identify what it is that makes a human being a thinking, conscious individual (there are all sorts of problems with this, but let those fall by the wayside). Let us then say that it is discovered that a 4 month old fetus shares this thing in common with adult human beings.

    If this were true, then people who argue for abortion on the grounds that a fetus differs in this respect from an adult human being will have to change their position.

    But that’s not really the argument that I am insisting on in this thread. My position is that talk of secularism being imposed by atheists on everyone else is mistaken. The various philosophical justifications for secularising the public sphere are post hoc rationalisations and have little to do with the secular nature of public life.

    Secularisation, for me, emerges naturally in any community where there are deep disagreements about religious questions. To resolve disputes, we need to appeal to shared methods of factual discovery and shared moral principles. Either that or come to some negotiation over these. There is no real alternative, because as a matter of fact partisan religious reasons will not persuade most people in our society (that’s the case even if they are correct and/or everyone ought to be persuaded by them).

  • A : If this were true, then people who argue for abortion on the grounds that a fetus differs in this respect from an adult human being will have to change their position.

    I agree A , thats why science works for everyone theist or non theist , Satanist . Necromancers alike

    A : But that’s not really the argument that I am insisting on in this thread. My position is that talk of secularism being imposed by atheists on everyone else is mistaken. The various philosophical justifications for secularising the public sphere are post hoc rationalisations and have little to do with the secular nature of public life.

    Secularisation, for me, emerges naturally in any community where there are deep disagreements about religious questions. To resolve disputes, we need to appeal to shared methods of factual discovery and shared moral principles. Either that or come to some negotiation over these. There is no real alternative, because as a matter of fact partisan religious reasons will not persuade most people in our society (that’s the case even if they are correct and/or everyone ought to be persuaded by them).

    Thats right because part of the deal with keeping schools secular is that non believers cannot teach theists children that their religion is wrong , just as believers cant teach non believers that religion is right. And neither can necromancers have the right to teach that the dead can be conversed with by seance .

    It works both ways.

    If it was science that the dead could be talked to ,then science might teach how to use seance to talk with the dead .

    For that would no longer be faith It would be science.

    Anything written in Holy books that is found to be science , gets the right to be taught as science as its no longer simply faith.

    Science is available for theists use also.Science is available to the Necromancers ,Satanists you name it science is open to these people to make use of.

    If Satanists could use science to suggest Satan can actually be contacted or maybe harnessed to produce an outcome etc , it becomes science and as such is able to be taught in the schools science programs.

    If Christians can use science to show how miracles can be acheived through prayer to Jesus , it become science and as such can be taught under the school science program

    This is because its science thats doing the teaching . Its no longer people of differnt faiths doing the teaching

    This way there is nobody being privileged .

  • pboyfloyd has provided an excellent one sentence refutation against theist criticisms of “scientism”:

    pboyfloyd: No one ought to be trying to teach your kids science as ‘the truth’ because science is a ‘work in progress’ and it will ALWAYS be a ‘work in progress’, as it ought to be.

    Students should be taught that science is the best method we have to understanding how the natural world works.

    Matt, let’s not beat around the bush. If a student approaches their science teacher and asks whether the world is only 6000 years old, what should the science teacher tell them? Do you agree that the answer should not depend on what religious persuasion the teacher holds or whether they are employed by a secular or religious employer?

    I

  • Just out of interest – if we do not begin with a secular standpoint which religion would you like to to use instead and why ?

    It seems very difficult to argue against the theocracies of Iran and Saudi Arabia if we do not ourselves take religion out of public policy.

  • Glenn, then perhaps you can quote the different meanings Madeleine has acknowledged? And explain why both Madeleine and Matt have consistently used one definition (the one religious militants are using in their campaig)?. And Matt has claimed his definition is the one approved by his tame experts. And Matt has attempted to belittle experts who clearly point out that definition is not appropriate?

    And Matt and Madeleine have used this definition as a description of our education system and social arrangements. This enables them to draw the incorrect conclusions, talk incorrectly about imposition of a “secular viewpoint” and attack this straw man.

    The whole campaign is a case of straw mannery. A malicious one because it excuses an attack on democracy.

  • “If basing a law on a religious agenda is not privileging it then the argument does not follow.

    That clarified, the NZARH’s argument is essentially:”

    But basing a law on a religious agenda WOULD be privileging it. I’m not going to bother scouring the comments for Matt and Madeleine for their ideas on how science teachers ought to pander to literalist Christian/Islam/Jewish interpretations of their holy books, which several of the sciences expose as nonsense and is interpreted as rhetorical device by modern apologists, which would indeed be pitting ‘religious truth’ against scientific consensus..

    “1) The government should be secular, not religious;

    This means the state should make a clear distinction between secular views and non-secular views and it should treat them differently.”

    I certainly agree with Matt and Madeleine that the government ought not to be pushing some kind of anti-religious agenda on us, many people derive comfort from their religious perspective and there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that.

    I hope that Matt and Madeleine would agree with me that science is not another religion, it’s not anti-religious, it’s not purporting to be some ‘final word’ on the nature of the Universe* and so on and that it at least, at the very least, complements the worldview of all but the most radical among us.

    *while still being the best physical description we have, to date.

  • “The whole campaign is a case of straw mannery..”

    Straw-manliness, straw-mannishness, straw-manificaton, straw-meistery, douche-baggery(don’t know where that fits in) straw-mangling, straw-manship?

    Merry Christmas and a happy ‘death-for-three days’ and ‘rebirth’ of the Sun! (Winter Solstice)

    Oh yea, it’s not the Winter Solstice in New Zealand though, is it? Does this mean that you won’t be seeing the Second Coming either?

    Not to worry, it’s likely just hyperbole or some other rhetorical device anyways.

  • I think I can summarise the secularist perspective as expressed here…

    1. Secularism is not anti-religion or pro-atheism.
    2. Secularism just seeks to purge religion from places that should be secular (e.g. public schools) so that they are completely sanitised of religion.
    3. Within a secular framework imposing contentious beliefs on to people is justified if those beliefs are scientific.
    And
    4. Secularism is motivated by a deep respect for all people and tolerance of all beliefs.

  • Reed, 1 and 4 are OK in so far as they go. 2 & 3 are wrong.

    2: There is no intention to purge or sanitize against religion. Just that Education not be controlled by the dogma of one belief – religious or non-religious. (as it was in the bad old days).

     This is why secular education for public schools was supported by Catholics (they had their own indoctrination centers) and some Protestants.  After all they used their own Sunday Schools for indoctrination.

    Many people include education about religions and other life stances as appropriate, even vital, for secular education.

    3: One can’t “impose” beliefs. Science classes should present the best factual and theoretical knowledge. If a pupil refuses to accept that because of religious dogma so be it and their education will suffer – but it’s the fault of their religion, and parents usually, not the education system.

    Science lessons usually don’t include scientifically contentious material, at least at the basic levels. If something like the evolution of the universe is contentious to a religion – tough. They are not contentious to science. Therefore they are appropriate subjects in science classes. 

    This is one area demonstrating the advantages if a secular education compared with one controlled by religion. Access to the truth in science for students.

  • Reed : I think I can summarise the secularist perspective as expressed here…

    1. Secularism is not anti-religion or pro-atheism.

    Can you provide any evidence that it is anti religion or pro atheism ? . Reed i know Theists pretty well having grown up among a group of them , and i know if the religious groups actually honestly thought they could find anything anti religious within secular schooling . We all know the church coffers everywhere would suddenly spring into action and open up and money would start pouring out to supply an endless stream of funding for the lawyers fees , faster the the heavens could have opened up to receive the heavenly accent of Jesus .

    So why is it Theists feel this need to paint the secular society with the anti religion propaganda brush ? . Is it because though they have the money for lawyer fees , they still know they dont honestly have the evidence to prove this anti religion pro atheism stance they try accusing the secular society of ? .

    Once again i would like to draw this point to the attention of any open minded Theist youth who would seek to follow truth rather than continue following unfounded propaganda . Because i know the tricks of Theists very well and i understand how they love to try and twist things.

    Reed : 2. Secularism just seeks to purge religion from places that should be secular (e.g. public schools) so that they are completely sanitised of religion.

    In my opinion this is rubbish as pointed out above . Its simple Theist propaganda . If it wasnt , Theists would be in court double quick about it if they honestly thought such accusation were really so worthy.

    But besides that and for the sake of the discussion, how come the same thing cant be said that Theists want to try entering religion into schools to try purging Satan from society ? or Witch Craft ? or Necromancy ?

    If religion was allowed back in schools , along side teaching Satanism , Black magic , Necromancy etc

    Theists would still be on blogs doing the Waa-tootsy , claiming foul play , standing at the wailing wall with crocodile tears pouring down their faces suggesting its all because they honestly feel such grief about the loss of human rights .

    I mean can you honestly say you would sign your name to any promotion that would end up bringing the right to teach Religion as well as Satanism , Black Magic , Necromancy etc

    No you would not want to sign your name to any promotion that included these beliefs , am i right Reed ? . You want the Religion return but would want a line drawn that you dont agree with allowing the teaching of Satanism , Black Magic or Necromancy etc

    So in effect you would have a secular type view within Schooling when it comes to the idea of teaching of Satanism , Black Magic or Necromancy . You would suggest there should be seperation between schools and teaching Satanism,Black Magic or Necromancy

    If it wasnt the case , we would see Theists openly advocating that these other dark beliefs should have the right to be taught in our schools too.

    Reed : 3. Within a secular framework imposing contentious beliefs on to people is justified if those beliefs are scientific.

    Reed the opening is just as wide for the Theist scientist as it is for anyone , to do the science and suggest what views are actually so contentious . Infact with the coffers of mega churches also behind them it could even be argued the the Theist scientists would have an unfair advantage . Theist scientist are not prevented from the right to follow all the same channels than non theist scientist follow .

    Once again you are pushing a stance of pure Theist propaganda . And i hope any Theist youth reading this give it some in depth thought , if they really seek for following the honest truth of these matters . Because its a lie to try and suggest science in schools is driven by any wanton type of devilish deceit , when science is just as open to the use of Theist scientists too . You know as well as i do , that in all honesty all the Theist scientist would need to do is actually prove the science being taught is so extremely contentious

    You set up this straw man argument .Because you need to try and twist the truth if you think its possible.

    Reed : 4. Secularism is motivated by a deep respect for all people and tolerance of all beliefs.

    Well you have failed to provide any proof that it isnt .

    Would you like to propose that schools of old times that banned any teaching of Satanism , Black Magic or Necromancy etc were more tolerant and respectful ?

    The thing is what better system do you suggest ? . Will you be prepared to sign your name to agree that Satanism , Black Magic and Necromancy should be brought in and taught along side Religion in our schools ?

    If you really suggest secular schooling really has an agenda that purposely seeks to privelege secularism .

    Then how about you reply and state right here on this blog ,that even as a Theist you are still fully prepared to put your name to the suggestion that our schooling should also add the teaching of Black Magic , Satanism and Necromancy views and any other belief people wish to have taught also .

  • “Ive pointed out that if science helps us get the facts straight as you said , then its silly to say it cant have nothing to say about morality .

    That is unless you really wish to try and suggest , morals should not be founded on fact ?”

    It’s not silly at all. Similarly, in a court, there is a judge, prosecutor, defense lawyer, juries, and there are people who collect the evidence (the police, autopsy, etc, etc).

    The people who collect the evidence have no say about the verdict, their job is to collect evidence and get the facts straight (and present them truthfully to the court).

  • “I hope that Matt and Madeleine would agree with me that science is not another religion, it’s not anti-religious”

    I don’t think that’s their view anyway. The whole science vs religion is a myth perpetrated by atheists.

  • It seems to me that the “core” question in this debate comes down to the question of teaching science that contradicts religion.

    What I’m seeing is what I’ve seen elsewhere. Let me explain.

    As a christian (and if you want a formal definition, read Calvin’s Institutes… or maybe the Nicene Creed) I believe that there is a God. I believe (as Madeline has said) that God dictates with perfect justification how I should live my life, as he created me. I believe he revealed himself in the scriptures, and these are (when properly interpreted) infallible. I also believe that the general revelation that is the world is *also* infallable when properly interpreted.

    My observations of both these revelations lead me to believe that evolution is an illogical, invented interpretation of the evidence at hand and is not good science.

    So my religion directs my science, but science can also allow us to find misinterpretations of scripture (such as believing that the world is flat).

    Ok, that’s me.

    On the other hand, I see Atheists. They believe that there is no God. They believe that prayer has zero effects, and that there is nothing outside this physical universe. Because of this, they believe that the ultimate source of knowledge is obtained by studying the world around us.

    Hence, science should trump religion.

    Funny thing is, I don’t see that the conclusion of the atheist worldview as illogical. If you give those premises, you do arrive at those conclusions.

    Hence why I read this entire debate. How do you resolve these two?

    Now, I would point out my own experience (and Muller’s) of prayer being answered. I’ve actually shocked myself by quite accidentally discovering that God was answering my prayer on a matter I thought he would never do. It would be ridiculous to suggest that an atheist start an old folks home and not ever ask for donations, yet Muller’s orphanage ministry continues on the basis of prayer to this day.

    So to me the answer is to acknowledge the truth that God exists.

    But I’m a realist and will continue following this debate, Ken’s brain explosions notwithstanding!

  • Anon – you should really try to read Scrubones comment after yours. Here is someone who asserts: “My observations of both these revelations lead me to believe that evolution is an illogical, invented interpretation of the evidence at hand and is not good science.”

    Notice, Scrubone  is attacking evolutionary science, in fact doing his best to discredit it, not on the basis of any evidence or logical reasoning but on the basis of 2 “revelations.” 

    Surely this shows you are completely mistaken with your assertion ” The whole science vs religion is a myth perpetrated by atheists.” This is a clear example that the science-religion conflict exists and is promoted by religion.

    OK Scubone’s attitude may not represent all Christians. However surveys suggest this may be representative of about 40% of Christians in NZ.

    So clearly the science/religion conflict is alive and well. It is being actively promoted by people like Scrubone.

    And it us understandable. A world view based on “revelation” must inevitably conflict with a world view based on logical reasoning and evidence.

  • Ken
    On point 2… according to your understanding of secularism what religious school activities shouldn’t be be purged from public school?

    On point 3… do you think science classes should present the best factual and theoretical knowledge irrespective of parents wishes?

  • Steve
    You make far too many assumptions.

    On point 2… according to your understanding of secularism what religious school activities shouldn’t be be purged from public school?

  • Reed on point 2 any religious it non-religious dogmatic indoctrination.

    However, I have often argued for education in religious and non-religious life stances. I think this would help cultivate understanding and tolerance and would help reduce bigotry and hatred.

    On point 3 – of course parents shouldn’t dictate content of science classes according to their prejudice. Kids should be taught the facts and current theories. That has nothing to do with parents’ prejudices.

  • interpreted as rhetorical device by modern apologists, Yeah Origien, Augustine of Hippo, all modern apologists. As usual Pboyfloyd shows he hasn’t got a clue what he is talking about.

  • I meant to add on point 3 – just imagine what Scrubone would do to a science syllabus if he could get his hands on it!!

  • Don’t forget to mention the Maoris! They are just as crazy as the Christians.

  • Matt, when you get the chance, I would be interested to see your answer to the question posed on Dec 23, 2010 at 3:09 am.

  • Anon : It’s not silly at all. Similarly, in a court, there is a judge, prosecutor, defense lawyer, juries, and there are people who collect the evidence (the police, autopsy, etc, etc).

    The people who collect the evidence have no say about the verdict, their job is to collect evidence and get the facts straight (and present them truthfully to the court).

    Without the evidence the judge is worthless.He has no facts.

    Without the evidence .What humans think says nothing other than guess work.

    Its silly to say science has nothing to say . Science still needs sombody to read look at the evidence and read the verdict .

    But science still has lots more to say than simple guess work.Science provides the evidence and just like in crimes, the judges verdict is totally worthless without it .

    Science has lots to say . Somebody saying science has nothing to say , is as silly as saying the evidence in court room has nothing to say.When without the evidence , both the court room and the judge is totally useless

    Your judge, prosecutor, defense lawyer, juries scenario , is like the people sitting reading a book . But without the words to read , they all just sit there worthless scratching the head reading nothing but blank paper.

  • Anon : On point 2… according to your understanding of secularism what religious school activities shouldn’t be be purged from public school?

    Putting it like someone wanting to purge something makes it sound like somebodies purposely being persecuted .

    When the fact is other beliefs like black magic and satinism have been puged from schools for ages . We didnt hear folk of faith crying foul play that any idea of teaching black magic may have been purged from schools did we . Theists just take that for granted because theists have had power in our schools keeping black magic and satanism and suchlike teachings out .

    I dont see secularism as anyone wanting to purge anyone .More like its keeping schools free from peoples faith beliefs .

    We dont have christianity and we dont have black magic in schools and the secular part is nobodys allow to push Black magic and neither does anyone push a religious faith .And on the secular level nobody should try pushing folks either way.

    Should you send you christian children to school and here somebody has been trying to teach them that their religion is rubbish …You have the protection on secular level ! to also have the right to demand that it should stop

    I dont think there is any religious activities that shouldnt stop in school just as i dont think there should be any black magic activities that should begin to start in schools either.

  • Scrubone : Hence, science should trump religion.

    Hi scrubone

    No its not a matter of science trumping religion . Its a matter of science belongs in schools , while religion being a religious teaching belongs in religious buildings where religions get taught or in religious people homes and other places .

    But school isnt the place for teaching religion or witch craft or seance .

    Maybe schools will teach some history about religion and atheism and maybe even black magic too …Im not sure .But thats teachers teaching history just like teachers teaching science

    When teachers teach matters of evolution ,they will not be allowed to specially point out and teach theist kids that their religion is wrong , and god doesnt exist and all that type of stuff .

    As that would not be keeping schools secular, and teachers could get in big trouble for daring to do such a thing .

    Once religion or witchcraft or Necromancy into schools , it becomes these things have trumped schooling.

    If i come to your church and demand you also include Necromancy in your program , then my Necromancy has trumped your place of religion

  • “..interpreted as rhetorical device by modern apologists, Yeah Origien, Augustine of Hippo, all modern apologists. As usual Pboyfloyd shows he hasn’t got a clue what he is talking about.”

    From here:-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ussher_chronology

    “Ussher’s proposed date of 4004 BC differed somewhat from other Biblically based estimates, such as those of Jose ben Halafta (3896 BC), Bede (3952 BC), Ussher’s near-contemporary Scaliger (3949 BC), Johannes Kepler (3992 BC) or Sir Isaac Newton (c. 4000 BC).[1] ”

    Then there’s this mishmash:-
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Earth_creationism

    Such is ‘revealed truth’ Matt. The YECs are going to think that the OECs are nuts and vice versa, when it comes to interpreting Genesis, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too here surely.

    Geez Matt, theological philosophers are wont to go back to the Big Bang and declare THAT as the point where God is the necessary first cause, or are you saying that that must be some dream I had?

    It’s so easy for someone to poo-poo science, especially evolution, as a bunch of ‘just-so’ stories, declaring that you have the revealed truth as your guide, neglecting to mention that there are many interpretations of that revealed truth, on the one hand, then on the other hand declaring that science teachers MUST pander to all these differing interpretations as if they are all true.

    So, Matt, is it the differing interpretations of Christianity alone, or all the Abrahamic religions alone, or all the major religions alone that science is supposed to kowtow to?

    Suppose my religion of one, as revealed to me last Tuesday, that the Earth is God’s egg about to hatch God into our dimension, should I be allowed into geology class to expound my revealed knowledge to the students so they can know the TRUTH?

  • Notice, Scrubone is attacking evolutionary science, in fact doing his best to discredit it, not on the basis of any evidence or logical reasoning but on the basis of 2 “revelations.”

    Ken, I wonder if you can even read. You’re certainly not arguing in good faith.

    What I actually said was:

    “My observations of both these revelations lead me to believe that evolution is an illogical, invented interpretation of the evidence at hand and is not good science.”

    I stated clearly that I was referring to misinterpretations of the evidence. This evidence comes from revelations from God, but it also comes from revelations from science.

    It is basic theology that there is a general and a specific revelation. I would have assumed that you would have understood this. I’ve certainly got the impression in the past that you consider yourself quite competent in this field.

    I note that the revelations from science are what you put your trust in. While you use this utter distortion of what I said to suggest I somehow would change science, what I actually said is that science that properly interprets the world is infallible!

    I modestly propose that even you may not take such an extreme pro-science position.

    I assume that given you are arguing in good faith a retraction will be quickly forthcoming.

  • Scrubone, it is clear from your comment that it is you that has misinterpreted the evidence under the motivation of your “revelations.” Well, I don’t think it’s really a matter of misinterpretation – it’s a matter of rejection without consideration because of your “revelations.” Pretty arrogant really to claim on the basis of such “revelations” that you know better that the experts in this field!

     And the height of stupidity to claim that scientific interpretations of the world are infallible. The Pope is “infallible” or so he claims, yeah right. Science is not.

    That’s why it is so effective. It makes mistakes, learns from them and corrects them.

    The very thing I would include in science classes. Leave “infallibility” and therefore inability to learn, to the religions.

  • Ken I am swamped with Christmas and so cannot respond to everything you have written, So here is a quick rejoinder.

    You claim my definition of secular is a straw man and advocate one of which you define

    The secularist contends that the best way to deal with religious differences is a morally neutral vocabulary that we all share and a morality that is not based on religion.”

    Note your definition states for something to be secular it must both not not based on religion and also something we all share

    You also say ”OK Scubone’s attitude may not represent all Christians. However surveys suggest this may be representative of about 40% of Christians in NZ.
    So clearly the science/religion conflict is alive and well. It is being actively promoted by people like Scrubone.
    ” Here you say 40% of Christians do not share your acceptance of evolutionary theory.
    So by your own definition of secular, evolutionary theory is not a secular view. It’s a view not accepted by all, its certainly not a “morally neutral vocabulary that we all share” and seeing education should limit itself to the secular your definition entails it should not be taught .

    Of course you can avoid this by adopting the definition from the “tame” experts I cited. ( who are actually the authors of some of the most definitive and authoritative works in the field) But then your charge of a straw man has got to go.

  • Pboyfloy not sure what your scholarly citation of Wikipedia proved. You said non literal interpretations were proposed by “modern” apologists. I noted this was false and cited to ancient commentators who offered not literal interpretations.Your response was to note that some 17th century authors defended YEC.

    Sorry how does that show that non literalism is only a modern phenonena as you suggest. Or that my citation of ancient authors was a mistake.

  • Ken, I am staggered. How on earth could you possibly have missed what I said?

    And the height of stupidity to claim that scientific interpretations of the world are infallible.

    Not as high as the stupidity of ignoring what I *actually* wrote, given it’s in bold, and the only part of comment that *is* bold. I’m struggling to see how your claim to be arguing in good faith can possibly hold up.

  • Scubone – stagger away. Good start to the weekend.

    But you are claiming that putting science under the control of your religion, your “revelations” will make it infallible.

    Isn’t that what you mean by “science that properly interprets “? What else could you mean? Especially as you claim that evolutionary science is “illogical, invented interpretation of the evidence at hand and is not good science.”

    You attack that whole field of expertise, all those honest researchers, yet what have you got to put in their place . Certainly no evidence – just 2 “revelations.”

    Beware of any6one who claims infallibility.

  • “Its silly to say science has nothing to say . Science still needs sombody to read look at the evidence and read the verdict .

    But science still has lots more to say than simple guess work.Science provides the evidence and just like in crimes, the judges verdict is totally worthless without it .”

    I didn’t say science has nothing to say, nor that it’s simple guess work (it seems a common thing for atheists to twist what other people say?). I said science has nothing to say on morality, it’s not science’s field.

    On another topic: evolution

    It’s atheist that’s holding onto evolution theory irrationally, because “evolution makes it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist”. In other word, atheists will feel pretty dumb without it.

    This defensiveness of atheists unfortunately makes the study of evolution full of bias and propaganda. And to be honest makes science less and less credible as the result.

    Christians will debate evolution theory for sure (I don’t see anything wrong with it), but it’s really not essential to Christian faith and definitely not Christianity vs science as incorrectly perpetrated.

  • Anon isn’t it a bit rash to claim “science has nothing to say on morality, it’s not science’s field.”

    Are you not familiar with the recent Edge workshop on the science of morality! The recent UOA Origins seminar and debate on thi?. Many, many scientific publications in this area? And a number of books in recent year?. Harris’s The Morsl Landcsoe” is currently selling well. The philosopher of science Pat Churchland has a new book next year on neurobiology and morality.

    It’s a thriving field.

  • The what? of Science Ken?

  • The thriving field is the science of morality, Max. And progress us being made.

  • But you are claiming that putting science under the control of your religion, your “revelations” will make it infallible.

    Heh, nope. Didn’t say anything of the sort. Not even close.

    What I am saying is that to Christians, the physical universe is described as the “General Revelation” of God. From it we can learn about him, and we can even in some circumstances correct our understanding of the scriptures.

    Now, our interpretations of the “Special Revelation” (scripture) are fallible. But if perfectly interpreted (which we can’t do, but we ought to strive for) we would in that theoretical case have something infallible. (The exact nature of this is probably best explained by a theologian like Matt, but that’s the basic picture.)

    Now when we come to the physical word, which *we* believe is also made by God. Now, you can’t pick up a rock and say “oh, we shouldn’t steal”. No, from rocks you learn about rocks. But if we do our observations correctly and interpreted them using solid logic then we can have a great deal of confidence in those observations. Again, we can’t be infallible because we’re fallible human beings. But the “message” *is* infallible, we just can’t read it easily.

    Now, in the case of the earth going around the sun, this is clearly solid science. It has been observed and documented. So when we look at the scriptures, we reject an interpretation of them which says that the sun goes around the earth, and re-read those passages that suggest it does as being written from an observer perspective.

    Now, re: evolution. Again, observations are made. For example we see fossils, and strata. The evolutionist applies logic and tells me that the simpler fossils are placed lower because they are older and each layer builds up over millions of years. I on the other hand point out that there are fossils that are “out of place” and that the simpler fossils lower down could just as easily have been worse swimmers in a flood that laid down all the layers at once. I point to laboratory experiments that show that multiple sediment layers can be laid down sideways rather than top down and photos of trees that have been fossilised through several layers.

    Now, have I used scripture? No. I get my basic starting point from scripture, and the evolutionist gets his basic starting point from atheistic evolution theory. We both look at the evidence and both make fairly objective observations about it that we both agree on. But because of the different starting points, we continue our scientific searches in different directions and arrive at different conclusions.

  • Ken wrote “The thriving field is the science of morality, Max. And progress us being made.” we’ve pointed this out to you before Ken, science is making some progress in telling us about the Psychological mechanisms which produce moral beliefs, how they function, originated and so on.

    This is not the same as the claim that one can reach substantive non trivial normative moral conclusions, such as “do not rape people” from empirical scientific methods alone. This latter claim requires on to go directly from empirical descriptive claims to moral claims, the validity of inferences of this sort are notoriously problematic. A little reading in logic and meta-ethics would clear this up.

    Here again Ken fails to understand or learn from other disciplines outside the so called hard sciences and so makes exaggerated and over confident claims about other subjects.

  • TAM

    ” If a student approaches their science teacher and asks whether the world is only 6000 years old, what should the science teacher tell them?”

    If its a public school with a significant “fundamentalist constituency” the teacher should tell the student that according to the best current scientific theories the world is several millions of years old and explain why they think this. The teacher could then state that some religious groups believe that the world is 6000 years old, and this is because they think the bible is Gods word and that Gen 1-11 should be read literally, the teacher could note that if these assumptions are correct, then God is saying that current science is wrong and there would be good reasons for think science is mistaken. He could add that there are other Christians who think Gen 1-11 should not be interpreted literally, however wether the assumptions in question and interpretation in question is a theological dispute which he as a scientists cannot really comment on. He could however refer the student to some books which discusses these issues from various angles and perhaps even refer him to his RE teacher who might be able to explain the theological positions better.

    If the student asks what do you think? The teacher could answer, “I accept that science is the only reliable way of coming to these questions, and I don’t accept the assumption that the bible is Gods word, however thats a philosophical/theological position not strictly a scientific one.” Or he might state, “while I accept the bible is Gods word I think Genesis 1-11 is not supposed to be interpreted literally, I think when you examine the kind of writing it is there are good reasons for thinking something else is going on there and so there is no reason for think science has made a mistake here.” again however encouraging the student to come to an understanding of the issues himself and even recommending people or resources from different perspectives he could consult.

    What he should not do is say is: no its millions of years old and anyone who thinks otherwise is an ignorant fool worthy of ridicule.

    The former approach I advocate encourage understanding of the issues, and encourage the student to think wholistically about all the questions both scientific philosophical and theological on the matter as well as distinguish the different issues assumption involves and so on.

    The latter position which appears to be the attitude of many in here does not, its essentially fosters ignorance about why others think the way they do and encourages intolerance based on this ignorance.

    Do you agree that the answer should not depend on what religious persuasion the teacher holds or whether they are employed by a secular or religious employer?

    I think obviously it does, if the teacher accepts the bible is Gods word and is an evolutionist then the his position on the matter might be different to an athiest who thinks the bible can only be interpreted literally and is not the word of God and so if asked “what do you think?” he will answer differently.

    Also if the school has a particular religious doctrinal statement that all staff have agreed to respect or not contradict then the staff members will have duties which they otherwise would not have.

    I do think however something like the approach I mention above would be used even in religious schools. I think for example fundamentalist parents should allow there kids to learn and understand evolutionary theory, why it comes to the conclusions it does, I think they should also allow there kids to know different ways Christians approach these issues, why some people think the bible is not literal what there reasons are and so on.

    What I don’t think is a good idea is to teach evolution as fact and ignore the theological issues, which most students will wonder about, nor do I support teaching evolution as a fact, and fostering ignorance about why some people disagree. Similarly I don’t support creationists who don’t allow students to learn about evolution and teach only a 6 day literal creationism.

    I was turned down in a job interview at a Christian school in 2007 because I advocated the above.

  • Scrubone, “..photos of trees that have been fossilised through several layers.”

    “…many “young Earth global flood creationists”, have no idea that even data from the 19th century, presented by a creationist geologist is enough to demolish the “polystrate fossil trees” part of their presentation. “Polystrate fossil trees” are probably one of the weakest pieces of evidence YEGF creationists can offer for their interpretation..”

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/polystrate/trees.html

    So, you see, it’s not that there isn’t an explanation for this phenomenon, it’s that you just don’t want there to be an explanation that doesn’t include a global flood, isn’t that right?

  • I thought I would get a bite from you Matt. You guys get really upset to hear the words morality and science in the same sentence. Usually prevents you from reading the sentence, as in your case Matt, your knees are jerking do much.

    However, nothing you say vontradicysmy comment.

    I didn’t say science necessarily tells you what is right and wrong – and we have thrashed that out before.

    What I usually add is that neither can religion know what is right and wrong, drspite the claims it makes. History is pretty clear on that.

  • Scrubone, I guess this is why you can make such silly statements about fossils: “No. I get my basic starting point from scripture, and the evolutionist gets his basic starting point from atheistic evolution theory.”

    And if course you have insulted many Christians in the process. People like Ken Miller who is a catholic and an evolutionary scientist who does a fantastic job exposing such creationist rubbish. An excellent lecturer and writer.

    When are you guys going to learn. Science is no longer captive to ideology. There is no such thing as “atheist science or theory”. Nor is there a theist science anymore – although some people are trying to impose that on us.

  • Matt, that was a great answer. Thank-you for taking the time to respond. I might disagree with a bit of your emphasis but I can’t take issue with the response as a whole.

    The fact that a Christian school would deny you employment because of your position on that issue makes me ill (but does not surprise me).

    Seasons greetings to you and yours.

  • ”I didn’t say science necessarily tells you what is right and wrong – and we have thrashed that out before.”
    Great, so it follows then that seeing science cannot tell us what is right and wrong. One can’t tell what the right or just social policy to be implemented is by science alone. To do that one needs to add other philosophical premises of some sort.
    This is where the problem for secularism occurs, to answer any substantive question of public policy we need moral or philosophical premises. The secularist however claims that religious premises are unacceptable. The question then is what reason can be given for excluding religious premises which is not also a reason for rejecting secular moral premises? I know of none.
    ”What I usually add is that neither can religion know what is right and wrong, drspite the claims it makes. History is pretty clear on that.”
    Really? What history are you referring to Ken, I don’t think theology has proved inept at answering moral questions, it certainly from a historical perspective has not made any more mistakes about what is right and wrong than science has about the nature of the physical world. I think the moral code we accept today is probably much closer to that advocated by medieval Christianity than the cosmology we accept today is in accord with medieval cosmology. So its hard to see why one is accurate in telling us about the physical world and the other is not.

  • You are confused Matt (been imbibing have we). My comment was a response to anin’s claim that science had nothing to say about morality. I pointed tons whole thriving field – the science if morality. You knee jerked and you misinterpreted.

    You have done nothing to take issue with my point.

  • My point Ken was that it was the PHILOSOPHER of Science… in other words Yes! Scientists can do philosophy – they can study morality – but when doing so they are not doing science…

  • Ken, I think you are being a bit disengenious here. When a person states “science had nothing to say about morality.” I doubt very much they mean’t this to mean science cannot tell us about the neurology of scientific beliefs and the origins of such neurology. When people make claims like this they normally are pointing to the problem that empirical scientific investigation cannot produce substantive moral conclusions.

    In the context of a discussion of religion and public life, where one is discussing what premises should be appealed to in public You are confused Matt (been imbibing have we). My comment was a response to anin’s claim that science had nothing to say about morality. I pointed tons whole thriving field – the science if morality. You knee jerked and you misinterpreted.

    You have done nothing to take issue with my point.

  • Ken you write
    “Scrubone, I guess this is why you can make such silly statements about fossils: “No. I get my basic starting point from scripture, and the evolutionist gets his basic starting point from atheistic evolution theory.”

    So can you answer me this. If a person found theological reasons for rejecting a theory, in the sciences, Would the methods currently used by scientists, allow them to accept these reasons and modify their position? Yes or No.

  • Max, people involved in the current wave of “the new science of morality” (as some news sources have called it) are neuroscientists, psychologists, psychiatrists, philosophers, Smith Churchland herself works very closely with scientists – which is a sign if a good philosopher today. After all disconnection from reality, as is the cases with medieval philospohers still operating (philosophers of religion) is a sure way of being ineffective.

  • As I said, Matt, I was responding to Anon’s claim. I showed clearly she was wrong. That the science of morality is a new and thriving area. Making progress. I can understand why religionists are terrified of losing their self/proclaimed monopoly in this area. (Doesn’t history keep repeating itself – reminds me io the Galileo issue).

    Perhaps you should allow Anon to speak for herself and give her own response to my comment. After all – you haven’t yet responded to my pointing out the crap in, crap out fallacy in your “logical” argument earlier on. You should try to tidy up that mess first.

  • Matt, perhaps you should also allow Scrubone to handle his side of my discussion with him.

    Mind you, I wouldn’t mind completing the crap in, crap out “logic” discussion with you.

  • “When a person states “science had nothing to say about morality.” I doubt very much they mean’t this to mean science cannot tell us about the neurology of scientific beliefs and the origins of such neurology. When people make claims like this they normally are pointing to the problem that empirical scientific investigation cannot produce substantive moral conclusions.”

    Correct, that’s what I mean. Studying on which nerves fire what signals that enable a person to not lash out and start beating up other people senselessly isn’t quite the same as the study of why beating up other people senselessly is wrong.

  • “Max, people involved in the current wave of “the new science of morality” (as some news sources have called it) are neuroscientists, psychologists, psychiatrists, philosophers, Smith Churchland herself works very closely with scientists – which is a sign if a good philosopher today. ”

    Scientists doing philosophy Ken. This says nothing about whether science as a discipline has anything to say.

  • “You said non literal interpretations were proposed by “modern” apologists. I noted this was false and cited to ancient commentators who offered not literal interpretations.”

    I see where you’re confused here. I’m not saying that modern apologists promote non-literal interpretation AS OPPOSED to ancient apologists,.

    If I had said that modern apologists agree that the Earth is a globe, it doesn’t make it any less true that modern apologists do this, if you cite a few ancient apologists who did the same thing.

    You ‘interpreted’ what I said to mean something I wasn’t saying.

    I’m well aware that Augustine, for example, gave us instructions on how apologies should not necessarilly be taking the Scriptures literally if they are in conflict with matters of fact and such.

    I think that modern apologists would agree with him.

  • This kind of brings up the issue of which parts of the Bible can we interpret to be metaphor, hyperbole and such.

    The flood story might easily be interpreted this way. Noah 500 years old? Are they impressing on us that he was ‘VERY GODLY’?

    Are the ‘facts’ of the story being rearranged? An extended family sets off in a big boat with many animals and is washed away in a flood becoming marooned in a hitherto unpopulated area. The story gets repeated around the fireside at night and expanded on until the flood becomes global, the forefather and his extended family become the only survivors.

    The story could then be turned around a bit to make the flood God’s Will, the forefather his obedient servant, and so on.

    You see, once you introduce the idea of metaphor, hyperbole and other literary rhetorical devices, they become this apologetic word-magic blurring and twisting the meaning of what you like to call ‘truth’ into a mystery.

    Still, if all that the scribes and you’re really trying to say is that it’s a mystery why things are like they are, then I agree.

  • Max, you clearly are not familiar with the work to say “Scientists doing philosophy Ken. This says nothing about whether science as a discipline has anything to say.”

    I suggest you watch the videos of the Edge workshop where for example psychologists discuss experimental results. Even a philosopher (an advocate of experimental philosophy) discusses his own psychological work in this area.

    This is a characteristic of the new science of morality – conclusions are actually based on evidence, not wishful think or dogma. In fact the dogma is being tested and shown to be wrong.

  • Good, Anon, you have backed away from your denial that science has anything to say about morality. However. Your comment on neurons us perhaps indicative of your lack of appreciation of the depth and breadth of the science of morality. I suggest that the areas apart from neuroscience have probably made significant and interesting progress.

    What you really meant is that science cannot tell us what is right and wrong. Of course science does not make that claim. It’s a red herring to divert attention away from the claim that this is the role of religion. However, that claim doesn’t withstand attention – hence the diversion. An argument by default.

    While religion keeps on dogmatically telling us what is right or wrong that is only prejudice. It has no special way of knowing and history shows that it is often wrong. But because of it’s claimed infallibility it never seems to be able to acknowledge its mistakes.

    We need to go beyond religion to decide right from wrong.

  • “What you really meant is that science cannot tell us what is right and wrong. Of course science does not make that claim. It’s a red herring to divert attention away from the claim that this is the role of religion. ”

    Great now that you admit science can not tell us what is right and wrong. That’s what I’ve been saying all along, that morality is outside science. Human is really just highly evolved animal to science.

    “It’s a red herring to divert attention away from the claim that this is the role of religion. ”

    Religion says a lot about morality, right and wrong, how we should live our lives, how we ought to treat others. If you don’t derive your morality from some kind of ‘religion’, we’d like to hear where you get it from … remember, you just admitted that science can not tell us right and wrong.

  • Anon, while science doesn’t tell us right and wrong or claim to, the science of morality is helping us to understand how we have concepts of right and wrong and how we decide what is right and wrong. Religion doesn’t come into that. Historically religion has had a purpose of encoding moral laws, lately this has been taken over by more secular organization, like secular governments, social customs, mass media etc.

    But humanity develops concepts of right and wrong quite independently of religious or non religious organizations. So our morality and concepts of right and wrong have an objective basis in the nature if our species (some other mammals also appear to have moral concepts).

    We have evolved as a moral species because we have evolved to be social, intelligent, sentient, conscious and empathetic. This has produced in us intuitive feelings of right and wrong and intuitive moral attitudes. But as an intelligent species we are capable of learning new moral outlooks by considering the objective facts of our existence. Such rehearsed moral considerations inevitably become incorporated into our intuitions. It’s a matter of the relationship between our conscious aware brain and our unconscious brain.

    We have seen this dynamic nature of our moral intuitions with movement on things like slavery, racism, discrimination against women and homosexuality.

    Religion has had a lot to say about morality but while codifying human moral attitudes it has never been able to determine right and wrong itself. It simply justifies human moral attitudes, even those which we later determine wrong like racism, slavery, attitudes towards women an homosexuality.

    The new science of morality is helping us to understand the truth of our moral systems. It is providing us with the opportunity to escape from the moral diktats of religion and to develop a more humane morality, an objectively based one.

    By the way – none if this is new here. I have presented this position several times.

    But I don’t mind you presenting me with the opportunity to present it again. The arrogant claim that religion can tell us what is right and wrong needs to be shown up.

  • Let’s cut to the chase Ken, there’s nothing inherently wrong with stealing, murder, rape, etc? We just think they are wrong because it helps our survival?

  • Anon. How cynical.

    I obviously disagree, as you would have seen if you had read mummy last comment properly.

  • @Anon

    I got my morality from the society I grew up in through the two representatives that were my guardians. I called them, Ma and Da.

    They did their best to teach me.

    ” …there’s nothing inherently wrong with stealing, murder, rape, etc?”

    I believe that people look to each other, get clues from each other what is right and what is permissible. For example, Madeleine, it seems is willing to stretch the definition of murder back to conception while certainly there are a lot of people willing to forgive killing people if it is sanctioned by a court or if their government has declared war on another country.

    So, I guess that’s ‘relative’.

    Stealing is another relative one, because it seems to depend on how much and who from and such.

    Abrahamic religions are not clear about rape. Seems to me that Islam tends to blame the victim, our society seems to have done that too(put the woman on trial) and there’s the Catholic heirarchy’s attitude ’til recently, so that seems to be kind of relative too.

    Now ‘etc.’, I’m guessing is adultery? Seems relative to me. What punishment would you recommend? Stoning??

  • Ken, just a you have put forward this position before I have pointed out the confusions I see it it. You start with ”while science doesn’t tell us right and wrong or claim to, the science of morality is helping us to understand how we have concepts of right and wrong and how we decide what is right and wrong. Religion doesn’t come into that.”

    Here you address the question of how we have a concept of right and wrong, and claim religious beliefs are not necessary for forming the concepts. I agree, few people I know would disagree with this particular claim.

    However, you go on to infer from this

    The new science of morality is helping us to understand the truth of our moral systems. It is providing us with the opportunity to escape from the moral diktats of religion and to develop a more humane morality, an objectively based one.” here you suggest the science of morality enables us to see the truth of moral beliefs, and shows us that religious beliefs are false or mistaken or inferior.

    The problem is this last claim simply does not follow from the first, and in fact addresses a totally different question, that is whether our moral concepts are true. But as noted the studies you refer do not answer this question at all, wether a given moral claim is true cannot be determined by empirical methods.

    You then conclude
    ”The arrogant claim that religion can tell us what is right and wrong needs to be shown up.”

    This however is a different claim again, here you suggest the studies you cite, show religions are not a reliable source of moral information.

    So ken you cite studies which look at how we form moral concepts, mistakenly confuse this with to the claim these tell us which beliefs are true and then confuse this with the claim they show religions are epistemically sub par.

    This is just confused.

  • Matt, you have confused yourself over my comment. Still, you are excused. It’s been a day for imbibing after all.

    But perhaps I should add more explanation of why religion just cannot tell us right and wrong and in general is morally reactionary.

    On the one hand I have pointed out how logical reasoning can help us work out that some things we have been doing were wrong. This has worked for our attitudes to slavery, .race, women and homosexuality. Once we could apply logical reasoning to the objective facts around these problems we were able to judge them wrong. This intellectual conclusion has worked itself into our intuitions. We can now react to these morally wrong situation intuitively.

    But religion gets in the way. Because it imposes a supernatural understanding of morality (and everything else). It explains morality as divinely ordained – which leaves no place for logical reasoning. Divinely ordained morality cannot be questioned. Is not open to change.

    So we can see why religion has lagged behind human appreciation of what we were doing wrong. Slavery, racism, suppression of women and homosexuality remained divinely ordained. How often has that story been repeated. The divine imposition of a morality which humanity can see as wrong using logical reasoning meant religion had always opposed moral progress. Opposed attempts to correct our moral attitudes.

    Just as humanity had to escape from theological control to enable science to flourish it also has to escape from theological control to enable development of an objectively based morality.

    I think that is now happening. And that is why there is such a harsh reaction by theology to the growing humanitarian approach to morality and the recognition of the validity of an objectively based morality. Religion is losing it’s power.

  • “On the one hand I have pointed out how logical reasoning can help us work out that some things we have been doing were wrong.”

    No you haven’t. But perhaps your memory is clouded by the imbibing you mentioned. Merry Christmas!

  • Well Matt, I think that this is a case where neither you nor I are confused, but there are a LOT of Christians in Texas who are VERY confused about the meaning of their Sacred Text.

    I think that the lawyers and judges love the money and the power that the death penalty gives them and I think that you’d find very, very few of them that wouldn’t be quoting ‘eye for an eye’ and ‘Thou shalt not kill’ as their reason for their pro-death-penalty stance.

    On the other hand I think that I’d be on the ‘no’ side if they were to ask me if a stiff fine would be ‘cool’ for a murder.

  • pboyfloyd


    I got my morality from the society I grew up in through the two representatives that were my guardians. I called them, Ma and Da.

    They did their best to teach me.

    I believe that people look to each other, get clues from each other what is right and what is permissible.

    So an action/behavior can be right or wrong depending on people and culture of the time, whether the majority of people in your time and place deem it permissible. To you there is nothing inherently right or wrong, just depend on the society you live in.

    Great

  • @Anon.

    That’s just how the world is, that’s how people ARE.

    We live in a capitalist society where cash is king. What’s good for the company, that is, the bottom line, becomes the right thing to do.

    Christianity still claims Western Capitalism as it’s own, company leaders walk a line between doing what is ‘right’ and doing what is ‘right’ for the company, then, when they err on the pure greed side, perhaps affecting millions of people, they feel no guilt whatsoever.

    It’s easy to imagine atheist misers sitting in back rooms counting gold pieces laughing at the people they’ve just screwed out of their pension funds and such, but it’s not like that at all, and you all know this.

    I was personally screwed out of my money by a businessman who thought nothing of it but at the same time he separated out his dealings between the company and his church and made sure thejir investments were okay. Surely we could see, I suppose went his thinking, that he couldn’t screw over the church simply because he was screwing over the rest of his investors.

    I actually imagine he thought was should give him some kudos for treating his church better than us riff-raff.

    I don’t think that it’s at all unusual to find people like this, people with absolutely no moral compass who imagine that as long as they deal squarely with, you know, ‘God’, then they’re off to Heaven when they die.

    If you’re a clergyman on the receiving end of a man like this’s penance or charity to the church or whatever he calls it, you’ll be thinking that this is a wonderful man, the backbone of the community, that kind of thing.

    While the church whines, “Morality!”, they scratch the businessmens’ backs.

  • @pboy
    So you blame God for this man’s failings? Does this mean you think God should have stopped him? What would you think if God actively intervened in your life and stopped you doing things He didnt approve of. How many things [large or small] do you do each day that may hurt other people? Do you even know?

  • Jeremy.

    There are not gods Jeremy, not even one. But that is beside the point really, isn’t it?

    My point was, even the belief that there is absolute morality, isn’t enough to convince a proffessing Christian to act as if there is.

    I’m saying that the religion itself is enlisted in businessman’s, or politician’s (or whatnot’s) rationale because, no matter what he does, he has ‘that side of it covered’.

    This makes every single congregation a worthless sham, simply conditioning, simply the lie that to be Godly is to be good.

    Me blame God? What a joke. That would be like Winstn Smith blaming Big Brother.(1984), or kids blaming Santa for not getting what they wanted.

  • Madeleine,

    If you’re not already aware of this, it may be of interest to you for your thesis.

    Enjoy!

  • @pboy.

    “There are not gods Jeremy, not even one. But that is beside the point really, isn’t it?”

    Amazing, you apparently have Godlike omniscience, and you have just made an absolute truth statement, i stand in awe at the breadth and depth of your knowledge and experience. Do you want my worship too?

    “My point was, even the belief that there is absolute morality, isn’t enough to convince a proffessing Christian to act as if there is”

    So you complaint is that a fallible human turned out to be a fallible human, that he consciously chose to do wrong some how meant the standard saying it was wrong wasnt there..
    Tell me when you break the speed limit does that mean the speed limit wasnt actually real? When you lie to someone are you giving the permission to lie to you.If you dont believe in absolute morality are you consistant enough to not mind when other people treat you as though there isnt [ your own example says otherwise]

    Could you do any better than this guy? are you perfect in all your dealings with other humans? When a shopkeeper inadvertantly gives you too much change do you always make sure you hand it back? Wrong is wrong, big or little doesnt make any difference.

    I see you continue to avoid the hard personal questions.
    “How many things [large or small] do you do each day that may hurt other people? Do you even know?”

    Maybe when you are honestly addressing these in your own life you will have some basis for complaining about others.
    However when you do address them in your own life the hypocrasy of those complaints will become apparent and recognition of the truth of your own condition will give you more understanding of others.

  • Was there supposed to be a link there Paul?

  • Pboyfloyd, Sorry I was unaware that in texas they stoned adulterers. From memory what they do there is give a small percentage of those who commit premediated murder a lethal injection.

    How about you look at the comments you actually made, and look at the actual response I gave you.

  • Anon said Let’s cut to the chase Ken, there’s nothing inherently wrong with stealing, murder, rape, etc? We just think they are wrong because it helps our survival?

    1 .A type of scientific method can easily be used to help us conclude stealing and murder would soon enough become a very vicious circle if approved .And if studys were done the conclusions would soon suggest societies that approve murder and stealing are bound to fail in the long run.

    2. Science can also be used to measure the psychological effect that rape has on the victims .This can soon enough be found to also have had a negative effect on society as a whole .

    By use of scientific method.

    Anon i disagree with your suggestion that science cannot have anything to say about morality.

    In my opinion science cannot do any worse that philosophy and religion often already has.

    In New Zealand a human thats suffering endlessly in great pain still has far less rights than an animal does , thanks to conclusions made by religion and philosophy.

    Atleast science can be used to help provide the fact evidence , that explains that both humans and animals do indeed suffer the same ways .

    Before we had to rely entirely on the minds of biased men .

    Science can indeed help us with making moral decisions Anon .

    Science helps by providing more factual evidence .

  • Steve
    1. (i)Science could only show that societies that allowed stealing failed if you have some notion of what a successful society is and what a failure is, and this requires some account of what societies are ought to do, hence science would already need normative or evaluative premises to gain the result (ii) even if science could show a society would fail if it allows stealing, that does not tell us anything about whats right and wrong, to get that you would need an additional premise that “whatever causes a society to fail is bad” without this additional moral premise the fact a society fails tells us nothing morally. Your example actually shows that science cannot esthablish moral conclusions with out assuming them, and that it can achieve no moral conclusions by itself.
    2. Again, the fact that rape causes a particular Psychological effect, tells us nothing about the morality of rape unless we can judge these effects are bad or wrong. Moreover, you take about “negative” effects on society, this can only be determined if we already have an idea of what is good (positive) and bad (negative) for society and a premise that we have a duty to promote positive consquences, hence in fact science cannot esthablish moral conclusions unless we already assume a whole lot of moral positions before hand. By itself it esthablishes nothing.
    You talk about suffering, but again the fact something causes suffering esthablishes nothing unless you already know that suffering is bad. So again science achieves nothing without assuming moral positions to begin with.
    The moral positions of course will be gained from a religious or philosophical perspective on what societies are for, whats good and bad, and so on, hence in fact what your argument shows is that science only gains moral conclusions by accepting (often uncritically) certain philosophical views are true.

  • [...] he gave an answer not unlike this comment which he left in the comments thread of my post “The NZARH and the Privileging of Secularism“: The Atheist Missionary asked: “If a student approaches their science teacher and asks [...]

  • [...] Secular State,”* prepared by the NZ Association of Humanists and Rationalists (NZARH), (see The New Zealand Association of Rationalist Humanists and the Privileging of Secularism). She takes the first sentence: “The NZARH strongly believes that government should be [...]

  • [...] Secular State,”* prepared by the NZ Association of Humanists and Rationalists (NZARH), (see The New Zealand Association of Rationalist Humanists and the Privileging of Secularism). She takes the first sentence: “The NZARH strongly believes that government should be [...]

  • [...] Secular State,” prepared by the NZ Association of Humanists and Rationalists (NZARH), (see The New Zealand Association of Rationalist Humanists and the Privileging of Secularism). She takes the first sentence: “The NZARH strongly believes that government should be [...]