Who should you believe?

As we saw earlier, Austin Hughes noted, “The typical scientist seemed to be a person who knew one small corner of the natural world and knew it very well, better than most other human beings living and better even than most who had ever lived. But outside of their circumscribed areas of expertise, scientists would hesitate to express an authoritative opinion.”

And to our surprise, it looks like Jerry Coyne, yes, Jerry Coyne, might actually agree:

I don’t have a particular animus about scientists in one field weighing in on another, but they must have some degree of expertise to do so!

But alas, it turns out that Coyne doesn’t have a problem with a scientist weighing in on other fields, even though the scientist does not have the expertise to do so. Well, at least if that scientist is named Jerry Coyne, that is. Just a couple days after insisting scientists have “some degree of expertise to do so!,” Coyne decides to teach an expert historian about history:

One of the biggest accommodationists among historians of science has been the respected academic Ronald Numbers, now a professor of the history of science and medicine at the University of Wisconsin. He has been much honored, and specializes in the historical relationship between science and religion. Wikipedia notes that “Numbers is the son of a Seventh-day Adventist preacher, and was a Seventh-day Adventist in his youth, but now describes himself as agnostic.”

Numbers has done some excellent work, but I’ve found him very soft on science and religion, to the extent of leaning over backwards to maintain that the two do not conflict.

Okay, so does Coyne have any expertise when it comes to the history of science and its relationship with religion? Nope. After all, what type of person with an expertise in history would bring up a wikipedia article about Numbers’ youthful views as if they are relevant?

Look, we have a choice here. Numbers, who is an expert and scholar on the history of science and religion, and whom even Coyne must acknowledge as having “done some excellent work,” is misguided and wrong about the topic of his expertise.

 

Or, Coyne, who is an amateur and activist, is wrong, but can not acknowledge this because it would completely undercut his favorite talking point that is part of his cultural agenda?

Coyne then makes an effort to critique Numbers. He quotes Numbers:

Of course, there have been many battles—psychological, professional, disciplinary—involving scientific and religious claims. But rarely, if ever, have they simply pitted scientists against religionists.

And then tries to refute it as follows:

“If ever?” Really? What about the biggest battle of all, at least in modern times: creation vs. evolution. If that doesn’t pit scientists against religionists, I don’t know what does.

LOL. I don’t think Coyne knows that Numbers wrote a book in 1992 called, “The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism.” Let me likewise cite Wikipedia:

The book has been described as “probably the most definitive history of anti-evolutionism”.It has received generally favorable reviews from both the academic and the religious community.

It’s quite safe to say that Numbers asserted Of course, there have been many battles—psychological, professional, disciplinary—involving scientific and religious claims. But rarely, if ever, have they simply pitted scientists against religionists. while being fully aware of “the biggest battle of all, at least in modern times: creation vs. evolution.”  He must be shaking his head at Coyne’s cartoonish approach to reality. But then what would you expect from an amateur activist?

Look, if evolution pitted “scientists against religionists,” then why have so many religionists been on the side of evolution?  Or look at it this way. Given that Peter Singer, an atheist, played a key role in birthing in the animal rights movement, and many animal rights extremists are atheists, would Coyne have a problem accepting the battle over animal experimentation as one that pits “scientists against atheists?”
Clearly, Numbers is far more trustworthy on this issue than Coyne.

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This entry was posted in New Atheism, Religion, Science and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Who should you believe?

  1. Heuristics says:

    This has been a field of study for over a hundred years, the current consensus is that there is no conflict between science and religion.

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

    “The thesis, refined beyond its most simplistic original forms, remains generally popular. However, historians of science no longer support it”

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