About Me

My Photo
Australian philosopher, literary critic, and professional writer. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE and HUMANITY ENHANCED.

Monday, August 17, 2009

On self-censorship and the NCSE

In my previous post I complained about calls for individual atheists to engage in self-censorship and thus shut up about their views. This is the kind of thing that Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum have been advocating for months now to their great discredit.

Predictably, perhaps, one of the responses was a tu quoque - the claim that I'm just as bad for asking bodies such as the NCSE to engage in similar self-censorship. But there is no analogy here. Even if tu quoque arguments are all too predictable, the idea that there is an analogy is a disturbing one.

It is important that there be public debate about the truth or falsity of religions. That debate best comes from individuals or from groups that are explicitly pro-religion (e.g. the Catholic Church) or anti-religion (e.g. Atheist Nexus). If an individual presents an argument about such matters, we should deal with the substance, not call for self-censorship, even though we should be legally permitted to do so. If the Catholic Church presents its bizarre and often miserable doctrines, we should deal with any arguments, perhaps mock the doctrines, but not call for it to be silent.

However, there are very good reasons why an organisation such as NCSE should present itself as not being such a partisan body, with its own theological opinions, but simply as being concerned to defend the teaching of established science, including the substantive truth of evoutionary theory. No one I know of (not me, not Jerry Coyne) is saying it should lose its legal right to say "religion X is true" or "religion Y is false" or "philosophy of religion idea Z is true". We are saying that when it makes such claims it becomes a different sort of body, one that now has a dog in the substantive fight about the truth of such ideas ... and it thus begins to advocate views that are contrary to those of many actual/potential members and supporters.

Of course it is (and should be) legally entitled to do so, but people like me and Jerry Coyne believe it is not a good idea. It would be wise for the likes of Eugenie Scott to listen to us carefully, even if they are ultimately not convinced.

There are many reasons why various organisations with defined missions and diverse memberships should stick closely to their briefs and decline to take stances on various controversial issues where no such stance is required. Thus, there are reasons for them to engage in what you might want to call "self-censorship" if you are trying to make a smartarse tu quoque point - reasons that do not apply to individuals.

If someone suggests that there are good reasons for the University of Chicago not to take an official view on the existence of God, that is a perfectly sensible suggestion. It is not an improper call for self-censorship. But the situation is very different if someone says that an individual faculty member should shut up about religion. Again, if someone suggests that a broadly based political party refrain from taking a position on such an issue, that is usually a sensible suggestion; there are good reasons for such parties to avoid sectarianism. The same applies with the NCSE - it is legally entitled to say what it likes, but if it does so it will turn into a different sort of organisation, and current members or supporters will be entitled to say it no longer represents them and to leave it (or cease giving it whatever financial or other assistance they have given it in the past).

Generally speaking, arguments about what stances should be taken by organisations in which a diverse range of people have some kind of stake are not analogous to aguments about what individual people should say when they are merely expressing their individual views.

All of this is well known, so it is either ignorant or disingenuous to suggest that there is some kind of analogy between calls for individuals to censor themselves and calls for the NCSE to avoid taking certain unnecessary stances.

Sure, the NCSE can take a substantive stance on religion, philosophy of religion, etc., if it wants (e.g. to try to win over certain kinds of Christians). It can legally go beyond taking the fairly narrow stances it has in the past, which everyone on my side of the argument agrees with (e.g. that evolutionary theory is actually true, that attempts to teach creationism or ID in public schools breach the First Amendment, etc.). I fully defend its legal right to do so.

But if it goes beyond its fairly narrow brief, and starts to say more about the correctness of various controversial ideas in religion or philosophy of religion, it will no longer speak for so many people. People who disagree with it will then get to argue with it publicly, form their own separate organisations, etc. The NCSE will need to balance that prospect against what is actually gained by supporting a theological doctrine such as NOMA. In this case, I suspect that very little is gained, because Christian fundamentalists are no more attracted to NOMA than they are to evolution; Christian fundamentalism is an integrated set of doctrines that involves substantial claims about an historical fall, a confined human history, a partly analogical relationship between Adam and Christ, etc. Conversely, the tiny minority of Christians who believe in NOMA already have no problem with evolution.

There is very little to be gained by telling Christian fundamentalists that there are certain very liberal Christian positions that are arguably compatible with evolution.

These are all considerations that apply to the policy stances chosen by a body such as the NCSE - and even more to more official bodies such as the AAAS - in a way that is massively disanalogous to the sincere views of individuals.

Once again, this is the kind of thing that is well known and should go without saying. Such obvious points should be part of the tacit background to the discussion, but it seems that they must now be spelled out explicitly, as if to slow children.

These meta-level debates are, unfortunately, a time-wasting distraction.

117 comments:

J. J. Ramsey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. J. Ramsey said...

"There are many reasons why various organisations with defined missions and diverse memberships should stick closely to their briefs and decline to take stances on various controversial issues where no such stance is required."

That is a great argument for why the NCSE or NAS should shut up about gun control or the morality of abortion, issues which are clearly not a part of the missions of these organizations. It is not a good argument for why they should not take stances on controversial issues which are related to their missions.

By the way, why did you write this:

"it is either ignorant or disingenuous to suggest that there is some kind of analogy between calls for individuals to censor themselves and calls for the NCSE to avoid taking certain unnecessary stances."

and not this:

"it is either ignorant or disingenuous to suggest that there is some kind of analogy between calls for individuals to censor themselves and calls for the NCSE to censor itself."

You are arguing that the NCSE should engage in self-censorship on certain issues, so why not be blunt about it?

Also, telling a group to shut up involves telling multiple individuals, namely the members of a group, to shut up, so the line between telling individuals to shut up and telling groups to shut up isn't as sharp as you make it out to be. For example, what if there is a fear that even if members of a group profess that they are only speaking as individuals, their opinions will nonetheless be taken as reflecting on the group?

Matti K. said...

To J.J.:

The idea of collectives like NSCE is to co-ordinate the general aims of many people to create a coherent policy that will produce changes in the society.

The opinion of the collective is seldom the opinion of a dictator. Instead, members of the collective debate about what kind of statements should be given out as official statements. If individuals do not speak up, there will be no ideas to build up future policy.

Proposing that the collective should not have an official stance to certain things is not promoting self-censorship, it is part of the debate that produces a policy. Is this so difficult to understand?

M&K, on the other hand, demand that individual scientists should be very careful when criticising religion. That is a blatant call for self-censorship. Or do you disagree?

J. J. Ramsey said...

Matti K.: "Proposing that the collective should not have an official stance to certain things is not promoting self-censorship,"

Proposing that the collective should keep itself from saying certain things isn't self-censorship?

Torbjörn Larsson, OM said...

"That is a great argument for why the NCSE or NAS should shut up about gun control or the morality of abortion, issues which are clearly not a part of the missions of these organizations."

These are questions that directly touch on science, viz medicine. Or are you saying that NCSE shouldn't take a stand on issues of medicine?

"Proposing that the collective should keep itself from saying certain things isn't self-censorship?"

If you want to use the same term despite the dis-analogy, the post and Matti explains that it still isn't the same as individual self-censorship. Should we comment even slower for you?

Georgi Marinov said...

For the n-th time where n is a very large number:

Is the hypothesis that God exists a scientific question or not?

If it is, then why should scientific organization keep the scientific answer to that question to themselves? Or even worse, promote the incorrect answer?

If you claim it isn't then fine, but state it clearly, I don't think this is a defensible position though.

Steve Zara said...

If it is, then why should scientific organization keep the scientific answer to that question to themselves? Or even worse, promote the incorrect answer?

There is a very simple answer to this. I don't believe it is anything to do with whether or not a stance is required, or whether or not an issue is controversial. It is simply about promoting the methodology and current status of science.

Education about science should not be about insisting what is true, or providing a set of answers, but about teaching how scientists investigate the world, and how they have come to conclusions about major scientific matters which are at the core of our scientific understanding of the universe. Religion by its very nature is irrelevant to that. Discussion of religion simply shouldn't be part of the agenda of science education any more than discussion of literature should be part of it. Science education shouldn't even be about insisting that evolution is true (sorry Jerry C.!) but showing how the consensus opinion about evolution has been arrived at.

Georgi Marinov said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Georgi Marinov said...

There is a very simple answer to this. I don't believe it is anything to do with whether or not a stance is required, or whether or not an issue is controversial. It is simply about promoting the methodology and current status of science.

I fully agree with that, however the application of scientific methodology clearly shows that the majority of the population bases their lives on the belief in some very dangerous nonsense.

Scientific organizations are obliged to report the scientific position on issues of great societal importance, global warming being a good example. It should be the same with religion; moreover religion and global warming happen to be very closely connected and you can never solve the problem with warming if religion exists...

ckc (not kc) said...

...moreover religion and global warming happen to be very closely connected...

Well, except in some very vague cartoon sense (e.g. fundamental christians = right wing dominionists = "robber baron" capitalists) this is bullshit.

Steve Zara said...

Scientific organizations are obliged to report the scientific position on issues of great societal importance, global warming being a good example

Reporting on global warming is the responsibility of scientific organisations that research global warming.

An organisation to do with science education should not be providing definitive reports to the public on scientific matters. That is not what science education is about.

Georgi Marinov said...

Well, except in some very vague cartoon sense (e.g. fundamental christians = right wing dominionists = "robber baron" capitalists) this is bullshit.

This is why I talk about shortsightedness and the failure to see the "big picture" as the big problem they are.

Religion is one of the major causes behind AGW and this should be obvious to anyone who looks just a little bit deeper than the surface (if you look even deeper, you will see that it isn't the primary reason, because there are more fundamental problems with Homo sapiens than religion, but it is a good starting point). To deny that is to deny that the Bible teaches "be fruitful and multiply", or that man has dominion over nature, or that man is separate from nature and the laws of nature don't really apply to us (OK, it doesn't teach the latter because these concepts didn't exist at the time, but that man is different from other animals is an idea that is deeply ingrained in pretty much all religions).

And it isn't just global warming, we are facing a number of crisis which are all caused by our inability to understand our place in the world and as a result of that not behave like yeast in culture. And religion is a major part of that because the major thing it does is fool us about our place in the world.

The "robber-baron capitalists" while absolutely guilty about AGW aren't the sole reason for it, all of us are to blame

Georgi Marinov said...

An organisation to do with science education should not be providing definitive reports to the public on scientific matters. That is not what science education is about.

I have really hard time seeing how an organization, the function of which is science education, can do that without actually reporting the science

Steve Zara said...

Reporting the science is quite different from insisting on what the conclusion of the science should be.

Also, science education should also concentrate on what is mainstream science. Discussion of theories of UFO abduction or resurrection are probably best left off the syllabus.

Georgi Marinov said...

Reporting the science is quite different from insisting on what the conclusion of the science should be.

Also, science education should also concentrate on what is mainstream science. Discussion of theories of UFO abduction or resurrection are probably best left off the syllabus.


I smell a denialist scent here

Steve Zara said...

Denialist?

Resurrections, UFO abductions, yes.

Yetis. Probably.

AGW? Certainly not.

Georgi Marinov said...

Then why are you talking about those and referring to my post?

Steve Zara said...

Don't worry about it.

Matti K. said...

J.J.: "Proposing that the collective should keep itself from saying certain things isn't self-censorship?"

Collectives do not speak, they have a policy. With the present issue NSCE could have basically three different policies:

1) Science and religion are compatible
2) Science and religion are not compatible
3) The question is open. NSCE does not endorse any view.

Policies change with time and this process demands open debate. This debate will not be a real debate if individual members are asked to keep their dissenting view to themselves. _That_ would be promoting self-censorship and that is exactly what M&K are asking.

BTW, Eugenie Scott is not asking the dissenter members of NSCE to shut up. Therefore she does not get the heat like M&K, even though the accommodationist of all three are quite similar.

Anonymous said...

As a person of faith I can assure you that there are other types or religous and spiritual people than ignorant and bigoted Fundies. In fact, the largest Christian denomination readily accepts the Big Bang and has had no trouble accepting Evolution (officially calling it "more than a theory"). They're called Catholics.

Jean Kazez said...

Is it really fair to say they are calling for "self censorship" when Mooney writes this?

"The intellectual case for atheism should be made publicly and often."

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/06/28/the-censorship-canard-again/

Also--let's say you're talking about your sex life with a friend in a restaurant, and she's talking loudly and colorfully. You ask her to talk more quietly and choose other words. Is it fair to describe that as calling for "self censorship"? If the issue is how and when something is discussed, is it fair to use the word "censorship" (even if preceded by "self"?)

As to metaphors of violence--do we really want to get rid of them all? In the LA times piece, they write that the NCSE has been "long under fire from the right" and then talk about having to protect their other flank. What do you think of the title of Mooney's previous book--"The Republican War on Science"? There is lots and lots of colorful language at skeptical websites...let's hope you're not proposing uninhibited speech for some, and decorum and restraint for everyone else.

On this language issue--don't you think you lose some of your credibiity when you pepper your commentary with name-calling? (And what's that about anyway? I don't think I've ever seen a philosophy debate descend to that level. For example--the long, intense discrimination debate a couple of months ago at Brian Leiter and other blogs involved no name calling, ever!)

On the substance--if the NCSE's mandate is to protect the teaching of evolution in science classrooms, and they believe they can do a better job of that by enlisting the help of science-friendly clergy, then should they really hold back? Do you object to that? Or are you objecting to a specific statement they make asserting that evolution and religion are compatible? I looked for where they make such a statement...maybe they do, and I just couldn't find it.

Matthew said...

I would add that is an organisation like the NCSE is going to take a position on something like the compatibility of science and religion it should do so honestly, and make it clear there are scientists and philosophers on both sides of the debate.

The AAAS released a video a year or so ago in which Collins and others talked about how science and religion were compatible. Anyone watching that video unfamiliar with the debate would conclude that there is not much disagreement between scientists on the subject. The video did not honestly reflect the variety of opinion within American science on the subject.

Matti K. said...

"Also--let's say you're talking about your sex life with a friend in a restaurant.... You ask her to talk more quietly and choose other words. Is it fair to describe that as calling for "self censorship"?"

Bad analogy. Not very many go to restaurant to hear about the sex life of strangers.

The "new atheists" are not using megaphones outside churches on Sundays to disseminate their views on religion. It is quite easy to skip reading these views in case one is not interested in them. However, it seems that people like M&K and Bill Donohue want to make sure that a maximun of religious people are offended by discussing the content of personal blogs in major newspapers.

M&K want to create an illusion to the religious public that only a very small minority of scientists question the compatibility of science and religion. Therefore the "incompatibilists" should not speak out or criticize the arguments of "compatibilists". If the former do not obey, they are almost demonized, as can be seen from the numerous op-eds that Mr. Mooney has written.

Jean Kazez said...

Matti K., It wasn't an analogy. I was just exploring when it's appropriate to use the phrase "self censorship" by looking at another situation. If you don't object to someone saying X, but only to how and when they say X, are you asking them to "self censor"? It seems like a reasonable question.

Matti K. said...

"If you don't object to someone saying X, but only to how and when they say X, are you asking them to "self censor"? It seems like a reasonable question."

In the following article, Mr. Mooney thinks Coyne should not criticize "compatibilists" because (in his opinion) it is bad strategy:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/05/31/civility-and-the-new-atheists/

Clearly for Mr. Mooney the critque itself is a problem, not timing or tone. Do you disagree?

Jean Kazez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jean Kazez said...

It seems they're happy to have atheism defended, as in here--

"The intellectual case for atheism should be made publicly and often."

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/06/28/the-censorship-canard-again/

But in the post you link to, they're not happy for people to attack books that are explicitly trying to woo a religious public to the side of evolution, by talking about compatibility.

Taking it all together, I think it would be oversimplifying a more complicated set of facts to say M&K want atheists to "self censor".

I wonder what you would think about an atheist who believes that since God does not exist, all things really are permitted. There really are some like that (of course). Would it be a pernicious sort of request for self-censorship to ask them not to publish such a message in a popular magazine?

Matti K. said...

"But in the post you link to, they're not happy for people to attack books that are explicitly trying to woo a religious public to the side of evolution, by talking about compatibility."

So you think the following critique is an "attack":

http://www.tnr.com/story_print.html?id=1e3851a3-bdf7-438a-ac2a-a5e381a70472

Funny, but Mr. Mooney himself does not agree with you, at least not in the following article:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/06/03/why-evolution-is-true-but-coyne-is-wrong-about-religion-part-i-the-shut-up-canard/

Of course, Mr. Mooney is not very coherent in his statements, so it might well be that he has changed his mind since writing that.

The norm in a free society is that you speak out when you feel that you have something to say and can back it with valid arguments. Mr. Mooney, however, wishes outspoken atheists to tone down their criticism for "strategic" reasons, not because their arguments are not valid. What else is it than a call for self-censorship?

"I wonder what you would think about an atheist who believes that since God does not exist, all things really are permitted."

I call such a person "psychopath".

"There really are some like that (of course). Would it be a pernicious sort of request for self-censorship to ask them not to publish such a message in a popular magazine?"

Psychopaths seldom speak out their real intentions. Or have you found any such messages in the non-censored cyberspace?

In any case, I don't think psychopaths respect very much requests to change their behaviour. After all, in their opinion, everything is permitted.

Let's say someone publicly states that he considers himself not to be bound by secular law. I don't think him/her speaking out is the real problem. I (and the police) would be more concerned what he might do in such a state of mind.

Anonymous said...

"I wonder what you would think about an atheist who believes that since God does not exist, all things really are permitted. There really are some like that (of course). Would it be a pernicious sort of request for self-censorship to ask them not to publish such a message in a popular magazine?"

Well, you loaded it by throwing "pernicious" in there. Yes, it's a request for self-censorship, and yes, there might be a good reason for it. But then, we're talking about individuals, so the analogy works fine here. If the FDA demands that the manufacturer of a dietary supplement refrain from labeling the product with unsubstantiated health claims, is that a request for self-censorship?

I have a question for you M&K apologists, though. You seem to be trying to defend the use of analogies between the rhetoric of "new atheists" and violence. Why do you think they are using that analogy? If they used a different analogy, say comparing us to Martin Luther for our steadfast defense of our heretical document, would they be saying something different? I.e. does the object of comparison in an analogy have any influence over the content or meaning of an argument?

In other words, what does the analogy mean? What is it that M&K are trying to imply?

Dan L.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Dan L.: "You seem to be trying to defend the use of analogies between the rhetoric of "new atheists" and violence. Why do you think they are using that analogy?"

Well, as I noted on an earlier thread, here's a quote from PZ Myers that partially answers the question: "It's time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots."

There is also the matter that the use of language pertaining to war and fighting is commonly used in conflicts where emotions run high, even when the conflicts are not violent, is a common idiom, period. (This also explains Myers' use of such language.)

Jean Kazez said...

Hey, it's not psychopathic to think everything is permitted, if there is no God. That's a mainstream, respectable thing a philosopher might say. Probably wrong, and not a popular view, but definitely not a sign of psychopathology. So it's a fair question whether someone should be discouraged from trying to propagate that view by defending it in a popular magazine. The point is (obviously) that all requests for self-censorship are not equally abhorrent.

Anonymous said...

JJ:

Quoting Myers doing the same thing does nothing to answer my question.

It's a common idiom, I understand, but my point is this: is that all there is to it? Do you honestly believe that M&K -- professional writers -- are using these analogies just because they are cliche?

Of course not. Professional writers use analogies to make a point. That is what analogies are for -- to "frame" a particular point, to put it into a particular context.

If you really think that M&K are just using such analogies out of habit, fine: you're doing them more of a disservice than I am concerning their competence as writers. But I don't believe it for a second. There is an intention behind it, and from the evidence, it looks to me like Blackford, Coyne, and others have successfully guessed what it is. However, if someone on the accomodationist point of view has a more reasonable way of reading this, I would be happy to consider it.

As is, it really seems like they're trying to frame the completely rhetorical and substantial arguments made by Coyne, Blackford, et al. as attacks so as to undermine the credibility of those arguments without addressing the substance. Again, feel free to argue against this, but try actually using your brain instead of just saying "Oh, I'm sure they didn't mean anything by it!"

Dan L.

Jean Kazez said...

Yes, I think it must have to do with emotions running high. I wonder what it must be like to be under a relentless attack on the internet, while you do a book tour. It must make it very natural to use metaphors of violence for people who are members of that group, even if they are not exactly appropriate for the events being described. In any event--Mooney's last book was "The Republican War on Science." Obviously he likes those kinds of metaphors.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Dan L.: "Quoting Myers doing the same thing does nothing to answer my question."

Nonsense. It points out a double standard, where what's okay for PZ is not okay for M&K.

Anonymous said...

A little bit of house-keeping:

JJ quotes Myers "doing the same thing" as M&K, but if you follow the link (really, even if you don't), it's clear he's not doing the same thing.

M&K are characterizing the rhetoric of the "new atheists" as violent, even when this is inappropriate, as when Coyne or Myers actually explains exactly why they object to the NCSE's position on religion without resorting to ad hominem and stressing all the while that they love the organization, support it, and have only this one minor criticism.

Myers is using the violence metaphor in a thread about Casey Luskin and the IDers -- he's trying to tell him cadre to get ready to be merciless with the anti-science crowd (in other words, he's not telling them to jump all over accomodationists merely for disagreeing with him).

This isn't important, because the fact that Myers used this language isn't relevant because Myers is not the pope of new atheism. I also wanted to point out that even if he was, this argument wouldn't help because Myers was using metaphor in a completely transparent way so that there is no mistaking the rhetorical intent behind the use of metaphor.

M&Ks rhetorical intent behind such metaphors is less clear to me, but the account given in this post is the most likely I've seen so far.

Also, Jean Kazez made a great point that there are situations in which requests for self-censorship make sense. I responded by agreeing that there may be such situations, but I posed a question in response -- whether the FDA is requesting self-censorship when they demand a dietary supplement manufacturer cease printing unsubstantiated health claims on their labels.

Here's another: PBS aired a documentary about Einstein's first wife. Einstein scholars and historians of science all seem to agree that where this documentary didn't present outright falsehoods, it misrepresented, put quotes out of context, and screwed up the chronology to make its argument.

Now, suppose that before it had aired, a fairly large number of scholars and historians wrote an open letter to PBS demanding they refuse to air this sham documentary, or at least strongly requesting such an action. Is that a request for self censorship? What if those scholars are PBS members and contribute financially to that organization?

Anonymous said...

JJ:

I don't necessarily agree with Myers, so how does pointing out what he does amount to an argument for anything at all? I didn't say it was OK, and Myers does not speak for me. Telling me I'm wrong because I'm kind of agreeing with some things PZ Myers says is just stupid.

But see my last post (where I forgot to put my name). There's actually a good reason why this isn't a double standard.

Dan L.

Anonymous said...

JJ: Also, I'm emphatically NOT saying it's WRONG for M&K to use them. I'm asking why they're using them. The intent behind the rhetorical strategy. Can you answer the question as asked instead of trying to change the subject?

Dan L.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Dan L.: "This isn't important, because the fact that Myers used this language isn't relevant because Myers is not the pope of new atheism."

Myers isn't a "pope" but he is influential and helps set the tone of the debate.

Dan L.: "Now, suppose that before it had aired, a fairly large number of scholars and historians wrote an open letter to PBS demanding they refuse to air this sham documentary, or at least strongly requesting such an action. Is that a request for self censorship?"

Yes. It would be a request for self-censorship made for damn good reasons, and a request that should have been honored, but a request for self-censorship nonetheless.

Dan L.: "Also, I'm emphatically NOT saying it's WRONG for M&K to use them. I'm asking why they're using them."

Did it occur to you that M&K may simply be calling things as they see them, and the impression they offer of the "New Atheists" is simply the impression that they themselves have of the "New Atheists"? Did it even occur to you that rhetoric of brass knuckles and Chamberlains is why they have that impression?

Matti K. said...

Jean K.: "The point is (obviously) that all requests for self-censorship are not equally abhorrent."

There is no argument about that.

However, in this case (Coyne) you and Mr. Mooney himself have argued that his request was not a call for self-censorship. Well, I guess from your last message that you say now that yes, Mr. Mooney was asking for self-censorship, but he had good reasons to do it.

Well, Mr. Mooney did not argue that Coyne´s critique was invalid, he argued that publishing the critique itself was against the common good. I think that is a very odd attitude for a journalist working in a society with high regard for free speech.

RichardW said...

I think there's an important distinction that's being overlooked. Consider...

A. Stop promoting your view even if you think it's true, because promoting it is harmful.

B. Accept that your view is false (as shown by my arguments) and then stop promoting it.

A is a call for self-censorship. B is normal intellectual discourse.

RichardW said...

P.S. Ah, Matti, I see you've just said much the same thing. Your post appeared while I was writing mine!

Jean Kazez said...

On further reflection--

The phrase "self-censorship" is odd, and maybe even an oxymoron. It seems like an inflammatory way of describing what M&K want from Coyne. Here's Wikipedia on the meaning of "censorship"--

Censorship is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the government or media organizations as determined by a censor.

So "censorship" always involves an external arbiter of correctness. Putting "self" in front of it creates an oxymoron.

M&K aren't asking anyone to defer to an external censor. They're asking people to actually see the reasons why, in today's climate, stressing the incompatibility of science and religion is unwise, and then act accordingly.

Dan L--I didn't answer your question about what else counts as "self censorship" because I didn't see the relevance of the examples, plus the expression seems so peculiar that I'm reluctant to use it at all.

Anonymous said...

Well, as I noted on an earlier thread, here's a quote from PZ Myers that partially answers the question: "It's time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots."


So how can atheists claim to be moral when they can't even be civil?

Matti K. said...

To Jean:

"Self-censorhip" is an existing and well-defined word:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-censorship

No external arbiter needed.

Jean Kazez said...

Ah, ok, but the examples in that article suggest an implicit external arbiter. A newspaper doesn't print certain stories for fear of offending readers and sponsors...and that kind of thing. In this case, what's being requested is self-restraint for the common good. The connotations of the word "censorship" are off, to my ear, but OK--I see that the phrase "self-censorship" is in fact in use. If wikipedia says so, it must be true!

Matti K. said...

Jean:

OK, so you think that criticism of "compatibilism" is bad for the common good and scientist should therefore avoid it.

If so, do you think only the irrational beliefs of mainstream religions should be "respected" this way, or should minority religions (like scientology) and non-rational beliefs in general treated similarily? If not, why not?

tomh said...

Jean Kazez wrote:
"Would it be a pernicious sort of request for self-censorship to ask them not to publish such a message in a popular magazine?"

Of course it would, at least in America. There is no idea that so unpleasant that one should restrict oneself from voicing it in the marketplace of ideas. There it can stand or fall on its own merits.

"it's not psychopathic to think everything is permitted, if there is no God. That's a mainstream, respectable thing a philosopher might say."

Can you name any mainstream, respectable philosophers who say that?

"I wonder what it must be like to be under a relentless attack on the internet, while you do a book tour."

If by "under a relentless attack" you mean a few negative book reviews, which they responded to with childish, baseless assertions, such as things like, that's just the new atheists that hate us, which opened up a wide-ranging discussion, well then, yes, I guess in your view they are under attack. They don't seem to realize that most authors get some negative reviews, but they don't usually write op-ed pieces and give interviews denouncing the reviewers. They accept or ignore them and let their work speak for itself. Mooney doesn't seem to be able to do this.

windy said...

I wonder what you would think about an atheist who believes that since God does not exist, all things really are permitted. There really are some like that (of course). Would it be a pernicious sort of request for self-censorship to ask them not to publish such a message in a popular magazine?

Er, permitted in what way? If they truly believe that all things are permitted no matter what, what possible reason could we give them to convince them to not to publish that message?

windy said...

Well, as I noted on an earlier thread, here's a quote from PZ Myers that partially answers the question: "It's time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots."

I agree that the phrasing is unfortunate (and despite your sneering, many commenters on Pharyngula also expressed objections), but it's interesting to note that the original context that quote referred to the Bush administration and the religious right- people who Mooney thinks it's all right to "bash". Now it's being perpetrated as if it refers to religious people in general. Seems to be a lot of that going around.

You have a point about the relative mildness of the 'assault' analogies, but I'm not sure where this argument is going. Since PZ used a florid metaphor of violence in 2005, it is now appropriate to use metaphors of violence for anything PZ or other new atheists might do? Such as:

"With his cadre of 300 blackshirts, PZ Myers stormed the Creation Museum, where he violated their plastic dinosaur"

Jean Kazez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jean Kazez said...

OK, so you think that criticism of "compatibilism" is bad for the common good and scientist should therefore avoid it.

Not so fast. What I'm responding to here is the sense in the original post (and the previous one, and many others on the internet) that atheists have something to be angry about. Russell is not just disagreeing with M&K, he is talking about their view as if it were a travesty--an outrage against atheists.

Whether M&K are right OR they're wrong, there's no travesty here. Their "sin" (and it's no sin) is to ask people to make choices about what to say in light of consequences. You can disagree, but that's not outrageously wrongheaded.

As to whether anyone really thinks that if God does not exist, everything is permitted...(besides folks in Russian novels)--

There are people who accept the divine command theory PLUS the existence of God. These are logically independent things. So you could retain the first belief while losing the second. You would express that by saying: there would only be objective moral truths if there were a god...but there isn't...so there aren't. This is a perfectly coherent position in metaethics.

But there are lots of other ways to arrive at the view that there are no objective moral truths. Lots of people do have the view that there are not. I do think it would be unwise to shout that from the rooftops.


Windy, I don't agree that you can't convince someone to restrain what they say in public places, if the person doesn't believe in objective moral truths. As a matter of official metaethics, you can think it's not objectively wrong for people to lie, cheat, and steal, yet be personally averse to seeing it happen.

Anyhow--not much turns on the specific example. There are other philosophical doctrines that it would be best not to shout from the rooftops.

Matti K. said...

Jean K.: "There are other philosophical doctrines that it would be best not to shout from the rooftops."

The funny thing is that the "new atheists", for example, are not "shouting from the rooftops". They keep blogs, write books and articles and give lectures for interested people. If someone feels offended, they can easily avoid listening or reading.

Regarding the request for self-censorship: among scientists, there is no consensus of views regarding the compatibility of science and religion. If "incompatibilists" do not express their ideas, the (religious) public might get the wrong impression that there really is a consensus. I guess the stand of M&K is that such an impression would make religious people accept science more readily.

However, isn't giving knowingly a false impression cheating and therefore "outrageously wrongheaded"? Or do you think that the aim justifies the means? Remember that we are not talking about kids here.

J. J. Ramsey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tomh said...

Jean Kazez wrote:
"But there are lots of other ways to arrive at the view that there are no objective moral truths. Lots of people do have the view that there are not. I do think it would be unwise to shout that from the rooftops."

Why? What is it about this idea that scares you so much that it should never be brought to light. Do you seriously think that once people heard of this idea, which you seem to think had never crossed their mind before, they would go on murderous rampages? I don't understand what it is about debating simple ideas that you fear.

Georgi Marinov said...

If the conclusions that follow from the science are unpleasant for you, that doesn't mean that they are wrong. And it absolutely doesn't mean that they have to be ignored.

That there are no objective moral truths is an inescapable conclusion based on our presents knowledge about the world; the very concepts of "morality" and "ethics" don't really make much sense.

What this means is not that we should "go on murderous rampages", it means that we can define the rules we live by in the best way possible such that a stable and sustainable society is constructed. If you think about it that's much better than living by the rules imposed on us by the imaginary bearded man in the sky who is nothing more than a product of people's ignorance 5000 years ago.

Keep in mind that a lot of things considered repugnant by most of us, only look so because of the thousands of years of indoctrination into religious thinking that so profoundly influence the way we think, if everyone thinks they are OK, the problem disappears. It is a matter of making people think of themselvesand getting rid of those thousands of years of indoctrination into fantasy thinking, as difficult as it is.

J. J. Ramsey said...

windy: "You have a point about the relative mildness of the 'assault' analogies, but I'm not sure where this argument is going. Since PZ used a florid metaphor of violence in 2005, it is now appropriate to use metaphors of violence for anything PZ or other new atheists might do?"

Anything? No, of course not. However, when "New Atheists" adopt a demeanor that would typically be described as combative, e.g. using metaphors of violence themselves, throwing around insults, Nazi analogies, being quick to accuse others of bad faith, etc., it's pretty foolish to expect M&K to not describe them in the usual combative terms. If M&K had Godwinned the discussion as Ophelia Benson did, that would be another matter, but all they were doing was using common idioms.

Jean Kazez said...

If ideas don't have an impact, then why bother with them? Of course they have an impact. Of course there's a possibility that something written in a magazine will have harmful (or good) consequences.

Every case is different--but just to pick one: I would say that Coyne's TNR article has plenty of chance to have a major impact. Leon Kass's famous "wisdom of repugnance" article was in there and had a great deal of influence.

So--thinking through possible future impact would be wise. Will some mega-preacher be quoting him some day? Will he somehow wind up called to testify in a Dover-type trial, on behalf of religious people who feel threatened by science? It would be reasonable for him to think these things through. It's not a simple matter of publish vs. self-censor. There are 100 shades of gray--many ways of saying things, ways of emphasizing this or that, etc.

tomh said...

Jean Kazez wrote:
"If ideas don't have an impact, then why bother with them? Of course they have an impact."

Who says they don't have an impact? If someone puts out an idea they want it to have an impact.

"Will some mega-preacher be quoting him some day?"

Who cares? They already quote-mine Darwin, and Gould, and everyone else.

"Will he somehow wind up called to testify in a Dover-type trial, on behalf of religious people who feel threatened by science?"

Did you even think about this before you wrote it? Do you think that being threatened by science gives someone, religious or not, standing in a court case? And to what purpose they would subpoena Coyne I can't imagine, maybe to show they are threatened by science? They don't need Coyne for that, they can just say it. What country do you live in? Because I don't think you're familiar with the American legal system.

Jean Kazez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jean Kazez said...

tomh,

I took you at your word when you wrote, "I don't understand what it is about debating simple ideas that you fear."

Answer I gave: "ideas have impact."

Now you ask: "Who says they don't have an impact?"

If it was so obvious to you, why did you ask the original question?

"Did you even think about this before you wrote it? Do you think that being threatened by science gives someone, religious or not, standing in a court case? And to what purpose they would subpoena Coyne I can't imagine, maybe to show they are threatened by science? They don't need Coyne for that, they can just say it. What country do you live in? Because I don't think you're familiar with the American legal system."

In the Dover trial, the philosopher Rob Pennock testified for the (pro-evolution) plaintiffs. Part of his testimony was that science and religion are compatible. That was supposed to counteract the (pro-ID) defense view that solely teaching evolution was a challenge to the religious beliefs of students. There was a fair amount of additional testimony about the compatibility of religion and science from other witnesses.

So what I am picturing is some future trial in which, again, the pro-evolution side calls witnesses who testify to the compatibility of religion and science, and the pro-ID side counteracts with Coyne, asking him to present what he says about incompatibility in the TNR article.

Now of course, the Dover trial is taken to have settled this matter and put an end to the ID crusade, but other matters could come up in court cases, where the compatibility issue is just as central as it was in that case.

Gotta run. It's a waste of time trying to have a conversation when so many bizarre assumptions are made about what other people don't know. It's false bravado, coming from someone who can't even write under his own name.

Matti K. said...

Jean:

Scientists and philosophers generally weigh their own and others output in the light of it's rational content. Science and philosophy are in trouble, if this rationality has to be substituted for "strategic thinking".

You suggest that when scientists and philosophers say something about religion they should consider legal reprecussions. In what century are you living? How does that stand in the light of the secularity of the modern state and the supposed freedom of religion?

tomh said...

Jean Kazez wrote:

"In the Dover trial, the philosopher Rob Pennock testified for the (pro-evolution) plaintiffs. Part of his testimony was that science and religion are compatible."

And if you followed the trial, you know that the compatiblity issue had no bearing on the decision, which was rendered on legal precedent and the fact of Establishment Clause violations. Disagreement on a philosophical issue, such as whether science and religion are compatible, will never impact court cases, which are decided on facts.

"So what I am picturing is some future trial in which, again, the pro-evolution side calls witnesses who testify to the compatibility of religion and science, and the pro-ID side counteracts with Coyne, asking him to present what he says about incompatibility in the TNR article."

If Coyne wants to testify for the pro-ID side, he certainly has just as much right to as Pennock does for the other side. No one is compelling these testimonies, they are voluntary. What is your problem with this? The idea that he should never voice his opinion because of some hypothetical, future court case is ludicrous. Especially since it will have no impact on any future case.

"Now of course, the Dover trial is taken to have settled this matter and put an end to the ID crusade, but other matters could come up in court cases, where the compatibility issue is just as central as it was in that case."

The Dover trial only applied to one district in Pennsylvania, it has no weight anywhere else, so it hardly settled the matter. The compatibility issue was not central or even peripheral in that case, nor will it be in any future case.

"someone who can't even write under his own name."

If you're going to converse on the Internet, you'll have to get used to not knowing people's names. How do I know (and why would I care) what your real name is? It's the ideas and arguments that matter, not some made-up identifier.

J. J. Ramsey said...

tomh: "And if you followed the trial, you know that the compatiblity issue had no bearing on the decision"

From the conclusion of the Dover decision, page 136:

"Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs' scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator."

Also, there was a point from several days ago that read:

"Mr. Mooney, however, wishes outspoken atheists to tone down their criticism for 'strategic' reasons, not because their arguments are not valid."

This is not entirely true. He also thinks that their arguments are invalid as well, that they confuse methodological and philosophical naturalism. Now one may disagree with Mooney's reasoning, but nowhere does he concede that the "outspoken atheists" in question are right.

Matti K. said...

JJ:

I think that the post you link is the only one where Mooney makes any attempt to argue philosophically for compatibility. I haven't seen him answer the counterarguments that followed. Even in that post, most of his arguments were practical, some belonging to the subset "argumentum ad populum".

I guess that in the end of the day, Mr. Mooney really does not care about the philosophical dimensions of the question.

The central tenet of Mr. Mooney is that religious people will reject science if they come to the conclusion that religion and science are incompatible. Therefore, in his opinion, scientists who feel that way should keep their opinions private. He's naive, isn't he?

Matti K. said...

"Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs' scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator."

Well, even the "new atheists" concede that scientific theories and Deism do not conflict.

Was the compatibility of the central beliefs of mainstream religions with science even handled at Dover? I think the matter was about the right to teach ID, not the relation of science to religions as such.

Steve Zara said...

Well, even the "new atheists" concede that scientific theories and Deism do not conflict.

Depends what you mean by conflict. Deism certainly conflicts with science, as it is a supernatural idea.

But deism allows scientific investigation to proceed, as it assumes no supernatural phenomena will interfere with the physical world.

Although deism as an idea is just as nonsensical as theism.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Matti K.: "I guess that in the end of the day, Mr. Mooney really does not care about the philosophical dimensions of the question."

Or maybe, for better or worse, he thought he sufficiently answered those philosophical dimensions and wasn't particularly impressed with the countering arguments.

I'd be leery of trying to read Mooney's mind. If I were to attempt to read Dawkins' mind, I might conclude from his gaffes and the uneven quality of his arguments against religion that he doesn't give a damn about whether he gets his arguments right so long as they sound good. However, it could just as easily be that he means well and just has a mediocre understanding of what he's trying to combat. People can have a whole range of reasons for their actions, and it is all too easy to pick out the most uncharitable from that range.

"Was the compatibility of the central beliefs of mainstream religions with science even handled at Dover?"

From the transcript of Ken Miller's testimony at TalkOrigins:

Q. I want to talk about one more listing on your curriculum vitae, and that's on Page 7 under General Audience Books. There is one book there that I think has a provocative title, Finding Darwin's God. What's that about?

A. I meant the title to be provocative. This is a general audience book or a trade book, as publishers call it. And one of the experiences that I had over the years appearing in public and talking about evolution is that many people would tell me that no matter how compelling the scientific arguments were that I made in favor of evolution, they were bothered by the fact that it was perfectly obvious that evolution was an inherently atheistic or God-denying theory.

And I'd just sort of shake my head and shrug and say, I don't think so, and point out the fact that I'm a person of faith and a regular churchgoer, and I certainly don't see any conflict. And they would ask me to explain, and I would explain. Another day I would explain, another day I would explain again. And finally I decided, you know, I should probably write a book about this because a lot of people are interested.

So I wrote a book called Finding Darwin's God, and the subtitle of that book I think is more revealing of content, and that is, A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution. And what I tried to do in the book was twofold, first to explain why science, sciences and the scientific community, find evolution to be so useful, so valuable, and so compelling as a scientific explanation, and then, secondly, to explain how a person of faith -- although I'm a Roman Catholic, I tried to construe this in a vary broad way so that I would say how a person following any of the great Abrahamic religions could appreciate evolution in the context of their faith. And I hope very much I was successful in doing that.

Matti K. said...

"Or maybe, for better or worse, he thought he sufficiently answered those philosophical dimensions and wasn't particularly impressed with the countering arguments."

All guesswork, since Mr. Mooney has not been responsive to any kind of criticism. However, if that post is really all he has to say about the philosophical aspects of the compatibility of religion and science, I feel quite secure in making the conclusion that he is not very interested in them. After all, he states it himself:

"First, I don’t see anything particularly “philosophical” about the accommodationist stance."

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/04/27/atheists-for-common-cause-with-the-religious-on-evolution/

Matti K. said...

JJ, about your quotation of the transkript: where are the compatibility of central beliefs with science discussed?

I think the maind idea of the testimony is that Ken Miller

a) is a church-going catholic
b) is a distinguished scientist
c) thinks that religion and science ar compatible

For example, where do they discuss the compatibility of transsubstantiation, virgin birth and resurrection?

tomh said...

J.J. Ramsey:
The part you quote followed the conclusion and the basis for the decision, which was, "The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause."

Jones's discussion of the compatibility issue was included with paragraphs on, "Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect", and, "The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board", and, "Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge" - none of these had any bearing on the decision, and if not a word about compatibility had come up, the decision would have been exactly the same.

The decision was based on facts and legal precedent, and it's telling that in none of the previous court cases, all of which were decided in favor of evolution, was compatibility of religion and evolution even brought up. These cases are decided on facts, not philosophical issues that cannot be proven one way or the other.

J. J. Ramsey said...

tomh: "it's telling that in none of the previous court cases, all of which were decided in favor of evolution, was compatibility of religion and evolution even brought up."

But it was brought up in the courtroom, and the judge even saw fit to mention as much in his decision, so this is not quite true.

There is also the matter of whether the plaintiffs--who were themselves religious--would have brought forth a court case defending evolution if they really thought that evolution was atheistic.

Matti K." "about your quotation of the transkript: where are the compatibility of central beliefs with science discussed?"

How life was created by God (directly or indirectly) is not a central belief of religion?

As for other beliefs, such as transubstantiation, virgin birth and resurrection, well, if you can't tell the difference between a doctrine like special creation, which would leave significant traces for scientists to study even thousands of years after the fact, and the other doctrines that you mentioned, which don't, then arguing with you further is as fruitful as arguing with my dining room table.

tomh said...

J.J. Ramsey wrote:

"But it was brought up in the courtroom, and the judge even saw fit to mention as much in his decision, so this is not quite true."

Not quite true? I can see I should have explained it more carefully. In the section you quoted from me, when I said. ""it's telling that in none of the PREVIOUS court cases," by previous I meant cases that had come BEFORE Dover, such as, Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), or, Epperson v. Arkansas (1968), in the Supreme Court, or McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1982), on a lower level. There are others, but that's what I meant by "previous court cases," where the issue of compatibility was never brought up. They came before (previous to) Dover. It's true that in Dover during testimony some witnesses claimed that religion and evolution could be compatible, and Judge Jones mentioned the testimony in one paragraph of his 135 page decision, but he mentioned a lot of things. In the same section he scolded the school board for ill-serving the community, and he tried to deflect future criticism of his decision by predicting some people would call him an activist judge. The point is, none of this factored into the decision. If his opinion were that religion and evolution were incompatible, the decision would not have changed one bit.

The Dover decision was based on two factors, as spelled out by Jones. The endorsement test, that the Board's action amounted to government endorsement of religion, and the purpose prong of the Lemon test, that the primary purpose of the action was not secular. Simple as that.

Matti K. said...

"How life was created by God (directly or indirectly) is not a central belief of religion?"

Were questions like "how" actually discussed? Like for example the compatibility of Genesis with science (evolution)?

Wasn`t the main point of the decision that science (evolution) does not imply atheism? The compatibility of "hows" were not under scrutiny at all.

tomh said...

Matti K. wrote:
Wasn`t the main point of the decision that science (evolution) does not imply atheism?

The main point of the decision was that Intelligent Design is basically a religious doctrine and by pushing it the School Board (government) was endorsing a specific religion in violation of the Establishment Clause.

Russell Blackford said...

JJ, I just got around to looking at the comments on this post., The first is by you, and I can only conclude that yiu are an idiot. I used to think you at least had a brain in your head, but it's now clear to me that you are stupid. I've answered your points in advance and you are still too thick to understand what I said.

Russell Blackford said...

On the other hand, Matti K. gets the well-known distinction between calls for individuals to censor themselves and calls for organisations that you identify with to adopt different policies.

JJ, my more usual conclusion is not that you are stupid. It's that you are deliberately perverse. So much so that you are prepared to say stupid things. But you've really jumped the shark this time, if that's what it is.

Matti K. said...

Tomh, you are right. By "main point" I was referring to the quotation (by Miller) JJ provided, not of the whole decision.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Russell Blackford: "JJ, my more usual conclusion is not that you are stupid. It's that you are deliberately perverse."

No more perverse than John Pieret has been. (See post #31 in the link.) But then maybe you think he's jumped the shark, too.

Look, when I read this:

"it is either ignorant or disingenuous to suggest that there is some kind of analogy between calls for individuals to censor themselves and calls for the NCSE to avoid taking certain unnecessary stances."

I see this:

"it is either ignorant or disingenuous to suggest that there is some kind of analogy between calls for [blunt statement about individuals shutting up] and calls for [euphemism about groups shutting up]."

As Jean Kazez noted, whether self-censorship is the best phrase to use is dicey, but any way you slice it, we are talking about people shutting up. Let's not hide behind euphemisms here. Bite the bullet. The line between telling individuals to shut up and groups to shut up isn't as sharp as you make it out to be. By conceding that there are circumstances where groups should shut up, you are conceding that there are at least some good reasons for telling certain individuals--namely the ones making up the groups--to shut up. Now you can, without self-contradiction, be indignant at being told to shut up for the wrong reasons. However, you must articulate those reasons, not merely complain that you were told to shut up.

tomh said...

Matti K. wrote:
"By "main point" I was referring to the quotation (by Miller) JJ provided, not of the whole decision."

Sorry, I should have realized that. I get irritated when people like Ramsey or others above try to make a big deal out of the one mention Judge Jones made of compatibility, as if it had something to do with his decision, when it was nothing but an irrelevant aside.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Russell Blackford: "I've answered your points in advance and you are still too thick to understand what I said."

I looked back at my first post and looked back at what I said. Unsurprisingly, I think you are still wrong. For example, I wrote:

"Also, telling a group to shut up involves telling multiple individuals, namely the members of a group, to shut up, so the line between telling individuals to shut up and telling groups to shut up isn't as sharp as you make it out to be."

Now in your post, you appear to try to draw this line when you write:

"If someone suggests that there are good reasons for the University of Chicago not to take an official view on the existence of God, that is a perfectly sensible suggestion. It is not an improper call for self-censorship. But the situation is very different if someone says that an individual faculty member should shut up about religion"

Trouble is, this example is a poor one for making a distinction between group and individual with regards to shutting up. One might argue that an individual faculty member, especially a professor, has sufficient influence over his students that he should not relate his views on religion at all while in the classroom, that is, the professor should, in this circumstance, shut up about religion. (For the record, I think this is generally a good thing.) At some point, the official policy of a group on what it will and won't say as a collective is going to affect what its individual members will and won't say. Somebody somewhere has to shut up. This is the point I had made earlier, albeit in abbreviated form, and contrary to earlier claim, you did not address it in advance.

Matti K. said...

Yes, it is reasonable to ask people representing public organizations to stick to the "party line". By "representation" I mean official positions, like for example the head of NCSE, not grass-root affiliation.

The evolution of the "party line" in public organizations, on the other hand, requires free speech among the grass-root members. Therefore it is very unreasonable and highly counterproductive to ask these grass-root members not to criticize the party line.

This is really 101 of "Democratic Society". Like Dr. Blackford, I really wonder how
people like Mr. Mooney and JJ do not get it.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Matti K.: "Yes, it is reasonable to ask people representing public organizations to stick to the 'party line' ... I really wonder how people like Mr. Mooney and JJ do not get it."

You might have noticed the bit about "For the record, I think this is generally a good thing" in my last post about the professor shutting up about religion, so yes, I get it.

Matti K.: "it is very unreasonable and highly counterproductive to ask these grass-root members not to criticize the party line."

And neither I nor John Pieret (the second person after Dr. Elsberry to complain about the calls for the NCSE to shut up) had ever said that this was unreasonable. We're not calling for anyone to shut up, at least not for the sake of politics, anyway.

Trouble is, the original complaint was that (gasp!) M&K were purportedly telling the anti-accommodationists to shut up. Not that they were doing it for the wrong reasons, but that they were doing it, period. Maybe you assumed the reasons would be implied, but we can't read your mind, so we dealt with what you actually said. Also, the attempt at justifying the differing treatment of groups and individuals was phrased so as to obscure that, yes, you were telling some people to shut up. With individuals, you talked bluntly of self-censorship, while with groups, you used euphemisms about official policy. It's as if you were trying to have your cake and eat it too, on the one hand, acknowledging that there are certain circumstances where it is justified to call for people to shut up, while on the other hand, avoiding the actual phrase "shut up" (or similar blunt phrasing) so that your indignance at being told to shut up doesn't look hypocritical.

Matti K. said...

JJ:

I am criticising Mr. Mooney for attempting to tone down the discussion about the official policy of NCSE. In my opinion this a request of self-censorship.

I am not criticising the members of NCSE for launching such discussion.

Do you really see hypocrisy here?

Collective self-censorship would possibly be a situation where an organization forces all its members not to express an opinion different from the official stand of the organization. I don't think that NCSE is such an organization and I don't think anyone has requested NCSE to adopt such a policy. Have you?

J. J. Ramsey said...

Matti K., you are missing the point. Here's what Dr. Blackford wrote:

"The position is that some of us, most notably Jerry Coyne but also me among them, have argued in a civil and constructive style that the NCSE should not endorse any particular religious view, or claim that certain religious views that it believes to be mainstream are compatible with the scientific image of the world, including the well-established facts of biological evolution."

For the NCSE to institute the policy that Coyne et al. recommend, somebody has to shut up somewhere. This is not negated by saying that you aren't asking for as much shutting up as you would if you proposed forcing all members of the NCSE to not speak on theistic evolution.

For Coyne et al. to be consistent, they have to concede that there are circumstances where a call to shut up is valid. They do not have to concede that M&K were right in telling them to shut up, and can certainly argue that M&K were telling them to shut up for the wrong reasons. However, they cannot simply complain that they were asked to shut up and leave it at that.

Matti K. said...

"For the NCSE to institute the policy that Coyne et al. recommend, somebody has to shut up somewhere."

The employees of NCSE are not expressing (necessarily) their own opinions, they are paid to disseminate material according to the will of its board and/or members. Doing what the boss tells is the normal fate of employees. Sorry, nobody calls that self-censorship.

J. J. Ramsey said...

"The employees of NCSE are not expressing (necessarily) their own opinions, they are paid to disseminate material according to the will of its board and/or members."

So? Again, you are dodging the point. If Coyne et al. had their way, Eugenie Scott, for example, would still be stifled. Somebody is going to have to avoid speaking or writing.

Matti K. said...

"If Coyne et al. had their way, Eugenie Scott, for example, would still be stifled. Somebody is going to have to avoid speaking or writing."

Actually, that may not be the case. If the policy of NCSE would be that it takes no official stand on the compatibility of religion and science, Scott and other employees of NCSE might me more free to state their personal view with a disclaimer that it is strictly their personal view. If the organization has a definite view on the matter, the employees are maybe more bound by the party line.

In any case, Coyne was trying to stimulate debate, whereas Mr. Mooney tried to reduce it. IMHO, an attempt to hide the items of competitors in the marketplace of ideas is certainly worth contempt, even if (or because?) it is naive. On the other hand, providing more items to this marketplace is not.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Matti K.: "If the policy of NCSE would be that it takes no official stand on the compatibility of religion and science, Scott and other employees of NCSE might me more free to state their personal view with a disclaimer that it is strictly their personal view."

See the last part of my very first post on this thread.

Matti K.: "In any case, Coyne was trying to stimulate debate, whereas Mr. Mooney tried to reduce it. IMHO, an attempt to hide the items of competitors in the marketplace of ideas is certainly worth contempt, even if (or because?) it is naive. On the other hand, providing more items to this marketplace is not."

Proposing, as Coyne and company do, to mute, or at least weaken, the voices promoting theistic evolution isn't "an attempt to hide the items of competitors in the marketplace of ideas"? What kind of doublespeak is this?

Matti K. said...

"Proposing, as Coyne and company do, to mute, or at least weaken, the voices promoting theistic evolution isn't "an attempt to hide the items of competitors in the marketplace of ideas"?"

Correct. The non-combatibilists of NCSE are just arguing with its other members about the items their co-operative booth should sell on the market. They are not telling Miller, Collins or even Luskin in the neighboring booths that they should close down for the common good. That's the (naive) Mooney strategy.

Sorry, it's only you who sees doublespeak here.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Matti K.: "The non-combatibilists of NCSE are just arguing with its other members about the items their co-operative booth should sell on the market."

Which is a fancy way of saying that the non-compatibilists want to make it harder for consumers in the marketplace of ideas to find Miller's and Collins' wares. And if we move away from the marketplace metaphor and take into account what would be needed to get the non-compatibilists' policy implemented, it still involves shutting people up, especially those in the NCSE leadership.

J. J. Ramsey said...

One more thing, Matti K. Part of your defense seems to be along the lines of "Well, we're not asking them to shut up all the time (presumably unlike Mooney). We just want them to not speak under these circumstances." The catch with this is that there is little practical difference between (1) saying that someone shouldn't be allowed to speak at all and (2) saying that someone is allowed to speak, but only under conditions where one is unlikely to be heard. You write:

"The non-combatibilists of NCSE are just arguing with its other members about the items their co-operative booth should sell on the market. They are not telling Miller, Collins or even Luskin in the neighboring booths that they should close down for the common good."

Trouble is, the non-compatibilists say this while knowing that the views Miller and Collins are going to be harder for marketplace customers to find without that cooperative NCSE "booth." I'm not saying that Miller and Collins necessarily have a right to the cooperative booth, only that the likely practical consequence--and the intended one, probably--of denying them the booth is to muffle them.

Matti K. said...

"Trouble is, the non-compatibilists say this while knowing that the views Miller and Collins are going to be harder for marketplace customers to find without that cooperative NCSE "booth.""

Right now, the items of non-compatibilists are not sold in the co-operative booth at all, whereas the compatibilist items are sold very actively.

Some non-compatibilist members find this unfair. As a solution, they sugggest that neither compatibilist nor non-compatibilist items should be sold actively. Instead the customers should be told that both kind of items exist and where those items can be bought. Such a procedure would not disturb the markets and actually increase the market awareness of the customers.

Mr. Mooney, on the other hand, wants that certain items should not be sold on the marketplace at all. He also thinks a lesser market awareness is for the common good. Big difference, I say.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Matti K.: "Right now, the items of non-compatibilists are not sold in the co-operative booth at all, whereas the compatibilist items are sold very actively."

What the non-compatibilists are trying to sell--namely the incompatibility of the theory of evolution and religion--is already being sold by the creationists, and those wares are being sold all too well. The NCSE sells the compatibilist stuff just to stem that tide. It's not as if the theistic evolutionists and the creationists would have an even amount of real estate in the marketplace if the NCSE were to bow out. If the NCSE were to do as Blackford wanted, the marketplace would in practice be lopsided in favor of the creationists, and the market awareness for theistic evolution would decrease.

What Mooney and Blackford have in common is that both of them propose actions that would decrease the market awareness of views that they oppose, and (if Blackford's characterization of Mooney is correct) they are doing this on grounds unrelated to the truth values of the views that they oppose. The group/individual distinction is irrelevant to that.

Steve Zara said...

What the non-compatibilists are trying to sell--namely the incompatibility of the theory of evolution and religion--is already being sold by the creationists

Finally, after a seemingly endless thread, I see your big mistake.

The non-compatibilists (like me) aren't trying to sell anything. That is the whole point. The last thing I want is a huge formalised push by the NCSE insisting to everyone that religion is incompatible with science. I don't believe Russell wants that, or PZ, or Jerry Coyne.

I think it is fine for individuals to make what comments they like.

The argument is about what the NCSE should be doing. Trying to stop it, as an organisation, insisting that religion and science are compatible does not mean we want it to actively promote incompatibility instead.

What Mooney et al were after is people like Coyne not criticising the official policy of the NCSE.

This is a sort of secularism. The NCSE should keep away from religion. The matter of compatibility should be a personal matter, and not subjected to such promotion.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Steve Zara: "Finally, after a seemingly endless thread, I see your big mistake.

"The non-compatibilists (like me) aren't trying to sell anything. That is the whole point. The last thing I want is a huge formalised push by the NCSE insisting to everyone that religion is incompatible with science."

I'm not saying that the atheist non-compatibilists (like you and Coyne) are trying to get the NCSE to push their views. I'm saying that if the atheist non-compatibilists have their way, the creationists' views on incompatibility (which are much the same as those of the atheist non-compatibilists) will run largely unopposed.

Steve Zara: "The NCSE should keep away from religion."

It can't. The problems that it was meant to combat are intricately involved with religion.

Another thing. If Dr. Blackford had argued here that the NCSE shouldn't speak in favor of compatibility on the grounds that compatibility was false, then he wouldn't be accused of hypocrisy here. However, he tried to argue in favor of the NCSE's silence on other grounds, and on grounds that are shaky at that.

Russell Blackford said...

In the spirit of helping this post get to 100 comments I'll say what JJ really reminds me of. It's an over-zealous lawyer who is determined to run every imaginable argument - no matter how obscure, unmeritorious, or even fanciful. "First, your honour, I note that my client has been charged under federal law. I will now demonstrate that this is invalid, as the United States of America was formed illegally in the late 18th century and thus has no constitutional capacity to enact laws binding on my client."

Judges hate such lawyers, of course, and there are ways of controlling them (e.g. by issueing costs orders relating to the wasted court time).

JJ, try to step back and have a look at how you come across. I know you don't want to be one of THOSE atheists. But when you run every imaginable point against people you see as THOSE atheists - including the ridiculous claim that I am somehow being hypocritical - then you don't look good. I actually agree with you on some things. E.g., I think that Dawkins' discussion of the ontological argument could be a lot better (though the significance of this is another issue). But your "always take every possible point" mentality really is making you look stupid or perverse.

Russell Blackford said...

Ugh, I mean "issuing". Can't spell today. Oh well, even closer to 100 comments.

Steve Zara said...

"One of THOSE atheists"

What a perfect T-shirt slogan!

Steve Zara said...

It can't. The problems that it was meant to combat are intricately involved with religion.

It can avoid making religious statements while insisting that religion should not be allowed in science lessons.

J. J. Ramsey said...

"I'll say what JJ really reminds me of. It's an over-zealous lawyer who is determined to run every imaginable argument - no matter how obscure, unmeritorious, or even fanciful."

As far as I can see, my posts relating to the whole "shut up" bit fall into one of these lines of argument:

1) Advocating that a group have a policy of silence entails advocating that individuals "shut up" on this topic, because the individual members of the group (esp. the spokespersons of it) must do at least some shutting up in order for the policy to be enacted. Therefore, it is still hypocritical to complain about individuals being told to shut up while advocating that an organization effectively shut up.

2) You advocate here for what would in practice lead to the marginalization of your opponents' views, but not on the grounds that your opponents' views are false, yet you criticize Mooney for doing the same thing, which is hypocritical.

Neither of these arguments are obscure or fanciful.

Suppose, for instance, one suggested that science organizations not make pronouncements on the ethics of stem cell research, on the grounds that this was a controversial issue and went beyond science and into philosophical matters. Would this not constitute telling the AAAS, NAS, etc. to shut up?

Russell Blackford said...

lol,JJ, you really don't get it. Yes, what you are accusing me of is putting a fanciful and plainly unmeritorious argument. Most people here can see it, and I've explained it over and over, including in the original post. If it still doesn't click with you, I think by now that that says more about you than me.

I'm sure you can work out for yourself what I would consider fairer and better analogies than the ones you offer in your latest comment. I'll leave that as an exercise for you and other readers.

Well, we got over 100 comments. Good for us. :)

J. J. Ramsey said...

Dr. Blackford: "lol,JJ, you really don't get it. Yes, what you are accusing me of is putting a fanciful and plainly unmeritorious argument."

At least you're not saying it's obscure. :-) Dammit, though, looking back, you are right about it being unmeritorious. But it's not fanciful. So there.

Seriously, though, if I'm going to concede, I might as well take down my own arguments:

"Advocating that a group have a policy of silence entails advocating that individuals 'shut up' on this topic, because the individual members of the group (esp. the spokespersons of it) must do at least some shutting up in order for the policy to be enacted. Therefore, it is still hypocritical to complain about individuals being told to shut up while advocating that an organization effectively shut up."

There is a difference between telling a generic individual to shut up, period, and telling a specific individuals with certain responsibilities to shut up under certain circumstances. (For example, telling someone with a security clearance to shut up about certain things is just good sense.)

"You advocate here for what would in practice lead to the marginalization of your opponents' views, but not on the grounds that your opponents' views are false, yet you criticize Mooney for doing the same thing, which is hypocritical."

You argue that the NCSE's views on religion-science compatibility are unnecessary and dropping them wouldn't put them at much of a disadvantage, so according to your assessment, theistic evolutionists and compatibilists in general would be no more marginalized than they already are. Whether your assessment is correct or not is irrelevant, since the argument requires that you believe that what you advocate would lead to the marginalization of which I spoke.

I'm sure there are other problems with these arguments, but I'll leave that for other readers.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Sorry for yet another double post.

You are correct in pointing out that there are legitimate reasons for an organization to remain officially silent on certain issues, and that these reasons do not have analogues for individuals. Fair enough. Let's say that for some strange reason, it was proposed that the AAAS take an official position on gun control. It would be perfectly sensible to argue that this proposal was ludicrous, that it was outside the mission of the AAAS, that it ill fit the expertise of the leading members of AAAS, and that there were already advocacy groups far better equipped to handle the issue of gun control. On the other hand, it would be illegitimate to complain if the AAAS or other science advocacy organization took a stand against the anti-vaccination movement. Yes, the movement is controversial politically, but the science is clearly against the anti-vaccinationists. Furthermore, promoting an anti-vaccination stance could save lives. Ok, so now I've mentioned two extremes. Now what?

I think that you are utterly wrong in saying that questions of the compatibility of religion and science are outside the NCSE's scope. How those questions are answered make a huge difference in how the NCSE tackles the fight against creationism. Those answers govern how the NCSE should respond to creationists' claims that evolution is atheistic, whether the NCSE should work with religious scientists and to what degree, what their expert witnesses should say in the courtroom, and so on. To say that answering these questions is outside of the NCSE's mission looks naive at best and disingenuous at worst.

Steve Zara said...

To say that answering these questions is outside of the NCSE's mission looks naive at best and disingenuous at worst.

If answering these questions is a core part of the NCSE's mission then it is in trouble.

If it says that science and religion are compatible factually, then it is presenting a non-mainstream scientific view, and also a view that is philosophically incoherent. That has to be off the table.

So there are two options that, to put it bluntly, aren't lying: (1) to be explicit that science and religion aren't factually compatible, or (2) to keep quiet about the compatibility matter and stress issues like secularism instead.

What should it do?

J. J. Ramsey said...

Steve Zara: "If answering these questions is a core part of the NCSE's mission then it is in trouble."

Suppose one treats science as what it is in practice: a discipline that is designed to tolerate and work around some level of bias and false belief in its practitioners and allow them to find out about how the world works, even in spite of their imperfect rationality. If one thinks of science as a such a discipline, then religious beliefs are no more incompatible with science then any other kind of false belief. The negative effects of these beliefs either end up irrelevant or weeded out by things like peer review. To put it another way, one's religion is compatible with science to the extent that it doesn't interfere with one doing science.

Steve Zara said...

JJ-

That isn't going to work, because it isn't the kind of compatibility that anyone is really interested in.

For those theists who are concerned about the teaching of science, there is really only one issue - will learning about science threaten the faith of my children? The honest answer is "yes". The more you learn about science, the less religious belief you will have, in general.

Telling such people that it is still possible to have some faith and do science isn't going to solve the problem of acceptance. There is simply no point showing creationists theist scientists like Ken Miller, because Miller's religion isn't anything they would recognise.

Accommodationism is pointless, as those who it is aimed at just don't want it.

There are other ways to fight for the teaching of uncorrupted science. I have always thought that the best way is to involve money. Call me cynical, but I have no doubt that if you can show that a good science education is linked with increased income, quite a bit of the resistance will vanish.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Steve Zara: "For those theists who are concerned about the teaching of science, there is really only one issue - will learning about science threaten the faith of my children? The honest answer is 'yes'."

The honest answer is "depends." If one's faith depends on a literal interpretation of scripture, and that literal interpretation conflicts with publicly available facts, well, yeah, there is going to be an obvious conflict. If one's faith depends on propositions that are unlikely to be falsified, like "God resurrected Jesus," then not as much. A lot is also going to depend on the upbringing and temperament of the children as well.

"There is simply no point showing creationists theist scientists like Ken Miller, because Miller's religion isn't anything they would recognise."

Are you kidding me? Miller is a Catholic, not a Unitarian. For better or worse, he's someone who actually believes in a lot of supernatural stuff, not the sort of abstract belief that evangelicals would regard as sexed-up atheism.

Steve Zara said...

If one's faith depends on a literal interpretation of scripture, and that literal interpretation conflicts with publicly available facts, well, yeah, there is going to be an obvious conflict

Those are the very people who are resisting the teaching of evolution.

Are you kidding me? Miller is a Catholic, not a Unitarian. For better or worse, he's someone who actually believes in a lot of supernatural stuff, not the sort of abstract belief that evangelicals would regard as sexed-up atheism.

You aren't getting the point at all.

There is simply no purpose showing someone who is a theist but believes in evolution to theists who simply don't want to accept evolution in any way.

The issue for these theists is not the compatibility of science and evolution. It is that evolution itself totally corrupts their view of the world.

Accept evolution and there is no fall, and we are just atoms and the void. Therefore there is no morality, and gay marriage, abortion are inevitable.

Creationists are the ones who truly realise the devastating effect of evolution on the idea of God and theistic morality.

You don't convert full-on science-rejecting creationists into moderate theists by telling them that people like Ken Miller accept evolution. For them, that is pretty much like telling them that Satanism is acceptable because there are some Christians who worship the Devil as well.

This is why I say that accommodationism is pointless. It isn't the problem.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Steve Zara: "Accept evolution and there is no fall, and we are just atoms and the void."

From the word "and" on, you have a slippery slope fallacy. Now there's an intelligent argument.

Steve Zara said...

JJ-

It's not my argument. It is the one used by Creationists to reject the teaching of evolution.

Scientific accommodationism is pointless. You don't get fundamentalist literalist Christians to accept the beliefs of Ken Miller or even Francis Collins simply by pointing them out. For such Literalist Christians evolution is simply out of the question. It is deeply immoral.

The compatibility problem between Creationism and evolution for Creationists isn't to do with science. It is to do with morality.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Steve Zara: "It's not my argument. It is the one used by Creationists to reject the teaching of evolution."

Yet you wrote, "Creationists are the ones who truly realise the devastating effect of evolution on the idea of God and theistic morality." This implies that you thought that their argument was valid.

Steve Zara said...

This implies that you thought that their argument was valid.

No, it doesn't.

They say that evolution is pretty much fatal for Christian theism. I agree with that.

They say that theism is necessary for morality. I disagree with that.

Evolution only has consequences for morality if you believe that theism is necessary for morality.

I don't believe that theism is necessary for morality, therefore I don't go along with their argument that evolution wrecks morality.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Steve Zara: "They say that evolution is pretty much fatal for Christian theism. I agree with that."

Pity that you disagree with something that is, AFAICT, empirically false. Then, we may have different ideas of what "Christian theism" means. I take it as meaning the varieties of theism that those who call themselves Christians actually believe. There are plenty of Christians who believe that evolution is true, so evolution, for better or worse, has failed to kill Christian theism. You might counter that evolution is logically inconsistent with Christian theism, but I'd say in response that Christian theism is a moving target, since it is what Christians say it is and not a fixed set of beliefs, and Christians can shape their theism to accommodate evolution without introducing any new logical inconsistencies to their beliefs, and have done so.

Indeed, that Christians and other religious believers have already modified their beliefs to fit with the science is evidence against the idea that accommodationism is pointless. (It is a quirk of the debate that "accommodationism" refers to the position that religious believers have the option of accommodating their beliefs to the science instead of chucking them altogether.)

Steve Zara said...

JJ-

You are completely missing the point.

If you want to have a theological debate with Creationists, go ahead.

No amount of saying how subtle and modern Christianity can "evolve" to deal with scientific issues is going to help at all. Creationists aren't interested in subtle. They don't do modern.

They aren't interested in the mental gymnastics that you are talking about.

Their position is clear: Evolution is incompatible with the Bible and theistic morality.

You might have some hope if you can show how evolution fits in with a creation in 7 days, the Garden of Eden, the fall, the global flood, and the life and resurrection of Jesus, all in 6000 years. That is what they need for their moral framework.

That's quite a challenge. I wish you luck.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Steve Zara: "You are completely missing the point."

And you missed mine, which is that creationists have already done what you say that they can't and won't do. Not that they do it easily, mind you, but it is telling that the very person who pointed out how hardened creationists are to evidence was one of these very creationists.

"If you want to have a theological debate with Creationists, go ahead."

Personally, I don't, but I'm glad that the NCSE points to those who are willing to engage in such debate.

Steve Zara said...

And you missed mine, which is that creationists have already done what you say that they can't and won't do

Not in any significant numbers. The effect of promoting compatibility over decades has been effectively zero in terms of the degree of belief. That is a good point that Coyne makes repeatedly.

Personally, I don't, but I'm glad that the NCSE points to those who are willing to engage in such debate.

No, the NCSE is not simply pointing out those who are willing to engage in the debate.

It is engaging in the debate itself, by promoting compatibility.

So what we have is the NCSE putting forward a corrupted view of science, combined with extremely poor philosophy, for no practical effect at all.

Even if the factual and rational problems with accommodationism could be ignored, it has been a failure.

But you know this aready. So we come full circle. Further discussion is probably pointless.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Steve Zara: "The effect of promoting compatibility over decades has been effectively zero in terms of the degree of belief."

As John Pieret and Razib have pointed out, this isn't quite true.

Pieret: "Now comes Razib at Gene Expression to give a closer look at the polls and he finds that young people, including the religious, are less creationist than older cohorts, particularly among Catholics. Moreover:

"[Pieret quoting Razib]'[W]hen it comes to politics there hasn't been much change among liberals, who in general are not Creationists, and some change among Conservatives, who are less Creationist among the younger age cohorts, but a large swing among moderates.'"

Steve Zara: "It is engaging in the debate itself, by promoting compatibility."

That's true, too. What I had in mind was them directing people to theistic evolutionists like Ken Miller, but yes, they do that, too.

Steve Zara: "So what we have is the NCSE putting forward a corrupted view of science"

If you mean NOMA, then yes, that is a problem, although the NCSE does the small favor of dancing around endorsing it altogether, so things aren't as bad as they might be. That, though, is a complaint about the kind of compatibility in question. If anything, the sort of compatibility that I discussed far more accurately accounts for reality than a view that redefines science as being a rationalist philosophy (which it isn't in practice) and declares religion to contradict such a philosophy, or a view that caricatures religion by saying that it "indoctrinates people into a mode of magical fantasy-based thinking that deludes people into thinking that reality shit in general simply isn't important." Talk about corrupted views of both science and religion!

FWIW, the view on compatibility that I discussed isn't so far from a view that Eugenie Scott herself expressed.