Collins vs. Gnus

In my previous posting, we uncovered the ironic fact that while Richard Dawkins, the world’s most famous atheist, calls upon scientists to join his anti-religious culture war, Francis Collins, a biologist and evangelical Christian, has actually generated more scientific knowledge than Dawkins.

So what if we tried to help Dawkins by enlisting the work of his fellow Gnu leaders who are also biologists – Jerry Coyne, Sam Harris, and PZ Myers?  After all, these three men have viciously attacked Collins on the internet.  They publicly opposed Collin’s nomination to head the NIH by suggesting, without any evidence, that his religious faith would lead him to somehow harm the funding of scientific research.   Harris has claimed that Collins “has repudiated the scientific worldview” and is “a man who believes that understanding ourselves through science is impossible.”  He has also insisted:

There is no question but that nominally religious scientists like Francis Collins and Kenneth R. Miller are doing lasting harm to our discourse by the accommodations they have made to religious irrationality.

Coyne has accused Collins of being an “embarrassment to the NIH, to scientists, and, indeed, to all rational people” and an “advocate of profoundly anti-scientific beliefs.”  Myers calls him a “creationist dupe arguing against scientific theories” and “an amiable lightweight” who doesn’t know how to think like a scientist.

You would think that when these three biologists dish out their smug vitriol, it would come from a foundation of having generated more scientific knowledge than the religious guy.  But alas, such is not the case.

Recall that Collins has published 384 scientific papers from 1971 to 2007. I’m sure he has published since 2007, as that is where the CV on the web ends.  In fact, by searching through PubMed, a database that contains millions of scientific articles, it looks like he has published 483 papers.  But we’ll stick with 384 since there could be other “Collins FS” authors out there mixed in with the PubMed search results.

Again using PubMed, I was able to determine that Jerry Coyne has published a very respectable 88 papers from 1971 to 2011.  For Myers, I found only ten papers from 1984-1999.  For Harris, I did not bother with PubMed.  I used his own site where he promotes himself and his publications.

He has published two papers since 2009.

So let’s plot the data to see how well Collins matches up against these leaders of the New Atheist Movement (I only count Dawkins’ scientific articles and small books, not his atheist fluff):

My, none of the New Atheists even come close to generating the same amount of scientific knowledge. But hold on.  Could it be?  Let’s plot it another way:

Oh my flying spaghetti monster!  Collins has contributed more knowledge to the scientific community (and humanity) than Dawkins, Coyne, Myers, and Harris combined!

This calls for one minor modification of the pie chart:

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68 Responses to Collins vs. Gnus

  1. Matt says:

    I’m struggling to understand what your point is here. Just because someone has produced more papers doesn’t really mean anything (are they all peer-reviewed, for example?).

    So are you saying that because someone has produced more papers that their religious beliefs hold more validity? Surely not?

  2. Michael says:

    So are you saying that because someone has produced more papers that their religious beliefs hold more validity? Surely not?

    Of course not.

    Just because someone has produced more papers doesn’t really mean anything.

    Wrong. It means that Collins has given humanity more new scientific knowledge than these four Gnu leaders combined. And he is clearly a better scientist than Myers or Harris.

    The point? I made it in the posting: You would think that when these three biologists dish out their smug vitriol, it would come from a foundation of having generated more scientific knowledge than the religious guy.

    BTW, three years ago, both Coyne and Harris publicly opposed Collins’ nomination to head the NIH because they claimed he would do damage to scientific funding. Let’s consider some facts:

    1. They had no evidence to back up those claims.
    2. For three years now, they have ignored those predictions and have failed to accumulate data to back up their predictions.

    Does that sound like a scientific approach to you?

  3. Bilbo says:

    I hate to ask this, but would the younger generation get your pac-man joke?

  4. Kevin says:

    As far as I can see, PubMed doesn’t have a filter for peer-reviewed articles. I also saw articles for popular science magazines which also included interviews of the person in the results. To call these “scientific articles” is misleading. If you are going to call an interview with Francis Collins as a hit, you might as well consider some of Coyne’s blog posts too. This methodological error needs to be corrected before drawing such conclusions.

  5. Michael says:

    Kevin,

    You are confused here. I specifically said I did not include the PubMed results for Collins. I used his CV and his list of peer reviewed papers. As for PubMed, I have used it for years and have not found it to be diluted as you say. But if your concern is legit, it would only mean that Coyne and Myers results are artificially high, since I only used PubMed for them.

  6. Michael says:

    I hate to ask this, but would the younger generation get your pac-man joke?

    Y’think? Consider it an inside joke for we old folks. :)

  7. Tony Hoffman says:

    Isn’t the real indication of scientific contribution the number of other scientific papers that attribute or refer to your work in their papers? At least I think that’s what scientists are most impressed by when they view a professional legacy.

  8. Kevin says:

    “You are confused here. I specifically said I did not include the PubMed results for Collins. I used his CV and his list of peer reviewed papers. As for PubMed, I have used it for years and have not found it to be diluted as you say. But if your concern is legit, it would only mean that Coyne and Myers results are artificially high, since I only used PubMed for them.”

    There are other concerns as well. When you search Dawkins in PubMed, you get only six results, and of those, none of them are scientific publications. We know this to be artificially low because we know that Dawkins has published works. Why should we expect PubMed to be reliable in assessing the number of publications of those not involved in the medical field? For your information, neither PZ or Coyne research human biology.

    Also, why are you assuming that each instance their name is on a paper merits equal weight? If we are talking about the magnitude of a contribution, don’t you think that the order of the names are significant in this respect? Have you compensated for this? Do we know that Dawkins listed every publication that has his name on it, or simply the ones where he is the sole or co-author (i.e. played a dominant role)?

  9. john says:

    Martin Nowak has over 300 scientific publications, of which 40 are in Nature and 15 in Science. Dawkins has 2 or 3 in nature/science.

  10. Michael says:

    There are other concerns as well.

    Given that your first concern failed, let’s see if you even have on that is valid.

    When you search Dawkins in PubMed, you get only six results, and of those, none of them are scientific publications. We know this to be artificially low because we know that Dawkins has published works. Why should we expect PubMed to be reliable in assessing the number of publications of those not involved in the medical field? For your information, neither PZ or Coyne research human biology.

    PubMed is not restricted to human biology. Didn’t you see where it picked up 88 Coyne articles? Do you think those were about human biology? If you think their numbers are artificially low, feel free to find the missing peer reviewed papers that should be incorportated.

  11. Michael says:

    Martin Nowak has over 300 scientific publications, of which 40 are in Nature and 15 in Science. Dawkins has 2 or 3 in nature/science.

    And check this out:

    http://byzantinedream.blogspot.com/2011/06/martin-nowak.html

  12. Kevin says:

    “Didn’t you see where it picked up 88 Coyne articles? Do you think those were about human biology?”

    I didn’t see 88, a search of “coyne, jerry[Author]” for all databases only yields 31 hits.

    “If you think their numbers are artificially low, feel free to find the missing peer reviewed papers that should be incorporated.”

    It’s not a feeling, I have already shown that it is not reliable at finding an author’s works. If you want your conclusions to be valid, you need to correct this methodological flaw as well as the other one I pointed out. Do your own work. I have no interest in doing it for you because I don’t see how the results of said work would amount to anything of significance.

    Even if you show that Collins has contributed a lot to science, so what? Does it effect the philosophical question of the compatibility of science and religion? Does it mean that Collins has more weight when talking about the scientific method? Does it satisfy Harris’ concern that Collin’s religion may influence his decisions on matters of morality? I don’t see how your data would answer these questions, so I don’t see the point of conducting said research. If you see a point, you can put forth the effort.

  13. Bilbo says:

    Hi Mike,
    You can thank Victor Reppert for the extra company.

  14. Michael says:

    Kevin,

    You are still confused here. I specifically said I did not include the PubMed results for Collins. I used his CV and his list of peer reviewed papers. As for PubMed, I have used it for years and have not found it to be diluted as you say. But if your concern is legit, it would only mean that Coyne and Myers results are artificially high, since I only used PubMed for them.

    Even if you show that Collins has contributed a lot to science, so what?

    It demonstrates that his ability to be a scientist has not been compromised by being a theist. And it does so in a very ironic manner.

    Does it effect the philosophical question of the compatibility of science and religion?

    Glad you acknowledge it is only a philosophical question. We’ll get to that later.

    Does it mean that Collins has more weight when talking about the scientific method?

    Nope. It means that when Dawkins was peddling the pseudoscientific notion that a religious upbringing is child abuse, Collins was doing science.

    Does it satisfy Harris’ concern that Collin’s religion may influence his decisions on matters of morality?

    Harris’ “concerns” were misguided and rooted in simple-minded stereotypes. Collins has been head of the NIH for 3 years now. Has Harris been collecting data to test his concerns? No, he’s promoting himself and selling books about free will.

    I don’t see how your data would answer these questions, so I don’t see the point of conducting said research. If you see a point, you can put forth the effort.

    That you have no sense of irony is not my problem. Perhaps your blind devotion to your leaders is the problem.

  15. ajwells says:

    I find it interesting that, if the numbers were reversed, atheists would be pointing at Collins’ lack of published papers as a sign that his religion hinders his ability as a scientist. Since it demonstratably does not, it either “doesn’t matter” or the papers aren’t scientific. *eyeroll*

  16. Kevin is a shining example of atheist dancing and goalpost-moving. Shameless, even in the face of hard statistics. And the allusion to whether Collins’ religious beliefs will influence moral decisions is, as has been pointed out, based on prejudiced stereotypes which would never pass were it to be spoken of women, LGBT people, or ethnic minorities. Disgusting. And these people call themselves “rational”?

    “Does it effect the philosophical question of the compatibility of science and religion? Does it mean that Collins has more weight when talking about the scientific method? ”

    Yes to both questions. At least in the way the discourse goes on today. It’s not a matter of purely philosophical arguments. If a religious leader or theologian started babbling that “science and religion are perfectly compatible”, would you give a lot of weight to his/her opinion, given that there is no especially powerful/innovative philosophical argument backing it? Why do we give Dawkins’ opinions on biology more weight than say, Kent Hovind? In the debate of the compatibility of science and religion, lay people rely a lot on the utterances of scientific authorities, because only they have really known what doing science actually entails. And because Collins has done more science than all these four clowns combined, his opinion, taken on its own, is far more significant.

  17. Jim says:

    From the data shown, it would appear that anti-religious activism does far more harm to one’s ability to do science than religious belief.

  18. TheistDude says:

    Gnu says:

    “Even if you show that Collins has contributed a lot to science, so what? Does it effect the philosophical question of the compatibility of science and religion? Does it mean that Collins has more weight when talking about the scientific method?”

    Lol. You really don’t see the irony in what you just said? Muhuhuwahahahaha!!!! Hilarious!!

  19. Kevin says:

    “Lol. You really don’t see the irony in what you just said? ”

    No, I don’t. If you show me a Jain that murders, it does not mean that Jainism is compatible with murdering conscious creatures. It simply shows a Jain acting contrary to his philosophy. It does not mean that Jainist philosophy is compatible with harming other creatures. If you show me a Christian scientist, it does not show that Christianity is anymore compatible with science than alchemy is.

    If your response is in regards to the last question, to say so would be an argument from authority, in which I could cite another authority saying the opposite. Such a route would be self-defeating.

  20. Kevin says:

    “And the allusion to whether Collins’ religious beliefs will influence moral decisions is, as has been pointed out, based on prejudiced stereotypes which would never pass were it to be spoken of women, LGBT people, or ethnic minorities. Disgusting. And these people call themselves “rational”?”

    This is comparing apples and oranges. People act on their beliefs, there is no denying that. As such, they are highly relevant to hiring decisions. Collins was criticized on the beliefs that he has voiced, not on what the stereotypical Christian believes or what it is believed that Christians believe. And no, knowing someone’s gender, color, or sexual orientation does not indicate what their beliefs are, so your analysis is off-base here.

    “Yes to both questions. At least in the way the discourse goes on today. It’s not a matter of purely philosophical arguments. If a religious leader or theologian started babbling that “science and religion are perfectly compatible”, would you give a lot of weight to his/her opinion, given that there is no especially powerful/innovative philosophical argument backing it? Why do we give Dawkins’ opinions on biology more weight than say, Kent Hovind? In the debate of the compatibility of science and religion, lay people rely a lot on the utterances of scientific authorities, because only they have really known what doing science actually entails. And because Collins has done more science than all these four clowns combined, his opinion, taken on its own, is far more significant.”

    Not at all, I value Dawkins opinions more than Hovind’s because he backs them up with facts. He is able to reference the evidence in order to support his position whereas Hovind can’t. I scrutinize the arguments themselves and it doesn’t matter where they come from. You are getting close to an argument from authority here, which I don’t give any weight. If a religious leader gave an opinion without any backing, then I wouldn’t give any weight to their opinion, but there is nothing unique about the religious leader. Perhaps you could indulge me in telling me what authorities I rely on? Would I cite them as an authority? I doubt it. If you asked me what methodological science is all about, I wouldn’t name a single scientist, so I don’t know where you are going on about authorities.

  21. Kevin says:

    “It demonstrates that his ability to be a scientist has not been compromised by being a theist. And it does so in a very ironic manner.”

    And?

    “Glad you acknowledge it is only a philosophical question. We’ll get to that later.”

    What did you think it was? You can label yourself anything you want. You could say that you were an atheistic Christian. Does this mean that you can believe contradictory propositions simultaneously? No, those ideas are philosophically contradictory. However, in practice, you can massage (equivocate) the labels to make them fit. If you are going to say that you (or Collins) believe that moral questions are left to the supernatural and you can then investigate them by natural methods (i.e. science), I can only label you as confused. They are philosophically contradictory, yet you seem to think that it would have no impact on his decision making. The only conclusion would be that when Collins enters his office, he no longer believes such nonsense or as PZ would say, he has his atheist hat on.

    “It means that when Dawkins was peddling the pseudoscientific notion that a religious upbringing is child abuse, Collins was doing science.”

    I don’t know if you’re joking or just ignorant, but Dawkins never said that any religious upbringing is child abuse. He said that teaching your children about hell and the possibility that they would go there is child abuse. This is a real phenomenon and people suffer post traumatic stress like symptoms from it. There are groups that help these individuals so please don’t make light of their situation. As to your point, refer to above.

    “Harris’ “concerns” were misguided and rooted in simple-minded stereotypes. Collins has been head of the NIH for 3 years now. Has Harris been collecting data to test his concerns? No, he’s promoting himself and selling books about free will.”

    This doesn’t answer my question.

  22. “This is comparing apples and oranges. People act on their beliefs, there is no denying that. As such, they are highly relevant to hiring decisions. Collins was criticized on the beliefs that he has voiced, not on what the stereotypical Christian believes or what it is believed that Christians believe. And no, knowing someone’s gender, color, or sexual orientation does not indicate what their beliefs are, so your analysis is off-base here.”

    And people act based on their biological and cultural make-up as well.
    Francis Collins’ beliefs are well in line with any kind of mainline Christianity you can think of; in fact they would be considered very liberal in some Christian circles. Most importantly, I have never heard of him saying anything about science funding which relates to his personal beliefs. Any conclusions regarding whether these beliefs will “infiltrate” his ability to lead the NIH is based on pure prejudice; or worse, a kind of idealism which strives to ensure ideological purity in the organization. In other words, I suspect that many atheists would rather have a less respected, less published, less accomplished but gnu-atheism-sympathetic non-religious scientist rather than Collins as the director of NIH. Because “accomodationists” are simply “not worthy”, even if they have won every single scientific accolade possible.

    Oh but anyway – seriously, Kevin, drop the hypocrisy. If it were a Muslim who was in Collins’ position, would you dare to even whisper a word suspecting his capability to become director of NIH?

    “Not at all, I value Dawkins opinions more than Hovind’s because he backs them up with facts. He is able to reference the evidence in order to support his position whereas Hovind can’t. I scrutinize the arguments themselves and it doesn’t matter where they come from. ”

    Good – further intellectual posturing from our dancing atheist. You know, it’s people the likes of Coyne and his friends who keep saying that in order to competently comment about science (especially evolutionary biology) you need to master a certain body of knowledge (and which it is implied, theologians don’t). In other words, no, you can’t scrutinize an argument fairly if you haven’t been properly trained. And I don’t completely disagree with this – if you are a lay person, you have no way of really “checking the facts”, because you don’t have the time, resources, nor intellectual power. To some extent you have to rely on arguments from authority.

    (Again, we also have hypocrisy on parade here – “No serious scientist believes in evolution” is a statement which has been trumpeted over and over. Also it has happened often that any scientific argument against scientific consensus in a gnu-atheist-dominated forum will be followed with a “peer-reviewed paper citations to support that or fuck off” kind of reply.)

    I would like to remind you that numerous people who have “scrutinized the arguments themselves” have often come to conclusions against the scientific consensus. In fact, almost all creationists claim that. I also remember a long time ago, when deciding whether to become a creationist or evolutionist, that Answers in Genesis had an answer to every argument and evidence of evolution I read of. Of course, a qualified biologist would be able to rebut those answers in turn. But not a lay person whose scientific background and knowledge are already limited from the beginning.

    “You are getting close to an argument from authority here, which I don’t give any weight.”
    Arguments based solely on authority are often weightless, but as I have pointed out above, the opinion of experts do matter. When Dawkins says “Every serious scientist believes in evolution” and Hovind says “The majority of scientists are actually secretly aware that the evidence for evolution is eroding away”, which should you believe? The guy with a doctorate from Oxford or the theologian with a degree from a diploma mill? As a lay person, I have no direct access to the community of scientists.

    This is also a matter of that empirically-based rationality which your kind often claim to be devout followers of – philosophical arguments, especially about this topic, are no more than armchair reasoning. Ironically, it is also the gnu atheists who have given this kind of reply against philosophical arguments for the existence of God. Imagine if as a theologian I manage to advance a very strong argument for the compatibility of scientific thinking and being religious. And suppose the statistics say that the percentage of theistic scientists is close to zero, or worse, that many scientists report deconverting from their religion as a result of their scientific training. What weight would my argument have any more?

  23. Kevin says:

    “it’s people the likes of Coyne and his friends who keep saying that in order to competently comment about science (especially evolutionary biology) you need to master a certain body of knowledge (and which it is implied, theologians don’t).”

    I don’t think this is what they say. I think it is more of a “if you don’t want to look like a fool and be considerate of other people’s time, we recommend that you get the skill set first before commenting.” This advice would usually follow when philosophers (e.g. Plantinga) make dumb comments regarding biology. When people say that there is no creationist that understands evolution, you need to understand that they are speaking from personal experience that they have never interacted with a creationist who could explain evolutionary theory accurately. Similarly, I doubt that Coyne has interacted with theologians who were up to date on evolutionary biology. I suspect that he has concluded based on his experience that there is nothing in particular in a theology degree that prepares (and perhaps is counterproductive to) someone for intellectual discussion in his domain. You can only make strong arguments when they are built on true or likely true premises and those are empirical issues. So, when you don’t have knowledge of empirical issues, your contribution is null. The conclusion follows straight forward that theologians aren’t worth the time to talk to. No one has unlimited time so they set standards that you have to meet in order to talk to them, but this doesn’t impact the merit of the idea to be expressed. I think this xkcd comic sums it up very nicely: http://forums.xkcd.com/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=53288

    “I would like to remind you that numerous people who have “scrutinized the arguments themselves” have often come to conclusions against the scientific consensus.”

    I don’t care. I care about why they chose the other route and it better involve evidence or an explanation of why there is insufficient evidence for the opposite position. If you can’t articulate their reasons for bucking the trend, then I give it zero weight.

    “I also remember a long time ago, when deciding whether to become a creationist or evolutionist, that Answers in Genesis had an answer to every argument and evidence of evolution I read of. Of course, a qualified biologist would be able to rebut those answers in turn. But not a lay person whose scientific background and knowledge are already limited from the beginning.”

    I tried finding their arguments on their site, but I only found DVDs/Books for sale. I would be interested in looking at them in order to see how many could be rebutted without any credentials whatsoever beyond something like a GED. I would consider myself to be one of these lay people, since I don’t have a scientific background, yet I am comfortable discussing these issues because I can ask pointed questions (don’t need a philosophy degree for this either) and I have the mathematical framework in order to evaluate the incoming evidence (I admit, you need some math to assess study methodology for some fields and it helps in understanding how science works). It’s just a matter of finding the assertions and asking for the evidence for them.

    “When Dawkins says “Every serious scientist believes in evolution” and Hovind says “The majority of scientists are actually secretly aware that the evidence for evolution is eroding away”, which should you believe?”

    I believe the one in which the evidence agrees with. The consensus in biology is that evolution is true and there is no evidence that casts doubt on that fact. Anyone who states otherwise without compelling evidence is not going to be believed. If the quotes were reversed, there would be nothing special about Dawkins that would make someone doubt the theory of evolution based on that quote alone unless he then presented the evidence that cast doubt on the theory, in which we can then evaluate that evidence on its merits.

    “This is also a matter of that empirically-based rationality which your kind often claim to be devout followers of – philosophical arguments, especially about this topic, are no more than armchair reasoning. Ironically, it is also the gnu atheists who have given this kind of reply against philosophical arguments for the existence of God. “

    You have to be careful here. When I say this is a philosophical issue, I am talking about semantics. We are talking about the meaning of two labels and seeing if their meaning contradicts each other. In other words, can we apply those two labels to the same concept/object. Two other labels that have been questioned in a similar way are skepticism and theism. You could also apply it to skepticism and raelism if you so wish. Note, I am not arguing that either concept exists (as is, someone actually believes one or the other) in any shape or form. I hardly see this in reference to the existence of God and I don’t see how it could be used to support such a concept. What usually happens is that someone will give an empirical argument and then call it a philosophical one when someone asks them for evidence for their ideas.

    “Imagine if as a theologian I manage to advance a very strong argument for the compatibility of scientific thinking and being religious. And suppose the statistics say that the percentage of theistic scientists is close to zero, or worse, that many scientists report deconverting from their religion as a result of their scientific training. What weight would my argument have any more?”

    It wouldn’t matter. You can say that atheism is compatible with communism and you would be correct. Just because the world has given up communism (and hence the statistics say that the number of atheist communists is close to zero) doesn’t mean anything to the compatibility of the ideas. I don’t see the actual number of people practicing both ideas as all that much relevant. Just a note, just because atheism and communism are compatible does not mean that an atheist can then, ceteris paribus, adopt communism. They may have other values that contradict communism. Similarly atheism and raelism are compatible, but raelism and skepticism are not, and since most (outspoken) atheists are skeptics, their position would be incompatible with raelism.

  24. Kevin says:

    Missed a section:

    “Oh but anyway – seriously, Kevin, drop the hypocrisy. If it were a Muslim who was in Collins’ position, would you dare to even whisper a word suspecting his capability to become director of NIH?”

    If they said that science was unable to investigate certain problems, I would have issue with them leading a team that needs to solve those problems regardless of who they are. This is the key issue. This is almost like Perry saying that Texas’s budget problems are supernatural in nature. I think this would put a lot of atheists on edge. Maybe they would not follow through with what they said, making our worries not come to life, but that does little to show that the original questions were prejudicial or incorrect to be had. However, without knowing more about the NIH and whether the organization covers issues regarding morality, I can’t comment on whether his comments are relevant or not.

  25. johnny5 says:

    You can also thank Vox Day for some of the gnus crawling about.

  26. Michael says:

    Me: “It demonstrates that his ability to be a scientist has not been compromised by being a theist. And it does so in a very ironic manner.”

    Kevin: “And?”

    So there isn’t a point to the “incompatibility argument.”

    Me: “Glad you acknowledge it is only a philosophical question. We’ll get to that later.”

    Kevin: “What did you think it was?”

    Given that Gnus sneer at philosophy and claim they only believe something that is back up by “objective evidence,” I find it significant that the incompatibility argument doesn’t have any empirical significance and is not rooted in empirical reality.

    “However, in practice, you can massage (equivocate) the labels to make them fit. If you are going to say that you (or Collins) believe that moral questions are left to the supernatural and you can then investigate them by natural methods (i.e. science), I can only label you as confused.”

    Given your confusion about the data behind the graph in the OP, I’m not all that concerned about your labels.

    They are philosophically contradictory, yet you seem to think that it would have no impact on his decision making.

    Why are you retreating from the empirical evidence? It demonstrates that his ability to be a scientist has not been compromised by being a theist. Your private concerns about his “decision making” are delusions.

    The only conclusion would be that when Collins enters his office, he no longer believes such nonsense or as PZ would say, he has his atheist hat on.

    It’s the only conclusion that exists in your head. Are you under the impression that theistic scientists expect to detect miracles in their experiments?

    I don’t know if you’re joking or just ignorant, but Dawkins never said that any religious upbringing is child abuse. He said that teaching your children about hell and the possibility that they would go there is child abuse.

    He also said that referring to your children as Christian is child abuse. It’s all pseudoscientific nonsense backed up with nothing more than anecdotes and amateur philosophy.

    This is a real phenomenon and people suffer post traumatic stress like symptoms from it.

    Where’s your scientific evidence for this belief?

    “This doesn’t answer my question.”

    The answer was – Harris’s concerns were always irrational to begin with.

  27. Kevin says:

    Michael, perhaps you should view my comment above in response to physphilmusic. If you want to have a rational civil discussion with someone, you should brush up on your philosophical and math skills. You seem to be having trouble interpreting what I am saying. I suggest that you take more effort to understand the next time you engage someone in a dialogue.

  28. “I believe the one in which the evidence agrees with. The consensus in biology is that evolution is true and there is no evidence that casts doubt on that fact. Anyone who states otherwise without compelling evidence is not going to be believed. If the quotes were reversed, there would be nothing special about Dawkins that would make someone doubt the theory of evolution based on that quote alone unless he then presented the evidence that cast doubt on the theory, in which we can then evaluate that evidence on its merits.”

    And how do you know this? Do you personally know a large number of scientists? Without any consideration as to Dawkins’ and Hovind’s’ backgrounds/credentials, to a lay person one can believe any other. “Evidence” is often limited in its use to a lay person because there is no direct access to it. For example, evolutionists can show me lists of transitional fossils, but a creationist would say that they’re not as much as there should be. How, as a lay person, would I be able to evaluate that claim? Without the relevant knowledge, I would not be able to make a good mathematical estimate to “scrutinize the argument for myself.”

    “We are talking about the meaning of two labels and seeing if their meaning contradicts each other.”
    Most people are more interested in the more straightforward question of whether accepting religious claims hinders one’s ability to be a scientist (i.e. to think scientifically and rationally). That’s what at stake.

    “It wouldn’t matter. You can say that atheism is compatible with communism and you would be correct.”

    Again, this is intellectual dishonesty on parade. There have been countless accusations by atheists that philosophy is not based on reality, on objective, empirical evidence. The fact that atheists like to trumpet the statistic that 93% of “top scientists” (actually members of the NAS) are non-theists shows this.

    And this is not merely a question of compatibility of mere ideas – it’s a question of the compatibility of ways of thinking.

    “I don’t think this is what they say. I think it is more of a “if you don’t want to look like a fool and be considerate of other people’s time, we recommend that you get the skill set first before commenting.” This advice would usually follow when philosophers (e.g. Plantinga) make dumb comments regarding biology.”

    This is no different from what I was saying. In other words, if a theologian has limited biological knowledge, he’d better stick to listening to qualified biologists speak on evolution.

    “Similarly, I doubt that Coyne has interacted with theologians who were up to date on evolutionary biology. I suspect that he has concluded based on his experience that there is nothing in particular in a theology degree that prepares (and perhaps is counterproductive to) someone for intellectual discussion in his domain. ”

    And the fatal error of the gnus is that they have a double standards with respect to themselves. They do not prepare themselves properly for intellectual discussion in philosophy or theology, and faithfully cling to the belief that there is nothing substantial to master in philosophical/theological discourse. Hence the embarrassing idiocy of Dawkins’ efforts to portray religion, religious people, and religious thinking. It’s not only that he’s wrong, he’s embarrasingly wrong. Another example – Edward Feser has also shown how Coyne often makes embarrassing mistakes when attempting to philosophize.

  29. The only conclusion would be that when Collins enters his office, he no longer believes such nonsense or as PZ would say, he has his atheist hat on.

    It’s the only conclusion that exists in your head. Are you under the impression that theistic scientists expect to detect miracles in their experiments? ”

    I believe that you are trying to hide yourself from answering Michael’s point here. It’s one which has baffled me for years: why do atheists seem to think that being a theist means expecting the natural world not to behave in the way most people (including non-theists) think it does? Why should a “Christian worldview” entail irreducible, inexplicable supernatural factors always being at work, disrupting the natural order? This is a prime example of what I consider atheists being totally clueless about what religious people believe, and how they think. It sounds ridiculous and embarrassing.

    Remember that Newton was a theist – and he did not view his Three Laws as evidence against theism or theistic thinking. In fact, many theists would view the existence of a supreme God as good reason to think that the regularity we see in nature as being designed, and hence capable of being investigated.

  30. Michael says:

    Hi physphilmusic,

    I believe that you are trying to hide yourself from answering Michael’s point here.

    That, and all the other points I raised.

    It’s one which has baffled me for years: why do atheists seem to think that being a theist means expecting the natural world not to behave in the way most people (including non-theists) think it does? Why should a “Christian worldview” entail irreducible, inexplicable supernatural factors always being at work, disrupting the natural order? This is a prime example of what I consider atheists being totally clueless about what religious people believe, and how they think. It sounds ridiculous and embarrassing.

    Indeed. I think it has something to do with the fact that Gnus advocate for the God-of-the-gaps approach. In their mind, if God exists, we should not be able to make any sense of the world and all science would fail. Since we can make sense out of the world, and science works, God does not exist. Gnus are always looking for ways to validate their self-perception as being smarter than everyone else. That’s why they love to misrepresent arguments and battle against straw men.

  31. Kevin says:

    “And how do you know this?”

    You can read books. You can go to a museum. You can look at graphics/videos. When Dawkins says the giraffes laryngeal nerve goes from the brain down through the neck, into the chest, and then back up through the neck to the larynx, you don’t have to take his word for it, you can watch him on YouTube showing it to you on a deceased giraffe. As far as the general drivers, students learn genetics in high school biology and natural selection has a lot to do with population dynamics, which is mathematically modeled. You can learn a lot about different animals via Animal Planet (mating behaviors/sexual selection, predator-prey relations/natural selection). Nowhere in this process is someone saying “Trust that this is true because I said it.” If they did, their comment would immediately be axed.

    “Do you personally know a large number of scientists? Without any consideration as to Dawkins’ and Hovind’s’ backgrounds/credentials, to a lay person one can believe any other.”

    No. I can’t say that I personally know any scientists. However, I don’t see how someone could take Hovind seriously, even without knowing his credentials. They might say, let me check out some of his assertions to see if they are true. However, after they fact check his claims, its game over.

    “For example, evolutionists can show me lists of transitional fossils, but a creationist would say that they’re not as much as there should be.”

    This is the point where you ask questions. Ask them how many there should be. Ask them at what rate animals fossilize. Ask them what proportion of fossil rich land has been investigated. Ask them how they know these percentages to be accurate. Ask them why the number of fossils is significant to mutations and natural selection (are they trying to call into question the age of the Earth)? Just because someone states (i.e. asserts) an objection doesn’t mean that they don’t have to back it up.

    “Most people are more interested in the more straightforward question of whether accepting religious claims hinders one’s ability to be a scientist (i.e. to think scientifically and rationally). That’s what at stake.”

    I don’t see the equivalence you made between the ability to be a scientist and being rational/thinking scientifically. You can be a physicist and think that the Grand Canyon proves a global flood. You can be a geologist and think that aliens have visited us. The irrational beliefs are in a different field than the person does science so they don’t necessarily come into contact with each other. However, would it be prejudicial or irrational to ask the physicist whether he also thinks the universe is 6,000 years old? I don’t think people doubt that you can be a scientist and have irrational beliefs. However, since you have equated being a scientist with thinking scientifically, then it’s an entirely different story in terms of this discussion. We would then have to see how Christianity passes the scientific method. I don’t think you meant to go down this road…

    “Again, this is intellectual dishonesty on parade. There have been countless accusations by atheists that philosophy is not based on reality, on objective, empirical evidence. The fact that atheists like to trumpet the statistic that 93% of “top scientists” (actually members of the NAS) are non-theists shows this.”

    I don’t really know what triggered this response because I agree that philosophy doesn’t deal in empirical facts. This is why I said that the compatibility issue is not reflected by those who apply said labels to themselves. I don’t know why the NAS stat is relevant here. I am not responsible for what other atheists say. I would have to evaluate in what context they quote such a figure. I suspect that it is quoted in response to someone cherry picking a scientist and presenting them as an authority. I would be opposed to its use when talking about compatibility.

    “And the fatal error of the gnus is that they have a double standards with respect to themselves. They do not prepare themselves properly for intellectual discussion in philosophy or theology, and faithfully cling to the belief that there is nothing substantial to master in philosophical/theological discourse. Hence the embarrassing idiocy of Dawkins’ efforts to portray religion, religious people, and religious thinking. It’s not only that he’s wrong, he’s embarrasingly wrong. Another example – Edward Feser has also shown how Coyne often makes embarrassing mistakes when attempting to philosophize.”

    There really isn’t anything of substance that I can comment on here. Do you have any examples that you would like to discuss? I often hear that Dawkins or Coyne has shown “embarrassing idiocy” but I hardly ever hear good examples. I’m curious, are you from America or are you familiar with the religious climate in America? Many people criticized Dawkins for not writing his book towards theologians, but that doesn’t mean that he misrepresented his target audience. Also, the funny thing is that Harris is the one that probably got the most criticism from philosophers yet he has a degree in philosophy so even being prepared does not save you from being called philosophically naive. Also, there is nothing special about “gnu atheists” in this respect; Richard Feynman, Neil Degrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, etc. have all said disparaging remarks about philosophy that have given them criticism.

    “I believe that you are trying to hide yourself from answering Michael’s point here. It’s one which has baffled me for years: why do atheists seem to think that being a theist means expecting the natural world not to behave in the way most people (including non-theists) think it does? Why should a “Christian worldview” entail irreducible, inexplicable supernatural factors always being at work, disrupting the natural order? This is a prime example of what I consider atheists being totally clueless about what religious people believe, and how they think. It sounds ridiculous and embarrassing.

    Remember that Newton was a theist”

    It’s ironic that you pick Newton as an example. Newton was unable to figure out how the solar system was stable so he invoked God as an “over seer” instead of developing perturbation theory. He thought that the solar system would be unstable without “inexplicable supernatural factors always being at work”. Neil talks about it more here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ti3mtDC2fQo&feature=related

    However, no I don’t assume that Christians expect anything. For me, it is an empty label (close enough, my default definition of Christianity is God resurrected Jesus for atonement unless told otherwise) until the speaker fills it with content. In this case, we have the speaker saying that scientific experiments will not yield any useful information about a given topic. This limits their ability to conduct research in said field. They may however, be productive in other fields. I don’t see how this is even in question. This isn’t some stereotype of Christians, this isn’t some generalization; this is simply taking the person’s word at face value of what they believe.

    “I think it has something to do with the fact that Gnus advocate for the God-of-the-gaps approach. In their mind, if God exists, we should not be able to make any sense of the world and all science would fail. Since we can make sense out of the world, and science works, God does not exist. Gnus are always looking for ways to validate their self-perception as being smarter than everyone else. That’s why they love to misrepresent arguments and battle against straw men.”

    Wow, stop the madness. This is what I was talking about earlier. You seem to be painting a picture of what an atheist believes and then projecting that onto me. You then attack said position with all the vitriol you have been storing up. You need to view each new person as a clean slate. I don’t necessarily have the same beliefs as the previous atheist that you have talked to so you need to not apply their statements to me. Your tendency to generalize atheists is not helping. I don’t know what would help you in this respect. Would it be a philosophy class so you can learn how to apply the principle of charity or learn the fallacy of faulty generalization, or perhaps you need a stress management class?

  32. Michael says:

    Me: “I think it has something to do with the fact that Gnus advocate for the God-of-the-gaps approach. In their mind, if God exists, we should not be able to make any sense of the world and all science would fail. Since we can make sense out of the world, and science works, God does not exist. Gnus are always looking for ways to validate their self-perception as being smarter than everyone else. That’s why they love to misrepresent arguments and battle against straw men.”

    Kevin: Wow, stop the madness. This is what I was talking about earlier. You seem to be painting a picture of what an atheist believes and then projecting that onto me. You then attack said position with all the vitriol you have been storing up. You need to view each new person as a clean slate. I don’t necessarily have the same beliefs as the previous atheist that you have talked to so you need to not apply their statements to me.

    Calm down, Kevin. I wasn’t even talking about you. Physphilmusic raised a generic question – “It’s one which has baffled me for years: why do atheists seem to think that being a theist means expecting the natural world not to behave in the way most people (including non-theists) think it does? Why should a “Christian worldview” entail irreducible, inexplicable supernatural factors always being at work, disrupting the natural order?”

    From extensive experience, I’ve noticed the same thing too and it is a simple fact that many Gnus advocate a god-of-the-gaps approach that entails the belief that God’s existence is incompatible with science. It looks as if my observations struck a raw nerve.

    Your tendency to generalize atheists is not helping. I don’t know what would help you in this respect. Would it be a philosophy class so you can learn how to apply the principle of charity or learn the fallacy of faulty generalization, or perhaps you need a stress management class?

    I am happy to apply the principle of charity to those who apply the principle of charity. I am also willing to refrain from generalizations with those who are likewise willing to refrain. So are you trying to imply that you are not a Gnu?

  33. Kevin says:

    “It’s one which has baffled me for years: why do atheists seem to think that being a theist means expecting the natural world not to behave in the way most people (including non-theists) think it does? Why should a “Christian worldview” entail irreducible, inexplicable supernatural factors always being at work, disrupting the natural order?”

    I’m glad you put “Christian worldview” in quotes because there is no one definition for what it is. However, if we agree that we are talking about what the majority of Christians believe, then it is in fact the case that the Christian worldview involves supernatural factors at work since the majority of Christians believe that God answers prayers. If you don’t believe this, you are in the minority. Do you believe that God is able to alter nature in response to your faith? If yes, you are representative of popular or mainstream Christianity. If not, then you in the minority and are not part of the God Delusion’s target audience. Dawkins has made it clear who his target audience is, so this is the position he has chosen to argue against. This is why theologians get challenged when their congregation has entirely different religious beliefs than they do. They get asked, “Why don’t you be more explicit that such and such is just a metaphor?”

    “I am happy to apply the principle of charity to those who apply the principle of charity. I am also willing to refrain from generalizations with those who are likewise willing to refrain. So are you trying to imply that you are not a Gnu?”

    How do you define “Gnu”? What qualifies someone to be a “Gnu” beyond the mere fact that they are an atheist?

    Physphilmusic,
    Today there is a nice example of what I was talking about over at Blag Hag: http://freethoughtblogs.com/blaghag/2012/04/dear-e-o-wilson-please-retire-or-stick-to-ants/

    She is a graduate in genetics but all of the critique could have been done by anyone who practiced skepticism. This has nothing to do with religious issues; the divide was between kin and group selection. As you can see, arguments from authority carry little weight. Your name might get us in the door, but it does not help your argument.

  34. johnny5 says:

    This is kind of like when Dawkins was bashing Simon Conway Morris for holding religious beliefs. It was odd to see him criticize Morris considering Morris at least was an actual scientist and not mainly a popularizer of others findings in science.

  35. “Do you believe that God is able to alter nature in response to your faith? If yes, you are representative of popular or mainstream Christianity. If not, then you in the minority and are not part of the God Delusion’s target audience. ”

    Just like the majority of other believers, I certainly do believe that God could, if he wanted to, suspend natural laws in reponse to my prayers. However, what you fail to understand is that most Christians do not think, nor hope, that God does so in most of his responses to their prayers. When we pray for healing, for example, we pray things such that the doctors will be able to do their job effectively. We pray so that the medicine will work as it should. And yes, we may also pray for a miracle, in the case of very serious illnesses, but we also know that such a thing is rare. Most importantly, we pray so that both the patient and ourselves will be “comforted” no matter what the outcome is, dead or alive. In the majority of cases, the patient with terminal illness dies. We don’t view that as evidence that God doesn’t care, because we never expected a miracle in the first place, although of course we also do not completely discount that possibility.

    Read Hitchens’ account of Francis Collins treating his cancer at his deathbed. Collins doesn’t hope for miracles, because he knows that even if they do exist, they are not commonplace. OK, perhaps some charismatic/pentecostal groups are hoping for a miracle at every corner (or rather, they seem to do so, judging from the rhetoric), but not with most mainline Christians.

    Now you can comment that it’s not exactly clear how is it that God intervenes to answer our prayers if not by disrupting the natural order. But it’s very clear that Christians don’t think that way. They rarely think that way in their daily lives, and of course not at all when conducting business, or doing science. This is true of even very conservative, fundamentalist Christians. I have had extensive experience in churches which believe in YEC and strict inerrancy of the Bible, and their attitude towards God’s intervention in the world is like the above.

    I believe that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. So that if there is a claimed miracle, I tend to be skeptic about it. However, the attitude of atheists is often such that it seems that they would never believe in miracles, even if it were dangling in front of their very eyes.

  36. “How do you define “Gnu”? What qualifies someone to be a “Gnu” beyond the mere fact that they are an atheist? ”

    I think a good litmus test for whether someone qualifies as a “gnu” is considering their response to the Four Horsemen. Do you think The God Delusion is an excellent contribution to the atheism/theism debate? Do you agree with Harrisian claims that religion is the cause of the majority of conflicts? Do you think that PZ Myers is an outstanding intellectual instead of an ignorant, bigoted, and embarrasing charlatan?

  37. And about the link to the Wilson/kin selection controversy: I find it amusing that the blogger is willing to denounce Nature (citing its increase in retractions), while at the same time I have seen atheists clinging to the journal as the Vatican of science.

    Additionally, famous figures uttering claims without evidence wasn’t what I was talking about. It’s not that simple, Kevin.

  38. Kevin says:

    “When we pray for healing, for example, we pray things such that the doctors will be able to do their job effectively. We pray so that the medicine will work as it should. And yes, we may also pray for a miracle, in the case of very serious illnesses, but we also know that such a thing is rare. Most importantly, we pray so that both the patient and ourselves will be “comforted” no matter what the outcome is, dead or alive.”

    So let’s say that you pray for the doctors will be able to do their job effectively and they are able to do their job effectively. Does this mean that God answered your prayer? What was God’s role in this process? How did he answer it? From the above, it sounds like Person X hopes Y will happen and Y (or maybe -Y) happens. How is this any different than saying (not in a sarcastic manner) that Lady Luck gave me three sevens on the slot machine? You say a deity answered a prayer, yet it appears that you think the deity didn’t even play a role in the process, so why use such misleading language? It borders on dishonesty.

    When you say a recovery from a very serious illness is a “miracle”, are you using this term to signify that it was simply a rare event or are you signifying a supernatural intervention?

    “This is true of even very conservative, fundamentalist Christians. I have had extensive experience in churches which believe in YEC and strict inerrancy of the Bible, and their attitude towards God’s intervention in the world is like the above.”

    Really, what happened to Matthew 17:20? “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Either no one has faith or we should expect aberrations of nature every day or they do not believe in strict inerrancy. You have eliminated options 2 and 3, which leaves us with option 1. Uh oh, is your faith in God lacking?

  39. Michael says:

    Kevin,
    Le’s try it this way.

    You are clearly plugged into the atheist/religion debates. So, do you agree with Coyne, Stenger, and Myers about how atheists should react to religion or do you agree with what they call the accommodationists?

  40. Kevin says:

    “Do you think The God Delusion is an excellent contribution to the atheism/theism debate?”

    I didn’t get much out of it. To be honest, I don’t think there is much to contribute to the debate anyway. After all, it is a couple of thousand years old and its not like theists are coming up with new evidence. What would you consider to be an excellent contribution?

    “Do you agree with Harrisian claims that religion is the cause of the majority of conflicts?

    I don’t know if he has made the claim that the majority of conflicts are based on religion, but I would say it can definitely cause conflicts and exacerbate conflicts caused by other reasons. I wouldn’t put a specific percentage on it without taking a sample of conflicts and evaluating the causes but I would suspect that economic factors would be the leading cause, not religion.

    “Do you think that PZ Myers is an outstanding intellectual instead of an ignorant, bigoted, and embarrassing charlatan?”

    I don’t tend to ascribe behavioral labels to people, but I would lean towards the former rather than the latter.

    So, what do you think, am I a Gnu?

    “And about the link to the Wilson/kin selection controversy: I find it amusing that the blogger is willing to denounce Nature (citing its increase in retractions), while at the same time I have seen atheists clinging to the journal as the Vatican of science.”

    I don’t know if you are trying to come off poorly, but getting a study in a journal doesn’t make it dogma. Like I said before, a good name will get you attention, as in “publish in Nature, and we’ll take the time to evaluate your methodology/conclusion/etc.” Just because it is in Nature doesn’t help the argument. An argument succeeds or fails on its own merits.

    “Additionally, famous figures uttering claims without evidence wasn’t what I was talking about. It’s not that simple, Kevin.”

    You said that if it were between scientist X and creationist Y making assertions (including assertions of empirical evidence such as “We have such and such fossil”), you would be unable to tell who is correct and would have to defer to the authority of the scientist, correct? Well, you don’t have to do this. There are ways to fact check the assertions being made. Many people use authority as a shortcut since they have found scientists to be more reliable than diploma mill credentialed creationists, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t spend some extra time fact-checking if you have doubts. If this wasn’t your point, then please be more specific in what your point is.

  41. Kevin says:

    “Kevin,
    Le’s try it this way.
    You are clearly plugged into the atheist/religion debates. So, do you agree with Coyne, Stenger, and Myers about how atheists should react to religion or do you agree with what they call the accommodationists?”

    I think you may be barking up the wrong tree. They have repeatedly said that they agree with multiple approaches, which involves accommodationists. It’s just that they have taken the “bad cop” role. Here is PZ’s answer to how atheists should react to religion: “The answer is obvious: any and every way they want to.” (http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/03/01/those-sleazy-lying-harvard-humanists/) Did you have something different in mind? I just want to clarify if this is what you had in mind.

  42. Michael says:

    Kevin,

    While all Gnus are atheists, not all atheists are Gnus. That you think the Gnus(“they”) have “have repeatedly said that they agree with multiple approaches, which involves accommodationists” tells us you know the difference between a Gnu and an accommodationist. So one more time – are you a Gnu or are you an accommodationist?

  43. Kevin says:

    Then I would not describe myself as a Gnu atheist. As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing unique about Gnu atheists (other than perhaps publishing books/blogs, which I have not). It originally started off only referring to just Dawkins, Dennet, Hitchens, and Harris. The label didn’t have any content, it merely referred to this group of people. This group seems to grow at the rate that theologians accuse someone of being a “New” atheist (which also doesn’t apply to me), typically in the pejorative sense.

    As far as accommodationists is concerned, I would not fit into that group as well. From what I can discern, accommodationists are concerned with increasing the acceptance of evolution among believers as an end goal (usually by means of saying that religion and evolution are compatible to people who have religious beliefs that have been falsified by science). I don’t agree with that. I think that the goal should be to raise scientific literacy rather than individual beliefs. Also, I don’t think lying is the best method to earn someone’s trust. I don’t think such a plan would succeed.

    I’ve put forth my understanding of the terms and have found that I don’t fit into either group. If you think that they make a proper dichotomy, please define them. One last time, according to you, what qualifies someone to be a “Gnu” beyond the mere fact that they are an atheist?

  44. Michael says:

    “Then I would not describe myself as a Gnu atheist.”

    Why not?

  45. Kevin says:

    Did you read what I wrote about how people become Gnu atheists? I said that they become Gnu atheists because the label was put on them by someone else. Well, technically, the label was “New” atheism, and then it was turned to Gnu atheism to mock the original. This is hardly a label that someone uses to describe themselves and since it is content-free, its little more than a pejorative.

    To press you again, “according to you, what qualifies someone to be a “Gnu” beyond the mere fact that they are an atheist?”

  46. I would be very happy to explain the mental processes which occurs in the minds of believers when they pray and when they decide whether God has answered a prayer or not. But first it must be made clear that such an explanation is not relevant to the original charge – that believers expect the natural world not to behave as it usually does. Call it intellectually dishonest, or cognitively dissonant if you want – but it has been rebutted, correct? You no longer have any basis to think that Collins puts on an “atheist hat” when he does science.

    But on the other hand, we have this –
    Really, what happened to Matthew 17:20? “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Either no one has faith or we should expect aberrations of nature every day or they do not believe in strict inerrancy. You have eliminated options 2 and 3, which leaves us with option 1. Uh oh, is your faith in God lacking?

    You know, I laugh your ridiculous attempts to do biblical interpretation for us. Do you seriously think any fundamentalist Christian, no matter how extreme, believes that “real faith” is able to do the equivalent of casually moving mountains? No one has ever interpreted the verse that way, Kevin. Your false trilemma sounds like a desperate attempt to fit the concept of “faith” into your preconceived, Myerian notions of what it should be. Let me say one thing, though: to be honest, I also cannot claim to fully understand what “faith” is or should entail, Kevin, but what I definitely know is that it’s not as simplistic as your outlandish caricature.

  47. After all, it is a couple of thousand years old and its not like theists are coming up with new evidence. What would you consider to be an excellent contribution?

    Hmm – how about Plantinga’s Warrant trilogy, God and Other Minds Swinburne’s Theism trilogy, Sobel’s Logic and Theism, Mackie’s The Miracle of Theism, Oppy’s Arguing about Gods, The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, or even The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. I don’t claim to have read every single work in that list – but I know enough to confidently state that these are the kinds of books which make good contribution to the debate. Oh – and no, I’m afraid to say that your claim that “its not like theists are coming up with new evidence” is pure bullshit. It’s actually a prime example of an unjustified assertion which can be debunked in five minutes with a Google search.

    “So, what do you think, am I a Gnu?”

    The only non-gnu tendency in you is in believing that economic reasons are probably more responsible for causing wars than religion. So yes, by all accounts you seem to qualify as a gnu. Note that you don’t have to self-declare as one. Based on our interaction so far, it also seems that you don’t value any other ways of knowing besides the scientific method, which almost definitely puts you in the New Atheist camp.

  48. “This is hardly a label that someone uses to describe themselves and since it is content-free, its little more than a pejorative.”

    It’s no more pejorative than calling people “fundies”. Or even “accomodationists”.

  49. Michael says:

    Well, technically, the label was “New” atheism, and then it was turned to Gnu atheism to mock the original. This is hardly a label that someone uses to describe themselves and since it is content-free, its little more than a pejorative.

    Actually, the New Atheists took the name “Gnu” for themselves. Jerry Coyne helped to promulgate it. They don’t consider it pejorative. So you seem to be saying that you agree with the Gnus, you just don’t want to be called Gnu, right?

    To press you again, “according to you, what qualifies someone to be a “Gnu” beyond the mere fact that they are an atheist?”

    It can’t be the mere fact that they are an atheist, given that not all atheists are Gnus. You need to think about the two camps of atheists, where the one camp that has taken on the name Gnu ridicules and mocks the other camp as faitheists and accommodationists. How do those Gnus see themselves as being different from the accommodationists and faitheists?

  50. Kevin says:

    “Do you seriously think any fundamentalist Christian, no matter how extreme, believes that “real faith” is able to do the equivalent of casually moving mountains? I also cannot claim to fully understand what “faith” is or should entail, Kevin, but what I definitely know is that it’s not as simplistic as your outlandish caricature.”

    No, it’s merely to point out the fact that people who say that they believe every word of the bible to be true actually don’t. They are lying. Ask them whether the passage is true, I suspect they will say yes. Ask them whether they have faith, I suspect they will say yes. Then it follows that nothing is impossible for them, yet they would deny this. This is not logically possible so somewhere in the formulation, there is an error, either they are not an inerrantist, don’t have faith, etc. Also, it doesn’t matter what I think faith is, it only matters what the person answering the question perceives faith to be and whether they have it according to said definition. Let me make it simpler for you, they affirm the statement “If you have faith, then nothing is impossible for you” and they affirm the statement “I have faith.” This is simple logic that it follows that nothing is possible for them. Is it a caricature that I expect them to think logically? I surely hope not.

    “Plantinga’s Warrant trilogy, God and Other Minds Swinburne’s Theism trilogy, Sobel’s Logic and Theism, Mackie’s The Miracle of Theism, Oppy’s Arguing about Gods, The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, or even The Cambridge Companion to Atheism.”

    I’m familiar with Plantinga’s warranted belief, but I haven’t read all of his books. I don’t see how warranted belief could be construed as evidence for any belief. He is not trying to present something that makes theism more likely to be true. He is presenting something that, if accepted, would mean that theism is rational to believe in. Couldn’t find the second book by Swineburne, but Alvin Plantinga has a book by the same name, so I’ll consider that. The ontological and teleological argument could hardly be considered new. Also, changing the syntax of an argument (i.e. putting it into modal logic) doesn’t contribute any new evidence. From what I can tell from the TOC of Mackie’s Miracle of Theism goes over arguments presented centuries ago. Some of these are a little out of my price range, but I have read McGrew’s section from Blackwell. Whenever I read philosophy, I never feel I have learned anything, that the authors are making too many assertions without backing up their claims or that their claims are tautological and hence a waste of time. If you are looking for examples of new evidence, you should be looking for books in Biblical history, not philosophy.

    “Oh – and no, I’m afraid to say that your claim that “its not like theists are coming up with new evidence” is pure bullshit.”

    Cite examples then. When I Google it, I come up with intelligent design, Aquina’s first cause, miracles (the site also happens to include miracles from contradictory religions), TAG, The Moral Argument, Pascal’s wager, “self-authenticating witness of God’s Holy Spirit,” etc. Do you think that these arguments are valid and sound? Do you think that the arguments or premises of these arguments raise the probability of a God existing? When I say new evidence, I am not talking about circulating words around, I am talking about coming up with something that raises the probability that the proposition “A god exists” is true.

    “Actually, the New Atheists took the name “Gnu” for themselves. Jerry Coyne helped to promulgate it. They don’t consider it pejorative. So you seem to be saying that you agree with the Gnus, you just don’t want to be called Gnu, right?”

    Let’s settle on the definition that physphilmusic came up with, a Gnu is an atheist that believes that empirical observation is the only way we have of increasing our understanding about the world we live in. Under this definition I would be comfortable being called a Gnu. I don’t mind labels when they are discrete classifications, but when I think they are prone to be abused (e.g. are too ambiguous as to who qualifies); I tend to refrain from labeling myself. For example, political classifications; you could say that someone is either a Republican or a Democrat, but we know that these labels don’t do justice to their position and can give the wrong impression. For this reason, if you asked me what my political affiliations is I would ask you with respect to what issue.

    “It can’t be the mere fact that they are an atheist, given that not all atheists are Gnus. You need to think about the two camps of atheists, where the one camp that has taken on the name Gnu ridicules and mocks the other camp as faitheists and accommodationists. How do those Gnus see themselves as being different from the accommodationists and faitheists?”

    Are you saying that the two camps make a true dichotomy?

  51. Michael says:

    Kevin,

    “Are you saying that the two camps make a true dichotomy?”

    No, I am asking you which camp you belong to. If you don’t belong to the Gnu camp, I am asking you why not, especially given that you parrot so much Gnu thinking. You continue to evade these simple points of clarification with needlessly complex meanderings.

    Your obfuscation is beginning to annoy me. You came to this blog with nothing more than a confused defense of the Gnu leaders above and now offer nothing but Gnu talking points. You imply there is some form of distance between yourself and the Gnus, but can point to nothing to validate the impression you seek to create.

    So let’s deal with one your Gnu talking points:

    He said that teaching your children about hell and the possibility that they would go there is child abuse. This is a real phenomenon and people suffer post traumatic stress like symptoms from it.

    Two questions for you:

    1. Do you have any scientific evidence to back up your reality claim? Please cite the peer reviewed papers that have studied this “real phenomenon.

    2. If teaching your children about hell and the possibility that they would go there is child abuse, and child abuse is illegal, do you think teaching your children about hell should be illegal? Of do you think the state should look the other way when it comes to child abuse?

  52. “Do you think that these arguments are valid and sound? Do you think that the arguments or premises of these arguments raise the probability of a God existing? When I say new evidence, I am not talking about circulating words around, I am talking about coming up with something that raises the probability that the proposition “A god exists” is true. ”

    I do not require that an idea be “valid and sound” (rather redundant huh?) to me in order to be considered “additional evidence” or “significant contribution to the debate”. For example, I may think the evidential problem of evil ultimately isn’t “sound”, but it is still a good argument to think about. The reason I have this outlook is because philosophical debates are ongoing – they never end. It’s ridiculous to consider everyone you disagree with as having contributed nothing to the debate. This seems to be the attitude of gnus:
    Atheist: “No one has ever presented evidence for the claim that God exists.”
    Theist: “Alright then. I’ll give you a piece of evidence.” *presents the kalam cosmological argument*
    Atheist: “The argument is flawed for the following reasons…”
    Theist: “No, I disagree with you, because…”
    *continues debate*
    Half an hour later, the debate reaches an impasse.
    Atheist: “SEE! Theists are unable present ANY evidence for the existence of God! You guys believe on the basis of FAITH anyway!”
    Theist: WTF?

    And no, many recent debates in philosophy of religion have not been centered around “circulating words around”. For example, discussions about the kalam cosmological argument branch out into discussions of modern cosmology, philosophy of time, and the nature of God.

    As for “coming up with something that raises the probability that the proposition ‘A god exists'”, there’s a fundamental problem with that: there’s already a lot of debate even about just the framework within which we can ascertain how an argument can raise the probability of that proposition (Bayesian probability? Inference to the best explanation?). And additionally, as I outlined above, atheists seem to think that an argument with controversial premises = no argument. So your talk about “raising the probability” sounds of intellectual dishonesty, unless if you happen to be different from a typical gnu, of course.

  53. “The ontological and teleological argument could hardly be considered new. Also, changing the syntax of an argument (i.e. putting it into modal logic) doesn’t contribute any new evidence. ”
    It’s at least good that you are aware of the stuff philosophers of religion have been doing in the last 30 years. It’s a pity that you seem ready to move your goalposts around such that nothing can be considered “new evidence”. There seem to be indeed new, innovative arguments for the existence of God – for example, Plantinga’s EAAN. But the fact that a lot of the discussion is still focused on old arguments doesn’t mean that it’s just a matter of changing syntax and circulating words. Progress does happen – for example a lot of philosophers consider the logical POE to have been refuted by Plantinga.

    “No, it’s merely to point out the fact that people who say that they believe every word of the bible to be true actually don’t. They are lying. Ask them whether the passage is true, I suspect they will say yes. Ask them whether they have faith, I suspect they will say yes. Then it follows that nothing is impossible for them, yet they would deny this. ”

    Even fundamentalists acknowledge that some parts of the Bible were meant to be metaphorical. There’s also something called hyperbole. Christians don’t deny Jesus used that. And these are not post hoc cop-outs – it’s part of standard Biblical hermeneutics. Your inability to even consider such a possibility doesn’t really surprise me, though. It simply is an additional piece of striking evidence for Vox Day’s hypothesis that atheists tend to have more autistic/Asperger’s tendencies – hence the inability to comprehend anything beyond very strict literal readings of a text.

  54. “Let’s settle on the definition that physphilmusic came up with, a Gnu is an atheist that believes that empirical observation is the only way we have of increasing our understanding about the world we live in.”

    Stop putting words in my mouth. For me that is a necessary but not sufficient condition. “Gnu”, after all, is not strictly a philosophical position – it’s a rhetorical one as well. As I have said (or implied), an list of additional propositions which a gnu theist may believe include:
    – High regard for the Four Horsemen and their anti-religious works
    – A preconception of atheists as being “scientific and rational” while theists as being basing their beliefs purely on faith
    – Scorn and disapproval for fellow non-theists who are “accommodationists”
    – Sincere belief that religion is literally dangerous and must be eradicated.

  55. Kevin says:

    “No, I am asking you which camp you belong to. If you don’t belong to the Gnu camp, I am asking you why not, especially given that you parrot so much Gnu thinking. You continue to evade these simple points of clarification with needlessly complex meanderings.”
    I’m not evading. It’s just that you are not offering points of clarification. When I ask you to clarify what you mean by certain terms, I get no response so I have to explain what I mean you to be asking in such a case I misinterpret your terminology. Then there are other times where I have to correct you about false assumptions in your questions. It is absurd to call not answering a question such as “When did you stop beating your wife?” as being evasive. Explaining what is wrong with the question should be expected, and once the question has been properly formulated, I then give a detailed response. I can’t help the length.

    1. Do you have any scientific evidence to back up your reality claim? Please cite the peer reviewed papers that have studied this “real phenomenon.

    I am somewhat concerned that you equate scientific evidence with being in a peer reviewed journal. If I told you that putting a match in an air-tight container would quickly make it go out, you can test it and see for yourself. Is this evidence not scientific because it is not in a journal? Don’t be silly. I see that my insistence against authorities has not rubbed off on you. Tell me, how would a peer-reviewed paper verify firsthand accounts in such a way the individual cannot? What would the significant difference be? We have examples of people coming forward giving their testimony. You can find them easily with a little Google or look in the section of the God Delusion where the topic comes up.

    2. If teaching your children about hell and the possibility that they would go there is child abuse, and child abuse is illegal, do you think teaching your children about hell should be illegal? Of do you think the state should look the other way when it comes to child abuse?

    Just a technicality first, I don’t think that all forms of child abuse are banned. I think that hitting your child is abusive, but it is legal in some contexts. From a legal standpoint, I see little difference from telling someone “God is going to torture you for doing Y” rather than “Person X is going to torture you for doing Y.” From a legal standpoint, it doesn’t matter whether or not Person X is fictional. It is a threat either way. However, from a legal standpoint, it might not qualify under the statute because the belief must be reasonable under the circumstances. It may be decided by the courts that the belief that this threat could be carried out is unreasonable because God does not exist. I, however, would not make this distinction.

    Theist: “Alright then. I’ll give you a piece of evidence.” *presents the kalam cosmological argument*

    Which part of the presentation do you consider the evidence? I’ve seen it presented many times, but I have never seen the evidence match up with the assertions being made. If the evidence cited does not support the premises, do you think that it still qualifies as evidence for said argument? Just because someone thinks they have supported their position does not make it so. For example, if someone says that the universe was created ex nihilo and then says that the Big Bang theory supports this notion, they are incorrect. The theory describes the early stages of the universe, not the creation of it.

    “As for “coming up with something that raises the probability that the proposition ‘A god exists’”, there’s a fundamental problem with that: there’s already a lot of debate even about just the framework within which we can ascertain how an argument can raise the probability of that proposition (Bayesian probability? Inference to the best explanation?).”

    What’s the debate? Bayesian probability is built on a simple empirical observation (AVB=BVA) and follows by definition from there. I’m not aware of inference to the best explanation having such a solid framework.

    “It’s at least good that you are aware of the stuff philosophers of religion have been doing in the last 30 years. It’s a pity that you seem ready to move your goalposts around such that nothing can be considered “new evidence”.”

    I’m not moving my goal post at all. If you translate a philosopher’s works into another syntax, say from English to French, you don’t all of a sudden have more evidence for your position. Don’t be silly. Philosophers usually don’t deal with evidence anyway, that is typically reserved for scientists.

    “There seem to be indeed new, innovative arguments for the existence of God – for example, Plantinga’s EAAN.”

    It doesn’t even argue for a God. The conclusion is simply that if naturalism and evolution are true, we can’t rely on our faculties are reliable and therefore can’t know that evolution is true. This is, of course, ignoring the flaws in it. It has nothing to do with the truth or falsity of naturalism.

    “But the fact that a lot of the discussion is still focused on old arguments doesn’t mean that it’s just a matter of changing syntax and circulating words. Progress does happen – for example a lot of philosophers consider the logical POE to have been refuted by Plantinga.”

    Why do you love to appeal to authorities? I just don’t get it. If you think progress has been made, demonstrate a case where progress has been made and we can discuss whether progress actually has been made. Don’t say progress has been made because a lot of philosophers think it has been made in said instance. [facetiousness] Could I then use this as another piece of evidence that theists can’t think for themselves and have to rely on authorities? [/facetiousness]  (Since you couldn’t tell when I was joking earlier, a sign of Aspergers? Ok, enough now.)

    “And these are not post hoc cop-outs – it’s part of standard Biblical hermeneutics.”

    By what standard do you use to determine whether something is or is not meant to be taken literally? Is the story of Genesis metaphorical? Are Adam and Eve metaphorical? Is original sin metaphorical? Is the resurrection metaphorical? I understand that it is standard hermeneutics that anything that has been shown to be false is interpreted as being metaphorical, but I have never heard, even when pressed, the answer to how to decide whether something is meant to be literal or not. Please do tell.

    1. High regard for the Four Horsemen and their anti-religious works
    2. A preconception of atheists as being “scientific and rational” while theists as being basing their beliefs purely on faith
    3. Scorn and disapproval for fellow non-theists who are “accommodationists”
    4. Sincere belief that religion is literally dangerous and must be eradicated.
    Let’s go back to the evaluation. 
    1. Nope. I haven’t read Dennett’s or Hitchen’s works. I wasn’t too impressed with Hitchens during debates. I wasn’t too impressed with Dawkins book or during debates. However, I do have a high regard for Harris’ position. If I had to pick two, it would be Arif Ahmed and Sam Harris.
    2. Nope, I fully believe in irrational atheists and there are instances where theists could rationally believe in a deity (although this is severely limited).
    3. I think they are incorrect, that is about as far as it goes. Does this count as disapproval? I would say not.
    4. Nope. Religious belief is too diverse to say that it is dangerous. For example, Jainism.
    I guess I’m not a Gnu after all.

    Note: I want to talk about specifics and you are avoiding going into details. If you think you have evidence for God, present it. Why do you believe in God?

  56. physphilmusic says:

    I’m not interested in going into specifics, Kevin. I like to separate debates concerning the evidence and debates about the debate itself. I do the former in other spaces. I think the latter is very rarely explored and becomes a frequent source of confusion. Which is why I created the hypothetical account of a theist debating an atheist. If I don’t address the issues underlying that particular example, history will just repeat itself if I debate you.


    “Which part of the presentation do you consider the evidence? I’ve seen it presented many times, but I have never seen the evidence match up with the assertions being made. If the evidence cited does not support the premises, do you think that it still qualifies as evidence for said argument? Just because someone thinks they have supported their position does not make it so.
    “…Philosophers usually don’t deal with evidence anyway, that is typically reserved for scientists.”

    I think your definition of evidence, which seems to cover only strictly empirical evidence, isn’t what I’m talking about.

    ev·i·dence
    [ev-i-duhns], ev·i·denced, ev·i·denc·ing.
    noun
    1. that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief; proof.
    2.something that makes plain or clear; an indication or sign: His flushed look was visible evidence of his fever.
    3.Law . data presented to a court or jury in proof of the facts in issue and which may include the testimony of witnesses, records, documents, or objects.
    etc.

    When atheists ask “Is there evidence for a God?”, I regard even purely philosophical arguments as constituting “evidence”, because they can contribute to proving or disproving the proposition that “A god exists.”

  57. physphilmusic says:

    “What’s the debate? Bayesian probability is built on a simple empirical observation (AVB=BVA) and follows by definition from there. I’m not aware of inference to the best explanation having such a solid framework.”

    Right. The problem with that is that there is no agreed framework to determine how particular arguments can be assigned valid probabilities so that we can calculate the overall probability. Suppose the teleological argument is successful – given that, how much would it raise the probability that God exists?


    I’m not moving my goal post at all. If you translate a philosopher’s works into another syntax, say from English to French, you don’t all of a sudden have more evidence for your position. Don’t be silly. Philosophers usually don’t deal with evidence anyway, that is typically reserved for scientists.

    I disagree with this, because 1. I consider it ridiculous to think that Plantinga’s modal formulation of the ontological argument is the linguistic equivalent of translating it from English to French. For once, it condenses the debate such that the premise “it is possible that a maximally great being exists” is the only controversial one. 2. Most of philosophy of religion doesn’t involve “translating” old arguments; what they do is refine old ones such that they don’t suffer from the same weaknesses.


    “Why do you love to appeal to authorities? I just don’t get it. If you think progress has been made, demonstrate a case where progress has been made and we can discuss whether progress actually has been made. Don’t say progress has been made because a lot of philosophers think it has been made in said instance.”

    Again, I’m debating about the debate. I was just merely giving an example. If you want to go against the consensus of many philosophers, fine. I’m not interested in engaging that here. The problem is that unlike physical science, where you have hard data, such that it’s much harder to refute consensus, in philosophy you don’t have that. So relying on the consensus of philosophers is a useful, though of course not absolute, tool.


    By what standard do you use to determine whether something is or is not meant to be taken literally? Is the story of Genesis metaphorical? Are Adam and Eve metaphorical? Is original sin metaphorical? Is the resurrection metaphorical? I understand that it is standard hermeneutics that anything that has been shown to be false is interpreted as being metaphorical, but I have never heard, even when pressed, the answer to how to decide whether something is meant to be literal or not. Please do tell.

    Please do your homework first.

  58. physphilmusic says:

    “2. Nope, I fully believe in irrational atheists and there are instances where theists could rationally believe in a deity (although this is severely limited).”

    I’m sincerely interested: Say you are head of university science department. Let’s say there are two individuals you are looking to hire. They have virtually the same number and quality of publications, the same amount of experience, suitable research interests. The only thing which differentiates them is that one is an ardent atheist, while the other is an ardent Christian in the Francis Collins vein (i.e. not sympathetic to YEC/ID, but believes that religion and science are compatible). Which one would you choose to hire?

    (as for me, I would use a dice, since I don’t count their religious beliefs as having any relevance whatsoever. But since you think that most theists are irrational in their beliefs, this potentially seems to have some relevance).

  59. Michael says:

    I am somewhat concerned that you equate scientific evidence with being in a peer reviewed journal. If I told you that putting a match in an air-tight container would quickly make it go out, you can test it and see for yourself. Is this evidence not scientific because it is not in a journal?

    You are confusing empirical evidence with scientific evidence. If you have no papers to point to, that is because there are no scientific results to indicate your claims are rooted in reality. You have no scientific evidence. That is, your reality claim is not supported by scientific analysis or scientific facts.

    Tell me, how would a peer-reviewed paper verify firsthand accounts in such a way the individual cannot? What would the significant difference be?

    You are oblivious to the fact that the scientific literature has long explored PTSD. If teaching children about hell was a form of abuse that leads to PTSD, as you claim, science would have discovered this. Your inability to envision how science can research this shows only your lack of familiarity with this science.

    We have examples of people coming forward giving their testimony. You can find them easily with a little Google or look in the section of the God Delusion where the topic comes up.

    A chapter in a popular book written by an activist with no expertise in this area is neither reliable not scientific. Anonymous internet testimonies, or testimonies from atheist activists, is neither reliable nor scientific.

    Of course, none of this prevents you from wanting to impose your version of reality on people and make this aspect of biblical teaching illegal. Clearly, you are not capable of dialog.

  60. Kevin says:

    Michael, I sincerely don’t know what you mean by scientific. Are you talking about testable hypotheses? Then this would not apply. We are talking at the level of data points and whether they fit a specific label. It doesn’t involve testing to decide whether a certain label applies to a given data point. If you are talking about psychologists at the PhD level recognizing this as a valid phenomenon, then yes we do have scientific evidence. If you are talking about non-anonymous testimonies (that are not activists), then yes we do have scientific evidence. If you exclude the testimonies of people who have experienced this, then you are correct, I cannot envision how science can study this. However, I know that such testimonials have led to peer-reviewed papers in other fields, so it is not the methodology that is flawed. Such methodology is not limited to researchers. Like with the match example (which I also can’t find an article on), we can apply the methodology of science without referencing peer-reviewed papers. From your stated position, you would deny the reality in front of your eyes if it didn’t have a journals backing; this is insane. Nowhere in my position have I cited an authority, yet this is the only type of response that I get back. Since you seem to only be interested in authorities, it would be pointless is trying to introduce you to new evidence. As such I have no interest speaking to you.

  61. Michael says:

    Michael, I sincerely don’t know what you mean by scientific.

    Not surprised. Gnus love to talk about science to support their agenda, but typically, they don’t really understand how science works. That’s why they embrace the god-of-the-gaps approach. That’s why they think their leaders are better scientists than Francis Collins despite the data in the OP. If you want to learn about science, I suggest you find some introductory science text, go to the index, and look up something called “the scientific method.” If you have been relying on your Gnu leaders, they have misled you.

    Are you talking about testable hypotheses? Then this would not apply.

    There you go. That you for admitting your child abuse smear is not a testable hypothesis. You just confirmed my point that Dawkins, now you, are peddling pseudoscience. The irony is not lost on me.

    We are talking at the level of data points and whether they fit a specific label. It doesn’t involve testing to decide whether a certain label applies to a given data point.

    Of course not. The only criterion necessary is whether or not it can help your movement. While you sell yourself as having some type of commitment to science, you can advocate the abuse claim, a claim without any scientific evidence, because it serves your anti-religious agenda. Your irrationality makes sense once we see it in the context of your movement.

    If you are talking about psychologists at the PhD level recognizing this as a valid phenomenon, then yes we do have scientific evidence.

    No, a PhD with an opinion is not scientific evidence.

    If you are talking about non-anonymous testimonies (that are not activists), then yes we do have scientific evidence.

    No, testimonies/anecdotes are not scientific evidence.

    If you exclude the testimonies of people who have experienced this, then you are correct, I cannot envision how science can study this.

    I can.

    However, I know that such testimonials have led to peer-reviewed papers in other fields, so it is not the methodology that is flawed. Such methodology is not limited to researchers. Like with the match example (which I also can’t find an article on), we can apply the methodology of science without referencing peer-reviewed papers.

    You don’t get the difference between an empirical demonstration and a scientific demonstration.

    From your stated position, you would deny the reality in front of your eyes if it didn’t have a journals backing; this is insane.

    What is insane is that while you claim to champion science, it is clear you have an underlying disdain for science when it does not support your agenda. Your dismissal of the importance of the peer-reviewed literature when it comes to scientific claims reminds me exactly of how many creationists approach the journals.

    The reality in front of my eyes guides me on this one. The only evidence for this abuse claim that I have seen with my eyes are anonymous internet testimonials from Gnus. Like you, they like to promote the testimonials because it serves their anti-religious motivations. It also fits into the whole atheist-as-victim political posturing. Yet individuals who claim to have PTSD are either vague about their childhood or, when they are not, unknowingly indicate that one of their parents sexually, emotionally, or physically abused them. THAT is what triggers the PTSD and would have occurred regardless of any teaching about hell.

    Nowhere in my position have I cited an authority, yet this is the only type of response that I get back. Since you seem to only be interested in authorities, it would be pointless is trying to introduce you to new evidence.

    As a Gnu (who obfuscates about being a Gnu), I expect you to practice what you preach and back up your reality claims with scientific evidence. You can’t. Look, we can all tell this is just a Gnu talking point not just because they support it like a proponent of cargo cult science, but because the Gnus don’t care about the real drivers of child abuse – alcoholism and drug addiction. There are plenty of studies that identify those are serious risk factors.

    As such I have no interest speaking to you.

    Good bye.

  62. Kevin says:

    As a parting gift, I think these links will be a great resource for you:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

  63. Michael says:

    Actually, me thinks you need to read those links.

    Confirmation bias does not apply to me in this situation, as I am simply skeptical (extremely so) of your belief that teaching a kid about hell is child abuse. You are the one with the belief here and you support it by cherry picking testimonies on the internet (testimonies you embrace at face value) and by referring to a book chapter written by an amateur who has an agenda. Classic confirmation bias at work.

    As for offering up the Dunning–Kruger effect, here is a parting resource for you:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection

    Now, you claimed “I have no interest speaking to you.” Be a man of your word.

  64. Karma says:

    Great piece of research. As a scientist and former atheist I am surprised that Collins has published more than Dawkins and the other atheist leaders. I will be sharing this on my web site.

  65. cl says:

    LOL absolute uproariously awesome funny post. Kudos to you…

  66. Pingback: Ed Kroc: Another Atheist Bigot | TheWarfareIsMental

  67. Mudz says:

    I was raised as a Christian without a belief in the doctrine of hell. I’m about 50/50 on the subject now, trying to gain a perspective on the relevant scriptures, which basically boils down to, was Jesus giving an affirmation of the literal existence of hell, or an anecdote using a Greek/Roman/Jewish belief? ( I have no idea if they are demonstrable possibilities, this is speculation in progress). Because taken straight up, it tends to coincide with the traditional Christian understanding of hell today. (Although that could be a tautology.)
    (One might also postulate the Church just inserted it in, but that’s ultimately a self-destructive assumption to proceed from, on its own.)

    My conclusion at this point, is that it’s that Jesus references a hell in a relevant sense, but it’s probably a more Jewish hell (as I understand it) lasting a temporary period. I.e. the time until people are resurrected for final judgment, for ultimate destruction, rather than indefinite suffering. I’m certain others have cogent arguments for their theology in this regard as well.

    I am still debating the most appropriate interpretation, since there are scriptures in the bible that clearly argue for a state of unconsciousness in death, rather than discussing the living conditions. But that’s the fun of study. :D

    And in the end. It makes no difference. A Christian should pursue God’s law regardless. Telling a child there’s a hell for the bad people, is about the same as telling them soldiers die in war, and about as ‘real’ to them. Or to me, for that matter. I’ve never experienced either, so it’s merely an intellectual exercise that I’m old enough to appreciate. It’s probably more abusive to tell them they have ‘to the count of three’, since they’re faced with the immediate prospect of an easily-grasped and relevant threat.

    Considering all the hell-believing Christians I’ve met that were not only emotionally stable (some to the point of incredible boringness), but markedly different from the sleep-deprived atheists and ‘spiritual’ agnostics I’m largely acquainted with that spent their nights writing slash and tattooing self-motivating slogans on their wrists, I fail to see (and perhaps it’s just my failure) in my observation that hell is an demonstrably abusive concept for children to learn. Some people grow up thinking the world will be obliterated in nuclear fire any day now. (Living in the 60s much?)

    Just my thoughts, skimming over the comments.

    @ Atheists – Just take it on the chin and laugh, fer cryin’ out loud. I laugh at Family Guy spiels on religion even though they’re pretty retarded. (Except for one,so far. That just was disturbingly gross.)

    Also. The dude’s a Christian, and he’s a scientist, and just like so many other scientists and philosophers throughout the centuries, his mind manages to not to implode on itself.

    That makes him a Christian scientist, in every sense of the word. Just like he could be a Christian soccer player, or a Christian astronaut, or a Christian theologist. Get over it.

    And making the point that a belief in God curtailed Newton’s ability to pre-empt a discovery of perturbation, could be logically extended into accusing it from preventing him from formulating a general theory of relativity. Or that sleeping in for school one day six years ago may have prevented me from discovering a unified field theory, or the question to 42, in a moment of brilliance that would presumably strike me on my death-bed.

    I do think it relevant though, on it’s own. It’s perfectly legitimate, even if I think it’s small. For one thing, his views in no way impeded anyone else from making such a scientific discovery. He did not define scientific orthodoxy.
    Einstein also had similiarly styled reasoning that ‘the universe doesn’t work that way’ (he liked it neat and orderly), which impelled him to invent the cosmological constant. If memory serves, he considered it one of his biggest blunders. (Off the top of my head, so feel free to confirm that.)
    I think Fred Hoyle stuck to his eternally existing ‘steady-state’ universe in the face of what became the orthodox commitment to the Big Bang.
    All relatively minor hiccups, or footnotes, in science.

    On the other hand. Believing that there’s self-assuredly no non-materialistic explanation for any of the things we observe in the universe causing the entire biological and cosmological scientific culture of man to fall on its ass for at least a hundred years through a rigidly adhered and unassailable orthodoxy, would seem another legitimate concern, and significantly more troubling for those not wedded to it.
    So tit for tat, dude(s).

    And the article was hilarious. Thanks for sharing. XD

  68. Pingback: Francis Collins vs. Gnus | Cult Of Gnu

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