Dawkins Displays His Authoritarian Nature

In the past, we have seen that New Atheist activist Jerry Coyne becomes troubled when people with opposing views are allowed a platform to speak.  New Atheist activist Richard Dawkins recently showed his own version of authoritarianism:

When it comes to hosting a cheesy breakfast show, you can’t even hire someone who happens to be a creationist.

Wow.

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87 Responses to Dawkins Displays His Authoritarian Nature

  1. Kevin says:

    Quite a few people criticizing that tweet, thankfully.

  2. Allallt says:

    I agree with you that if your job has nothing to do with science, then it shouldn’t matter is the person is a Young Earth Creationist.
    However, I disagree that Dawkins’ tweet here is authoritarian.

  3. TFBW says:

    It displays authoritarian leanings, Allallt. If he frowns upon the BBC offering a “breakfast show” job to a creationist, one wonders what jobs creationists would be permitted to hold if he had his druthers. This is, after all, the man who said, “I am persuaded that the phrase ‘child abuse’ is no exaggeration when used to describe what teachers and priests are doing to children whom they encourage to believe in something like the punishment of unshriven mortal sins in an eternal hell.” [The God Delusion, ch.9] Child abuse is a crime, and he claims to be not exaggerating. He’s either bullshitting us, or sincere; if he’s sincere, then he has some ideas in mind which would be more at home in the Soviet Union, don’t you think?

  4. Michael says:

    To more clearly see Dawkins’ authoritarian nature, one need only attach power to his views. If Dawkins had the power, Dan Walker would not be hired because he was a creationist. And this is not some atypical example. Back in 2013, Dawkins tweeted:

    Mehdi Hasan admits to believing Muhamed flew to heaven on a winged horse. And New Statesman sees fit to print him as a serious journalist.

    Give Dawkins power, and New Statesman would not be publishing anything from Muslim authors.

    In Dawkins’ mind, the BBC and New Statesman – the media – should not be hiring anyone who does not “accept reality.” That would include people who think Jesus rose from the dead and people who think there is a God.

    Then, attach power to his views that a religous upbringing is child abuse (as TFBW mentions above).

    Then, realize that Gnu leader Jerry Coyne shares the same sentiments and leanings.

  5. Dhay says:

    In his blog post dated 11 February 2016 entitled, “BBC has a Prayer for the Day and a religious Thought for the Day”, Jerry Coyne – currently in England to deliver a Darwin Day lecture to the British Humanist Association – disparages how BBC Radio 4 has a regular two-minute “Prayer for the Day” slot at crack-of-dawn, and a weekday three-minute “Thought for the Day” slot. Shock horror, these would never be allowed on public radio in the USA, says Coyne; well, this ain’t Kansas, Jerry, live with it; in Britain a public service provides a service to the whole public.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2016/02/11/bbc-has-a-prayer-for-the-day-and-a-religious-thought-for-the-day/

    It’s the latter which Coyne focusses on: the BBC “Thought for the Day” website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00szxv6 describes it as “Reflections from a faith perspective on issues and people in the news” and also as “Speakers from across the world’s major faiths offer a spiritual insight.” If you click on the “Clips” link in the top right hand side panel, you can see (and listen to) page after page of archived podcasts, see who presented them, and listen to get the flavour of them. There’s Christians, Muslims, the Chief Rabbi (– the ordinary Rabbi Lionel Blue was a regular for many years), there’s Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists etc, each reflecting on topical social issues and topics of current public interest in a way that gives their tradition’s moral and social messages in an informative, positive, uplifting and non-divisive way. It’s a much-loved slot, with many people hanging around in the car park listening to the end of it on their car radio before dashing – it’s slotted in just before 9 am – to their work desks.

    Why are no atheists presenting, asks Coyne. Well, as Coyne himself recounts in his blog post, in 2002 some atheists – 102 of them, not exactly a vast ground-swell of opinion – wrote to the BBC to protest that the slot was available only to religious views. As a consequence, Richard Dawkins was given a slot to deliver a reflection from an atheist viewpoint, although this was not broadcast in the Thought for the Day slot itself.

    Coyne claims that “The BBC was too scared to even put it in the regular slot”, though I have no doubt in my own mind that it was because of obvious and entirely sensible doubts about whether Dawkins could be trusted to respect the slot’s ethos, or whether Dawkins would simply trash it; so they did their trial run – after which, if Dawkins had behaved himself, there could have been many more – as a separate slot.

    The doubts were entirely justified: as I know from having heard his presentation live on that day, Dawkins proceeded to sneer – sneering, snide, condescending, deliberately offensive and insufferably arrogant is how he actually sounded – to sneer at and to denigrate the slot’s regular listeners. (The text is reproduced in Coyne’s post.) He could (and should) instead have commented on topical issues with a positive message, showcasing how atheists and Humanists have a viewpoint on ethics and morality as well worth listening to as the usual religious presenters – and at slot start I was hoping he would do so (Coyne puts it, “I think Dawkins, in his desire to promulgate nonbelief, missed a good opportunity to show the positive side of secularism”) – but instead he went on a vitriolic rant: a succinct summation of Dawkins’ presentation is that religious people don’t belong at the adults’ table.

    As Coyne says, “This caused a furor, centered on Dawkin’s characterization of religion as “childish”, “infantile”, and as a locus of humanity’s “crybaby” phase.” Well, Coyne, that would cause a furore, wouldn’t it.

    I think Coyne has summed up very nicely why the BBC were initially reluctant to invite the, er, famously controversial Dawkins, and why they were rightly cautious in first trying him out for good behaviour in a less prominent slot; and also why he and his like have never been invited back.

    (Almost, that is: Coyne tells us the experiment was repeated in 2013, presented by an atheist minister of the Unitarian Church; but that was also shifted to a different time; the BBC were evidently so unimpressed with that second experiment that they have not tried again.)

    Dawkins has claimed of it, says Coyne, that “I did a spoof a few years ago as a kind of stunt”; but Coyne adds his own opinion that “… I don’t think his piece was a spoof!”; and nor do I, too, think it was a spoof, but instead a piece of out-and-out nastiness, a deliberate trashing of the spirit and ethos of the Thought for the Day slot; and I concur with the BBC’s de facto banning of Dawkins from presenting live material.

    There is no programme or slot on BBC Radio or TV where people are allowed to deliberately insult listeners or viewers – nor should there be. That Dawkins (or anyone) should do so on a slot with a very contrary ethos is utterly unacceptable. And I strongly suspect that if the BBC were to continue to allow Dawkins to denigrate a group based upon sex, sexual orientation, gender, race, colour, politics (etc etc) including religion or religious views would put it and its managers in contravention of anti-discrimination laws.

    I cannot imagine Dan Barker, while presenting BBC Breakfast, launching into a rant against atheists or against neo-Darwinian evolution. Contrast Dan Barker’s track record with Richard Dawkins’.

  6. Tim Lambert says:

    Allallt,
    I think it’s your job now to show how it’s not authoritarian.
    It’s a fascist posturing on Dawkins part. People being shamed out of their job (or employing those) for holding the wrong belief on something (and in this case, not even RELATED to the job) is clearly fascist.

  7. Allallt says:

    What follows is a slightly self-contradictory stream of consciousness. I was momentarily convinced and started to change my mind as I put my two pence in:

    Actually, I’m pretty convinced. While Dawkins is an old man recovering from a stroke behind a keyboard, the Tweet comes across as his normal surprise that people who can be so wrong, as a result of such patently bad reasoning, can function in reality, let alone be celebrated journalists.
    However, offer some power to that same Tweet and it suddenly loses it’s air of bewilderment and surprise and instead takes on a slightly sinister tone.
    Would Creationists be banned from high-paid jobs in a BBC run by Dawkins? Would he trust them to uncover truth, impartially, knowing he thinks Creationism is a symptom of a profound disability in this area? Would a successful journalistic history actually convince Dawkins to overlook the Creationism?
    I notice, writing those questions out, that the sinister tone doesn’t come from those questions. Instead, it comes from assuming you have answers to them. The ill-intent supposed in the Tweet is projected from the assumption that Dawkins would not not overlook creationism in the light of a successful journalistic career, or presenting career.
    The Health Secretary in the UK believes in homeopathy. (He’s also screwing things up, but they may be unrelated.) Should that belief have stopped him taking that job? Would you be surprised to find a Flat-earther presenting a topical morning show? What about an anti-vaxxer with a job as a science editor? Doubting these are the right people for the jobs is not authoritarian.

  8. TFBW says:

    Allallt, the foundations of modern science were laid in an environment where creationism was the norm, so how harmful can it actually be, really? What evidence do you (or does anyone) have that it constitutes some kind of “profound disability?” Elephant. In. Room. Conversely, how much of this anti-creationist rhetoric is simply ideological warfare — just Dawkins and his ilk desperately trying to ensure that anyone who openly believes in a Creator God is denied any kind of prestige and credibility?

  9. Allallt says:

    TFBW
    I don’t want to turn this into a discussion about evolution, but accepting creationism in the light of evolution is a bigger misstep in reasoning than simply believing in creationism absent of other ideas. There’s the argument from ignorance, then there’s the argument from feigned ignorance.
    I don’t how or why you stepped from creationism to God.
    I mean to paraphrase Dawkins when I referred to creationism as a profound disability.
    Perhaps if you engage with the last paragraph of my other comment you’ll start to get some insight into why there is a big gap between suspecting someone’s beliefs might preclude them from doing a certain job well, and ideological warfare.

  10. Kevin says:

    Allallt,

    So if I understand your last post correctly, you would say there is a difference in mindset between Dawkins being unhappy that a young-earth creationist is on a breakfast show, and Sam Harris and others claiming Francis Collins was not worthy of being head of the NIH because he was a Christian?

    Because I don’t see the difference personally.

  11. Michael says:

    The Health Secretary in the UK believes in homeopathy. (He’s also screwing things up, but they may be unrelated.) Should that belief have stopped him taking that job? Would you be surprised to find a Flat-earther presenting a topical morning show? What about an anti-vaxxer with a job as a science editor? Doubting these are the right people for the jobs is not authoritarian.

    An anti-vaxxer was given the Richard Dawkins Award and hosts a popular talk show. The latest bit of pseudoscience this New Atheist promoted is the notion that milk from arthritic goats cures AIDS.

    Why are we supposed to overlook the crackpot ideas of the New Atheists? Take the crackpot notion that science and religion are incompatible. It’s a view that is rejected by mainstream scholars, scientists, and science organizations and is only advocated by…..New Atheists. Or take the crackpot view that a religious upbringing is a form of child abuse. It is rejected by mainstream researchers and professionals and is only advocated by…….New Atheists. So tell us. If someone actually believes a religious upbringing is a form of child abuse, should they be hired as Professor for the Public Understanding of Science?

  12. TFBW says:

    Allallt,

    Perhaps if you engage with the last paragraph of my other comment you’ll start to get some insight into why there is a big gap between suspecting someone’s beliefs might preclude them from doing a certain job well, and ideological warfare.

    I didn’t really want to, because it’s a bit of a mishmash. Perhaps it’s for the best if I do, however.

    The Health Secretary in the UK believes in homeopathy. (He’s also screwing things up, but they may be unrelated.) Should that belief have stopped him taking that job?

    I don’t really know. I’m not really sure what the ideal qualifications are for a Health Secretary, or what the specific beliefs in question are. However, it strikes me that this is a paradigm example of, “person believes in X, which is widely disparaged in the scientific mainstream, and therefore the person should be denied office/prestige,” without a solid argument as to why the latter follows from the former. You’re just asking me to join you in your particular prejudices here.

    Would you be surprised to find a Flat-earther presenting a topical morning show?

    I find that the mere mention of “flat-earthers” is a warning that the person making the statement has bought into the rhetoric of scientism, since “flat-earthism” is essentially a myth which supports my point about ideological warfare. The ancient astronomers understood that the Earth was a sphere, and (modulo “oblate” and “-oid”) that’s never been in serious doubt since then. Anyone who claims to be a flat earther is probably pulling your leg.

    What about an anti-vaxxer with a job as a science editor?

    So long as he doesn’t use his position as editor as a platform to promote his particular beliefs, then that’s no big deal. No doubt the (imaginary) editor in question has solid reasons to be an anti-vaxxer, and can defend his position cogently. If he can’t, then that might be a good reason to deny him the position, but substitute “anti-vaxxer” with, oh, “string theorist”, say, and my answer remains the same — as it should.

    Doubting these are the right people for the jobs is not authoritarian.

    It’s ideology-based prejudice, which, to the extent that it’s actually carried out, is authoritarian. Someone has to hold the authority to say what is and isn’t an acceptable idea, after all. Dawkins seems to think he’s qualified for that position.

    This whole approach seems to be tacitly based on the (terribly misguided IMO) belief that marginalising unpopular ideas promotes good science — although it’s usually couched in terms of not “wasting resources”. Denying someone a job as a presenter, however, has nothing to do with resources — unless you want that resource to be promoting your particular ideology, and take exception to an ideological opponent holding the high ground.

  13. Allallt says:

    I don’t see that pointing out hypocrisy is actually a rebuttal.
    But Richard Dawkins is not actually related to the Richard Dawkins award.
    And Bill Maher is a moron.
    How does that help your point?

  14. Allallt says:

    Kevin:
    Creationism is a specific position held with regard to a biological question.
    I’m not sure what Francis Collin’s beliefs are. Is he a creationist?

    TFBW:
    Well, I don’t know if you heard, but BoB started Tweeting about Flat-Earth theory a couple of weeks ago and a lot of people came out of the woodworks. Just because it’s obviously nonsense to you, doesn’t mean the people who claim to believe it are pulling my leg.
    It’s not about Person X’s position being disparaged by scientific understanding. It’s about someone having to make a cost benefit analysis on new drugs and rounds of chemotherapy that cost thousands of £££ per cycle, while in the back if his head thinking sugar water and echinacea would cure it. Or about a public health bulletin coming out encouraging people to get their flu shot, or vaccine against some now health scare, and the presenter announcing it with “the governments got my lies for us this morning”.

    I’m not saying the people can’t have the job. But I am saying that doubting people who will take a part of reality and refuse to engage with it are people we can have legitimate doubts about.

  15. TFBW says:

    Allallt,

    … I don’t know if you heard, but BoB started Tweeting about Flat-Earth theory …

    And you’re quite sure it’s not a publicity stunt? From a rapper? I’d be up for a wager on that point if there were a way to settle it. But even if he were sincere, drug-addled rap-star celebrities were not really who I had in mind: flat-earth mythicism suggests that belief in a flat earth was once a mainstream position. If you want to include mouthy, outrageous celebrities in the scope of consideration, then yeah, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to have someone like that “presenting a topical morning show”, because entertainment and publicity, lowest common denominator, blah blah, at which point I think the example has lost any semblance of usefulness.

    I note that Neil deGrasse Tyson did his bit to perpetuate the flat earth myth during that exchange, FFS. Talk about a selective commitment to truth.

    It’s about someone having to make a cost benefit analysis on new drugs and rounds of chemotherapy that cost thousands of £££ per cycle, while in the back if his head thinking sugar water and echinacea would cure it.

    For one thing, I think this example comes from your imagination rather than reality. This looks like bogeyman thinking, which is very much a part of the problem. Second, unless the alleged thought in the back of the head has a material influence on the decision, it’s irrelevant, except as a matter of ideological purity. Thirdly, even if this were all completely real and relevant, it doesn’t prove that the person in question is being a bad Health Secretary, since that position has something to do with enacting policy. If the junk he implements is what the electorate really wanted, then they got it, and he’s doing his job, no matter how much you personally don’t like it. You’re entitled to have a low opinion of him, but it’s just ideological differences at work again.

    … doubting people who will take a part of reality and refuse to engage with it …

    It’s that toxic, “I know what reality is, and I think people who deny reality are dangerous,” attitude which gives the whole thing an authoritarian air. It begets self-appointed Reality Police who are completely oblivious to their authoritarian leanings, because it’s just reality, right? Can’t argue with reality.

  16. Kevin says:

    Allallt, from Sam Harris’ own writings, I believe his problem with Collins was that he was a Christian. Many of his attacks were along the lines of “would you promote a guy who believes in Zeus to the top scientific position in the United States?”

    Since Harris believes all god belief to be equally absurd, it appears that being a Christian is his primary complaint, though I’m sure that is made worse by Collins’ efforts to bridge the gap between science and Christians, which New Atheists cannot tolerate.

  17. Michael says:

    I don’t see that pointing out hypocrisy is actually a rebuttal.
    But Richard Dawkins is not actually related to the Richard Dawkins award.
    And Bill Maher is a moron.
    How does that help your point?

    Should Maher, the anti-vaxxer, have been hired to host a TV talk show?

    If someone actually believes a religious upbringing is a form of child abuse, should they be hired as Professor for the Public Understanding of Science?

  18. Andy says:

    TFBW,

    But even if he were sincere, drug-addled rap-star celebrities were not really who I had in mind: flat-earth mythicism suggests that belief in a flat earth was once a mainstream position.

    And it was before Aristotle. The “myth” you refer to is that the *medieval* church believed in a flat earth – which they didn´t, they accepted Aristotle´s arguments demonstrating that to be impossible. But in pre-Aristotelian antiquity, a flat-earth cosmology was ubiquitous.

  19. Dhay says:

    Allallt > While Dawkins is an old man recovering from a stroke behind a keyboard, the Tweet comes across as his normal surprise that people who can be so wrong, as a result of such patently bad reasoning, can function in reality, let alone be celebrated journalists.

    Francis Collins is a Nobel Prize-winner and very distinguished biological scientist who was appointed head of the US research funding body, the NIH. At the time of his appointment there were vociferous objections from Jerry Coyne and Sam Harris along the lines of Dawkins’ objection to Dan Barker, that as an Old Earth Creationist Christian Collins could not possibly do his head-of-science job properly. Neither Coyne nor Harris has made a single complaint – and I am sure they would jump on any opportunity or pretext to do so, great publicity, great propaganda – that Collins has not done his job well. Evidently an OEC functions perfectly well in reality in a head-of-science role.

    Richard Dawkins appears to have a very low threshold for, er, “surprise” – read “disdain”, surely; if he cannot understand how (or that) “people who can be so wrong, as a result of such patently bad reasoning, can function in reality, let alone be celebrated journalists”, he is plainly himself out of touch with empirical data which show the contrary, and is himself out of touch with reality.

    From your responses I deduce you might well be similar.

    Allallt > The Health Secretary in the UK believes in homeopathy. (He’s also screwing things up, but they may be unrelated.) Should that belief have stopped him taking that job?

    Far worse than the UK Health Secretary being a supporter (or non-attacker, at any rate) of homeopathy – far worse is that he is a Tory, a senior minister belonging to a party which (using a synechdoche, there’s lots more potential criticisms) believes in prioritising private profit over public service – one might well wonder how “people who can be so wrong, as a result of such patently bad reasoning, can function in reality, let alone be celebrated [Government Ministers]”.

    And then there’s the poorly-reasoning, out-of-touch-with-reality people who voted the Tories into office, some 50% of the UK population: presumably no Tory supporter should be allowed to present BBC Breakfast, disqualifying 50% of potential applicants – even those of the 50% who are well qualified in other ways to do so.

    You used a Tory minister as an example, so I hitched a ride on that, but it doesn’t distort my rather-more-general argument by ridicule if you substitute New Labour / Republicans / Democrats / Baathist / [Insert party name here].

    As TFBW points out, “You’re entitled to have a low opinion of [Barker], but it’s just ideological differences at work again.” Just say “Pah!”, and get on with your life.

    Oh, you will let us know as soon as Barker’s YEC views or other Fundamentalist-type views do first interfere with or distort his presenting, won’t you.

  20. Andy says:

    Dhay,

    …that as an Old Earth Creationist Christian Collins could not possibly do his head-of-science job properly…

    Collins isn´t an Old Earth Creationist, he is a theistic evolutionist. If he´d be a creationist, his appointment here (and his earlier one as head of the human genome project) would indeed have been *very* problematic because both jobs involved very significant decisions about the funding and work of evolutionary biologists (it would be like sending a holocaust denier as an ambassador to Israel).

  21. Dhay says:

    Andy > Collins isn´t an Old Earth Creationist, he is a theistic evolutionist.

    Theistic evolutionist is indeed the better term for Francis Collins, and won’t get confused with other terms which also fall under the umbrella term of OEC.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Earth_creationism#Theistic_evolution.

    The rest of what you say is inapplicable to Collins, who is no evolution-denier, hence not disqualified from his job, though you suggest he would be if he were.

    As regards the YEC Dan Barker BBC presenter job, he will be no head of the NIH. If Barker allows his YEC or other strong Christian views to affect his TV presenting adversely, and goes on a pro-religious or anti-atheist rant, the BBC will assuredly treat him as they did Richard Dawkins when he went on his infamous 2002 BBC Radio ‘Alternative Thought for the Day’ anti-religious rant, they’ll stop him from presenting further live programmes.

  22. Andy says:

    Dhay,

    The rest of what you say is inapplicable to Collins[1], who is no evolution-denier, hence not disqualified from his job, though you suggest he would be if he were. [2]

    1. Erm… of course, that´s why I started with pointing out that it doesn´t apply to him.
    2. Of course he would be disqualified in that case. Hiring a creationist for jobs that involve million-dollar decisions about the research of evolutionary biologists would make exactly as much sense as Harvard Divinity School starting an enormous research project about the life of Jesus Christ and hiring someone who believes that Jesus Christ never even existed in the first place to manage it. You could reasonably hire such a person for a research project that aims to evaluate the plausibility of mythicist claims wrt Jesus, but hiring such a person for a project that is *based* on the existence of Jesus would be downright stupid. And similarly, it would have been downright stupid to hire a creationist as head of the human genome project or as director of the NIH (the former involved the application of plenty of methods that are flat out invalid if creationism is true and led to published results that are flat out wrong if creationism is true, and the latter involves management of many millions of grant money that goes to evolutionary biologists (or not)).

    As regards the YEC Dan Barker BBC presenter job, he will be no head of the NIH. If Barker allows his YEC or other strong Christian views to affect his TV presenting adversely….

    I didn´t say anything about Dan Barker and I´ve never seen the show that he is now presenting. I´d find it a little strange if he has to report stories about research relevant for evolutionary biology (and I have no idea if he will), but I personally don´t really care about one more TV personality with whacky beliefs as long as he doesn´t promote *harmful* bullshit like, say, Oprah or Mehmet Oz.

  23. Michael says:

    Collins isn´t an Old Earth Creationist, he is a theistic evolutionist. If he´d be a creationist, his appointment here (and his earlier one as head of the human genome project) would indeed have been *very* problematic because both jobs involved very significant decisions about the funding and work of evolutionary biologists (it would be like sending a holocaust denier as an ambassador to Israel).

    Harris and Coyne made essentially the same argument based solely on him being a theist. Harris insisted it would be very problematic for a Christian to oversee funding for neuroscience research. Would you care to defend Harris’s attack?

  24. TFBW says:

    Andy said:

    … led to published results that are flat out wrong if creationism is true …

    Funny — I’m always hearing that creationism isn’t science because it isn’t falsifiable.

  25. Andy says:

    @Michael

    Would you care to defend Harris’s attack?

    Nope.

  26. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    If only life were so simple.
    Ever heard of Theodosius Dobzhansky? He famously wrote:

    Nothing in Biology Makes Sense except in the Light of Evolution

    From Wikipedia, Dobzhansky:

    was a prominent American geneticist and evolutionary biologist, and a central figure in the field of evolutionary biology for his work in shaping the unifying modern evolutionary synthesis.[3] …
    His 1937 work Genetics and the Origin of Species became a major influence on the synthesis and was awarded the US National Medal of Science in 1964,[5] and the Franklin Medal in 1973.

    …and yet Dobzhansky labels himself as a “creationist” in the same paper that his most famous quote comes from. Would you like to start a campaign to revoke his Medal of Science?

  27. Andy says:

    TFBW,

    Funny — I’m always hearing that creationism isn’t science because it isn’t falsifiable.

    You do? I could see that wrt Intelligent Design Creationism because the claim that “an unknown number of “designers” of unknown nature did unknown things at unknown points in time for unknown reasons with unknown methods which all has something unknown to do with the origin and development of life” is so vague as to be completely meaningless – it is trivially compatible with every conceivable observation but also not supported or refuted by any conceivable observation and hence scientifically 100% useless.
    But biblical creationism? Both Old Earth and Young Earth Creationism make plenty of claims that are falsifiable and have been falsified. That´s why biblical Creationism is just wrong while Intelligent Design Creationism is not even wrong.

  28. Andy says:

    @Doug

    …and yet Dobzhansky labels himself as a “creationist” in the same paper that his most famous quote comes from.

    Namen sind Schall und Rauch. It´s not important what he calls it, it´s important what he meant by it. And since Dobzhansky´s position is virtually the same as that of Collin or Ken Miller or Francisco Ayala – what he meant by using the word “creationist” is the same that I mean when I say “theistic evolutionist” but completely different from what biblical Creationists of any coleur mean when they use the word “creationist”.

  29. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    Of course it is the meaning that is important. The trouble is that the meaning is stretchy. One person means one thing and another person means another. Why privilege YEC meaning?

  30. Andy says:

    @Doug

    One person means one thing and another person means another. Why privilege YEC meaning?

    I do it because the average person nowadays will assume that the meaning of “Creationist” involves a denial of macroevolution and a belief that the events described in the Genesis accounts happened in a sense that is not completely metaphorical. Dobzhansky can call himself that if he likes and you can refer to him as a “Creationist”, but you will cause confusion with that unless you clarify that his position has nothing in common with biblical Creationism beyond an affirmation that the Christian God exists.

  31. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    Frankly, the position of Dobzhansky that the Christian God designed a universe that not only supports life, but supports intelligent life, and was put together in such a way for that life to come into existence is quite explicitly an “intelligent design” position, one that is so often conflated with Creationism by atheists. And you’re accusing me of causing confusion!

  32. TFBW says:

    Andy displays his authoritarian style through the continuous use of assertions.

  33. Andy says:

    @Doug:

    Frankly, the position of Dobzhansky that the Christian God designed a universe that not only supports life, but supports intelligent life, and was put together in such a way for that life to come into existence is quite explicitly an “intelligent design” position…

    :-D. Yeah, right. Then by all means, go ahead and quote ANY person associated with the “Intelligent Design” movement that explicitly accepts macroevolution without any qualifications in the same way that Dobzhansky, Miller, Ayala etc.pp. have done.
    Just one.
    A single one.
    I´m waiting.

  34. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    You’re focusing on the wrong thing. By making “macroevolution” the essence of the question, you’re reduced to special pleading (i.e., “without any qualification”). The essence of the question is teleology.

  35. Andy says:

    TFBW,

    Andy displays his authoritarian style through the continuous use of assertions.

    Authoritarian, eh? Methinks that you are being a hypocrite here, but that´s easy to test. Consider the following scenario:
    The religious research institution that you respect the most is about to set up the biggest research project about the life of Jesus that has ever been conducted, one that will keep hundreds of scholars busy for years and cost many millions of dollars. Now, this institution is about to appoint the manager of this project and they´ve picked someone who has the relevant credentials (lets say he has a PhD in New Testament studies) but who is also convinced that there never was a historical Jesus in any sense and that the entire project he is supposed to oversee and direct is thus based on a *completely false* premise and that every findings his team might uncover about a historical Jesus can only be false because there never was one.
    Would you disagree with that appointment?
    No weaseling around, just a simple “yes, I would” or “no, I would not”.

    Btw, if you disagree with any of the things I´ve asserted, feel free to criticize them – I´m more than happy to defend the things I assert.

  36. Dhay says:

    As we’re looking at whether alleged delusions or delusion-like beliefs such as those of YECs should disqualify someone from holding a job because, obviously, that person is out of touch with reality, let’s get ourselves in touch with reality by having a look at what the peer-reviewed scientific literature says about the prevalence of delusions or delusion-like beliefs.

    In The Prevalence of Delusion-Like Beliefs Relative to Sociocultural Beliefs in the General Population, published in the journal Psychopathology (2011;44:106-115) Pechey and Halligan say:

    Delusions remain one of the most powerful constructs in psychiatry, given their contribution to the diagnosis of patients considered to have lost touch with reality. For Jaspers delusions were ‘psychologically irreducible’, and constituted the ‘basic characteristic of madness’. While established psychiatric definitions claim that delusions are (1) held despite what almost everyone else believes and (2) qualitatively distinct from those beliefs ordinarily held by members of a person’s culture, most clinicians are not in a position to know the prevalence of such beliefs within society. Thus this criterion that a delusion is ‘not [a belief] ordinarily accepted by other members of the person’s culture or sub-culture’ is typically not based upon evidence of how widely accepted such beliefs are.

    The paper then goes on to reveal research findings that “delusion-like beliefs” (including DSM-IV “bizarre” clinical delusion-like beliefs) are not rare, as had been supposed, they are actually very common indeed; at least one delusion-like belief is present in 91% of the UK population at some strength (strong, moderate, or weak) of belief – yes, that’s a mere 9% of the UK population who are completely free of delusion-like beliefs and are thus undoubtedly eligible (if qualified in other ways) to present BBC Breakfast, whereas the overwhelming majority hold several delusion-like beliefs simultaneously – and one or more delusion-like beliefs are present in 39% at ‘strong’ belief level.

    The researchers use the term “delusion-like belief” instead of “delusion” because of the lack of consistency of definition and usage of “delusion” by previous researchers: so they cut through the Gordian Knot of “delusion” having a whole range of unsuitable meanings, whose “delusion” to use, by using their own term. But yes, their “delusion-like belief” is not meant to be differentiated from what other researchers, and psychologists and psychiatrists too, call a delusion.

    One or more of the weirder DSM-IV “bizarre” delusion-like beliefs – that’s DSM-IV clinically defined clinical-strength delusions – are present in 76% of the UK population at some strength (strong, moderate, or weak) of belief, and are present in 25% at ‘strong’ belief level.

    I’ve no reason to suppose populations elsewhere than the UK will be found to be different.

    Along with a range of non-bizarre delusion-like beliefs, e.g. “Some well-known celebrity is secretly in love with you” (prevalence 7%), the prevalence of ten DSM-IV “bizarre” delusion-like beliefs was investigated; the first eight were:

    You are dead and/or do not exist.
    Relatives or close friends are sometimes replaced by identical-looking imposters.
    Part of your body does not belong to you.
    The reflection in the mirror is sometimes not you.
    People you know disguise themselves as others to manipulate or influence you.
    Some people are duplicated, i.e. are in two places at the same time.
    Certain places are duplicated, i.e. are in two locations at the same time.
    There is another person who looks and acts like you [other than your twin, presumably.]

    Bizarre, yes?

    The last two DSM-IV “bizarre” delusion-like beliefs are of particular interest, in view a) of Sam Harris’ telling us we have uncontrollable “monkey minds” and b) Harris and Jerry Coyne telling us that everything we do (and think) is the fully pre-determined result of genes and environment – no free will, no control of thought or action:

    Your thoughts are not fully under your control.
    You are not in control of some of your actions.

    It appears that the publicly proclaimed ‘strong’ belief level core-beliefs of New Atheists Jerry Coyne and Sam Harris are officially DSM-IV “bizarre” delusion-like beliefs. Perhaps I should describe Coyne and Harris as persons suffering from strong psychotic delusions, as people probably quite unsuited to being a BBC Breakfast presenter. What if they had to present something on some crime and its punishment – wouldn’t their wacky views on non-culpability because of inescapable determinism get in the way.

    Makes Dan Barker look very sane by comparison, doesn’t it.

    So, those ranting at those allegedly appallingly deluded Christians should perhaps be aware that delusion-like beliefs are certainly not confined to Christians and the religious, and are not rare, but are very, very common – it looks like one is abnormal if not deluded, for if not deluded in one of the researched ways one is part of only 9% of the population – as there must be other delusions, ones which weren’t researched, even that 9% must be a high figure: at one end of the delusion spectrum, nine out of ten people (91%) have at least one of the researched delusions at some strength; at the other end, one in four has a clinically categorised “bizarre” DSM-IV strong delusion.

    The chances that a person calling a religious person “deluded” does not themselves suffer from delusions is thus statistically rather small; one in four of the name-callers will themselves have one or more strong DSM-IV “bizarre” delusions; fully nine out of ten name-callers will themselves have some delusion.

    Puts the name-calling into a different perspective.

  37. Andy says:

    @Doug

    You’re focusing on the wrong thing. By making “macroevolution” the essence of the question, you’re reduced to special pleading (i.e., “without any qualification”).

    Do you even know what “special pleading” means? It certainly does not make any sense whatsoever in the context that you use it here.
    Also, I´m not focussing on the wrong thing, I´m focussing on the relevant thing – if Collins would have been a biblical Creationist, he would have been a piss poor appointment for the head of the human genome project and the director of the NIH because he´d have to supervise the application of methods that he believes to be flat out invalid and recomment to publish results that he believes to be flat out false for the former job, and because he would have to manage millions of dollars in grants for research that has foundations which he denies with religious conviction for the latter job.
    His beliefs about teleology on the other hand are irrelevant for his judgment in either job, that´s why you are focussing on the wrong.

  38. Andy says:

    @Dhay

    As we’re looking at whether alleged delusions or delusion-like beliefs such as those of YECs should disqualify someone from holding a job because…

    Just in case you are also talking about me, that was not my reasoning *at all* for why Collins would have been a terrible choice for the head of the human genome project or director of the NIH if he had been a biblical Creationist.

  39. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    I have great confidence that your “without any qualification” is a closet door hiding all manner of special pleading if I were only to tug on it a bit 😉
    Do you have any idea what the human genome project did or the NIH does? Your statement concerning Collins indicates otherwise. There is nothing (i.e., not a single thing) about either the human genome project or the NIH that requires an appreciation/understanding/acceptance of macroevolution. Prove me wrong. Show me one.
    Just one.
    A single one.
    I´m waiting.

  40. TFBW says:

    Andy,

    Btw, if you disagree with any of the things I´ve asserted, feel free to criticize them – I´m more than happy to defend the things I assert.

    You’re always willing to back them up with more assertions, I know. If I were to rebut your characterisation of, say, Intelligent Design, by pointing out a definition offered by an actual proponent of the theory (which, needless to say, flatly contradicted your formulation), would you back down graciously, or double down and re-assert not only your original points, but also some generally unflattering things about my source?

    It’s a rhetorical question. You’ve already answered it repeatedly as far as I’m concerned.

  41. Dhay says:

    Andy > 1. Erm… of course, that´s why I started with pointing out that it doesn´t apply to him.
    2. Of course he would be disqualified in that case.

    1. Erm… of course, that’s why I agreed with you.
    2. Of course he isn’t disqualified, because that’s not the case.

    Why your obsession with hypotheticals?

  42. Dhay says:

    Andy > Just in case you are also talking about me, that was not my reasoning *at all* for why Collins would have been a terrible choice for the head of the human genome project or director of the NIH if he had been a biblical Creationist.

    The response was in modified form originally given to a ‘nate’ some months back, who ranted about “deluded” Christians. I adapted it to fit the OP, with Richard Dawkins in particular mind, but to remind my fellow responders, yourself included (if applicable) that the matter is far from what might be caricatured as “Rational-Thinking Brights” versus “Deluded Religious Nutters”.

    Sadly, all the world’s daft except thar and me, and thar’s a bit daft sometimes.

  43. Andy says:

    @Doug:

    I have great confidence that your “without any qualification” is a closet door hiding all manner of special pleading if I were only to tug on it a bit 😉

    Well then you apparently do not even understand the meaning of the word “any”.

    Do you have any idea what the human genome project did or the NIH does?

    I am an evolutionary biologist, I did read the genome paper from Collins’ and Venter´s projects and I do know plenty of people personally that have received grants from the NIH to conduct research on evolutionary biology (I myself have never applied for NIH money since I live in Europe). So my answer would be “yes”.

    There is nothing (i.e., not a single thing) about either the human genome project or the NIH that requires an appreciation/understanding/acceptance of macroevolution. Prove me wrong. Show me one.
    Just one.
    A single one.
    I´m waiting.

    I´m happy to oblige!
    Random example from human genome paper (the one that was overseen by Collins):
    “The age distribution of the repeats in the human genome provides a rich ‘fossil record’ stretching over several hundred million years. The ancestry and approximate age of each fossil can be inferred by exploiting the fact that each copy is derived from, and therefore initially carried the sequence of, a then-active transposon and, being generally under no functional constraint, has accumulated mutations randomly and independently of other copies. We can infer the sequence of the ancestral active elements by clustering the modern derivatives into phylogenetic trees and building a consensus based on the multiple sequence alignment of a cluster of copies. Using available consensus sequences for known repeat subfamilies, we calculated the per cent divergence from the inferred ancestral active transposon for each of three million interspersed repeats in the draft genome sequence.
    The percentage of sequence divergence can be converted into an approximate age in millions of years (Myr) on the basis of evolutionary information. Care is required in calibrating the clock, because the rate of sequence divergence may not be constant over time or between lineages[139]. The relative-rate test[157] can be used to calculate the sequence divergence that accumulated in a lineage after a given timepoint, on the basis of comparison with a sibling species that diverged at that time and an outgroup species. For example, the substitution rate over roughly the last 25 Myr in the human lineage can be calculated by using old world monkeys (which diverged about 25 Myr ago) as a sibling species and new world monkeys as an outgroup. We have used currently available calibrations for the human lineage, but the issue should be revisited as sequence information becomes available from different mammals.

    Figure 18a shows the representation of various classes of transposable elements in categories reflecting equal amounts of sequence divergence. In Fig. 18b the data are grouped into four bins corresponding to successive 25-Myr periods, on the basis of an approximate clock. Figure 19 shows the mean ages of various subfamilies of DNA transposons. Several facts are apparent from these graphs. First, most interspersed repeats in the human genome predate the eutherian radiation. This is a testament to the extremely slow rate with which nonfunctional sequences are cleared from vertebrate genomes (see below concerning comparison with the fly).”
    If you´d like more, there are at least two dozen more examples.
    Btw, I´m very confident that you did not read a single word of this paper and know literally nothing what-so-ever about it. Because the very first(!) sentence of this paper reads:
    “The human genome holds an extraordinary trove of information about human development, physiology, medicine and evolution. ”

    And wrt the NIH:
    here are 26 NIH grants for the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases Initiative (EEID). Each grant is worth at least 250000$ and some are in the millions:
    http://www.fic.nih.gov/Grants/Search/Pages/Awards-Program-EID.aspx
    The NIH has funded dozens of such Initiatives and hundreds of individual projects that are about evolutionary biology.

  44. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    Funny: you seem to be confusing requirement (i.e., underpinning) with implication (i.e., result). It is also telling that the “Evolution of Infectious Diseases” represents research into microevolution, but you didn’t hesitate to use it as a stand-in for macroevolution. Why would that be?

  45. Andy says:

    @TFBW

    You didn´t answer my question. Can I thus conclude that the answer would be “yes, I would” and that you would thus be either “authoritarian” under your own conception of what that word means or alternatively a hypocrite?

    You’re always willing to back them up with more assertions, I know. If I were to rebut your characterisation of, say, Intelligent Design, by pointing out a definition offered by an actual proponent of the theory (which, needless to say, flatly contradicted your formulation)

    I very much doubt that you could do that. Here is my definition again with added numbers to break it down:
    “an unknown number[1] of “designers” of unknown nature[2] did unknown things[3] at unknown points in time[4] for unknown reasons[5] with unknown methods[6] which all has something unknown[7] to do with the origin and development of life”
    If you can find any Cdesign proponentsist who explicitly says how many “Designers” there are (#1), or what the nature of those Designers is (#2), or what exactly they did (#3), or when they did it (#4), or why they did it (#5), or how they did it (#6) or how exactly any of this relates to the origin and / or development of life on earth (#7) – be my guest. If you can´t, then your claim that the definitions offered by Cdesign proponentsists would contradict my definition is false, you could provide a definition that is *different*, but not one that *contradicts* mine.
    I could also refer to you to the definitions given on, say, Uncommon Descent, where it is explicitly admitted that “As a theory, ID also does not specify the identity or nature of the designer, so it is not the same as natural theology, which reasons from nature to the existence and attributes of God.”

  46. Andy says:

    @Doug:

    Funny: you seem to be confusing requirement (i.e., underpinning) with implication (i.e., result).

    No, I don´t. What I rather point out is that Collins would have had to oversee the applications of plenty of methods that he would have to consider flat out invalid if he´d be a biblical Creationist (e.g. the alignment of DNA sequences between different mammalian species which makes literally no sense whatsoever if those species don´t share a common ancestor, and the analysis of those alignments with e.g. substitution models which makes just as little sense unless those species are related via common descent). That he would have to evaluate results produced by his team that he believes to be flat out wrong (e.g. the stuff I just showed you plus dozens of other examples) and have to make decisions about how his team should proceed based on those results he considers to be flat out wrong. That he has to present those results he considers to be flat out wrong to the puclic and to fellow academics. And that he has to look at the final result – the genome paper – before submitting it to the Nature journal, and check a box on his monitor that says “all authors have read and approve of the final manuscript” – which would force him to lie because the paper is chock full of stuff he considers to be flat out wrong.
    Btw, if someone is as spectacularly wrong as you have been here:

    Do you have any idea what the human genome project did or the NIH does? Your statement concerning Collins indicates otherwise. There is nothing (i.e., not a single thing) about either the human genome project or the NIH that requires an appreciation/understanding/acceptance of macroevolution. Prove me wrong. Show me one.
    Just one.
    A single one.
    I´m waiting.

    it is customary to at least acknowledge that one has erred.

    It is also telling that the “Evolution of Infectious Diseases” represents research into microevolution, but you didn’t hesitate to use it as a stand-in for macroevolution.

    Because there are in practice almost no studies that focus *exclusively* on microevolution, for the research I´ve linked you to – you´ll that they almost invariably also use methods that are based on sequence alignments between species that cannot by related by common ancestry if biblical Creationism is true. The other way around however – research that focusses exclusively on macroevolution – is quite frequent, random example:
    “A UNL research team led by evolutionary geneticist Jay Storz has received a $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for continued research into mechanisms of protein evolution.
    The team is using an approach called “protein engineering” to trace mutational pathways of hemoglobin evolution in vertebrates.
    …”
    http://news.unl.edu/newsrooms/unltoday/article/team-receives-14m-grant-to-research-protein-evolution/

    How many examples do I have to give you until you concede that you were just as spectacularly wrong about the NIH as you have been about the human genome project?

  47. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    “methods” are never “invalid”. What ever gave you such a bizarre idea? Investigating genomic differences and alignments is interesting stuff. What makes you imagine that your preferred interpretation of those differences is necessary to examine the differences in the first place. It just doesn’t follow. The results are always interesting. The interpretation of those results is the only thing at issue. Your position is as insane as the suggestion that unless someone adopts the Copenhagen interpretation, one cannot study quantum mechanics!
    You haven’t even come close to demonstrating that I’ve been wrong, let alone “spectacularly wrong”. Nice try, though.

  48. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    You started out pretending that the mandate of the human genome project and the NIH requires an acceptance of macroevolution. Now you pretend to “prove” the original claim by showing that there are evolutionary implications to the HGP, and that the NIH funds research toward our understanding of evolution. The logic of that isn’t particularly strong.

  49. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    …after all, if those evolutionary implications were never published, the HGP, by sequencing the Human Genome, would have fulfilled its mandate. Similarly, if the NIH opted to fund other research (pharmaceutical, say) in preference to its funding of evolutionary research, it would still be fulfilling its mandate. And until such time as that evolutionary research is responsible for medicinal breakthroughs (“any time now…?”), nobody has evidential grounds to argue that it is to be preferred to alternate research.

  50. Andy says:

    @Doug:

    “methods” are never “invalid”. What ever gave you such a bizarre idea?

    *headdesk* This is even more absurdly false claim than the ones you made previously. Of course a method can be “invalid” – it necessarily is so whenever the premises it is based on are not given. For example, it is mathematically possible to calculate Pearson´s correlation coefficient for data that has many significant outliers, but the result is completely meaningless and concluding *anything* from it is invalid. And similarly, a multiple sequence alignment of biological sequences that are not related is technically possible, but completely meaningless – you can´t validly conclude anything from it.

    Investigating genomic differences and alignments is interesting stuff. What makes you imagine that your preferred interpretation of those differences is necessary to examine the differences in the first place.

    1. It doesn´t make any sense to align them the way we do it in the first place if you believe common descent to be false – because the multiple sequence alignment algorithms we use assume common descent and are a “Garbage in – Garbage out” case if they are not. If you´d believe common descent to be false, you´d rather use techniques proposed by Baraminologists that do not explicitly rely on common descent being true – e.g. consider *only* shared traits between species, construct a distance matrix based on them, analyze it with classical multidimensional scaling, and pray to God (in vain) that it doesn´t produce the neat continuum that evolutionists would predict.
    2. You can look at, say, a paternity test that concludes that you are not the father of some child with 99.9999% certainty and say “yeah well, that might be your preferred interpretation, I interpret those results to mean that I am the father with 100% certainty” – but it would be stupid. And putting you in a position where you have to steadfastly cling to interpretations that are at best outrageously implausible and at worst as certainly impossible as it is possible to scientifcally determine because of your religious convictions, would be similarly stupid.

    Your position is as insane as the suggestion that unless someone adopts the Copenhagen interpretation, one cannot study quantum mechanics!

    That is the literally single worst example you could give, because all interpretations of quantum mechanics that are still on the table make the exact same predictions about the probabilty distributions of observed outcomes. For Evolution vs. ID or biblical Creationism wrt the distribution of biological similarities on the other hand, evolution makes specific predictions (a mathematically significant nested hierarchy of similarities for ALL characters – functional, neutral and deleterious ones), biblical Creationism / Baraminology makes different much less specific predictions (a clear distinction between different Baramin that are not connected with each other via a continuous intermediates (much less specific because biblical Creationism would be consistent with hierarchical, non-hierarchical or anti-hierarchical distributions of similarities here while evolution strictly requires the first)), and ID makes no predictions whatsoever.

    You haven’t even come close to demonstrating that I’ve been wrong, let alone “spectacularly wrong”.

    I have, but you are a remarkably irrational person so I´m not surprised that you don´t get it.

  51. Andy says:

    @Doug:

    …after all, if those evolutionary implications were never published, the HGP, by sequencing the Human Genome, would have fulfilled its mandate.

    Wow. That is the best live demonstration of why appointing a Creationist as head of the human genome project would have been an utterly terrible decision that I could imagine – thanks a lot! 🙂

    Similarly, if the NIH opted to fund other research (pharmaceutical, say) in preference to its funding of evolutionary research, it would still be fulfilling its mandate.

    And now we also have the best conceivable live demonstration for why you might as well appoint a Chimp as director of the NIH if you consider appointing a biblical Creationist (the former would arguably do much less damage than the letter because the former at least doesn´t fuck it up intentionally).
    You think that pharmaceutical research is independent of evolution – because you have no idea how pharmaceutical research is done (hint: evolutionary biology is highly relevant here, particularly for the identification of drug targets and evaluations of which model organisms are best suited for which studies).

    And until such time as that evolutionary research is responsible for medicinal breakthroughs (“any time now…?”), nobody has evidential grounds to argue that it is to be preferred to alternate research.

    Yawn….
    http://search.cdc.gov/search?sitelimit=wwwnc.cdc.gov%2Feid&query=phylogenetic&utf8=%E2%9C%93&affiliate=cdc-main

  52. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    If you had a modicum of understanding, you would appreciate that a method can never be invalid (even in the context of your rant above). The method, is just that: a method. A measurement is just that: a measurement. You can measure a standard deviation when the distribution is so skewed that it tells you squat. It is still valid, and it is still the standard deviation.

    And your link? Yawn is right: microevolution all the way down.

  53. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    You seem to be suggesting (in the context of the human genome project) that the entire enterprise could not have been conducted (thought experiment here) if Homo Sapiens were the only living organisms on the planet. Is this true? Is there some “alignment” mechanism underpinning the sequencing of the human genome that requires that it “align” (in any way, shape, or form) to a non-human genome? Really?

  54. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    I happen to have a friend whose career was as a (very successful) pharmaceutical research scientist for Merck. He happens to be a YEC (I am not). Your attempt to snow me fails dramatically! 🙂 I’m guessing that it is you who have no idea how pharmaceutical research is done!

  55. Ratheist says:

    He’s going to be covering news dude, I don’t trust someone so delusional to tell me whats happening in the world. Thats the gist of his tweet.

  56. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    That first line you directed our attention to, viz.

    “The human genome holds an extraordinary trove of information about human development, physiology, medicine and evolution. ”

    Are you seriously trying to tell us that the HGP would have been a failure if instead it read:

    “The human genome holds an extraordinary trove of information about human development, physiology, and medicine. ”

    ?
    If the evolutionary implications were so important, why do you suppose it was put at the end of the list?

  57. Andy says:

    @Doug:

    If you had a modicum of understanding, you would appreciate that a method can never be invalid (even in the context of your rant above). The method, is just that: a method. A measurement is just that: a measurement. You can measure a standard deviation when the distribution is so skewed that it tells you squat. It is still valid, and it is still the standard deviation.

    And if you´d be in a meeting where someone presents the standard deviation of a distribution with many extreme outliers, makes some inferences from that standard deviation, and then tells the audience “I know, the assumptions of the method are not given and the result tells us squat, but a method can never be invalid! See, I can compute it just fine, I click on the button here and voila – here´s the standard deviation, so lets discuss the implications of it”.
    Would you think that this is reasonable, yes or no?
    And if the answer should be “no”- then why for fucks sake do you think that this magically changes if the guy wouldn´t talk about the result of a standard deviation calculation that is completely meaningless because the assumptions of the method are violated, but rather the result of a method from evolutionary biology that is completely meaningless because the assumptions of the method are violated?

    You seem to be suggesting (in the context of the human genome project) that the entire enterprise could not have been conducted (thought experiment here) if Homo Sapiens were the only living organisms on the planet. Is this true? Is there some “alignment” mechanism underpinning the sequencing of the human genome that requires that it “align” (in any way, shape, or form) to a non-human genome? Really?

    Then lets just imagine that there is an archaeologist that also happens to believe with religious conviction that no historical claim of Christianity can possibly be true, and then is appointed to oversee a huge project involving several excavations in the near east. Now, his team produces plenty of results that beautifully support biblical accounts, and whenever this happens, he tells the researchers to drop everything and start working on something else. And for the write up of the publications describing the efforts that have been done, this guy then choses to not mention any of the stuff that would support Christian claims about near eastern history and censors out any such stuff written by his co-workers from the manuscripts.
    Surely, you would not find that problematic at all, right? I mean, the excavations *have* been done and you can´t be suggesting that it would be impossible to dig some holes in Palestine or Syria or whatever unless the historical claims of Christianity are true?! You are not a complete hypocrite after all that thinks sweeping inconvenient results under the rug for ideological reasons is just fine, but only as long as it is an ideology not too far removed from your own, or are you?

    If the evolutionary implications were so important, why do you suppose it was put at the end of the list?

    Yup, they mention it in the first line of the abstract, but at the end of the sentence, so it´s clearly just some stuff they did because they had nothing better to do. Well, that is so breathtakingly stupid that I´m just going to quote it for emphasis.

  58. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    Note that in order to get where you wanted to go, you needed to invoke “inferences” and “implications”. Because (duh!) it is only in the context of those things that it makes sense to talk about “valid”.
    It seems to be your way to make your ad hominems more vehement the weaker your case is. If you could kindly answer the actual questions, it would be appreciated.

  59. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    Otherwise, talking about archaeology in response to the question:

    Is there some “alignment” mechanism underpinning the sequencing of the human genome that requires that it “align” (in any way, shape, or form) to a non-human genome?

    smells mightily of evasion…

  60. Andy says:

    @Doug:

    Note that in order to get where you wanted to go, you needed to invoke “inferences” and “implications”. Because (duh!) it is only in the context of those things that it makes sense to talk about “valid”.

    And that means that you can talk about the implications of the results of methods from evolutionary biology even when they are completely meaningless because the assumptions they rely on are not given, while the same is for some reason totally impossible for any other method – when a standard statistics method is applied in a context where its assumptions are violated for example, it “tells us sqat”.
    Care to elaborate on what the reason is that makes methods from evolutionary biology totally unlike any other method?

    Otherwise, talking about archaeology in response to the question:

    Is there some “alignment” mechanism underpinning the sequencing of the human genome that requires that it “align” (in any way, shape, or form) to a non-human genome?

    smells mightily of evasion…

    So hypocrisy it is.

    At this point, trying to reason with you has become like playing chess with a pigeon.

  61. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    btw,

    here’s the standard deviation, so let’s discuss the implications of it

    is always “reasonable” (The “implications” could be “there are none”).
    Similarly, if a method was developed on the basis of evolutionary assumptions, the method is still a method. Whether or not the assumptions are valid, the method can still be valid. In fact, examining the results of a method with invalid assumptions can be a perfectly valid way to invalidate those assumptions.

  62. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    I asked for an answer to a simple question.
    First we got a rant about archaeology (red herring)
    Now we get an accusation of hypocrisy (ad hominem)
    You aren’t particularly convincing, you know.
    Answer the question?

  63. Andy says:

    @Doug

    is always “reasonable” (The “implications” could be “there are none”).
    Similarly, if a method was developed on the basis of evolutionary assumptions, the method is still a method. Whether or not the assumptions are valid, the method can still be valid. In fact, examining the results of a method with invalid assumptions can be a perfectly valid way to invalidate those assumptions.

    How fascinating! I´m sitting in front of a computer and have easy access to all standard bioinformatics methods and all publicly available genomic data – tell me what cool stuff I can do by applying any of those methods on data for which I already know that it violates the assumptions of the method a priori and believe with religious conviction that they are necessarily violated because I´m certain that common descent is false.
    Or I just open up an R shell and load one of the example data sets and you tell me which statistical method I could apply that would itself tell me if it´s assumptions are violated (I´m not exactly an expert in statistics but I know my way around quite well, and somehow, I never use statistical tests themselves to test their assumptions, but rather *different* methods that were designed to test those assumptions – but you seem to know something I don´t, so by all means, enlighten me).

  64. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    Perhaps you missed the word “examining”. That’s kind of important. Nice attempt at diversion, though.
    Answer the question?

  65. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    Honestly: the “invalidate assumptions by examining the results of the method” is analogous to modus tollens. This isn’t difficult. Given the assumptions, the method/measurement tells us X. But if (by examination) it is clear that we do not have X, then the assumptions are invalid. Usually, you’re far more rational than this. What’s up?

  66. TFBW says:

    Andy,

    You didn´t answer my question.

    And yet I still gave it far greater consideration than it was worth.

    Can I thus conclude …

    You hardly need my active participation to conclude whatever you like.

    I very much doubt that you could do that.

    Of course you do. But let’s say that I managed to find a definition from a proponent of ID which included some rather vital point not included anywhere in your list. I predict that you would deny the validity of that point and stick to your guns. Any chance I’m wrong? Any chance that you’d recognise something said about ID by and ID proponent as being more authoritative than your own pronouncements on the subject?

    I think not.

  67. Andy says:

    @Doug:

    Honestly: the “invalidate assumptions by examining the results of the method” is analogous to modus tollens. This isn’t difficult. Given the assumptions, the method/measurement tells us X. But if (by examination) it is clear that we do not have X, then the assumptions are invalid.

    Awesome, sounds sciencey.

    Lets do this together, here´s some data
    x = (10, 11, 9, 9.5, 10, 10.5, 11, 10, 10, 10, 9.5, 10.5, 10, 10, 9.5, 10, 11, 10.5, 10.5, 9, 9, 10.5, 10, 10.5, 9)
    y = (10, 20, 9, 9.5, 20, 10.5, 11, 20, 10, 10, 9.5, 20, 10, 10, 9.5, 10, 11, 10.5, 10, 10, 10, 9, 11, 15, 20)

    And now lets use some method on that data, how about a standard t-test?
    You say “This isn’t difficult. Given the assumptions, the method/measurement tells us X. But if (by examination) it is clear that we do not have X, then the assumptions are invalid”

    Well, ok, lets assume that the assumptions of the t-test hold and just calculate the result, that´s it:

    Welch Two Sample t-test
    data: x and y
    t = -2.6381, df = 25.086, p-value = 0.01412
    alternative hypothesis: true difference in means is not equal to 0

    – so, please “examine” this result and tell me whether it is “clear that we do not have X” or not.

  68. Andy says:

    TFBW,

    You hardly need my active participation to conclude whatever you like.

    So it remains a mystery whether you are authoritarian or a complete hypocrite or both.

    I predict…

    I don´t give a rats ass.

  69. TFBW says:

    Andy,

    I’m glad we managed to conclude this matter without wasting the thousands of words that we did <a href="/2016/01/26/the-head-fake-2/"last time. In summary, then, one of the hallmarks of authoritarianism is that it brooks no dissent. Whether or not Andy is “authoritarian” in the strict, rigidly literal sense, I submit that “brooks no dissent” is a running theme in his posts. He doesn’t so much discuss as dictate. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s wrong about anything in particular: it’s just meant as fair warning to those who might engage him, particularly those who are hoping for a productive exchange of ideas.

  70. Andy says:

    TFBW,

    Whether or not Andy is “authoritarian” in the strict, rigidly literal sense, I submit that “brooks no dissent” is a running theme in his posts. He doesn’t so much discuss as dictate.

    I submit that TFBW is a complete hypocrite, and unlike TFBW, I base my accusation on evidence ( https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/02/14/dawkins-displays-his-authoritarian-nature/#comment-11446 ) instead of pulling them out of my nether regions.

  71. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    I’ll answer your question (“whether is it clear that we have X?”)
    if you answer mine (“did the human genome project require any alignment techniques that would not have been just as effective in single-species world?”)

  72. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    You’re accusing TFBW of …hypocrisy? on the basis of …his ignoring? …your hypothetical scenario? You’re losing it, buddy.

  73. Andy says:

    @Doug:
    Do you think that this is some game where the one that comes up with the most stupid and irrelevant question wins?

  74. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    Are they only “stupid” and “irrelevant” when the only (and obvious) answer undermines your entire position?

  75. Andy says:

    @Doug:
    Funny, from my vantage point it rather looks like your moronic question is not even so much as relevant for my position.

  76. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    Try a more comfortable position for a better vantage point?

  77. TFBW says:

    Andy said:

    I submit that TFBW is a complete hypocrite, and unlike TFBW, I base my accusation on evidence …

    For the record, having looked at the “evidence”, I’m prepared to let that accusation stand on its own merits.

  78. Andy says:

    @Doug
    Yup, exactly like playing chess with a pigeon.

  79. Dhay says:

    Andy > I submit that TFBW is a complete hypocrite, and unlike TFBW, I base my accusation on evidence ( https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/02/14/dawkins-displays-his-authoritarian-nature/#comment-11446 ) instead of pulling them out of my nether regions.

    Your first response to me in this thread was to nit-pick my calling Francis Collins an OEC. Your “correct” answer was equivalent to telling me that I’m wrong to claim my Fido is a dog, he’s a poodle.

    Were you trolling me?

    Then you declared lack of interest in Dan Barker — the subject of this thread — and tried to hook me into answering the same question you asked TFBW and link to above, and which you now accuse him of hypocrisy in not answering. I didn’t answer your question to me directly, and didn’t feel myself hypocritical at all in ignoring a question so akin to the famous, “If my aunt wore trousers and had a beard, would she be my uncle?”; well, she hasn’t, and she ain’t. “If Collins was a YEC …” likewise.

    My answer was a rhetorical question: “Why your obsession with hypotheticals?”

    And the answer to that rhetorical question is probably another rhetorical question: are you trolling us?

  80. Andy says:

    Dhay

    Your first response to me in this thread was to nit-pick my calling Francis Collins an OEC. Your “correct” answer was equivalent to telling me that I’m wrong to claim my Fido is a dog, he’s a poodle.

    Bullshit. Biblical Creationism is a) an utterly ludicrous position and would b) completely disqualify someone from holding the positions that Collins held and does hold now. Neither the latter nor the former can be said about his actual position. This isn´t equivalent to telling you that your dog is actually a poodle. It´s equivalent to you saying that some famous Doctor believes in Christian Science and hence categorically rejects all of medicine and instead believes that prayer alone can cure all ailments, and then me telling you that said Doctor actually accepts medical science without qualifications and rather just happens to also be a Christian.

    ….tried to hook me into answering the same question you asked TFBW and link to above, and which you now accuse him of hypocrisy in not answering

    Nope. I didn´t accuse him of hypocrisy because he didn´t answer it. I accused him of hypocrisy because I know what his answer to the question would have been and I also know why he is too cowardly to answer it – and knowing that requires just a tiny fraction of the armchair psychology that is customary on this blog when it comes to the question of what motivates the New Atheists.

    …and didn’t feel myself hypocritical

    Did I call you a hypocrite?

    …in ignoring a question so akin to the famous, “If my aunt wore trousers and had a beard, would she be my uncle?”; well, she hasn’t, and she ain’t.

    If anything, I´d call you “dense” maybe.

  81. TFBW says:

    Now that Andy’s had a chance to reply (if not respond) to Dhay, I’ll throw in my two cents worth.

    As far as I’m concerned, Andy is not a troll. Trolling is just fishing for a reaction. Andy is more complex than that. My armchair psychological analysis suggests that Andy is here principally to lecture.

    I’m sure he would agree that he’s very well informed about all the matters on which he has spoken here, and that there are a great many misguided (and occasionally downright idiotic) opinions expressed in this forum, all in dire need of correction. He is in a position to offer such correction, but the old adage about leading horses to water applies as always. Still, one can but try in the hope that some mind manages to grasp at least one pearl of wisdom at some point.

    As for his “obsession with hypotheticals”, as you put it, Dhay, they serve an important purpose. A well-crafted hypothetical cuts the issue down to its barest essentials, cast in the starkest possible light. The hypothetical has clear and obvious implications — by design, of course; that is the point. One must then merely indicate the obvious parallels between the hypothetical situation and the actual one. The drawback, of course, is that the kind of addle-headed audience most in need of such clear illustrations will also be the slowest to recognise the perfect congruence between the two situations — or, just as likely, they will be quite aware of the devastating implications, and wilfully apply a double standard, taking refuge in hypocrisy rather than admit the point. I’m exhibit #1 for such intellectual dishonesty, as we’ve seen.

    So spare a thought for Andy, who strives so hard to impart to us some scrap of wisdom, never asking for reward, despite our obstinate wrong-headedness, eye-rolling ignorance, and constant need of correction on even the most basic of points.

  82. Michael says:

    – Repeatedly spins and twists my words.
    – Keeps trying to change the topic.
    – Derails the topic of the thread.
    – Tries to turn commenters into the subject by “submitting they are hypocrites.”
    – With 183 comments in only 3 blog entries, clearly on the path to monopolizing the comments section.

    Patience has run out.

    Sorry Andy, but you are banned.

    I know you will complain, but keep in mind that that’s 183 more comments than you were able to post at Jerry Coyne’s popular New Atheist blog.

  83. Dhay says:

    TFBW > Now that Andy’s had a chance to reply (if not respond) to Dhay …

    Nicely put.

  84. Dhay says:

    Andy > If anything, I´d call you “dense” maybe.

    Well he got one thing sort of right. I realise I must have done a double-take on the name, and have been referring to Dan Walker as Dan Barker throughout this thread. But then, know-it-all Andy didn’t spot that, either, so presumably he too must be “dense”.

  85. FZM says:

    As far as I’m concerned, Andy is not a troll. Trolling is just fishing for a reaction. Andy is more complex than that. My armchair psychological analysis suggests that Andy is here principally to lecture.

    I was struck by the quantity of posts Andy had been making since he first appeared on this blog. I also don’t think he was a troll but I am curious about what the motivation for it all was (slow time at work?), especially when it’s broken down into specific numbers: 183 posts in 3 blog entries is impressive.

  86. TFBW says:

    Maybe browbeating theists is actually a normal part of an Evolutionary Biologist’s job description. I wouldn’t have thought so, but do a quick mental audit of all the Evolutionary Biologists known to you, and see if the shoe fits.

  87. Michael says:

    The issue here was whether Dan Walker should have been hired to host some morning TV show. Dawkins, displaying his authoritarian streak, says no. Rather than discuss this real-world example, the atheists wanted to discuss some imaginary example where Francis Collins was a creationist and being hired to head the NIH. There was a real world parallel to that musing – Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne argued that Collins should not be hired because his Christian faith would interfere with his ability to hand out funding (Harris was wringing his hands about neuroscience research). But the atheists did not want to discuss that real world example either. Instead, the topic was supposed to be about some imaginary example where Francis Collins was a creationist and being hired to head the NIH.

    Look, the atheists didn’t want to discuss the real world example of Walker because they’d lose. Walker’s creationism would have nothing to do with the ability to be a good TV host for some fluff show. The reason the atheists didn’t want to discuss Harris and Coyne’s opposition to Collins’ appointment is because they’d lose. The evidence now exists to demonstrate Coyne and Harris were engaged in baseless fear-mongering. So what is the atheist to do? Reach into the ass and pull-out some imaginary scenario designed to help them win a debate.

    Of course, the scenario was stupid. Would Collins The Creationist still have the same track record of success working with chromosome jumping and positional cloning? Would he still have the same success on the human genome project? If the answer is no, then there was never a question. Collins interfering creationism would have precluded his ability to be a success, such that he would have never risen to be a candidate to head the NIH. If the answer is yes, it would mean his creationism did not hinder his ability to be a scientific success and thus should not be an issue when it comes to heading the NIH.

    And that brings us to the whole problem of the atheists argument. What they bring to the table is hiring decisions on the basis of primitive thinking, on the basis of fear-mongering. In all their hypothetical examples, they ignore the fact that in an enlightened environment, we make hiring decisions on the basis of evidence. The candidate provides this evidence in the form of a resume or cv. If the belief is as toxic as the fear-mongers insist, it will prevent the ability to provide a good resume/cv. That’s why people are hired on the basis of their previous track-record and not a litmus test for belief.

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