Jerry Coyne is still peddling his crackpot views about religion and science. He floats a stale, old New Atheist talking point:
The first way is this: “Are there any scientists who believe in God?” And the answer to that is, “Yes, of course.” A Pew survey in 2009 showed that 33% of scientists attested to a belief in God, another 18% believed in a “universal spirit or higher power,” and 41% were atheists or agnostics. But that’s far less belief than held by the American public as a whole, where the figures are 83%, 12%, and 4% respectively.
What’s interesting is that more accomplished scientists show less belief in God: 93% of members of the elite National Academies of Sciences, for example, are atheists. This could mean either that the more accomplished scientists tended to be nonbelievers at the start of their careers, or that doing good science makes one less of a believer.
The problem for Coyne is that these accomplished scientists don’t have any accomplished or powerful arguments for atheism. I explained this in some detail 10 years ago. So let’s do it again.
One of the favorite arguments in the atheist movement is to point to leading scientists and note that a majority of them are atheists. The argument is, of course, pathetic and not much different from trying to score some point for male superiority because the same elite scientists are mostly white males. What matters are the arguments and evidence these elite scientists can come up with. If their atheism is linked to their expertise as scientists and scholars, surely this group of people must possess the most powerful and compelling arguments against the existence of God. So I have always said we need to hear these arguments.
Luckily for us, Dr. Jonathan Pararejasingham has been compiling video of elite scientists and scholars to make the connection between atheism and science. Unfortunately for Pararejasingham, once you get past the self-identification of these scholars as non-believers, there is simply very little there to justify the belief in atheism. See for yourself. Here is the
What I found was 50 elite scientists expressing their personal opinions, but none had some powerful argument or evidence to justify their opinions. In fact, most did not even cite a reason for thinking atheism was true. Several claimed to have been non-religious their entire life and several more lost their faith as children or young students. Clearly, the expertise of these scholars had no role in formulating their atheism. The few that did try to justify their atheism commonly appealed to God of the Gaps arguments (there is no need for God, therefore God does not exist) and the Argument from Evil (our bad world could not have come from an All Loving, All Powerful God). In other words, it is just as I thought it would be. Yes, most elite scientists and scholars are atheists. But their reasons for being atheists and agnostics are varied and often personal. And their typical arguments are rather common and shallow – god of the gaps and the existence of evil. It would seem clear that their expertise and elite status is simply not a causal factor for them being atheists. Finally, it is also clear the militant atheism of Dawkins and Coyne are distinct minority views among these scholars.
My summary of each scholar’s point is below the fold.
101. Sir Andrew Huxley, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
*Simply declares he is an agnostic and provides no justification. I guess agnostic is supposed to be the same as atheist according to the New Atheists.
102. Steve Jones, UCL Professor of Genetics
*Declares science and religion are incompatible because religion relies on faith and science relies on evidence. It is a confused argument, but even if true, it does not establish the truth of atheism. Does not draw on his expertise in genetics.
103. Yujin Nagasawa, Professor of Philosophy, Birmingham University
*Argues that is no one will sin in heaven, God should have made it such that none of us could ever have sinned on Earth. At least it’s an argument. But a simple-minded, myopic argument.
104. Dame Alison Richard, Cambridge Professor of Anthropology
*Simply declares she is an agnostic and provides no justification. I guess agnostic is supposed to be the same as atheist.
105. Peter Millican, Oxford Professor of Philosophy
*Cites the argument from evil. No evil should exist if God created the world. So there.
106. Gareth Stedman Jones, Cambridge Professor of History
*Says he is an “Anglican atheist,” then mentions he is an agnostic toward the end. No argument or justification.
107. Roald Hoffmann, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
*There is no God because there are so many different religions. Does not draw on his expertise in chemistry.
108. Michael Mann, UCLA Professor of Sociology
*Says he became an atheist at 13, so clearly his expertise had no role in the decision. Gives no argument or justification.
109. Brian Greene, Professor of Physics, Columbia University
*Claims science provides more satisfying “nuts and bolts” answers and is better than “God did it.” Invokes God of the Gaps argument.
110. CJ van Rijsbergen, Cambridge Professor of Computer Science
*Claims he is a “non-believing Christian.” He likes Christian cultures, but does not believe. No argument for atheism or unbelief.
111. Louise Antony, Professor of Philosophy, UMass
*Declares that atheists can practice perfect piety because when they do good, it is not just to please God. No argument for the truth of atheism.
112. Leonard Mlodinow, Cal Tech Professor of Physics
*Considers himself a religious agnostic who sees religion and science as separate.
113. Lisa Jardine, UCL Professor of History
*She has never been religious in her life. No argument for atheism and clearly, her expertise has played no role.
114. Aaron Ciechanover, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
*Simply declares he does not believe in anything beyond this world. No argument for atheism and does not draw on his expertise.
115. Herbert Huppert, Cambridge Professor of Geophysics
*Declares he is Jewish, but only in cultural fashion. No argument for atheism and does not draw on his expertise.
116. Geoff Harcourt, Australian Academic Economist, Cambridge
*Says he was brought up to be agnostic. No argument for atheism and clearly, his expertise has played no role.
117. Elizabeth Loftus, Professor of Cognitive Psychology, UC Irvine
*Argues that memories can be manipulated and religious people can reinforce each other in their beliefs. No argument for the truth of atheism.
118. Paul Rabinow, Berkeley Professor of Anthropology
*Declares he is neither a theist nor a militant atheist and expresses a disinterest of getting into those arguments. No argument for the truth of atheism.
119. Sir Brian Harrison, Oxford Professor of Modern History
*Declares he has never seen any evidence for the truth of religion.
120. Lisa Randall, Harvard Professor of Physics
*Says politicians need to be better at talking about science. No argument for atheism.
121. Gabriel Horn, Cambridge Professor of Zoology
*Simply points out he has never felt religious his entire life and has had no interest in it. No argument for atheism.
122. Jonathan Parry, Cambridge Professor of Anthropology
*Was an agnostic and became a hardened atheist because of what some priests were saying. No argument for the truth of atheism.
123. Masatoshi Koshiba, Nobel Laureate in Physics
*Notes that science only deals in things that can be confirmed by observation or experiment and God does not qualify. Not an argument for the truth of atheism.
124. Frank Drake, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, UCSC
*Understanding comes through observation and “why?” questions can be answered like this. Not an argument for the truth of atheism.
125. Jared Diamond, Professor of Geography, UCLA
*Simply argues that “explanation” was one of the early functions of religion. No argument for the truth of atheism.
126. Sir John E. Walker, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
*Lost his faith as an undergrad student because science and his religious views were in conflict.
127. J.L. Schellenberg, Professor of Philosophy, MSVU
*Argues that if God exists, there should be no atheists.
128. Horace Barlow, Visual Neuroscientist, Cambridge
*Asked if science has disproven religion and does not answer. Instead, argues that science provides some hope of solving various social problems.
129. Baroness Susan Greenfield, Oxford Professor of Neuroscience
*Argues that everything is rooted in our brain and if someone wants to argue there is more to reality than this, who is she to argue otherwise.
130. Hermann Hauser, Science Entrepreneur (Cambridge)
*Liked Dawkin’s “God Delusion” because it was liberating to admit being an atheist, but doesn’t buy into Dawkin’s argument that religion is evil and must be fought against.
131. Stephen Gudeman, Professor of Anthropology, Minnesota
*Claims he is agnostic because he just does not know how the universe began.
132. Jim Al Khalili, Professor of Theoretical Physics, Surrey
*Atheists just simply don’t get around to adding religion to their life.
133. Mark Elvin, Professor of Chinese History, ANU/Oxford
*Apparently became a non-believer at age 11.
134. Stuart Kauffman, Professor of Biochemistry and Mathematics, UVM; accommodationism
*Simply declares he does not believe in God, but adds we need to create a spiritual and value space in our society.
135. Stefan Feuchtwang, Professor of Anthropology, LSE
*Says he always been an atheist, but deeply respectful of people’s religions.
136. Ken Edwards, Cambridge Professor of Genetics
*Darwinian evolution explains life and has had no personal religious experience. God of the gaps logic.
137. Raymond Tallis, Professor of Geriatric Medicine, Manchester
*Argues that God is a logical contradiction and cites argument from evil as an example. Does not draw on his expertise.
138. Geoffrey Hawthorn, Cambridge Professor of Sociology and Political Theory
*Declares he is an atheist in intellectual sense, but socially curious about religion. No argument for the truth of atheism.
139. Sir Roger Penrose, Oxford Professor of Mathematics
*Declares he is an atheist and just doesn’t believe. No argument for the truth of atheism.
140. John Dunn, Cambridge Professor of Political Theory
*Declares he is an extremely robust agnostic. No argument for the truth of atheism.
141. Nicholas Humphrey, Professor of Psychology, LSE
*God concept is not useful; God of the gaps argument.
142. Craig Venter, Synthetic Life Pioneer; admits he’s an atheist on “60 Minutes”
*Believes universe is far more wonderful than assuming God made it. Personal opinion.
143. Paul Churchland, Professor of Philosophy, UC San Diego
*Believers believe in absolute truth and thus cannot learn and this is a tragedy. No argument for the truth of atheism.
144. Christian de Duve, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
*Science and religion approach truth differently and science is moving back the frontiers of mystery – explains things without God. God of the gaps reasoning.
145. Michael Bate, Cambridge Professor of Developmental Biology
*There is a deep mystery and feels that mystery is less apparent that once it was. Doesn’t subscribe to particular religion.
146. Melvin Konner, Professor of Anthropology, Emory University
*Lost his faith in first semester philosophy course.
147. Stephen Jay Gould, Harvard Professor of Zoology and Geology
*Does not know why consciousness should be seen as some higher existence/value. It’s just aspect of life.
148. Arif Ahmed, Senior Lecturer Philosophy, Cambridge
*Religious belief does not have evidence.
149. Christof Koch, Caltech Professor of Cognitive and Behavioural Biology
*Science throws some cold on water on the notion of free will.
150. Peter Higgs, Nobel Laureate in Physics; incompatibility of science and religion
*Admits his atheism could be more a matter of his family background than anything to do with science.
People are atheists for psychological reasons and many have never seriously thought about it. Usually, it boils down to ‘there is no evidence for God’ yet, they have never reviewed any theistic arguments – they simply can’t be bothered.
Also, most scientists grew up in non-religious households and have ‘always’ been atheists. Their understanding of theism and religion tends to be on par with the age they decided (if at all) there was no God: about the age of 13.
==Their understanding of theism and religion tends to be on par with the age they decided (if at all) there was no God: about the age of 13.==
As witness the above summarized rationales.
143. Paul Churchland, Professor of Philosophy, UC San Diego
*Believers believe in absolute truth and thus cannot learn and this is a tragedy. No argument for the truth of atheism.
Assuming he’s still alive, isn’t Paul Churchland one of the few “public atheists” who openly admits, without weaseling (as per Dawkins) that IF atheism is the truth about the nature of reality THEN “consciousness is an illusion”?
Also, what is non-absolute truth? I mean, other than an oxymoron?
If I recall correctly from the philosophy classes I took twenty years ago (my, how time flies), the Churchlands are associated with “Eliminative Materialism,” which more or less takes the view that the whole of epistemology and psychology must be replaced with physical explanations of the brain. Consequently he thinks of modern psychology as being on a par with witchcraft, and deems it “folk psychology.” In his epistemic model, there are no such entities as “beliefs” because they are too abstracted from the physical stuff involved. Not that he’s made any actual progress in producing a materialist replacement for anything, nor even persuaded a significant number of philosophers that this is a remotely tenable position. The refutations write themselves, by and large.
As for his attitude regarding “absolute truth”, I’ve heard the same shibboleth of “absolute” as pejorative from Dawkins. I’m pretty sure what they’re objecting to so vehemently is “dogma,” although this in itself demonstrates a tremendous lack of self awareness. The problem is not dogma per se, but the fact that they hold to conflicting dogma (and don’t recognise it as such).
With sufficient nudging, however, even the intransigent Dawkins has come to understand that the common ground between a theist and scientific rationalist must include objective truth—propositions which are true or false independently of our attitudes. But that seems to present an insurmountable barrier to Churchland’s project: if he looks only inside the brain, then there can be no difference between true and false belief-brain-states, since the only difference is an external one. Alternatively, if he accommodates this difference somehow, it still leaves no basis to prefer true-brain-states over false-brain-states beyond an appeal to probable survival value, which is an invalid move unless we already hold “survival” as a value for some reason (and not merely a personal preference).
What he strictly can’t do is claim that a brain which holds false-brain-states is somehow malfunctioning, since that would be an appeal to teleology. Cutting a long story short, this means that Churchland only has a rational basis to call religion misguided if (a) the religion is indeed objectively false and (b) God exists and created brains with the intent that they would know truth. The teleological content of “misguided” rests on that second condition. It’s the old is/ought problem again.
Mind you, I would hope that if recent history has taught us anything, it is that we should stop venerating “experts” by default, rather than relying on analysis like this. Sturgeon’s Law is universal: 90% of everything is crap, including expert opinion.
I would imagine that to become an elite scientist requires dedicating oneself entirely to an incredibly narrow field of study. As such, one’s understanding of entirely unrelated fields such as theology and philosophy is likely to be extremely rudimentary. Exhibit A: Richard Dawkins.
Richard Dawkins isn’t an elite scientist. He’s a successful pop-science (and junk-philosophy) author, which is an accomplishment, but it’s not science.
TFBW: ==If I recall correctly from the philosophy classes I took twenty years ago (my, how time flies), the Churchlands are associated with “Eliminative Materialism,” …==
That’s my understanding of the Churchlands; I particularly like their “pop [X]” put-down.
Twenty years?! Goodness, the Chruchlands weren’t even on the radar when I took Philosophy 101 45+ years ago.
==Mind you, I would hope that if recent history has taught us anything, it is that we should stop venerating “experts” by default, rather than relying on analysis like this. Sturgeon’s Law is universal: 90% of everything is crap, including expert opinion.==
My response when someone tries to browbeat me with “expert opinion” contrary to my own reasoned opinion is this: “Are you an expert in Expert X’s field of expertise? No? Well then, IF I have no standing to reject X’s pronouncement because I’m not an expert, THEN neither do you have any standing to *accept* his pronouncement. For, after all, you also are not an expert.“
==Consequently [Paul Churchland] thinks of modern psychology as being on a par with witchcraft, …==
I can’t say I strongly disagree.
My initial major in college was a cross between psychology and sociology … and my assessment of a significant portion of my profs was: “These people are insane”. I switched to computer science, and have never regretted it.
Ha! Computer science was always my marketable skill, no question. The philosophy degree was just a thing I did years later out of personal interest. It did help me sharpen my writing skills for a computer science PhD afterwards, though.
Point taken re Richard Dawkins, though he’s obviously an elite scientist in his own head. I suspect he fancies himself as the second coming of Charles Darwin, only without having to spend years actually doing research and studying the natural world.
This is the sixth incarnation of this “Elite Scholars [Variation: “Scientists”] Don’t Have Elite Reasons For Being Non-believers” thread, starting back in 2013. The first five had quite a few responses to them, 149 in total, so it’s certainly a long-lived and thought-provoking topic:
2013, November 2 (58 responses);
2014, December 22 (74);
2016, November 8 (5);
2017, August 12 (1);
2021, May 5 (11);
2023, January 21 (tba.)
This latest OP is slightly different from the others, in that this time there’s an opening link to Jerry Coyne’s 21 January 2023 SciGlam article entitled, “Can scientists believe in God? Evolutionary biologist and bestselling author Jerry Coyne shares his thoughts.” He’s announced the article’s publication on his own blog, quoted some of it and added extra comments:
In the article he adds:
Let’s see: on the Pew 2009 figures, over half of [US] scientists (51%) affirmed their belief in God or another supernatural power; but there’s a missing 8%, 51% and 41% add up to 92%, so if we adjust for that the figures are, that of those scientists who said Yes, No or Dunno to a supernatural power, 55.4% said Yes and 44.6% said No or Dunno; but if scientists are like the general population in that agnostics greatly outnumber atheists, we can reasonably conclude that the percentage of scientists who are outright deniers of any supernatural power, ie atheists, is going to be small compared to the percentage (51%) who are outright affirmers of supernatural powers, also small compared to those who are outright affirmers of God.
Put another way, instead of asking, “Can scientists believe in God?”, it is more reasonable on the evidence to ask, “Can scientists disbelieve in God?”, or “Can scientists be atheists?” The answer is, of course, ‘Yes scientists can be atheists’; but Pew’s figures show there’s not very many of them.
Coyne has spent a lifetime as a research scientist, so it should reasonably be expected that he would be able to draw the above conclusion for himself. So is he trying to bamboozle statistcally challenged readers, or is he statistically challenged himself?
The second way to interpret the question gets Coyne’s usual treatment, as laid out in his book, ‘Faith vs Fact’ – which gets full-on advertised in the article, I suppose that was his payment; the book and its arguments have been strongly critiqued many times, so I’ll pass on doing so again. What I will do is look at what the article and blog post demonstrate about the deficiencies of Coyne’s understanding of theology; nihilist2christian expressed it nicely:
nihilist2christian > I would imagine that to become an elite scientist requires dedicating oneself entirely to an incredibly narrow field of study. As such, one’s understanding of entirely unrelated fields such as theology and philosophy is likely to be extremely rudimentary…
It is. This is from Coyne’s blog post, it’s a comment on, and adding to, a quote from his SciGlam article:
That seethes with revulsion and hate, full of sneering and jeering, beginning to end. Even the pat on the back of “straight Biblical scholarship” for being useful is there to highlight Coyne’s allegation that theology is, in contrast, utterly uselessness.
Edward Feser’s review of Coyne’s book pointed out that, for Coyne, religion was all sorts of things, Coyne couldn’t get his ideas straight. Here, theology is variously: it’s “mak[ing] stuff up”; it’s the continuous re-interpretation of religious scripture and dogma to adhere to whatever morality is currently fashionable – I’m paraphrasing, but I’m not at all sure I’m distorting; it’s “a vestigial beief”. Not only is each of these is incompatible with the others – Coyne once again fails to express whatever his ideas might be clearly and consistently – no theologian or philosopher of religion would see the three as anything but deliberate Aunt-Sally parodies of theology.
Neither in his article, nor his blog, nor his book – nowhere does Coyne show any awareness of what theology actually comprises; a quick search of my memory and a Google search together produce this list, which I am well aware can be expanded further:
Systematic Theology/ Dogmatic Theology, Catholic Theology, Biblical Theology, Liberation Theology, Reformed Theology, Feminist Theology, Body Theology, Black Thelogy, Dalit Theology, Liberal Theology, Postliberal or Narrative Theology, Queer Theology, Apophatic Theology, Postmodern Theology, Ontotheology, and Process Theology.
And some (or all?) of these main categories sub-categorise: for example, Google throws up that “Systematic theology includes the subdisciplines of Christology, Soteriology, Trinitarian Theology, Pneumatology, Mariology, Ecclesiology, Sacramental Theology, Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue, Theological Anthropology, Protology, Grace, Theological Virtues, and Eschatology.”
I find it very odd that Coyne should suppose that theology has not progressed in the 1,500 years since Constantine, I don’t think Constantine would have been aware of, let alone familiar with and himself expounding, much, perhaps most, of modern theology. But Coyne seems to be ignorant and clueless, or pig-ignorantly vomiting his hatred of Christianity, or an anti-Christian propagandist spreading misinformation.
Or all of these, they are not mutually exclusive.
So Coyne poses two reasons why 93% of “elite” scientists (as defined by national academy membership) are atheists. I’d say he overlooks a big factor: the national academy is clubby, meaning existing members may select for like-minded people in the nomination process. Also “elite” status as defined by NAS membership, papers in big-name journals, professorship at elite universities and so on is much more about success at playing the academic political game and fundraising than it is about being smarter or more adept at scientific reasoning than anyone else.
My guess is that Coyne has never seen this list (or chooses to ignore it):
Rent-seekers go where the rents may be collected; in Current Year, that is in ‘Science!‘
> The argument is, of course, pathetic and not much different from trying to score some point for male superiority because the same elite scientists are mostly white males.
The ninth earliest comment on the first video of this series of three was by a Dr Monica Mody, whose field of study and PhD dissertation, “Claiming Voice, Vitality, and Authority in Post-secular South Asian Borderlands: A Critical Hermeneutics and Autohistoria/teoría for Decolonial Feminist Consciousness,” qualifies her far, far better to assert, than Dr Jonathan Pararajasingham [ ** ] is qualified to refute, that:
Pararajasingham (whose reply is missing from the comments, though at least one other commenter saw it on public view at the time and commented on Pararajasingham’s over-reaction) evidently thought her comment hostile and said so; he also evidently attempted “whataboutism,” evidently making the claim that whereas Judeo-Christianity is a white male dominant theology/discourse, scientific rationalism isn’t. Mody isn’t having any of that:
( ** The OP and its predecessors spell his name incorrectly.)
Pararajasingham is blinkered: in any other field of employment than academia such a marked difference in the sexes of its practitioners, their ethnicities, their political views and affiliations and (of course) their religious views and affiliations – such a marked difference would call into question the selection procedures for recruiting, appointment and promotion; such a marked difference should raise questions such as, what’s gone wrong, how has it gone wrong, and what can we do to put it right.
What Pararajasingham presents as atheists almost monopolising the top posts in academia because of their greater worth – because atheists are, allegedly at any rate, “more scientifically literate, intellectually honest and objectively sceptical” – looks instead like special pleading for the maintenance of a status quo that discriminates in faour of atheists and against people who are religious.
I reflect that in the UK it’s only a century or so ago that women first got the vote; it’s less than two centuries ago that the common man lacking wealth first got the vote; and I am sure that at each stage there were voices arguing against extending the vote, arguing for the maintenance of the discriminatory status quo – then disgruntled that their special pleading had failed.
^ On the other hand, has the historical consequence of extending the franchise, especially to women, really been a good thing for society? Or, have self-serving politicians used women’s franchise to turn “women” into a voting block in permanent opposition to “men”, with the natural result that many actual women are permanently disgruntled against the actual men in their lives, who generally actually have at heart the best interests of those women?
Does it work with substituted terms?
The first part is probably correct, hence the Labour Party — it’s historically correct, anyway, for your common working man and woman is quite likely to vote Tory nowadays. But I doubt that the wealthy generally actually put the interests of the poorer sections of the community ahead of promoting their own interests.
The general generally founders on the particular: having in my youth seen the shocking misogyny and entitlement of my sister’s mining valley boyfriend, heard the testimony of a former acquaintance that his granny had to have the evening meal piping hot on the table the instant he rolled home drunk at whatever hour or he would remove his heavy belt and thrash her, also having read so very many media reports these recent months of rapist and domestic abuser policemen, I am very dubious about the thesis that men generally have at heart the best interests of women. Many do, many don’t.
“He” being the husband, not the grandson.
==But I doubt that the wealthy generally actually put the interests of the poorer sections of the community ahead of promoting their own interests.==
Only an idiot — or a fool — would insist that wealthy people are any less self-centered than poor people are, or that “the wealthy” are, in general, any less likely than “the poor” use/misuse the power of the state to advance their parochial interests over and against the interests of society as a whole. Hell! history shows us that, in the end, most great states have been destroyed by the self-serving of the “elites”.
But, there is a categorical difference between extending the franchise to “poor” men and extending it to women.
==I am very dubious about the thesis that men generally have at heart the best interests of women.==
Then it’s not worth my time to talk to you about this; your mind is made up, and you insist upon being wrong.
Each of Jonathan Pararajasingham’s three (Parts 1/2/3) “50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God” videos starts with this on-screen claim:
Really?! That’s an extraordinary claim – it’s astonishing in its audacity and over-reach. I know of no peer-reviewed scientific or other academic paper establishing the truth of that claim: had there been such a paper Pararajasingham could have, should have, and surely would have provided a link to it or identified it by title, authors and date (and probably the Abstract) – but he did not, so I can be sure Pararajasingham does not know of such a paper.
Nor do Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, any other New Atheist or anti-theist, nor any elite academic interviewee in the three videos, none know of such a paper — surely they would if one such existed.
Nor, judging by the portion I had patience to look at out of the truly voluminous comments that comments, does any watcher of the videos know of such a paper.
Were there such a paper, were there a paper giving objective grounds for unkind atheists to jeer at religious people, its publication would be announced all over the internet, instantly, the jeers echoing forever. But no, crickets. It doesn’t exist.
It would also create a stir in the Christian circles I move in. But again, crickets.
If anyone thinks there actually is such a paper establishing the truth of Pararajasingham’s claim, citation please, I’d love to critique it.
I would be very interested in reading what sample size of first-year psychology students at which university were used as experimental subjects (or what other group and selection method was used, with discussion of its validity and limits), and very interested in reading how scientific literacy, intellectual honesty and objective scepticism were measured, weighted and scored, and what were the relative contributions of each of the three to the likelihood of the students’ (or other test subjects’) disbelief in anything supernatural.
Until I see a citation I shall judge anyone repeating Pararajasingham’s claim – including Pararajasingham himself – to be scientifically illiterate (for claiming there’s evidence when there isn’t), intellectually dishonest and gullible.
For myself, I am sufficiently scientifically literate, intellectually honest and objectively sceptical to question how a scientific-standard experiment that might validate Pararajasingham’s claim could be designed and performed.
To summarise, using in this context a phrase Coyne recently used in another…
…is “mere speculation without evidence.”
Jerry Coyne’s blog can be very instructive, in that reading what Coyne rails against throws up some interesting and informative arguments against Coyne’s views. This is the case for Coyne’s 29 December 2022, “Take the Faraday Institute’s Science vs. Religion quiz!”; having followed his link and taken the quiz, I find there’s a list of resources, throwing a more complex and intelligent light than Coyne throws, on whether Science and religion (or as Coyne puts it in his book title, “Faith vs Fact”) are compatible or not.
I opened up the Theos report, “‘Science and Religion’: Moving away from the shallow end”, where I found in the “This report in 30 seconds” section:
The list continues:
Hmmm, I’d judge that faith vs fact as being a deliberate pointer to Coyne’s book of that title, and a pointed critique of its main thesis as partial and limited, as addressing just one part of a science and religion debate which has six main parts. If I put it another way, Coyne’s narrow focus has blinded him to the width and depth of the debate.
Which width and depth makes his recent SciGlam article (as well as his book) look very blinkered and simplistic.
Implicit in Jerry Coyne’s claim that theology has made no progress in the 1500 years since Augustine is another claim, one of a number of muddled and that theology is the study of God — and nothing more than that:
His blog post (quoted previously) added to that, but added not clarity but a jumble of muddle.
I hope I debunked Coyne’s “no progress” claim in a previous response by showing that theologians have greatly extended and expanded Augustine’s theology into multiple fields of theology. Real-life theologians would surely not recognise Coyne’s claim as true. Or as informed.
I came across this tweet from a lecturer at the UK’s ‘Luther King Centre for Theology and Ministry’, responding to and correcting someone who is evidently as ignorant and blinkered as Coyne is:
It’s not that you can’t find Christians using something like Coyne’s simplistic concept of what theology, for example the opening of this 2016 “What is Theology” paper by Paul Badenham, commissioned by no less an authority than the (Anglican) Church in Wales:
But Badenham immediately expands that. And dictionaries give expanded definitions, too. Which implies that Coyne sought and found the simplest definition he could, one he could pretend was the definition, the (only) one he could get his head around, the (only) one he could weaponise.
But Coyne’s setting up an Aunt Sally fantasy version of theology and attacking it results in actual theology(-ies) being untouched and unscathed, Coyne wasn’t aiming at the real thing. We learn only about one of Coyne’s fantasies.