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Just Nisbet Being Nisbet 30 Mar 2009

Posted by Jessa in Atheism, Religion, Science.
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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.”

[snip]

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?

PZ’s Greatist Hits 14 Jul 2008

Posted by Jessa in Uncategorized.
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Here.  But he left out my favorite.

The Great Cracker Conflagration of 2008 12 Jul 2008

Posted by Jessa in Religion.
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Regular readers of this blog (hi to all four of you) probably already know about this – PZ Myers has found himself in a bit of an internet uproar over a communion wafer.

A condensed timeline:

  • A student at the University of Central Florida takes a consecrated communion wafer home with him.  Much outrage ensues, including accusing said student of a “hate crime” and “kidnapping”, and e-mailed death threats.
  • PZ writes about it, and includes a call for people to send him wafers to desecrate.
  • Bill Donohue (of Catholic League fame) gets wind of it, and acts typically by issuing a press release calling for people to write to the University of Minnesota president to demand that PZ gets fired.
  • PZ responds and fights back.
  • Meanwhile, he’s getting his own batch of hate mail, some with death threats.
  • The Catholic League issues another press release calling for extra security for Catholics at the upcoming Republican Convention in Minneapolis, despite the fact that Morris is 150 miles away from Minneapolis and PZ has not threatened anyone.

Whew. What drama.

I’m somewhat undecided about PZ’s pledge to desecrate a cracker.  On one hand, I think it’s a fairly juvenile stunt.  On the other hand, actions like his can open up a dialog (if somewhat heated) about important issues.  Some of the most important insights I’ve had in my life have come from getting offended and then examining why I was offended.

But what I did find interesting was the thread that ran among the comments from those supporting the Catholic outrage.  Most of them either implicitly or explicitly included the idea that an individual has a right to have their beliefs respected.  Um, no.  Your right to hold a belief should be respected, but the belief itself has no right to be respected.  The idea of respecting beliefs sounds like a good one at first blush, but it’s totally unworkable.  There are some sincerely held but genuinely silly beliefs out there.  Anyone who has spent any time on the internet can come up with at least 5 examples off the top of their head.  By the rationale of the “respect beliefs” argument, we must respect the belief that aliens built the Great Pyramids.  Or that the moon landing was a hoax.  Or that the US government was behind 9/11.  There are people out there that believe these things just as deeply as Catholics believe that a priest can, with appropriate hand gestures and incantations, turn a wafer into the Body of Christ.  See how respecting all beliefs just won’t work?

But the “respect beliefs” commenters don’t really believe that all beliefs should be respected.  A great number of them are calling for PZ to desecrate a Koran instead.  So apparently they have no problems with disrespecting the beliefs of Muslims.  I guess “respect beliefs” really means “respect the beliefs with which I agree”.

Mmmm…I love the smell of hypocrisy.

PZ-Away 31 Mar 2008

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Click pic for source.

Beware The Believers 30 Mar 2008

Posted by Jessa in Science.
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There has been some discussion about whether this video was created by a creationist or a pro-science person.  I’m inclined to believe it is the latter – creationists could never create something like this.

Lyrics on Pharyngula.

Bwahahaha! 20 Mar 2008

Posted by Jessa in Non-Religion, Non-Science, Religion, Science.
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PZ Myers shares a delicious bit of irony.

It seems that he was specifically barred, on threat of arrest, from attending an advance screening of Expelled. Expelled from Expelled!

But that’s not the best part:

I’m still laughing though. You don’t know how hilarious this is. Not only is it the extreme hypocrisy of being expelled from their Expelled movie, but there’s another layer of amusement. Deep, belly laugh funny. Yeah, I’d be rolling around on the floor right now, if I weren’t so dang dignified.

You see … well, have you ever heard of a sabot? It’s a kind of sleeve or lightweight carrier used to surround a piece of munition fired from a gun. It isn’t the actually load intended to strike the target, but may even be discarded as it leaves the barrel.

I’m a kind of sabot right now.

They singled me out and evicted me, but they didn’t notice my guest. They let him go in escorted by my wife and daughter. I guess they didn’t recognize him. My guest was …

Richard Dawkins.

He’s in the theater right now, watching their movie.

AWESOME!

Uncommon Descent Silences Its Critics 01 Feb 2008

Posted by Jessa in Non-Science, Religion, Science.
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…but not in a good way.

PZ Myers was invited to debate Geoffrey Simmons (of the Disco Institute) on Christian radio station KKMS. The topic (which was changed at the last minute) was “Are Darwin’s Theories Fact or Faith Issues?”. I listened to the debate, and while it probably didn’t change any minds, it certainly made Dr. Simmons look bad. There were several points where Dr. Myers looked like the more knowledgeable participant, specifically in the area of transitional whale fossils, which Dr. Simmons should know about since it’s apparently in his book.

It seems that even cdesign proponentsists felt that Dr. Simmons’ performance was lacking. Several commenters on Uncommon Descent (where commenting is strictly moderated and generally limited to those who agree with ID) left messages such as:

If I had to use this debate to judge the validity of NeoDarwinism, I would be a Darwinist. Simmons is a terrible dissappointment. I shall pass on his books, though they haven’t been on my short list.

And surprise! That post is now 404! Typical UD tactic: if you don’t like what people are saying in a thread, delete it.

Unfortunately for them, nothing that is posted on the internet can be completely deleted; a poster at Antievolution managed to save a copy.