Defeating Sam Harris’s Argument about Science and Religion

I thought I would take some time to look at some of the “classic” New Atheist essays where they assert the incompatibility of science and religion. Today, I will look at Sam Harris’s essay, “Science Must Destroy Religion.”

Harris quickly gets to his core assertion:

The conflict between religion and science is inherent and (very nearly) zero-sum. The success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma; the maintenance of religious dogma always comes at the expense of science.

“The success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma.” Often? How often is often? 90% of the time? 50% of the time? 10% of the time? 0.1% of the time? Since this sentence can be mean many of these to many different people, it is useless.

Harris does not seem to understand that the majority of science’s successes have not come at the expense of religious dogma. When scientists determined the importance of centromeres for mitosis, it did not come at the expense of religious dogma. When scientists determined that DNA was the genetic material and then, a little later, cracked the genetic code, it did not come at the expense of religious dogma. When scientists discovered various cell cycle genes and the role they play in cancer, it did not come at the expense of religious dogma. When scientists worked out the structure of the cell membrane, it did not come at the expense of religious dogma. When scientists identified and characterized the cell’s core metabolic processes, glycolysis, Krebs cycle, and electron transport chain, it did not come at the expense of religious dogma. When scientists determined the role of sodium and potassium voltage-gated channels in generating action potentials, it did not come at the expense of religious dogma. When scientists figured out how calcium triggers muscle contraction by binding to a protein that is in turn bound to actin, it did not come at the expense of religious dogma. Need I go on? It looks to me like the vast majority of scientific success has not and does not come at the expense of religious dogma.

the maintenance of religious dogma always comes at the expense of science.

Always? In that case, I need only one counterexample to defeat his claim. Let’s take the religious dogma of not bearing false witness (the Ninth Commandment). How does that come at the expense of science? Is Harris trying to imply scientists need to lie but religion is getting in the way? That would be ridiculous.

The claim of “conflict between religion and science [being] inherent and (very nearly) zero-sum is defeated.

So let’s move on by going into clean-up mode.

Harris says:

It is time we conceded a basic fact of human discourse: either a person has good reasons for what he believes, or he does not.

Yes, we all know that. What Sam doesn’t address is that “good reasons” are in the eye of the beholder. It is a subjective judgment call. One man’s good reasons are another man’s weak arguments. Harris himself should know this from experience. He thinks he has good reasons to oppose gun control, but has been incapable of getting his liberal opponents to acknowledge his own “good reasons” are good reasons. So Sam needs to address the important question – who gets to decide when reasons are truly good?

When a person has good reasons, his beliefs contribute to our growing understanding of the world.

Not necessarily. Say I have good reasons to think my neighbor is cheating on his wife. Does that help grow “our understanding of the world?” Sam needs to make the necessary connection between a person with good reasons and our understanding of the world.

We need not distinguish between “hard” and “soft” science here, or between science and other evidence-based disciplines like history. There happen to be very good reasons to believe that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. Consequently, the idea that the Egyptians actually did it lacks credibility.

Yes, there are good reasons. People saw the Japanese planes with their eyes and Japan took credit for the bombing. We would expect both to be true if Japan did indeed bomb Pearl Harbor.

Every sane human being recognizes that to rely merely upon “faith” to decide specific questions of historical fact would be both idiotic and grotesque — that is, until the conversation turns to the origin of books like the bible and the Koran, to the resurrection of Jesus, to Muhammad’s conversation with the angel Gabriel, or to any of the other hallowed travesties that still crowd the altar of human ignorance.

Here’s where Harris goes off the rails. I’ll just stick with the resurrection of Jesus. Merely upon faith? First, Christians do indeed claim to have “good reasons” for believing the resurrection. Faith comes into play because those good reasons cannot purchase intellectual certainty. Second, the resurrection of Jesus is not like the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As I noted, if Japan did in fact bomb Pearl Harbor, we would expect someone to have seen the planes and we would expect Japan to take credit as it declared war on the USA. And we saw what was expected. In the case of Jesus, Harris would have to employ the same logic and make that following claim: “If indeed Jesus did rise from the dead, we, as non-Christians, should be able to detect the following evidence: X, Y, and Z.” In other words, Harris needs to argue what we should expect to see if Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. Without that argument, he has no argument other than materialistic posturing.

Science, in the broadest sense, includes all reasonable claims to knowledge about ourselves and the world.

Science in the “broadest sense?” Harris is dumbing down the definition of science to the point where science is no longer science. That way, he can try to sell atheism as science – a reasonable claim that should be included in science. He can also try to sell his meditation as science – knowledge about himself that should be included in science. I have already discussed this misuse of science before –

Sam Harris’s Subtle Attack on Science
Sam Harris Promotes Himself by Stepping on Science

If there were good reasons to believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, or that Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse, these beliefs would necessarily form part of our rational description of the universe.

This is nonsense. Once again, Harris completely ignores the immense subjective dimension to “having good reasons,” thus confusing truth with consensus. In science, something becomes part of our rational description of the universe not for mere “good reasons,” but because the experimental results mandate it. Consider the fact that DNA is the genetic material. It took about 10-20 years for this to become part of our rational description of the universe as scientists had “good reasons” to deny it: it was thought that proteins were the genetic material. But DNA-as-genetic-material became part of our rational description of the universe because of some of the most elegant experiments in the history of science (the work of Avery, MacLeod, and McCarty, followed by the work of Hershey and Chase).

At this point, we need to address a crucially important question, one that is ignored completely by all the New Atheists trying to hijack science for their metaphysical agenda:

If the virgin birth of Jesus was true (if it did indeed happen), then should we be able to generate experimental results to detect and confirm it? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then spell out precisely the design of such experiments.

There is a reason people like Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, and Sam Harris have never conducted and published a single experimental result falsifying the virgin birth or resurrection of Jesus. It can’t be done. It’s a question that is beyond the reach of science. And that means science has nothing to say on these subjects. This, of course, completely undermines the posturing and agenda of the New Atheists, so they will continue to pretend otherwise.

Summary: Sam Harris’s argument completely fails. As I have shown, it is simply not true that the success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma or the maintenance of religious dogma always comes at the expense of science. Harris’s appeal to “good reasons” ignores the fact that whether or not a reason is a “good” reason is dependent on the person making the judgment, rendering it futile to insist the criterion of “good reason” can generate widespread consensus. Harris also errs in thinking that science has something to say when it comes to the virgin birth or resurrection of Jesus. It does not. One way you can tell this is because neither Harris, nor any other New Atheist, has ever conducted a single experiment to test such claims. That is because Harris, and all other New Atheists, have no idea how to design such an experiment. And that is because such claims are beyond the reach of science.

Harris has his own personal “good reasons” for believing religion is filled with “hideous fantasies” and “hallowed travesties” and is trying to infuse these subjective assessments with authority by portraying those opinions as science. He is trying to hijack science to serve his metaphysical and socio-political agenda. That’s all that is happening here.

Harris has been refuted.

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55 Responses to Defeating Sam Harris’s Argument about Science and Religion

  1. Kevin says:

    The hardest part of refuting a Sam Harris argument about “religion” is going to the effort of signing in, typing, and then clicking “post”. I commend you for your exertion, good sir.

  2. apollyon911 says:

    Does Sam Harris’ mother love him? If so, I’d like a scientific explanation to prove it. Did Ceasar set foot in present-day England? Did Plato exist? Do historians take these claims on faith or do they look at the evidence (however limited)?

    The last thing a society needs is to be ruled by atheists. It’s been done before. It never turns out well…

  3. Jonathan Blair says:

    Let me see if I understand what you are saying. I see at least two propositions being put forth:

    1. Nothing can be said about the plausibility of an historical claim because no present-day experiment could be designed that would affirm or refute it.

    2. Nothing can be said about whether a reason a person gives is a good reason or a bad reason. We are all different persons with our own individual reasons, and one person’s reasons are incommensurate with another person’s reasons.

    Is that about right?

  4. Kevin says:

    Given that Michael already addressed your first point in the previous thread – where he agreed that of course the resurrection could be questioned – I am left to wonder why you are choosing to interpret him wrongly once more. I can’t think of a charitable explanation.

    As to your second point, show me the experts in the field of proving God’s existence, the ones who know, so we can determine whose reasons are good. If you can’t, then congrats, you understand what Michael is saying.

  5. Jonathan Blair says:

    In the case of Jesus, Harris would have to employ the same logic and make that following claim: “If indeed Jesus did rise from the dead, we, as non-Christians, should be able to detect the following evidence: X, Y, and Z.” In other words, Harris needs to argue what we should expect to see if Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. Without that argument, he has no argument other than materialistic posturing.

    and

    If the virgin birth of Jesus was true (if it did indeed happen), then should we be able to generate experimental results to detect and confirm it? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then spell out precisely the design of such experiments.

    and

    There is a reason people like Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, and Sam Harris have never conducted and published a single experimental result falsifying the virgin birth or resurrection of Jesus. It can’t be done. It’s a question that is beyond the reach of science. And that means science has nothing to say on these subjects.

    and so forth. These (and others) amount to the first proposition I gave, does it not? If science has nothing to say on these subjects, then how are we to evaluate their plausibility?

    And does the second proposition I gave accurately reflect what is being conveyed in the post?

  6. Kevin says:

    These (and others) amount to the first proposition I gave, does it not?

    Michael is not the one claiming that science somehow disproves the resurrection. That would be the atheists he mentions. And while I’m not aware of Harris specifically saying the resurrection is opposed by science, he made a career on saying science and religion were basically always opposed. Michael is specifically addressing the relationship between science and the resurrection as a historical event. Talking about plausibility, as you do in your first point, is not the same thing at all.

    As to the second, I would say that Michael is likely pointing out that Harris (or any other similar ideologue) is not qualified to pronounce there to be no good reason to believe in the virgin birth or God or the resurrection. Neither I nor you nor anyone else needs to consult with Sam Harris to ensure our reasons for believing something are Good Enough.

  7. Featherfoot says:

    1. Nothing can be said about the plausibility of an historical claim because no present-day experiment could be designed that would affirm or refute it.

    I don’t see this anywhere in this post. I see him saying that nothing can be said scientifically about such a historical claim. But Truth and Science are not the same thing. What is left, then, is using non-scientific methods to judge historical claims. One example, among many, would be evaluating witness statements.

    2. Nothing can be said about whether a reason a person gives is a good reason or a bad reason. We are all different persons with our own individual reasons, and one person’s reasons are incommensurate with another person’s reasons.

    A lot can be said, and should be said, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t subjective. What one person considers a good reason for something, another considers a bad reason. Can you give an objective measure by which to judge all reasons? I certainly can’t.

  8. Derek Ramsey says:

    “If science has nothing to say on these subjects, then how are we to evaluate their plausibility?”

    By looking at something other than science, of course.

  9. FZM says:

    These (and others) amount to the first proposition I gave, does it not? If science has nothing to say on these subjects, then how are we to evaluate their plausibility?

    Philosophy?

    Some things may have happened but there is no obvious way to demonstrate the fact objectively, in these cases personal experience or faith/trust in the experience of others.

    2. Nothing can be said about whether a reason a person gives is a good reason or a bad reason. We are all different persons with our own individual reasons, and one person’s reasons are incommensurate with another person’s reasons.

    The problem with what Sam Harris was writing is that he never explains what constitute, in his view, good reasons for believing things, other than the criteria are broader and more general than those used in the natural sciences. Nothing can be said about whether a person possesses or lacks good reasons for what they believe in the light of this level of vagueness.

  10. Jonathan Blair says:

    Last week I levitated a truck using telekinesis alone. Science has nothing to say about the plausibility of this claim? Only philosophy or “something other than science”?

  11. Kevin says:

    Yours is more open to scientific exploration, since you are currently available to study and you claim the “miracle” resulted of your own power. So science could weigh in. One could cite the failure of all claims of telekinetic ability to duplicate the feat in experiments, for example, including yours. Brain scans might observe nothing abnormal about you to explain such an ability. For you to produce your own telekinetic power would require a physical explanation of some sort, so if scientists could not detect anything abnormal, then the plausibility of the event would certainly be low enough to dismiss.

    I suppose an alternative explanation could be that all humans are capable of it and you just happened to be the first to accidentally figure it out, so there would be nothing abnormal to detect. Given the billions of others with the same potential who never manifested telekinesis, nor any mechanism to explain the production of such a unique energy, the odds would ever not be in your favor. Low plausibility either way.

    What precisely is science going to say about the resurrection? That because humans do not raise themselves from the dead, God was powerless to raise Jesus? That because God is not actively raising people today (which would invalidate all Christian theology instantly), the resurrection is not plausible?

    What exactly are you using as a basis to judge the plausibility of the resurrection, particularly as it relates to science?

  12. FZM says:

    Last week I levitated a truck using telekinesis alone. Science has nothing to say about the plausibility of this claim? Only philosophy or “something other than science”?

    Your example seems under-described in an important respect:

    Last week I levitated a truck using telekinesis alone, it has never happened before and it will never happen again in the history of the universe (you could maybe change this to every 15,000 years or something).

    What does science have to say about the plausibility of this kind of claim?

  13. Derek Ramsey says:

    First you say…

    “If science has nothing to say on these subjects, then how are we to evaluate their plausibility?”

    …and then you say…

    “Science has nothing to say about the plausibility of this claim? Only philosophy or “something other than science”?”

    If science has nothing to say, then what tools are available to determine truth? Well it turns out that people have long been finding truth through other means: history, math and logic, philosophy, religion, personal experience, etc. For example, I don’t need science to tell me that my wife loves me. I don’t need science to tell me what happens when I hit a tree while driving my car.

    Your questions beg the question that only science can be used to evaluate plausibility and truth which, if true, means that you should reject your own levitation claim because you don’t have scientific proof.

  14. Isaac says:

    –Last week I levitated a truck using telekinesis alone. Science has nothing to say about the plausibility of this claim? Only philosophy or “something other than science”?–

    If you think that telekinesis is a natural ability of yours, then yes, science has a great deal to say about it. If you claim that this was a unique miracle of God, then no, science doesn’t have much to say, other than that it’s not scientifically possible, which you already concur.

    However, few people of intelligence would take you seriously because:

    1. In this case you’d be lying, and a person who would lie about this probably isn’t well-trusted by others to begin with, so you have no credibility,
    2. There were no witnesses,
    3. There are obvious reasons why you would lie about such a thing which most people would recognize,
    4. Your story wouldn’t hold up under any investigative scrutiny, or else is conveniently immune to scrutiny (there was no one else around, the truck took no damage and left no signs!)
    5. Even if you were to conspire with others to create “witnesses” (perhaps by paying them), the deception would fall apart under scrutiny (someone would balk at say, lying under oath, or someone would have more to gain by revealing the truth.) No honor among thieves, and all that.

    You might notice that none of those disqualifiers applies to, say, the Resurrection.

  15. Jonathan Blair says:

    As I mentioned in the previous thread, my telekinesis feat was a one-time, non-repeatable event in the past. Given that, I would suggest rethinking this proposition that science has nothing to say about the plausibility that I levitated a truck using only the power of my mind.

    That really gets to the crux of the issue, doesn’t it?

  16. Kevin says:

    Please answer the question I presented you.

    What exactly are you using as a basis to judge the plausibility of the resurrection, particularly as it relates to science?

    If you dodge that question, then I feel comfortable saying your attempt at countering has been refuted. We’ve explained the difference.

  17. FZM says:

    As I mentioned in the previous thread, my telekinesis feat was a one-time, non-repeatable event in the past. Given that, I would suggest rethinking this proposition that science has nothing to say about the plausibility that I levitated a truck using only the power of my mind.

    You haven’t given anyone any reason to. That is the crux of the issue as far as I can see.

    Who is going to spend any time thinking about whether your truck claim is true?

    It is scientifically irrelevant and everyone has the idea that even you don’t believe it yourself.

  18. TFBW says:

    As I mentioned in the previous thread, my telekinesis feat was a one-time, non-repeatable event in the past.

    At least pad out your inane, ad hoc story with some details. Why was it a one-time event? How did you obtain this one-off power? Is there the tiniest shred of corroborating evidence for your claim?

  19. Jonathan Blair says:

    Kevin, I am still at the stage of trying to understand what is being claimed. I haven’t countered anything here because it’s not clear what I would be countering.

    In light of the responses, this appears to be (at least closer to) the proposition being put forth:

    1*. Science has nothing to say regarding the plausibility of an historical claim about a one-time, non-repeatable event.

    Is that about right? Again, I am taking this directly from the post, including but not limited to, “It’s a question that is beyond the reach of science. And that means science has nothing to say on these subjects.” Kevin asserts plausibility is somehow different, but there was no explanation why.

  20. Kevin says:

    Science has nothing to say regarding the plausibility of an historical claim about a one-time, non-repeatable event.

    Sure it can weigh in. It can’t necessarily verify a particular claim actually occurred, but it can help determine plausibility.

    How would it do so with the resurrection? That would seem to be Michael’s central point, that science isn’t equipped to deal with such an event.

    Do you agree?

  21. FZM says:

    Sure it can weigh in. It can’t necessarily verify a particular claim actually occurred, but it can help determine plausibility.

    I wonder if Jonathan is reaching for the kind of Humean argument against there ever being any justification for belief in miracles (or any other testimony that runs contrary to well attested patterns of cause and effect).

    This type of argument isn’t a scientific discovery or scientific finding though.

  22. Isaac says:

    I really don’t know what Jonathan is doing at this point. I think multiple people have made things very clear to him and he seems to just be arguing past them. We can try again, I suppose.

    Science asserts that levitating a truck is not physically possible.
    A miracle is something that is not physically possible.
    Therefore, science can tell you exactly one thing about a scientifically impossible event such as levitating a truck: that if it happened at all, it’s a miracle.
    Science cannot address the issue of whether miracles are possible.
    If God exists (and there is ample evidence to suggest this, not least of which being Aristotle’s still un-refuted positing of a Prime Mover,) then it is not only plausible, but likely that God can perform them.

    If you can’t understand the above paragraph, there is just no hope.
    Trying to disqualify miracles by appealing to their scientific impossibility is absurd. It’s akin to claiming that a shop owner cannot possibly unlock and enter his own shop after 6pm, because it’s closed then.

  23. Dhay says:

    > The conflict between religion and science is inherent and (very nearly) zero-sum.

    Harris made that claim more than once at the time. He made it not just in the Huffington Post article “Science Must Destroy Religion” dated 01/02/2006 11:35 am ET, Updated [Emphasis original, so re-published? – Dhay] May 25, 2011 but also in the November 2011 interview of Harris by Salon which Michael critiqued on December 13, 2015 in “More Bad Science and Bad Theology from Sam Harris”.

    I wrote a long response on Harris’ various inconsistent and contradictory uses of “zero-sum” in that thread, and rather than reproduce that response I’ll simply link:

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2015/12/13/more-bad-science-and-bad-theology-from-sam-harris/#comment-11665

    Another reason to link is that that response is added to by my further responses below on Harris’ concept of “zero-sum.”

    *

    Jonathan Blair [Previous thread] > … Sam Harris. He does have philosophical training and is careful about couching statements appropriately.

    Careful philosopher my foot!

  24. Jonathan Blair says:

    Kevin:

    Sure it can weigh in. It can’t necessarily verify a particular claim actually occurred, but it can help determine plausibility.

    Ok, so you’re disagreeing with “science has nothing to say on these subjects”, making it still unclear what is actually being claimed here. Again, without understanding exactly what the claim is, I offer no counter at all because none can be formulated. We might ultimately agree.

    Let’s continue trying to formulate the proposition. Here is another iteration based upon recent feedback:

    1**. Some historical claims do not lend themselves to either scientific confirmation or scientific refutation. However, scientific knowledge does have some bearing on the plausibility of such claims.

    Do you agree with that?

    Isaac:

    Science asserts that levitating a truck is not physically possible.

    I haven’t claimed such a thing, and neither has “science”. It is always possible that we’ll find, for instance, another fundamental force. The mind could somehow utilize this force to levitate a truck. Again, nearly anything is possible.

  25. Kevin says:

    At a glance, I have no trouble with your newly worded proposition. But you don’t need that proposition formulated in order to answer my question. For the third time:

    What exactly are you using as a basis to judge the plausibility of the resurrection, particularly as it relates to science?

    In other words, do YOU find the resurrection plausible, and if not, how does science inform your opinion?

  26. Michael says:

    Let me see if I understand what you are saying. I see at least two propositions being put forth:

    1. Nothing can be said about the plausibility of an historical claim because no present-day experiment could be designed that would affirm or refute it.

    2. Nothing can be said about whether a reason a person gives is a good reason or a bad reason. We are all different persons with our own individual reasons, and one person’s reasons are incommensurate with another person’s reasons.

    Is that about right?

    Not at all. In fact, it’s not clear how you came up with these odd interpretations. A little later, you seemed to despair:

    If science has nothing to say on these subjects, then how are we to evaluate their plausibility?

    Er, use something called reason and evidence. But that wouldn’t be science.

    Look, you seem to be trying to argue that science does have something to say about the plausibility of Jesus’s resurrection. Am I correct?

  27. Dhay says:

    Jonathan Blair > I am still at the stage of trying to understand what is being claimed. I haven’t countered anything here because it’s not clear what I would be countering.

    I have that same problem with your own responses in the last thread and this.

  28. Jonathan Blair says:

    Michael, if that is “not at all” what you mean, then what do you mean? Do you agree with 1**? That is the product of the back-and-forth here, the fruit of our labor.

    1**. Some historical claims do not lend themselves to either scientific confirmation or scientific refutation. However, scientific knowledge does have some bearing on the plausibility of such claims.

  29. Jonathan Blair says:

    By the way, I am focused on finding a mutually-accepted proposition because if we can agree on that (1**) then there’s no really no conflict and there’s no sense getting into a needless argument. Kevin agrees with it, and if you do too then you’ll need to refine your wording regarding “science has nothing to say on these subjects”.

  30. Kevin says:

    Does that mean you do not find the resurrection implausible based on science? I still have not received an answer to that question, unless I missed it.

  31. Michael says:

    Michael, if that is “not at all” what you mean, then what do you mean?

    Are you serious? Look, let’s start by noting the blog entry was written as a response. A response Sam Harris’s article, Science Must Destroy Religion. I focused on Harris since you admire him so much. The result? Harris’s arguments about science and religion are refuted. What do I mean? Harris’s arguments fail. As a Sam Harris fan, are you having a hard time admitting this?

    Do you agree with 1**? That is the product of the back-and-forth here, the fruit of our labor.
    1**. Some historical claims do not lend themselves to either scientific confirmation or scientific refutation. However, scientific knowledge does have some bearing on the plausibility of such claims.

    Let’s get to the topic of the last two threads – science and the resurrection. What does science have to say? Not much more than common sense/experience – dead people stay dead. Well actually, science can explain why dead people stay dead, but that doesn’t add much in this context. Now let’s take Jesus’s resurrection. Science can reassert the “dead people stay dead” claim and explain that such an even would violate natural laws. But the Christian agrees, and has always agreed, for the resurrection is a wondrous miracle. The fact that it violates natural laws and contradicts common experience is part of the reason it is so special.

    Now, as for scientific knowledge having some bearing on the plausibility of such claims, I don’t see how. Science would agree that if Jesus rose from the dead, it was a miracle. But science cannot tell us that the miracle is impossible, so it cannot rule out the miracle. Can it speak to its plausibility? How so? Do you have a scientifically objective metric for determining the plausibilty of a miracle claim? What is it?

  32. Dhay says:

    > Science in the “broadest sense?” Harris is dumbing down the definition of science to the point where science is no longer science. That way, he can try to sell atheism as science – a reasonable claim that should be included in science. He can also try to sell his meditation as science – knowledge about himself that should be included in science.

    I agree strongly with that last sentence; Sam Harris here pulls a bait-and-switch: the “Science” in Sam Harris’ “Science Must Destroy Religion” Huffington Post article is not the genuine science of Sean Carroll, Francis Collins, PZ Myers, John Polkinghorne, [etc, etc, add names of genuine scientists here] … ; it is not the genuine science of STEM, of careful experimental design, of gathering data, of number-crunching and statistical analysis, of conclusions, papers, and peer review followed by all your peers criticising (if they possibly can) those conclusion or the inadequacies of the experimental design, and so on.

    Nor does Harris claim he is referring to the genuine science of Sean Carroll (etc etc, see above …), he is instead referring to science being just what he calls having “good reasons”, which is something very different from the “hard” science of Carroll, etc etc:

    We need not distinguish between “hard” and “soft” science here, or between science and other evidence-based disciplines like history.

    Harris doesn’t tell us what “hard” science is – is what I described above? or not? – nor does he tell us what soft” science is – perhaps it’s Social Science and the like, where every damn thing is correlated with every other damn thing, where causation is hard to discern conclusively and predictive laws are hard to come by – indeed it doesn’t seem to matter for Harris’ purposes whether it’s science at all, it could be anything whatsoever that’s an evidence-based discipline.

    In other articles Harris (like Jerry Coyne) clarifies it’s “science broadly conceived”, that he has in mind, science so broadly conceived that it includes such evidence-based disciplines as – yes, believe it or not – plumbers searching for a leak.

    Or a roofer:

    You awaken to find water pouring through the ceiling of your bedroom. Imagining that you have a gaping hole in your roof, you immediately call the man who installed it. The roofer asks, “Is it raining where you live?” Good question. In fact, it hasn’t rained for months. Is this roofer a scientist? Not technically, but he was thinking just like one. Empiricism and logic reveal that your roof is not the problem.

    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/clarifying-the-landscape

    Except, if you notice, there’s someone in Harris’ tale who is conspicuously not “thinking just like a scientist”, and that person is the “You” of the tale – who’s plainly as thick as two short planks. The moral is, for Harris only a mindless idiot fails to count as a scientist practicisng science.

    Has Jonathan Blair clarified which version of “science” and “scientist” he’s using – whether hard standard as per Carroll, Collins etc, whether Social Sciences type soft standard, Harris’ historian standard, evidence-based discipline standard, plumber and roofer standard, or slightly-better-than-mindless standard.

  33. Jonathan Blair says:

    Michael — Interesting! Now we are getting somewhere. You don’t think scientific knowledge bears on the plausibility of historical claims.

    Suppose while walking through a forest you come across a note lying next to a small rock. The note says,

    On 2019 April 16, gravity reversed its force upon this rock for three seconds, causing it to fall upward on its own accord.

    Nearby you find another note beside another rock at the bottom of a hill. It says,

    On 2019 April 17, this rock rolled down this hill.

    Are these two claims equally plausible, or is one more plausible than the other? If they are not equally plausible, does our scientific understanding of gravity bear on the question of which is more plausible?

  34. Kevin says:

    Well Jonathan is not interested in dialogue since he blatantly ignores questions asked of him multiple times, so I’m out. Have fun.

  35. FZM says:

    Suppose while walking through a forest you come across a note lying next to a small rock. The note says,

    On 2019 April 16, gravity reversed its force upon this rock for three seconds, causing it to fall upward on its own accord.

    Nearby you find another note beside another rock at the bottom of a hill. It says,

    On 2019 April 17, this rock rolled down this hill.

    Are these two claims equally plausible, or is one more plausible than the other? If they are not equally plausible, does our scientific understanding of gravity bear on the question of which is more plausible?

    Is it scientific understanding of gravity that is doing the work here or an epistemological principle about the weight of past experience in assessing the reliability of testimony about empirical experience?

    If an individual provided testimony that they had seen a rock rising into the air on such and such a date, science would have to take account of the fact, unless people had reason to doubt the accuracy or truth of the testimony. The source of all of our scientific understanding is empirical observation, after all.

    If one or two experiences like the rock were lost among millions or billions of contrary experiences, they would be scientifically irrelevant (not useful in terms of explaining things via law like generalisations, hardly predictable, difficult to demonstrate they are really replicable).

    This kind of thing may be interesting from an ontological point of view though.

  36. Dhay says:

    Jonathan Blair > Suppose while walking through a forest you come across a note lying next to a small rock. The note says, “On 2019 April 16, gravity reversed its force upon this rock for three seconds, causing it to fall upward on its own accord.”

    Nearby you find another note beside another rock at the bottom of a hill. It says, “On 2019 April 17, this rock rolled down this hill.”

    Are these two claims equally plausible, or is one more plausible than the other?

    I’d say the claim of the first note is very implausible; according to the note gravity reversed its force upon this rock, yet it fell upwards on its own accord. Gravity did it, yet the rock did it all itself.

    Because its two contrasting halves form an incoherent whole, I would have to conclude that the person who wrote the first note was scientifically illiterate; and I suspect philosophically illiterate too.

    > If they are not equally plausible, does our scientific understanding of gravity bear on the question of which is more plausible?

    The first note is self-contradictory, hence no, the two notes are not equally plausible. No knowledge of gravity or of science is needed to reach that conclusion, however, merely mid-teens level language comprehension skills.

  37. Michael says:

    Michael — Interesting! Now we are getting somewhere. You don’t think scientific knowledge bears on the plausibility of historical claims.

    LOL. You only seem to think we are “getting somewhere” when you are led by your strawmen. I never said I don’t think scientific knowledge bears on the plausibility of historical claims. That’s not my position.

    Look, all we have seen from your many replies are a) attempts to spin my position into a strawman position and b) evasive dodging of questions from people. Why not address some of the core points I raised, since I have yet to be shown to be wrong on this point. For example,

    In the case of Jesus, Harris would have to employ the same logic and make that following claim: “If indeed Jesus did rise from the dead, we, as non-Christians, should be able to detect the following evidence: X, Y, and Z.” In other words, Harris needs to argue what we should expect to see if Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. Without that argument, he has no argument other than materialistic posturing.

    Are you going to tell us what X,Y, and Z are supposed to be?

    Or recall the previous post:

    Or fill in the blank. If Jesus rose from the dead, then we should be able to detect ___________.

    Can you fill in the blank?

    Please, no more analogies and attemtps to tap dance around the issue with reframing. Just fill in the blank.

  38. Jonathan Blair says:

    Michael — did you forget that I was in the previous thread? Look at my comments there, e.g.,

    We have (if it wasn’t clear) already agreed that science and the resurrection belief of Christians are not incompatible.

    and

    If that is yet not clear enough then I will say: the resurrection is, in principle, possible.

    We are already on the same page about that; by your questions it seems you think we are not.

    Indeed the first sentence of 1** summarizes this mutual acceptance:

    1**. Some historical claims do not lend themselves to either scientific confirmation or scientific refutation. However, scientific knowledge does have some bearing on the plausibility of such claims.

    The position you have taken in this thread difficult to discern, which is why I have been trying to clarify it. You had quoted 1**, appearing to reject it, but now say that you didn’t. So do you accept 1**?

  39. Dhay says:

    Jonathan Blair > 1**. Some historical claims do not lend themselves to either scientific confirmation or scientific refutation. However, scientific knowledge does have some bearing on the plausibility of such claims.

    Let’s look at just one such claim: 1a** In 364BC Aristotle was a married bachelor. That claim does not lend itself to either scientific confirmation or scientific refutation, so it matches your 1**. Some historical claims do not lend themselves to either scientific confirmation or scientific refutation.

    It’s trivially refuted by anyone who has taken a Philosophy 101 course, but that’s irrelevant: what’s relevant is that Claim 1a** matches your template in the first part of 1**.

    The second part of 1** asserts that scientific knowledge does have some bearing on the plausibility of such claims — that’s claims matching the template provided in the first part.

    My 1a** In 364BC Aristotle was a married bachelor matches the template, however it is a matter of philosophy, of logic; it’s not decided by science, and scientific knowledge has no relevance or “bearing” whatever on its plausibility.

    My understanding is that a general claim such as your 1** can be refuted by a single counter-example where that claim is false. You have it, 1a**.

    Or “Last week I calculated the area of a right-angled triangle with sides of 3m, 4m and 6m” — I can multiply examples like these.

    It’s Michael’s decision whether to assent to your 1**: I wouldn’t; I’m no philosopher, but to me it seems to be false.

  40. Derek Ramsey says:

    “Some historical claims…scientific knowledge does have some bearing on the plausibility of such claims.”

    This is true in a sense, but not in a sense that ultimately matters.

    Here is a claim: if a person goes from point A to point B, he will take transportation or go under his own power (walk, run, etc.). Science could test and show this to be true to a CI of 99. Consider Jesus on the Road to Emmaus. Would you say that the story is plausible because science has shown that walking is a valid way to get from point A to B? Of course not. Now consider Jesus appearing inside a locked room. Would you say that the story is implausible because Jesus didn’t take transportation or walk?

    Science can tell us that Jesus appearing in a locked room is not something it would predict. It must therefore be (1) improbable but mundanely true, (2) false, or (3) a supernatural event. We need to examine the evidence to see which it is, however, science can’t on principle alone distinguish between something that is false and something that is supernatural. In other words, it can’t say anything about Jesus appearing inside a locked room.

    Science can speak to the possibility of a thing (e.g. resurrection; taking a drink of water), but it is general, not specific. The specifics of the case (e.g. one-off miracle; eye-witness testimony; historical veracity; etc.) far outweigh the general probabilities derived from the science.

    Now imagine that Fred tells Dave that Dave’s wife is cheating on him and he has proof. Science says that only 13% of women cheat on their husbands. Should Dave reply that science has shown that this is unlikely? Of course not. The facts in the case (the proof) far, far outweigh anything science can say generally. In the case of the resurrection, science can speak to the general plausibility, but it would be stupid to do so while ignoring the specific facts of the case.

    In short, the plausibility provided by science is valid—but useless—in these cases.

  41. Dhay says:

    Or how about 1b** In 1773 Britain passed the unjust (“no taxation without representation”) Tea Act. The unjustness (injustice?) or otherwise of that Tea Tax is not and was not decided by science, and scientific knowledge has no relevance or “bearing” whatever on the plausibility of the Tea Tax being unjust or otherwise.

    On the other hand, if you think Sam Harris is right and that — as per the subtitle of his The Moral Landscape — Science Can Determine Moral Values, feel free to show how science or scientific knowledge has a bearing on the determination that the Tax was unjust.

    *

    Or how about 1c** Henry the Eighth had six wives. That depends how you count them: three marriages were annulled as having never been marriages in the first place, so legally he had only three. Again, the claims of six (or three, take your pick) wives are historical claims which do not lend themselves to either scientific confirmation or scientific refutation. And — your second part — scientific knowledge does not have some bearing on the plausibility of these claims.

    *

    I could keep going, but I think it’s well enough established by now that …

    1**. Some historical claims do not lend themselves to either scientific confirmation or scientific refutation. However, scientific knowledge does have some bearing on the plausibility of such claims.

    … is bollocks.

  42. Dhay says:

    Jonathan Blair > Suppose while walking through a forest you come across a note lying next to a small rock. The note says, “On 2019 April 16, gravity reversed its force upon this rock for three seconds, causing it to fall upward on its own accord.” Nearby you find another note beside another rock at the bottom of a hill. It says, “On 2019 April 17, this rock rolled down this hill.”

    You no doubt mean your readers to see these as two separate claims, but I perceive them to be one conjoined claim, a claim which can be dismissed as being pretty obviously a quiz. (I trust you have enough general knowledge to know how the word “quiz” entered the English language.)

    > Are these two claims equally plausible, or is one more plausible than the other? If they are not equally plausible, does our scientific understanding of gravity bear on the question of which is more plausible?”

    If one note said “Diesel fumes cost lives”, the other “Support the environment”, I could take them seriously as exhortations to whoever passed by. On the other hand, if the two notes said “This grass is green” and the other “This is a tree”, or again if they were the two notes you describe, I would not take them seriously. Why should I!

    Neither plausibility nor my scientific understanding of gravity would bear on the question of which is more plausible, just background knowledge of what (some) kids find funny.

    *

    If your two notes were near a university they would alert me to look out for undergraduate Psychology students with clipboards … so I suppose there are indeed some situations where my understanding of science (but not, in this case, my scientific understanding of gravity) would bear upon what I found plausible.

  43. Michael says:

    We are already on the same page about that; by your questions it seems you think we are not.

    So you agree that Sam Harris’s argument about science and religion has been defeated? I asked about that in the previous thread and you never replied.

    1**. Some historical claims do not lend themselves to either scientific confirmation or scientific refutation. However, scientific knowledge does have some bearing on the plausibility of such claims.

    So do you accept 1**?

    You need to change the second sentence. Change “does have” to “could have.” In other words, if you think some scientific knowledge has some bearing on the plausibility of some historical claim, then by all means, make the case. Are you under the impression that some scientific knowledge has some bearing on the plausibility of Jesus’s resurrection?

  44. Dhay says:

    Social Justice Advocate: > Your opinions are wrong and evil and if you express them, you should be put in jail.
    [See next thread’s OP.]

    I note that some atheists can be like that, too. There’s ‘Atheist Max’, who in 2015 included in his response to Michael:

    Shame on you. Your parents should be arrested for indoctrinating such fear in you.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/4-dawkins-admits-nothing-can-persuade-him-god-exists/#comment-10669

    And as Michael pointed out a few responses below that …

    Doubt I can forget the Gnu who thinks my parents should be a jail for indoctrinating me. Kind of fits into the whole “religion is child abuse” meme the New Atheists promote.

    … it’s a common theme among religion-hating New Atheists, some of whom would make it illegal to bring up children to be fluent in the parents’ religious tradition. “Illegal” doesn’t signify merely frowned upon, it means sanctions and penalties and enforcement — fines at the very minimum, or given the level of resistance that could reasonably be expected, many people put in jail.

    How many jailed? In the US, a huge chunk of the population, in Britain a persecuted minority.

    *

    And there’s the foreign policy implications also: Sam Harris’ Science Must Destroy Religion claims that:

    … the practice of raising our children to believe that they are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu [should] be broadly recognized as the ludicrous obscenity that it is …

    https://www.edge.org/response-detail/11122

    Harris vomits his revulsion throughout his article: he plainly hates religion and religious people and their religious children; people who are religious — religiously brought up children grown up — are a “ludicrous obscenity”; evidently the pool of these ludicrously obscene people must be dammed at source, the children prevented from growing up into “ludicrously obscene” religious adults.

    What would people normally call “ludicrous obscenities”, and how would they normally deal with them? Murder, paedophilia and [add your own examples] are obvious examples of “ludicrous obscenities”. Harris’ description of parents raising their children in the parents’ religion as a being a “ludicrous obscenity” tells us he lumps it in with murder and paedophilia [and your own examples], tells me that for Harris (and for those who are influenced by him) raising your children to be religious is something to be strenuously and vehemently opposed by force of law, force of Police, force of fines and imprisonment.

    *

    Harris is famous for being prepared to first-strike with nuclear weapons against Islamic countries. But it’s not being Muslim that he considers to be a “ludicrously obscenity”, he includes being Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu to be “the ludicrous obscenity that it is.” Looks like Harris is viscerally revolted by most of the world’s population.

    *

    Harris likes to claim he is not Islamophobic, he’s just anti-Jihadist, or just anti-Jihadist plus he dislikes some parts of Sharia Law. Yet Harris’ claim that he is not Islamophobic looks like utter bollocks in the light of him declaring that not just being a violent Jihadist is a “ludicrous obscenity”, even merely being a peaceful Muslim is a “ludicrous obscenity.”

    And we know how to eradicate ludicrous obscenities, don’t we.

  45. unclesporkums says:

    Interesting, Dhay. I was thinking about referencing that comment.

  46. Jonathan Blair says:

    Michael, your original post here includes what is essentially Ken Ham’s argument that science cannot tell us anything about past events (“science has nothing to say” etc). The propositions 1, 1*, and 1** are attempts to clarify what you mean. Presumably this is not Ham’s young earth creationism (right?), so what do you mean?

    Perhaps we have a final version now:

    1***. Some historical claims do not lend themselves to either scientific confirmation or scientific refutation. However, scientific knowledge could have some bearing on the plausibility of such claims.

    But now all the weight has shifted to what is behind that “could”. In order to avoid getting sidetracked by point-missing particulars, let’s try something more abstract. Suppose we have two explanations of the same event. One abrogates our scientific understanding of, say, gravity. The other does not. All other things being equal, which is more plausible? Why? Does this also apply to claims like virgin births and resurrections? Why or why not?

    Again, this is not about taking a position that an abrogation of our understanding of gravity is impossible or that virgin births are impossible or that resurrections are impossible. Again, let us grant that all these things (and more) are possible. The question is about plausibility, not possibility.

    Something may be initially assessed as implausible yet still be true. Abrogating gravity is implausible, but if we have data corroborating that such a thing actually happened then we may revisit our priors.

    To answer your question of whether you have “defeated” Harris — well, this Ken-Ham-like stuff is exceedingly unimpressive, so, no. Indeed I would say it works against your goal.

  47. Kevin says:

    Jonathan,

    The reason this is going nowhere as of yet is because you are ignoring questions asked of you. You’ve had the same question asked of you at least five or six times now, by at least two people, and you still have not answered. Your unrelated hypotheticals are irrelevant.

    If you find the resurrection implausible based upon science, please explain how science made it implausible in your mind.

  48. Derek Ramsey says:

    “One abrogates our scientific understanding of, say, gravity. The other does not. All other things being equal, which is more plausible? Why?”

    Absent specific evidence, we have only general scientific precepts. Thus, the scientific explanation is most plausible. Specific evidence on each claim would override the general plausibility claims of science.

    “In order to avoid getting sidetracked by point-missing particulars”

    The only way science is the primary determinate of plausibility is with vague scenarios. Considering particulars doesn’t miss—but instead derails—your point.

  49. TFBW says:

    @Jonathan Blair: an explanation which posits that the laws of physics changed is less credible than one which does not, because our uniform experience is that the laws of physics do not change. Why does this not apply to virgin births and resurrections? It would, if someone were to explain those things in terms of a sudden, temporary change to the laws of physics, but nobody does that, so it doesn’t.

    Which part of this do you not understand?

  50. TFBW says:

    Actually, the answer to my question is obvious in retrospect. Jonathan Blair can’t conceive of anything other than products of the laws of physics. The idea that there might be forces which can operate on the universe from the outside is beyond his grasp. Ergo, miracles must be temporary alterations to the laws of physics because they couldn’t possibly be otherwise.

    I’m not sure how to make a mind grasp a genuinely novel concept like that. Either he has the “aha” moment or he does not, I guess.

  51. Dhay says:

    Jonathan Blair > But now all the weight has shifted to what is behind that “could”. In order to avoid getting sidetracked by point-missing particulars, let’s try something more abstract.

    For myself, I prefer to avoid getting sidetracked by point-missing abstractions by anchoring them in particulars. I remind you that the original thread’s topic is “Science and the Resurrection Belief are Not Incompatible.” You might like to address the thread topic rather than disappearing down a rabbit-hole.

    > Suppose we have two explanations of the same event. One abrogates our scientific understanding of, say, gravity. … an abrogation of our understanding of gravity … Abrogating gravity …

    You use “abrogates” a lot, but it’s far from clear to me which meaning you are using. My Collins dictionary says “If someone in a position of authority abrogates something such as a law, agreement, or practice, they put an end to it.”, and tells that the US usage is, “to cancel or repeal by authority; annul.” These (and other dictionaries’ definitions, I find) seem to make little sense when substituted for “abrogate” etc Um, do you suppose anyone here would claim to have authority to cancel, or to repeal, or to put an end to, “our” understanding of gravity.

    Would you therefore please quote the definition you are using, and identify the dictionary.

    > To answer your question of whether you have “defeated” Harris — well, this Ken-Ham-like stuff is exceedingly unimpressive, so, no. Indeed I would say it works against your goal.

    You merely assert that “this [is] Ken-Ham-like stuff.” I rather doubt that Michael denies the efficacy of, say, carbon-dating. Your sweeping claim founders on the particular.

    Looking at Sam Harris’ Killing the Buddha, published very close to Science Must Destroy Religion, it looks like his “science” is his “contemplative science”, ie Buddhist meditation practice — I’ll comment further on that (and much more) when I’ve had a fuller look and time to collect my thoughts.

  52. Dhay says:

    The ‘Science and the Resurrection Belief are Not Incompatible’ thread’ OP > At this point, [Jonathan Blair] may attempt to sidestep the need to lay out hypotheses and research results and argue something like this:

    “Look, the resurrection belief about Jesus is incompatible with everything we know about biology. Biology teaches us that once an organism dies, it stays dead. The body has systems for maintenance, repair, adaptation, and reproduction, but not for resurrection. If it had such a mechanism, science would know this by now and the resurrection belief would be scientifically plausible. But it does not.”

    [The argument is expanded in the rest of the OP.]

    Looks like Jonathan Blair is attempting that very sidestep, merely substituting ‘our understanding of gravity’ for ‘everything we know about biology’. That being so, the argument which followed in that OP against such sidesteps by New Atheists regarding biology applies with equal force to this sidestep by Jonathan Blair regarding gravity.

  53. Michael says:

    Michael, your original post here includes what is essentially Ken Ham’s argument that science cannot tell us anything about past events (“science has nothing to say” etc).

    Wrong. My original post does not include what is essentially Ken Ham’s argument that science cannot tell us anything about past events (“science has nothing to say” etc). Your persistant need to twist my words is starting to become annoying. It’s almost as if you are trolling.

    But now all the weight has shifted to what is behind that “could”. In order to avoid getting sidetracked by point-missing particulars, let’s try something more abstract.

    LOL. So instead of staying on topic and addressing the point of the original post, let’s turn to something more “abstract.” This looks like obfuscation.

    Again, let us grant that all these things (and more) are possible. The question is about plausibility, not possibility.

    Yeah, and we’re all waiting for you to finally get around and address that question. Do you think science can determine the plausibility of Jesus’s resurrection? I say no. Apparently, you disagree. You want to believe that science can determine the Jesus’s resurrection was implausible. Fine. So let’s see the scientific case. You won’t give us one because you have none.

    To answer your question of whether you have “defeated” Harris — well, this Ken-Ham-like stuff is exceedingly unimpressive, so, no. Indeed I would say it works against your goal.

    Just as I thought. I didn’t figure that a Sam Harris fan would acknowledge Sam Harris’s version of the science/religion incompatibility argument was defeated. But it has been. And there are simple ways to tell.

    1. Neither you, nor Sam, nor any other internet atheist can tell us what X, Y, and Z are supposed to be. Y’all are clueless. Stumped.

    2. So you rertreat into straw man territory, trying to reframe my refutation as “Ken-Hame-like stuff.”

    Feel free to spew more smoke “to avoid getting sidetracked by point-missing particulars,” but what speaks the loudest is your inability to show us how science has made the resurrection “implausible.”

  54. Isaac says:

    There is some inspiring discussion going on here, but it’s muddled by JB’s continued lack of clarity.

    As an example, I said, “Science asserts that levitating a truck is not physically possible.”

    JB’s response:

    –I haven’t claimed such a thing, and neither has “science”. It is always possible that we’ll find, for instance, another fundamental force. The mind could somehow utilize this force to levitate a truck. Again, nearly anything is possible.–

    Of course my quote was part of a short paragraph presenting an airtight argument in simple terms that I was trying to get him to respond to, and which he completely avoided. What’s more his response was just a pointless nitpick. From a scientist’s point of view, his claim that “anything is possible” is only true at the most purely technical level. At a certain level of mathematic improbability, things are impossible for all practical purposes.

    I just don’t understand why people would enjoy the back-and-forth of arguing for it’s own sake, without the actual goal of engaging other people’s ideas and trying to arrive at truth. It’s as if he just feels the need to present some sort of token opposition.

  55. Dhay says:

    A few posts above, I commented that:

    Harris likes to claim he is not Islamophobic, he’s just anti-Jihadist, or just anti-Jihadist plus he dislikes some parts of Sharia Law. Yet Harris’ claim that he is not Islamophobic looks like utter bollocks in the light of him declaring that not just being a violent Jihadist is a “ludicrous obscenity”, even merely being a peaceful Muslim is a “ludicrous obscenity.”

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2019/04/24/defeating-sam-harriss-argument-about-science-and-religion-2/#comment-31655

    Relevant to that is the 24 August 2020 post entitled “Why Is a Man Who Wrote a Book on the “Evils” of Islam Still a Naval Chaplain?” by Friendly Atheist contributing author Val Wilde, which begins:

    18 years ago, in the emotionally fraught months following 9/11, Oklahoma pastor Brian Waite wrote a book in which he expounded on his theory that the terrorist attacks took place specifically because Islam — the entire religion, in all its forms — is inherently “evil.”

    https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2020/08/24/why-is-a-man-who-wrote-a-book-on-the-evils-of-islam-still-a-naval-chaplain/

    Wilde reproduces a 2008 OpEdNews article’s quote from Waite’s book:

    My words may make a number of Muslims in this country and abroad very uncomfortable. To them I would say, “Deal with it!” The suspicion that you encounter is merely a consequence to your own belief system… What about the religious infrastructure that has created the terrorist by teaching them to hate and kill anything that does not fit their mold? Should Islam be immune from attack because it calls itself a religion? If Adolf Hitler called Nazism a religion, would we be speaking German today? Evil is evil, no matter what nomenclature it hides under.

    Wilde then proceeds to slate Waite as being obviously unsuited to be an army chaplain, he should be removed from post.

    Hmmm, who else published a book at about the same time and with the same polemically anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim message? Who else is evidently unsuited to be a spiritual advisor and spiritual guide? Ah yes, Sam Harris.

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