jump to navigation

Just Nisbet Being Nisbet 30 Mar 2009

Posted by Jessa in Atheism, Religion, Science.
Tags: , , , , ,
1 comment so far

Poor Matt Nisbet.  He still doesn’t get it.

First off, he wags his finger at Richard Dawkins for sharing his opinion on religion:

Dawkins, for example, argues as a scientist that religion is comparable to a mental virus or “meme” that can be explained through evolution, that religious believers are delusional, and that in contrast, atheists are representative of a healthy, independent, and pro-science mind. In making these claims, not only does Dawkins use his authority as the “Oxford University Professor of the Public Understanding of Science” to denigrate various social groups, but he gives resonance to the false narrative of social conservatives that the scientific establishment has an anti-religion agenda.

How dare Richard Dawkins speak an opinion about anything other than science!  It’s not like there’s some sort of clash between science and religion.  Oh wait, there is.

The whole NOMA thing doesn’t work.  Religion has tons to say about things that are within the “science magesterium”, and scientists have every right (and, I might add, an obligation) to push back at statements that flatly contradict scientific observations.  And the people who think that “the scientific establishment has an anti-religion agenda” have had that belief cemented into them long before Dawkins came along.

And then he goes off about Expelled, and how awful it was for the cause of science:

The conflict narrative is powerfully employed in the 2008 anti-evolution documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. By relying almost exclusively on interviews with outspoken atheist scientists such as Dawkins and the blogger PZ Myers, Expelled reinforces the false impression that evolution and faith are inherently incompatible and that scientists are openly hostile to religion. In the film, the comedic actor Ben Stein plays the role of a conservative Michael Moore, taking viewers on an investigative journey into the realm of “Big Science,” an institution where Stein concludes that “scientists are not allowed to even think thoughts that involve an intelligent creator.”


One leading example from the film is an interview with Myers, a professor of biology at the University of Minnesota-Morris, and author of the Pharyngula blog. Myers’ comments in the film reflect much of the content of his blog, which is estimated to receive over a 1 million readers per month. Interviewed in his laboratory, against a backdrop of microscopes and scientific equipment, Myers offers the following view of religion (see YouTube clip):

Religion is naiveté that gives some people comfort and we don’t want to take it away from them. It’s like knitting, people like to knit. We are not going to take their knitting needles away, we are not going to take away their churches, but we have to get it to a place where religion is treated at a level that it should be treated. That is something fun that people get together and do on the weekend, and really doesn’t affect their life as much as it has been so far.

In a follow up, when prompted to discuss how he believes this goal might be accomplished, Myers offers a line of reasoning that reflects the deficit model paradigm, arguing that science literacy is in direct conflict with religious belief:

Greater science literacy, which is going to lead to the erosion of religion, and then we will get this nice positive feedback mechanism going where as religion slowly fades away we will get more and more science to replace it, and that will displace more and more religion which will allow more and more science in and we will eventually get to that point where religion has taken that appropriate place as a side dish rather than a main course.

How quickly Matt forgets.  Dawkins and Myers were duped into talking about religion during their interviews.  They were told that the film was about the intersection of science and religion, so it’s not as if their opinions about religion were unsolicited.  I’m sure that, if asked only about science, they could probably manage not to veer off into an anti-religious screed.  Matt apparently thinks that they are incapable of  refraining from unsolicited statements about religion.

So how, exactly, are people like Dawkins and Myers supposed to act in Nisbet-world?  Are they just supposed to sit idly by as people try to push religion into science?  Are they supposed to act like it’s okay for people to say that the earth is 6000 years old?  That humans and dinosaurs co-existed?  That evolution is false?