Home » Religion, Science » No peace between “science” and “religion,” prof warns

No peace between “science” and “religion,” prof warns

This post was about an atheist facing death, and it is inspiring. This one is about an atheist blowhard – an evolutionary biologist who seems determined, so far as I can see, to collapse in the ruins of Darwinism. Some excerpts from Jerry A. Coyne’s “Religion in America is on the defensive” (USA Today, October 11, 2010):

Atheist books such as The God Delusion and The End of Faith have, by exposing the dangers of faith and the lack of evidence for the God of Abraham, become best-sellers. Science nibbles at religion from the other end, relentlessly consuming divine explanations and replacing them with material ones. Evolution took a huge bite a while back, and recent work on the brain has shown no evidence for souls, spirits, or any part of our personality or behavior distinct from the lump of jelly in our head. We now know that the universe did not require a creator. Science is even studying the origin of morality. So religious claims retreat into the ever-shrinking gaps not yet filled by science. And, although to be an atheist in America is still to be an outcast, America’s fastest-growing brand of belief is non-belief.

As neuroscientist Mario Beauregard and I demonstrate in The Spiritual Brain, materialist explanations have utterly failed in explaining the human mind. They continue to fail even as I write and you read, with one limp speculation after another.

Soft! There is ancient evil about:

But faith will not go gentle. For each book by a “New Atheist,” there are many others attacking the “movement” and demonizing atheists as arrogant, theologically ignorant, and strident.

Well, if so, you just heard from Exhibit 1.

It gets better:

Science operates by using evidence and reason. Doubt is prized, authority rejected. No finding is deemed “true” – a notion that’s always provisional – unless it’s repeated and verified by others. We scientists are always asking ourselves, “How can I find out whether I’m wrong?”

To that, I can only reply Climategate, which made clear that a number of key climate scientists were willing to manipulate the system. And in the age of Signature in the Cell (Harper One, 2009), Expelled (about attempts to suppress findings that contradict atheist materialism) did not help the new atheists’ image.

My favourite lines are

And this leads to the biggest problem with religious “truth”: There’s no way of knowing whether it’s true. I’ve never met a Christian, for instance, who has been able to tell me what observations about the universe would make him abandon his beliefs in God and Jesus. (I would have thought that the Holocaust could do it, but apparently not.) There is no horror, no amount of evil in the world, that a true believer can’t rationalize as consistent with a loving God. It’s the ultimate way of fooling yourself. But how can you be sure you’re right if you can’t tell whether you’re wrong?

Well, if one does not believe that one’s mind has an independent reality, one cannot tell whether anything at all is right or wrong. After all, if morality is all about survival of the fittest, then there is no morality, only survival of the fittest.

The funniest part is this:

Out of 34 countries surveyed in a study published in Science magazine, the U.S., among the most religious, is at the bottom in accepting Darwinism: We’re No. 33, with only Turkey below us.

The United States put men on the moon, mapped the outer planets, and generally leads in science. And it is more religious than other countries. So, if religion makes a difference, bring it on.

The real lesson is that leading nations lead. They can lead in both science and religion. There are nations out there having a fit about both.

More on the new atheism (atheism on stilts):

The new atheists: Santa’s sleigh came and went, and never gave them what they needed

Salvo 7: Just released edition features batty bioethicists, suckered scientists, senseless psychologists …
(And we don’t mind sayin’ it either.)

Imagine no Religulous

Also just up at The Mindful Hack, my blog on neuroscience and spirituality issues:

African religion: Begin by trying to understand

Media and religion: If people cannot safely say what they think, what effect can media have?

Christopher Hitchens: Attempting the good death without God

Branded but stranded? How seriously does Generation Y really take brands?

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12 Responses to No peace between “science” and “religion,” prof warns

  1. Actually, just yesterday I was marveling at how well the evidence from ‘science’ goes with my spiritual beliefs. For instance this evidence from science for a ‘eternal’ dimension:

    traveling at the speed of light only gets us to the place where time, as we understand it, comes to complete stop for light, i.e. gets us to the eternal, ‘past and future folding into now’, framework of time. This higher dimension ‘eternal’ inference for the time framework of light is warranted because light is not ‘frozen within time’ yet it is shown that time, as we understand it, does not pass for light.

    “I’ve just developed a new theory of eternity.”
    Albert Einstein
    http://www.rd.com/your-america.....176-2.html

    “The laws of relativity have changed timeless existence from a theological claim to a physical reality. Light, you see, is outside of time, a fact of nature proven in thousands of experiments at hundreds of universities. I don’t pretend to know how tomorrow can exist simultaneously with today and yesterday. But at the speed of light they actually and rigorously do. Time does not pass.” – Richard Swenson

    Light and Quantum Entanglement Reflect Some Characteristics Of God – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4102182

    ‘In the ‘spirit world,,, instantly, there was no sense of time. See, everything on earth is related to time. You got up this morning, you are going to go to bed tonight. Something is new, it will get old. Something is born, it’s going to die. Everything on the physical plane is relative to time, but everything in the spiritual plane is relative to eternity. Instantly I was in total consciousness and awareness of eternity, and you and I as we live in this earth cannot even comprehend it, because everything that we have here is filled within the veil of the temporal life. In the spirit life that is more real than anything else and it is awesome. Eternity as a concept is awesome. There is no such thing as time. I knew that whatever happened was going to go on and on.’
    Mickey Robinson – Near Death Experience testimony

    In The Presence Of Almighty God – The NDE of Mickey Robinson – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4045544

    ‘When you die, you enter eternity. It feels like you were always there, and you will always be there. You realize that existence on Earth is only just a brief instant.’
    Dr. Ken Ring – has extensively studied Near Death Experiences

    supplemental note:

    The Scientific Evidence for Near Death Experiences – Dr Jeffery Long – Melvin Morse M.D. – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4454627

    Blind Woman Can See During Near Death Experience (NDE) – Pim von Lommel – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3994599/

  2. Coyne is right in one regard, there is a ‘war’ going on between science and religion, but the religion that ‘science’ is at war with is not the Theism that Coyne has falsely envisioned, but the war is instead actually being waged against Coyne’s very own cherished religion of atheistic materialism.

    Theism compared to Materialism within the scientific method
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?doc....._5fwz42dg9

    Skillet “Awake and Alive” Music Video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-iB9qKZ2HI

  3. But let’s suppose for the sake of argument there is no God, natural selection would appear to select for Believers and not atheists.

    Therein lies a cruel irony for Coyne, if he is right about natural seleciton it would seem Atheists will be selected against.

    See:
    Evolution is Cruel to Dawkins and Dennett

    for the purpose of this blog, let us imagine that their thesis is completely valid ““ there is no God and natural selection simply shaped our brains such that we are predisposed to accept the God delusion. Such a reality is a sad place for Dennett and Dawkins.

    According to Dennett and Dawkins, millions of years of evolution have shaped human beings to be religious. If an alien species were to study humans, religious expression and belief would, in essence, be part of the human phenotype. And thus we see the first dimension of Evolution’s cruelty to Dennett and Dawkins. In their quest to rid the world of religion, they have chosen to do battle with human nature. But not only do they struggle against something that evolution has produced, they appear doomed because they are still struggling against evolution.
    …..
    And thus we see Evolution’s Final Act of Cruelty imposed on Dawkins and Dennett. Rather than get distracted by arguing whether they are correct, consider, at least for this moment, what it means if they are correct. Evolution has given Dennett and Dawkins a reality where they do not “fit” – the majority of their fellow species believe in some form a religion. Evolution has shaped the human brain to be religious and evangelistic efforts of Dawkins and Dennett are not going to undo the blind watchmaker’s handiwork – religious circuitry that exists within in our brains. Then comes the ultimate insult. Even if it is possible to “secularize” a population, this appears to be a fleeting, transient transitional phase. The fecundity of a population full of Dennetts and Dawkins plummets and this population finds itself with an inferior fitness compared to a population of Falwells and Robertsons. Evolution itself ensures that the religious mindset will persist. It’s been doing so for millennia.

    And therein may lie the most cruel irony of evolution. While it may make it possible for Richard Dawkins to be intellectually fulfilled, it also means that Dawkins, from an evolutionary perspective, embraces a world view that is maladapted to his biological essence and thus is nothing more than another evolutionary oddity whose lineage is a dead-end.

    Oh well, science has proven atheism will be a minority.

  4. Coyne assumes that the only arguments for theism is that science still can’t explain certain things. He is wrong. There is a lot of scientific evidence that supports a Christian worldview. Bornagain pointed some out. NDE’s are the most astonishing and powerful in my opinion.

    The success of 12-step programs are also evidence of God. A belief in and trust of God are the core of those 12-step programs and bring sobriety to thousands of drug addicts and alcoholics every year.

    Science also supports the Christian view of marriage and family.

    For example, the effects of divorce
    http://family.custhelp.com/app.....Rkaw%3D%3D

    Having a traditional family with a father and a mother is vital to rearing children:

    http://www.photius.com/feminoc....._kids.html

    Abstinence before marriage and fidelity after marriage brings many psychological and social benefits:
    http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=IS06B01

  5. I find it interesting that Coyne is willing to step down from the supposed “separation of religion and state” position and speak to the underpinnings of his real belief.

    Coyne is used to having the high ground. But as he is forced to encounter his opponent’s position he is quickly going to find that the state of the debate elsewhere is not so favorable.

    The opponent’s position vis-a-vis the Big Bang cosmological argument is quite weak, as I outline (even vs. contemporary cosmological models) in an article I cowrote with William Lane Craig in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology.

    Coyne has made himself vulnerable and he should be attacked on this unfamiliar ground, should he stay in the public square.

  6. Coyne says:

    … and recent work on the brain has shown no evidence for souls, spirits, or any part of our personality or behavior distinct from the lump of jelly in our head.

    I could not agree more. I looked into my computer and did not find any evidence of what those charlatans call “software”. Everything happening was just electric charges going from here to there, sometimes changing into magnetic fields or small pulses of light. Physiscs has explained how computers work. More work should be done to explain to the masses that there is no such thing as “software”, there never was and never will be, because hardware is the only and ultimate reality.

  7. Mrs O’Leary:

    I think it is sad, but necessary to take up Mr Coyne on some of his strawmannish, ad hominem laced dismissive claim:

    I’ve never met a Christian, for instance, who has been able to tell me what observations about the universe would make him abandon his beliefs in God and Jesus. (I would have thought that the Holocaust could do it, but apparently not.) There is no horror, no amount of evil in the world, that a true believer can’t rationalize as consistent with a loving God. It’s the ultimate way of fooling yourself.

    1 –> First, if indeed the problem of evil did show a contradiction in the Judaeo-Christian, theistic view of God, that would be sufficient to show that the Christian faith is falsified.

    2 –> So, Mr Coyne — contrary to his surface declamations — does in fact know a commonly acknowledged condition that, if met, would falsify the Christian faith. So, his argument that Christians do not acknowledge conditions under which their faith would be falsified, is itself false and a strawman distortion.

    3 –> Just, as can be seen in 101-level summary here, the deductive form of the problem of evil has been decisively answered.

    4 –> In that context, the inductive form Mr Coyne would present by alluding to the Holocaust — which seems more to be evidence of what can happen when men turn their backs on God than an indictment of God [cf Heine's grimly prophetic 1831 warning to Germany on the consequences of doing that] — has been put into due proportion.

    5 –> Amplifying just a bit, the capability of a creature to do moral good [starting with capacity to love] pivots on that creature having significant, real choice. [A robot programmed to carry out acts of caring and emit verbal assurances of love is simply executing a program, it is not actually loving.] And so, the possibility for evil exists as the privation and perversion of the capacity to do good. thence, our duty to the good.

    6 –> Speaking of which, Mr Coyne seems to have rhetorically adroitly side-stepped the inherently amoral nature of his evolutionary materialistic scientism, which has in it no IS that can ground OUGHT.

    7 –> Until he can adequately ground ought on his worldview, he should not be arguing premised on the reality of ought. Indeed, by so arguing, he opens up the point that evolutionary materialism reveals here a reduction to absurdity [i.e. it has no basis for oughtness, thence for evaluating things as good or evil], appealing implicitly to what it cannot ground.

    8 –> Going further on his claim that the Christian faith is unfalsifiable (and by implication irrational and tending to be closed-minded), Mr Coyne should be reminded of this excerpt from a famous AD 55 letter by that leading C1 Christian thinker, the Apostle Paul:

    1 Cor 15:13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men . . .

    9 –> In short, if — contrary to his summary of the C1 testimony of the church in vv 1 – 11 just before this excerpt, Jesus of Nazareth did not rise from the dead in fulfillment of the prophecies of Scriptures [cf. esp the ~ 700 BC Is 52:13 - 53:12], and the 500 eyewitnesses [~ 20 of them specifically identifiable or named] then the Christian faith is decisively falsified.

    10 –> Of course, he immediately goes on to emphasise: “20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (Cf summary discussion here on the warrant for that conclusive statement.)

    11 –> Thus, the Christian faith in fact has long acknowledged potentially observable circumstances under which it would be formally or factually falsified. It so happens that the problem of evil does not embed the conclusion that he concept of God is inherently contradictory that was imagined by ever so many atheists in former times. Similarly, there is powerful factual evidence that grounds the claim that on the strength of 500+ witnesses at he foundation of the Church’s witness and mission for these 2,000 years [and fulfilled prophecies hundreds of years old in C1], the church is founded on the credible fact of Jesus’ salvific death, burial and resurrection.

    12 –> And, last but not least, to sustain his objections, Mr Coyne seems to be shutting his eyes to the testimony of millions across 2,000 years and currently, that we have personally met, been reconciled with and come to be miraculously transformed by God in the face of the risen, Living Christ Jesus. Including any number of posttively pivotal individuals in the history of our civilisation.

    _________________

    Mr Coyne should reconsider his sharply dismissive remarks. It is utterly unfair and unjust mischaracterisation to dismiss all Christians as in effect, ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked. Especially, on the strength of the sort of strawmannish, ad hominem laced distortions that the so-called New Atheists seem to be fond of putting up in the major media.

    Neo-Atheists, please, please: it is time to turn down the rhetorical voltage, and to re-examine the [want of] quality of your arguments.

    GEM of TKI

  8. I just stumbled over this website and really like it. I read in Scientific American last week that a study of gene sweeps shows Natural Selection only acts in cases of an environmental pressure remaining constant for “tens of thousands of years.” Which, as the researches say, is an exceptionally rare event.

    So, the all-purpose explanation has turned out to be useless except for a final sanding of an already-completed design. This intuitively obvious fact has bothered me from the age of about 18 and I’m now 53. So it’s been a long time coming, but better late than never!

    Since consciousness can only be detected, at the moment, by consciousness, only in the individual brain can the reality of other levels of intelligence be experienced. The ages-old instinct for this remains present in advanced minds, and I’ll be really pleased to see Dakins come up with another convoluted theory to prove his view that human consciousness is essentially unintended rubbish from a dead universe. Rather than the humble, endlessly creative, all-pervasive force which we actually witness, running through every form of life. Interesting times indeed!

  9. Whoops, I meant “Dawkins”

  10. Science will co-exist with religion in society as it always has. That can be deduced from the work of evolutionary biology:

    Religions is Not a Virus of the Mind

    Michael Blume got up to speak on “The reproductive advantage of religion”. With graph after convincing graph he showed that all over the world and in many different ages, religious people have had far more children than nonreligious people.

    The exponential increase in the Amish population might be a one off, as might Catholics having lots of children, but a comparison of religious and nonaffiliated groups in the USA, China, Sweden, France and other European countries showed that the number of children per woman in religious groups ranged from close to zero (for the Shakers) to between six and seven for the Hutterites, Amish and Haredim, while the nonaffiliated averaged less than two per woman – below replacement rate.

    Data from 82 countries showed almost a straight line plot of the number of children against the frequency of religious worship, with those who worship more than once a week averaging 2.5 children and those who never worship only 1.7 – again below replacement rate. In a Swiss census of 2000 the nonaffiliated had the lowest number of births at 1.1 per woman compared with over two among Hindus, Muslims and Jews.

    Another striking comparison came from Eric Kaufmann’s book Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, to which responses differ on whether secularists should be terrified of an impending world dominated by religion or not. When European Jews were classified as orthodox, nonreligious and atheist, the atheists averaged around 1.5 children per woman and the religious Jews nearly three, with the Haredim in Israel averaging six to eight children per woman over many generations.

    All this suggests that religious memes are adaptive rather than viral from the point of view of human genes, but could they still be viral from our individual or societal point of view? Apparently not, given data suggesting that religious people are happier and possibly even healthier than secularists. And at the conference, Ryan McKay presented experimental data showing that religious people can be more generous, cheat less and co-operate more in games such as the prisoner’s dilemma, and that priming with religious concepts and belief in a “supernatural watcher” increase the effects.

  11. Science operates by using evidence and reason. Doubt is prized, authority rejected. No finding is deemed “true” – a notion that’s always provisional – unless it’s repeated and verified by others. We scientists are always asking ourselves, “How can I find out whether I’m wrong?”

    A number of years ago, I read a speech Lynn Margulis had given; as I recall, it was given in conjunction with her award of some prestigious scientific prize.

    In her speech, she recalled how, as a rookie scientist, her mentor, also a woman, had encouraged and even aided her when her findings were at odds with the mentor’s theories.

    THEN, she explicitly said that such behavior is unusual — which is to say that few scientists really do ask themselves, “How can I find out whether I’m wrong?”

  12. Salvador:[quoting discussion of "religion" on "fitness"]

    And, of course, fitness, in this sense, isn’t measured in the number of one’s children, but in the number of one’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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