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

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The supposed atheist schism (article coming up in Comment is Free)

This week, The Guardian's Comment is Free site is running a series of brief pieces addressing the following questions about a supposed atheist schism:

In recent months there have been signs of clear disagreement within the atheist movement about what its proper attitude to religion should be. One of the leading lights of the older generation, Paul Kurtz, has complained about the recent celebrations of "blasphemy day", enthusiastically embraced byPZ Myers. Others, derided by Daniel Dennett as "atheists but" have also complained. Is this a real division in the movement?

One possibility is that there is no movement to divide, and that atheists merely are people who don't believe in God. But in that case, how should they spread their views? Should they be attempting to extirpate religion? Must they believe the world would be better off without it?


The first piece in the series is by Michael Ruse, who claims that there is indeed a schism and that he is on the "unfashionable" side. Udo Schuklenk and I have co-authored a piece in the same series, and this will be published soon. Ophelia Benson is one of the others involved, but we'll await the series of articles as it takes shape over the next few days.

Ruse's arguments seem to come down to (1) not all religion is evil and corrupting (surely a straw man argument); (2) the claim that Dawkins' The God Delusion was not as sophisticated as it could have been in dealing with traditional issues in philosophy of religion (true, but of limited relevance in a book that was focused on other issues and was written at a popular level); and (3) some of his best friends are religious.

As to the latter, Ruse informs us that he would gladly take advice on everyday matters from Rowan Williams, Alvin Plantinga, or Ernan McMullin:

I don't have faith. I really don't. Rowan Williams does as do many of my fellow philosophers like Alvin Plantinga (a Protestant) and Ernan McMullin (a Catholic). I think they are wrong; they think I am wrong. But they are not stupid or bad or whatever. If I needed advice about everyday matters, I would turn without hesitation to these men.

Well, that proves it! Like most people, I often need advice on everyday matters. Today, for example, I needed some advice on an efficient and reasonably priced shuttle service from San Jose to San Francisco Airport. The friendly staff at the hotel where I'm staying helped out, but what a pity I didn't have Rowan Williams near at hand to offer me his advice. I'm sure that he is a more seasoned traveller than I am, and that his advice on such an everyday matter would be sound.

Similarly, I need some advice about minor work on my new house to make it more cat-friendly (the current cat door is not ideal, and I'm thinking of taking a different approach). Where's Alvin Plantinga when you need him? He'd no doubt have much to say that could save me from going down the wrong path. I'm serious. I'll be needing good advice on just this issue, and I'll definitely appreciate it if I'm given any. You can't get too much good advice on everyday things like that, so someone please send Plantinga around to help.

I'm not so familiar with McMullin, the Catholic guy, but if he knows a thing or two about planting and nurturing a vegetable garden ... well, give him my new address.

I don't doubt that Williams, Plantinga, and McMullin have much to say about everyday matters that is quite useful. It's their advice on not-so-everyday matters that I'm more wary about: matters of sin, redemption, and the Last Things. Frankly, I'd rather take my cat's advice on these things - it might be cryptic and lacking in scholarly support, but at least it won't lead me seriously astray. Furthermore, Mystical Prince Felix has exactly as much access to supernatural wisdom as the three men named by Ruse, i.e. none at all.

But Ruse's worst howler is when he suggests that, if there is a contradiction between evolutionary science and certain religious belief, then it follows that teaching evolution in public schools is unconstitutional in the United States:

If, as the new atheists think, Darwinian evolutionary biology is incompatible with Christianity, then will they give me a good argument as to why the science should be taught in schools if it implies the falsity of religion? The first amendment to the constitution of the United States of America separates church and state. Why are their beliefs exempt?

Ugh! Where do you start? Fortunately, Jerry Coyne has already dealt with this, so let me quote him and not say much more:

Although Ruse loudly and constantly praises himself for his perspicacity and deep understanding of philosophy and politics, he seems unable to comprehend this simple fact: the erosion of one’s faith by the facts of biology, astronomy, geology, biblical scholarship and the like does not mean that these fields are equivalent to atheism. Is that so hard to understand?

So here’s my “good argument,” Dr. Ruse: lots of things that we teach students make them question not only their faith, but their fundamental values. This is GOOD. Questioning your principles is one of the main aims of education, as Socrates knew well. As biology teachers, our job is to teach evolution, for that is the true account of the history of life. If that account leads some people to question or leave their faith, that’s just too bad. But it’s not the same thing as telling students that there is no god.


Exactly. Evolution is not taught with the purpose of undermining religion, and nor is that its primary effect. The primary effect is simply to impart an understanding of (one important area of) science. That's a perfectly good secular goal for the state to pursue, given its interest in the flourishing of children and the development of their natural talents. If some religious beliefs are contrary to the picture of the world that science gives us, then that is something that students need to reconcile for themselves. And it should be clear that at least some religious beliefs are, indeed, contrary to robust elements of the emerging scientific picture. The only question is which ones?

The argument that Ruse puts is contrary to the entire body of US constitutional jurisprudence on the issue, as well as being wrong in principle and leading to absurd results if any attempt were made to apply it as a new legal doctrine.

Finally, no argument of this kind can alter the facts: either some (perhaps many) religious views are at odds with the scientific picture - or not. It's outrageous to suggest that Dawkins (or anyone else) should cease pursuing the truth as he sees it just because Ruse sees a possible constitutional consequence that no actual judge in the American court system has taken seriously to date.

Ruse appears to support the "framing" approach to selling evolution to the American public, which avoids linking it in any way with atheism. On this approach, you say what you think will please your audience (or its various sub-demographics), rather than engaging in a sincere quest for truth.

This strategy is not going to work. Thoughtful Christians who accept the scientifically-measured age of the earth (about 4.6 billion years) can nonetheless see for themselves that evolutionary theory raises deep questions for their faith. It's futile, and rather insulting, to try to hide this from them. In most cases it is just as futile trying to coax hard-line fundamentalists, who believe that our planet is less than 10,000 years old, to convert to a more science-friendly kind of religion. For such people, the age of the earth and the special creation of each life form are doctrines that sit near the core of an integrated theological system; they are not optional extras. In any event, the framing strategy stinks of opportunism and intellectual dishonesty.

The piece that Udo Shuklenk and I were commissioned to write for Comment is Free was completed prior to publication of Ruse's article, but it will make the essential points about why we feel the need to speak out against gods and religion. The eradication of religion is not a realistic aim, but confronting the more egregious claims to authority of religious leaders and organisations certainly is realistic and worthwhile.

And we'll go on doing it.

51 comments:

NewEnglandBob said...

Will Ruse go to an allegedly celibate catholic priest for advice on sexual relationships or marriage which they know nothing about?

I also suppose he will take advice from theologians about stem cell research or HIV protection from condoms.

Why not get chemistry advice from them too. Throw in a question about computer programming or mutual fund investing too.

Ruse is an idiot. If he represents philosophers then philosophy is doomed.

Kel said...

I'm still really confused by the argument that if evolution goes against religion, then it is unconstitutional to teach. The last time I heard such an argument was not from a sophisticated philosopher but from a teenage girl who felt that science was an affront to her religious beliefs. Maybe there's some folklore truth to what Ruse is saying, but it is as fickle as saying that teaching the siege of Troy from a naturalistic perspective would be an affront to believers in the Greek gods - or to teach it as written by Homer with the Greek gods would be an affront to Christians who know that the Greek gods aren't real...

Maybe we should avoid all teaching of history because of the possibility that it might violate the constitution because history like science has the capacity to involve the supernatural and thus the potential to step on one's beliefs.

Brian said...

Kel, the argument - strawman - is that evolution logically implies atheism. This is not the case. Even a knee jerk atheist like me can understand that a scientific theory only describes empirical observation of reality. It does not tell us further that we should believe or not believe in god. It does point out that belief in a god who is guiding every moment is not scientific.

kynefski said...

The argument that evolutionary theory is incompatible with theism and, therefore, violates the US constitution is especially popular among the ID constituency associated with John Calvert, who choreographed the 2005 Kansas science "hearings." Michael Ruse should be embarrassed to be philosophically associated with them.

Personally, I hope the claim is litigated. That particular boil - that parents have a right to have their lies supported in public education - is one I would like to see brought to a head and lanced.

Blake Stacey said...

"I don't doubt that Williams, Plantinga, and McMullin have much to say about everyday matters that is quite useful. It's their advice on not-so-everyday matters that I'm more wary about: matters of sin, redemption, and the Last Things. Frankly, I'd rather take my cat's advice on these things - it might be cryptic and lacking in scholarly support, but at least it won't lead me seriously astray."

Teh werdz ov teh preechur, teh son ov David, King of teh Jerusalem. "St00pid! St00pid!" Sez teh teechurcat. "Srsly st00pid. Everythingz st00pid." Wut man getz 4 laburz he toilz @ undur teh sunz? Generashun comez n generashun goez, still same lolcats. Sun rizez n setz, goez bak n rize agin. Teh wind blowz souf n norf, rownd n rownd, alwayz teh sayme. Seaz can has streemz, nevur fullz. Streemz go bak where comez frum. All tingz has DO NOT WANT, more den werdz sez. Lolrus never sez "enuf bucket, kthnx" or kitteh sez "dats good, enuff cheezburger." Has happen? Gunna be agin. Nuthing new undur teh sunz. Kitteh can not sez "OMFGZ sumthing new!" is jus REPOST!. New kittahz 4gitz old kittahz, new kittahz 4gitd bai even newer kittahz.

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11.

Tauriq Moosa said...

Blake Stacey - I am afraid your point was lost amidst your incomprehensible mutterings.

Russell, thank you for a wonderful post. I must just add that I am a fan of Ruse's books on Darwin and philosophy - but I have little interest in his faitheist positions. I would urge that we remember that he is a vital writer and thinker in terms of accessible thinking in Darwinian matters - but here he fails. So, I hope we don't just dismiss him with "he's an idiot". He's not. He's just severely mistaken with his old and myopic arguments.

Gingerbaker said...

When you think about it, Muslims are really quite atheistic about Jesus - they deny he is a deity. Likewise, most Christians would deny that there is any convincing evidence to believe that Allah is the Abrahamic god, and don't even get me started about the atheistic tendencies of the Jews.

If we are going to contemplate the eviction of evolution from the classroom because of implied atheism, it seems to me we may need to throw out all religious references as well!

Brian said...

Russell, have a read of Greg Craven of the ACU's hate filled rant against atheists.

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/a-plague-of-atheists-has-descended-and-catholics-are-the-target-20091103-hv52.html

Brian said...

Russell, have a read of Greg Craven of the ACU's hate filled rant against atheists.

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/a-plague-of-atheists-has-descended-and-catholics-are-the-target-20091103-hv52.html

Brian said...

Damn double post. Sorry.

Ophelia Benson said...

Well I thought it was hilarious, Blake!

Mine is up today.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/nov/04/atheism-religion-philosophy

Blake Stacey said...

OK, to explain the "joke" (it wasn't a particularly superb one). On the Internet, there has been for a few years now the phenomenon of "lolcats", which are pictures of cats (and, sometimes, other animals) with humorous captions attached, usually written in a mangled sort of dialect intended to represent the cat's own thinking.

After lolcats had circled the Web for a while, some people decided it would be funny to translate the Bible into lolcat-speak.

Thus, if Russell Blackford asked Mystical Prince Felix for supernatural guidance on matters of sin, redemption and the root cause of suffering, Felix would naturally quote Scripture in lolcat dialect.

There. Attempted joke explained.

Ophelia Benson said...

Joke funny! Never mind about not superb.

Steve Zara said...

Hey Brian -

I'd like to take you up on something you said.

Kel, the argument - strawman - is that evolution logically implies atheism. This is not the case. Even a knee jerk atheist like me can understand that a scientific theory only describes empirical observation of reality. It does not tell us further that we should believe or not believe in god.

Aren't you mixing up here logic, theories and evidence?

When we talk about evolution vs theism, we aren't talking about a theory that just described observations. We are talking about a theory, which if true, makes theism as described in mainstream religions look very, very unlikely indeed. If we consider evolution true, then surely this really does tell us that we should not believe in God.

I realise, of course, that scientific observation can never lead to proof of the absence of God, but I think it is fair to say the idea of God has been disproved beyond reasonable doubt.

I don't think that in discussions we should leave theists the philosophical escape route of clinging on to their beliefs simply because there can never be final proof that they are mistaken.

Brian said...

Steve, you're right, but it doesn't logically imply atheism is what I was getting at. Ruse was arguing that if evolution implies atheism (a strawman) then it would need to be excluded from education in the US because of separation of church and state, and he'd be right. I totally agree that it makes certain commonly held beliefs (God created us as a kind, God is good and doesn't allow lots of suffering, We're the height of the universe, etc) in providential religion unreasonable. I don't really think I'm letting theists off there.

Perhaps it's just the thoughtless way I wrote the comment or perhaps I'm missing the some nuances in the arguments.

Brian said...

Steve, you're right, but it doesn't logically imply atheism is what I was getting at. Ruse was arguing that if evolution implies atheism (a strawman) then it would need to be excluded from education in the US because of separation of church and state, and he'd be right. I totally agree that it makes certain commonly held beliefs (God created us as a kind, God is good and doesn't allow lots of suffering, We're the height of the universe, etc) in providential religion unreasonable. I don't really think I'm letting theists off there.

Perhaps it's just the thoughtless way I wrote the comment or perhaps I'm missing the some nuances in the arguments.

Brian said...

Double post again. This site is so slow atm that I pressed publish a few times to kick it into gear. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

"the argument - strawman - is that evolution logically implies atheism. This is not the case."

True enough. Now would you care to inform Prof Dawkins, etal of this insight?

You see, they most certainly are claiming that evolution preculdes the existence of God. In doing so they are making philosphical observations and passing them off as scientific fact in an intellectually dishonest manner.

Steve Zara said...

In doing so they are making philosphical observations and passing them off as scientific fact in an intellectually dishonest manner.

Nonsense. The nature of God is a matter of philosophy. The existence of God is a supposed fact about reality. It is very common in discussions such as these for religious people to claim that because philosophical statements aren't empirically falsifiable, therefore it is acceptable to say that such philosophical statements are about reality.

That is extremely poor reasoning. The dishonesty is that of theologians who try and sneak in "God exists" as an axiom.

NewEnglandBob said...

I agree, Steve. The dishonesty is usually by theologians and their apologetics.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but (for example) when Dawkins claims existence is naught but "pitiless indifference" or when Weinberg states that the universe is "pointless" these gentlemen are indulging in philosophical musings, not making scientific statements.

Steve Zara said...

No. Those are scientific statements.

The only place where we know we can find pity and the idea that things have a point is in the thoughts of people. And as there is no evidence of design, then it is a reasonable scientific statement that there is nothing with thoughts that is behind the universe. It may not be a true scientific statement, but it is a perfectly acceptable one.

Facts about reality are within the bounds of science.

What particularly interests me is the idea that beliefs about facts about reality are likely to be something that can be studied scientifically.

Once we can explains in terms of neural activity why someone has a belief in God, then things get very interesting indeed.

tomh said...

Brian wrote:
Ruse was arguing that if evolution implies atheism (a strawman) then it would need to be excluded from education in the US because of separation of church and state, and he'd be right.

How would he be right? Just using the word "implies", means that some will take one view, some another. Teaching the facts of evolution and letting students sort out their own implications of it is certainly not unconstitutional, whether evolution implies atheism or not. In history classes we teach the facts of history, including various contradictory religions, that have held sway at one time or another. This does more than just imply that some of them have to be wrong. Same with comparing current religions that contradict each other. They can't all be right. As long as the teacher is not endorsing one over another there is no problem. But according to Ruse this is all unconstitutional. Ruse is just grasping at straws with his constitutional argument.

Anonymous said...

"Those are scientific statements."

Sorry, but meaning and purpose are non-scientific concepts that lie outside the area of scientific inquirey. Science deals exclusivly with mechanos, nothing else. Teleos is the province of philosophy and religion. Science can't go there.

"Once we can explains in terms of neural activity why someone has a belief in God, then things get very interesting indeed."

Once you do that, you determine nothing about God's existence pro or con. You only commit a Genetic Fallacy.

Michael Shermer, who I generally like, does this all the time with his claim that religious belief is merely an offshoot of the fact that we are patern seeking animals. So what? Even if true, that observation tells us nothing about God's possible existence.

You may as well claim that the cock's crow causes the sun to rise.

Steve Zara said...

Meaning and purpose are words used by a certain species of ape as a result of their brain activity.

So of course they are the subject of science.

Even if true, that observation tells us nothing about God's possible existence.

Here we go again. We aren't talking about God's possible existence (that is a philosophical abstraction). We are talking about whether or not God is real, a scientific question.

There are an infinite number of things that are possible. Theists should be allowed to get away with confusing the possibility of God's existence with the actuality of God's existence. That is a naughty confusion of meaning. If theists persist with that, I will have to set the Vogons on them. After all Vogons are possible.

Steve Zara said...

Sorry.. in the previous comment: "should" should be "should not".

NewEnglandBob said...

Anonymous:
Religion, of course, has no province other than fantasies, excuses for bad behavior and attempting to control others for selfish purposes. Some philosophers seems to think that philosophy has the province of thinking it is above all else.

Anonymous said...

"Meaning and purpose are words used by a certain species of ape as a result of their brain activity."

How we perceive meaning and purpose is subject to scientific inquiry. However, the concepts themselves are not scientific.

Indeed, the question "Does God Exist" is the wrong question from square one. The real question is "Does existence have an inherent meaning or purpose, a reason for existing?".

Anonymous said...

NewEnglandBob - could you posibly be more sophomoric?

Why don't you read Will Durant's "The Power of Religion" at http://www.willdurant.com/religion.htm

and get back to me.

Steve Zara said...

The real question is "Does existence have an inherent meaning or purpose, a reason for existing?".

Oh dear. I now know who I am dealing with, and should not have engaged.

Brian said...

Tomh:
Just using the word "implies", means that some will take one view, some another.

By implies, I do not mean hints at, or suggest, I mean logically entails.

NewEnglandBob said...

Anonymous, could you be more elitist?

"Indeed, the question "Does God Exist" is the wrong question from square one. The real question is "Does existence have an inherent meaning or purpose, a reason for existing?". "

This is pure nonsense and laughable.

tomh said...

By implies, I do not mean hints at, or suggest, I mean logically entails.

Thank you. My point was that even if everyone agreed that evolution implies atheism, there still would not be anything unconstitutional about teaching accepted science in science class, no matter what implications logically follow. Ruse is just pulling specious arguments out of thin air.

Brian said...

Thanks tomh. I guess I don't really understand the laws over there in the U.S. then. I thought anything that taught a religious view was out.

Anonymous said...

This is pure nonsense and laughable.

Why?

Anonymous said...

"My point was that even if everyone agreed that evolution implies atheism, there still would not be anything unconstitutional about teaching accepted science in science class, no matter what implications logically follow. Ruse is just pulling specious arguments out of thin air."


Not quite, Ruse has a point. While you can teach the mechanics of evolution you cannot teach what you believe to be its implications as if they were fact. at that point you ARE teaching "religion" in the classroom and advocating a set of beliefs. That would be no different than teaching ID as if it were science.

What would be allowed is discussing (not advocating, but discussing) of atheism, and ID and other beliefs in the context of a philosophy or comparative religions class. Where Dawkins, etal cross the line is their advocacy of atheism and their direct and deliberate tying of atheism to evolution.

However, neither ID nor atheism has any place in a science class since neither is scientific. They are both philosophical beliefs addressing teleos, not observations examining mechanos.

NewEnglandBob said...

"Where Dawkins, etal cross the line is their advocacy of atheism and their direct and deliberate tying of atheism to evolution."

How did Dawkins et. al. cross the line? Are they teaching a science class in a public school? Or do you mean they have no rights to talk or write in public?

Therefore Ruse and Anonymous have no point to make.

Anonymous said...

Are they teaching a science class in a public school?

No they are advocating a belief system in the context of a public classroom. If theists cannot use the public schools to advocate their belief systems (and rightly so) neither can atheists.

Furthermore, neither theism nor atheism are scientific. They both deal with unscientific beliefs (neither theistic or atheistic claims are falsifiable or testable under strict definitions of science).

However, both should be free to discuss their beliefs (without advocating those beliefs) in a non-science class such as a class in philosophy or comparative relgion. So should other concepts such as ID. The study of such concepts as "design", "intent", "meaning" and "purpose" (or lack thereof) has no place in a SCIENCE classroom.

Steve Zara said...

Furthermore, neither theism nor atheism are scientific.

Yes they are, on two grounds.

First, theism implies interventions into physical reality. That can be investigated.

Second, belief systems are a matter of psychology. That can be investigated.

This "God is beyond science" idea really is utter nonsense, and it is time it was put to rest.

Because we have good evidence that the pyramids were build by men, then this is also good evidence that there was no interference by aliens (as some have suggested).

Because we have good evidence that the universe works by physical principles, and that life evolved via natural selection, this is also good evidence that there was no interference by Gods.

Theism is a testable hypothesis about the physical world: Gods have meddled.

Christianity involves scientific statements.

If you want to retreat to something beyond science for now, then go for deism, although even that is also philosophically absurd.

It may be politically wise to not mention atheism in science classes (and I agree with this policy), but it is just nonsense to say it is scientifically or philosophically invalid.

Anonymous said...

"First, theism implies interventions into physical reality. That can be investigated."

Theism implies an inhernet meaning and purpose to creation,neither of which are scientific concepts.

"Second, belief systems are a matter of psychology. That can be investigated."

How we perceive and understand belief systems is a matter of pyschology. To claim that these perceptions say anything about the truth of these beliefs is to commit the Genetic Fallacy. The belief systems themselves lie outside science.

"Theism is a testable hypothesis about the physical world: Gods have meddled."

Theism is the claim that the universe exists for a reason and has an inherent purpose. Neither claim is scientific, and neither is the nihilism derived from atheism.

"It may be politically wise to not mention atheism in science classes (and I agree with this policy), but it is just nonsense to say it is scientifically or philosophically invalid."

Political wisdom has nothing to do with it. To advocate atheism in the classroom is to advocate a belief system and violate the "wall of separation" a surely as advocating Catholicism in a public school context.

What the law would require is the atheistic equivalent of parochial schools where atheism as a belief system is taught and advocated in a manner no different than catachism classes.

Steve Zara said...

Theism is the claim that the universe exists for a reason and has an inherent purpose.

No it isn't. That is deism.

Theism is the claim that a deity interferes with physical reality.

How we perceive and understand belief systems is a matter of pyschology. To claim that these perceptions say anything about the truth of these beliefs is to commit the Genetic Fallacy. The belief systems themselves lie outside science.

Nonsense. If you claim you have had a real experience and psychology can show that it was actually a dream, and not real, then this is science providing evidence against the claim.

Belief systems can't possibly lie outside of science when the beliefs are the result of the workings of neurons in a brain!

You have to first prove a strange kind of dualism before you can make that claim.

What science can test is whether or not claims are actually evidence for anything.

Science can potentially show, in a particular situation, whether or not a belief in a God actually has any relevance to the existence of a God. If it doesn't, then this is yet more evidence that the belief in God is mistaken.

To advocate atheism in the classroom is to advocate a belief system and violate the "wall of separation" a surely as advocating Catholicism in a public school context.

That's politics. The "wall of separation" is a political construct.

I believe that this wall of separation is intellectual nonsense, but politically necessary, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

"Theism is the claim that a deity interferes with physical reality."

Theism is the claim that a deity is the cause, reason for and sustainer of physical reality. The existence of miracles is not necessary for theistic claims. Existence itself is miraculous enough.

"Belief systems can't possibly lie outside of science when the beliefs are the result of the workings of neurons in a brain!"

So the number pi would not exist unless somebody calculated it? Whether or not we belive that existence has a purpose is a function of our brains. Whether existence actually has a purpose is a separate issue that lies outside of science.

"You have to first prove a strange kind of dualism before you can make that claim."

You have to embrace solipcism to claim otherwise.

"The "wall of separation" is a political construct."

The wall is Ruse's whole point. Like it or not, advocating a belief system violates that separation. Neither theism nor atheism can be taught or advocated in the classroom.

Your feelings on the issue are irrelevant.

So if the teachers of evolution make the definitive claim that evolution precludes the existence of God, they are no longer teaching science. They are advocating a belief system, and not just teaching the mechanics of the evolutionary process. And if atheism and evolution cannot be separated, then evolution cannot be taught in a public classroom.

Anonymous said...

As a follow up, it is not necessary to definitively link evolution and atheism.

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.

Steve Zara said...

That's not the point.

The Catholic Church believes in abandoning science when it suits them.

So their position is irrelevant to the matter of whether or not atheism is a reasonable scientific position.

NewEnglandBob said...

"No they are advocating a belief system in the context of a public classroom. If theists cannot use the public schools to advocate their belief systems (and rightly so) neither can atheists."

Wow, your statements are getting more stupid by the hour. Get lost loser. This garbage is not worth my time. Your delusions should be kept to yourself.

Steve Zara said...

Indeed. "Anonymous" seems to have little understanding of the philosophy and nature of science.

Presumably the "belief system" that the Earth is round should not be taught either.

Geology will have to proceed simply presenting the evidence for the spherical nature of our planet, and letting the students draw their own conclusions.

Anonymous said...

"Wow, your statements are getting more stupid by the hour. Get lost loser. This garbage is not worth my time. Your delusions should be kept to yourself."

Wow, are all atheists as intelligent, thoughtful and articulate as you?

Don't atheists have enough public relations issues without people like you feeding negative stereotypes?

Anonymous said...

"Indeed. "Anonymous" seems to have little understanding of the philosophy and nature of science."

You don't understand that science deals strictly with mechanos, and then only when claims can be tested and/or falsified?

Teleos OTOH lies outside the limits of science. Nontestable/ nonfalsifiable belief claims and those dealing with meaning and purpose are non-scientific ("meaningless" in a Popperian sense).

Neither atheist nor theistic claims belong in a scientific classroom.

Neither atheist nor theistic advocacy belongs in a public classroom.

What part of this are you not understanding?

NewEnglandBob said...

"Wow, are all atheists as intelligent, thoughtful and articulate as you?

Don't atheists have enough public relations issues without people like you feeding negative stereotypes?"

No, Anonymous, beside all the many, many, many other stupid things you have said here you obviously do not understand the difference in my attacking the inane, stupid things YOU SAY. I did not attack you. You are the one throwing stones and accusing people of doing things that they did not do.

You disgusting tactics are typical for people who have no arguments to stand upon, so you sling lies and crap.

tomh said...

Anonymous wrote:

While you can teach the mechanics of evolution you cannot teach what you believe to be its implications as if they were fact. at that point you ARE teaching "religion" in the classroom and advocating a set of beliefs.

And, in fact, no one advocates teaching what some believe are the implications in public school. Why do you go on as if this were in fact what is happening.

they are advocating a belief system in the context of a public classroom.

Where is this context of a public classroom that you speak of? None of the people you mention are public school teachers and none claim that a belief system should be advocated in public school.

So if the teachers of evolution make the definitive claim that evolution precludes the existence of God,

Can you point to a single person who makes the claim that this should be taught in science class?

And if atheism and evolution cannot be separated, then evolution cannot be taught in a public classroom...As a follow up, it is not necessary to definitively link evolution and atheism.


Which shows that your ignorance of the law and the Constitution runs just as deep as Ruse's.

Anonymous said...

You disgusting tactics are typical for people who have no arguments to stand upon, so you sling lies and crap.


Apparently you decided to go with insults instead of argument.

But please, feel free to refute my arguments any time using logic and evidence instead of ad hominems and invective.

That is, if you can....