2nd February 2010

“There are religious scientists and Darwinian churchgoers. But this does not mean that faith and science are compatible, except in the trivial sense that both attitudes can be simultaneously embraced by a single human mind.”

Jerry A. Coyne

39 Responses to “2nd February 2010”

  1. John Says:

    Science will always have grey areas that my even include religion in its box. However religion is only black and white and can never escape its box.

  2. Bornagain A. Theist Says:

    I registered my handle under “Meta” which is something WordPress has. Before I did that I never had any problems. Now, they have dropped entirely two comments I made while logged in. I am writing this as I were not a registered “member”. If it goes through, I would like to ask if any of you have had similar problems. Are you a “member” or do you supply your name and e-mail each time?


  3. CaptainZero1969 Says:

    I agree with the quote. There are unavoidable problems in trying to reconcile the rigors of the scientific method with the requisite credulity demanded by the “miraculous” stories in the dusty books. That some small minority of scientists are able to accomplish this feat is not a testimony to the truth value of dusty books but rather an example of the human mind’s remarkable capacity for compartmentalization.

    Show me a scientist that believes in a 10,000 year old earth and I’ll show you a scientist that has never been published in a reputable and peer reviewed scientific journal.

    Not a “meta” member, sorry BAT.

    Cap’n Z

  4. tony cynic Says:

    Sorry Cap’n but there are some out there. One from AIG is actually a geologist when he is not telling young earth lies. Kind of people who give science and religion a bad name.

  5. Holysmokes Says:

    There are far too many scientific disciplines refuting far too many areas of the bible to ever make them compatible.

  6. CaptainZero1969 Says:

    Tony – My point isn’t that they don’t exist but rather that they are not considered by their fellows to be reputable. Do you remember the name? If he is as you say, it’ll be very easy to find out how he is thought of in the community of geologists.

  7. solomon Says:

    But the Holy Qoran cannot be refuted.Try one if youre the man of truth.

  8. CaptainZero1969 Says:

    That was easy – Dr. Andrew Snelling. Associated with the ridiculous Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis. A quick search and I see no work in peer reviewed journals. He does have books but any idiot can (and apparently did) write a book as long as there are fundies with money who will publish anything that supports their foolishness. So, I’d not ,and more importantly the scientific community doesn’t, take this person seriously.

  9. Oxymoronic Christhinker Says:

    Our evolved ability to hold two or more contradictory ideas in the same mind at the same time is what, in part, makes us human.

    Religion is far more interestingly complex than many give it credit for – it is not “only black and white.” Anti-theists (a different species, I think, than ‘pure’ atheists?) often ‘read’ religion exactly as the fundamentalists/literalists do – only their conclusion is different. Fundamentalist/literalist theology is the weakest and most simplistic understanding of religion there is, and has never, EVER been the position of the historically ‘orthodox’ faiths, east or west (possible exception here is Islam). Basing one’s critique of religion on the psuedo-scientific theology of the fundies would be like critiquing science based on astrology. It is religion’s very complexity that lends it its staying power.

    Science depends on ‘simplicity’ for its power (And how wonderfully powerful it is! The theory – that is, fact – of evolution would be my example here; it is as simple and as perfect a theory as one can imagine.). As for never being able to “escape its box” – NO discipline can escape its box without becoming a different discipline (one could argue that science did just that – ‘escaped’ from religion – an event that eventually changed both for the better). Both disciplines have continually evolved. Todays science is not that of Aristotle (though he would agree that empiricism is the way to go), nor is todays theology that of Augustine (though he would agree that a literal reading of the texts is the weakest).

    Religion is not science and expecting “dusty books” to yield scientific facts is just stupid, whether expected by scientists or “theologians.” Scientists who believe in a 10,000 year old earth are not scientists – they are idiots. Theologians who argue that the Bible proves a young earth are not theologians – they are idiots. And yes, they give both science and religion a bad name.

    Neither science or religion is capable of definitively proving or disproving God’s existence (unless God is pantheistic?). Modern understandings of science assume that God’s existence doesn’t matter (to science); religion assumes it does (to human beings). In that, they certainly are not compatible. But they can be quite complimentary.

    I feel that my own life and understanding is immeasurably enriched by both.

    Religion without science is blind; science without religion is lame. – Albert Einstein (famous imaginer, scientist, and atheist)

  10. Oxymoronic Christhinker Says:

    Solomon: There are many things in all the holy books the world over that can indeed be refuted. Anyone with even half a brain knows this. It is as certain as the theory of evolution. It is the special, god-given idiocy of those such as yourself to think that saying that they can not be refuted constitutes a refutation of their refuting. Or something. Nor are your idiotic assertions and condemnations a particularly enlightening example of holding contradictory thoughts in the same mind, thus showing your humanity. No, you display the equally human capacity for willful ignorance, the propensity of some humans to actually choose stupidity as the highest of virtues. Why? What is it you hope to accomplish here on AQOTD by displaying such reckless dumb-assedness? If you hope to bring people to an appreciation of your Allah, you are failing miserably. If you are merely acting the prophet, warning these poor souls of their impending doom, well then, mission accomplished. So why are you still here? What purpose do you suppose your anti-intellectualism and “kah…kah…kahing” is acheiving? Are you the Ken Ham of Islam? The Hugh Ross of the Qoran? What the hell are you doing?

  11. Greg Says:

    Great posts today! Nice to see we’re not getting dragged down.

    John, I don’t completely agree with you when you say science will have some place for religion. Unless you refer to religion in a pantheistic sense, science is evidence-based and, because of this, naturally excludes religion. Even theoretical science is built or based on well-established laws. I know that one can use “dark matter” as an argument that scientists use “unknowns” in their work, and you would be partly correct. Where scientists and theologists differ, however, is that scientists use “dark matter” as a simple place holder that will be replaced once more knowledge is gained. I have yet to see any religion re-write their religious text based on current evidence. Cough…evolution…cough….carbon dating…cough.

    Oxy, I agree with much of your post except for the quote by Einstein. It’s extremely important to remember that Einstein was not a Christian and believed in a “god” in a pantheistic sense. He used the term “God” frequently as a means to explain a concept which related to nature. He certainly did NOT subscribe to any supernatural God.

    Again, great posts today!

  12. Greg Says:

    LOL Oxy! You rock dude.

    But, I’ll guarantee you get a nonsensical answer…and maybe a couple of Kah’s if yer lucky!

  13. CaptainZero1969 Says:

    Oxy – two great posts. I think the first may be an all time favorite. I particularly liked this bit “Modern understandings of science assume that God’s existence doesn’t matter (to science).”

    When Pierre-Simon Laplace, the French Newton, went to visit Napoleon to receive a copy of his new book, the emperor remarked “M. Laplace, they tell me you have written this large book on the system of the universe, and have never even mentioned its Creator.’ to which Laplace replied bluntly, “I had no need of that hypothesis.”

    While I agree with the assertion I think I’d go farther (surprise!). This statement is the beginning of the non-overlapping magisteria position which allows a good scientist to also be a good religionist. My problem is that this suggests obliquely that science shouldn’t even try to investigate religion. I disagree. If a phenomenon has a measurable effect on the physical world then it is open to inquiry. That’s why there have been good studies done on the effectiveness of prayer an why miracles are not taken at face value and are always found to be fake. What we’ve seen is that the physical evidence for the truth of religious claims ends up being oddly lacking. While this is not a disproof, it does add weight to one side of the scale, if you are defining god as a personal one that interacts with the physical world.

  14. CaptainZero1969 Says:

    I suggest a new drinking game. each time a “kah” appears, we all take a swig.

  15. John Says:

    Excellent idea CaptainZero1969 – “kah” “kah” “kah” … Now I’ve had my 3 fingers plus 1 of scotch all. I’m going to bed as it’s after bedtime.

  16. Oxymoronic Christhinker Says:

    First, the drinking game is a fine idea, Cap’n! Since I’ve already used ‘kah’ three times – assuming ‘kahing’ counts – everybody down three swigs of your favorite liquid inebriant (is that a word?). Hopefully, Solomon will continue to ‘kah’ (swig # 4!) or the game will get very boring very fast. Er, wait – does it only count if Solomon writes it? It appears I may be cheating!

    Second, I agree completely with your assessment of Einstein’s ‘beliefs,’ Greg. My purpose was not to claim him as a fellow theist – he wasn’t – but simply to point out that no less a mind than Albert’s realized the relative (ha!) importance of what we call ‘religion’ in the imaginations, scientific endeavors, and spiritual lives of human beings. He had many things to say concerning God and religion, very little of it absolutely negative. Einstein is a far better example of a ‘religious’ person than most religious people!

    And third, well Cap’n – the definition is the thing, isn’t it?

  17. Oxymoronic Christhinker Says:

    Speaking of idiots, the Discovery Institute and other creationists and un-intelligent design fantasists are at it again:

  18. solomon Says:

    Dear Oxymoronic Christhinker,

    You said “many things in all the holy books the world over that can indeed be refuted. Anyone with even half a brain knows this.”
    Cite one & lets start a debate on it if youre the man of truth. And don’t cite some lousy example that you can get at some Atheists sites.

    I can also ask you the same question, what the hell have you been doing. Myself for the least have guide & convince viewers not to be an easy prey to most of your lots touting.
    Failing to counter my views with a decent argument lead you to resort to wild accusations to the other party of simply being ignorant, stupid or idiot.I’ve heard of this baseless accusations many times deliberately propagated to drive believers away.God as well as I knew what are your real hidden motives.
    Well if you don’t like what I’am bringing here, go carry on with your own business and I go on with mine.But one thing I can assure truth will prevail & deceit will perish.

  19. solomon Says:

    Most of you must have forgotten my latest Laugh, it sounds like this


  20. j sutton Says:

    You can swim in a lake or you can climb a tree but you cannot swim in a tree. So, it is possible to be religious and a scientist but you cannot be both at the same time.

  21. tech Says:

    Someone once Quoted:”Nothing is more conducive to peace of mind than not having any opinions at all.”

  22. Atheist MC Says:

    Science has no need to take account of religion or scripture, but religion if it is to stay relevent must take account of science. I cannot see anyway that a scientist can hold a literal theistic belief and not experience massive cognitive dissonance so some form of pantheism is the only option for an otherwise materialist mind.
    I have however met engineers, who appear to do so. One muslim friend works quite happily with extremely long half life isotopes but believes in a literal creation 6000 years ago. He reconciles this by assuming Allah made it that way. It’s not a position you can rationally argue against (or I can’t anyway).

  23. tech Says:

    Not all things are understood or explained. There is a lot to be said for a man who is content with his life. Like the words of the old hymn,” further along we will know all about it further along we’ll understand why.”Its a good life.Some of us just need to be a little more open minded.

  24. Atheist MC Says:

    There’s contentment and stagnation. We have inquisitive minds and one life to use them in and it seems to me to be a waste not to be a little driven to understand the difficult bits of our universe. The problem with scripture of course is that it is stagnant and it is only with creative exegeses that you can read back any modern relevence either ethically of scientifically.

  25. CaptainZero1969 Says:

    J – I give you Dr. Ken Miller, Biology Professor at Brown, Roman Catholic. Dr. Miller was instrumental is the annihilation of “Intelligent Design” in the Kitzmiller case in Dover PA.

    Also, Francis Collins, led the effort to map the human genome, evangelical Christian.

    So, you can be both. It’s not the norm but is does happen. The human mind is quite an amazing machine, is it not?

  26. tech Says:

    Well some people are never satisfied. Some want to question.Some are not happy with their own lives,they have to middle in others. Its takes all kinds to make our world.Who’s wrong who,s right it depends on who,s asking and who,s answering.I prefer to live and let live. Be a good neighbor.Strive to be an all around good human being. Hopefully someone may even see the goodness of God in me.

  27. MagicAintReal Says:

    Science comes from observing the NATURAL world. God is SUPERnatural right, Sol and Tech? Therefore the two do not mix. They are literally unrelated. You could say that religion does not require a god, but you must ultimately conclued that religion takes some sort of submission to a higher (super) power…that there is more than this life. Science is JUST this life…that’s it. Going beyond this life is going beyond science’s boundaries.

  28. Holysmokes Says:

    I think it is possible for a person, even a scientist to reconcile science with a the possibility of a higher power in the general sense. Primarily because no refutable evidence exists to squash the god sub-hypothesis for good. This opens the door to the possibility that, “something” out there is running the whole show. Who knows, maybe it is Santa after all.

    Having said that, I do not see any way that a person can justify any of the religions coming from bronze age texts. At least not any of the texts I have read. Many of the comments/stories/yarns in them have already been refuted to the satisfaction of just about any sane person. The earth isn’t flat, people don’t turn into a pile of sodium chloride, etc.

    If a person truly believes and wants to proclaim that, “his/her god made our science merely look a certain way to us,” then no amount of common sense in the world can be leveled at this person to bring them back down to reality.

  29. tech Says:

    Alright holy smokes what proof do you have that there is no God, that all the stories are just that stories and some are stories for sure. what is it that you folk are trying to get at. You talk about this being proven and that being proven.You pass this info on but no one really can prove what you say is true.The more people try prove Gods non existence, the real he is.

  30. tech Says:

    the real he is.

  31. tech Says:

    Sorry should read the more real he is.

  32. CaptainZero1969 Says:

    I think you may have missed the point, Tech. No one is trying to prove god doesn’t exist. That would be ludicrous. What’s being said is that god has so far proven to be unnecessary in any of the theories that describe the way we observe the universe to work.

    As far as the old books are concerned, you’ve read it here that some of us concede there is some good advice therein. But also a lot of terrible advice. We see no reason to think of them as anything more than human inventions. As guides to morality, there are far better reasoned works to choose from that don’t have at their root “be good…or else”.

    Again, we’re not the ones making the claim (that the books are divine, for example) so we bear no responsibility to refute it. The burden lies on believers to provide convincing proof that these works are what they claim. So far, the evidence is underwhelming.

  33. tech Says:

    Be good or else is used quite a bit today and for a long time to come I expect. Here a few examples. Don’t cross the street without looking both ways first. ( OR ELSE )Never torment a strange dog, or else he might bite.Don,t hang around with gangsters or else you could end up in jail or worse.

  34. Holysmokes Says:


    Nowhere in my comments above do you see me using the word “prove.” It’s not a useful word for many reasons, but you seem to like putting that word in my mouth. The Captain is right, you did miss my point. All I’m saying is that believing in a higher power and science can probably coexist. Many people believe there is a higher power, but do not believe your bible “word for word.” or any other old writings. They simply feel that “something” is out there pulling the strings for all of us. I disagree, but understand their point of view.

    It’s attempting to marry, your books with science that I feel to be an impossible task. Let me ask you this; do you feel that EVERYTHING in the bible fits perfectly with EVERYTHING that we have learned via science? It’s important to remember that science uses evidence to show it’s claims. I’m afraid your books have nothing more than words to go on. Which should we trust, evidence or rhetoric? I am making no attempt to change your mind. we both know that will never happen. I am merely pointing out the massive flaw on your side of the fence. I maintain that science and your bible do not jive. One of them is obviously wrong.

  35. CaptainZero1969 Says:

    Tech – you’ve thrown us a canard and you know it. You know, of course, that I wasn’t writing about tangible cause and effect. I was writing of the “or else” of accept Christ (or Mohammad) or face an eternity of torture, which is the subtext of the bible (or Koran) and as far as I’m concerned, immoral.

    So…it’s OK to torment dogs you know? Surely not! Kah kah kah! Everybody drink!

  36. Holysmokes Says:

    I can’t …the boss will be upset. Oh wait, I am the boss! Bottoms up!

  37. Greg Says:

    tech, “proof” is a tricky word, as Holysmokes indicated. You are correct in your statement that one cannot disprove the existance of God, but that is not a valid defence, as I’m sure you’ve heard before.

    You, as a theist, are making the claim for the existance of God. Therefore the burden of proof is on you to provide “proof” of existance. This would be the same as if you were to take me to court and charge me with theft. You are making the claim, so therefore you have to provide the proof. No proof, no conviction. And telling the judge that you “read it in a book” would not constitute proof, either (unless they were accounting books!).

    For religion, however, we both know that material evidence for the existance of God is non-existant. Your proof is linked solely to your belief (as written in the Bible or taught from parents, teachers, etc), and I would submit that it’s highly personal and satisfying to you. And it should be. But that is not evidence.

    Hope you’re all having a great day.

    Ka. Bottoms up!!

  38. Oxymoronic Christhinker Says:

    I am now to drunk to comment . . . kah, kah, kah, . . . hiccup . . . BRAAAP . . .

  39. solomon Says:

    The Drunken Trio….