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Anne Coulter' book Godless

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This is a long post & offered for discussion & debate . I agree with the author Jerry Coyne -- an excellent review---- & have read Coulters book -- Coultergeist

A review by Jerry Coyne

 

H. L. Mencken once responded to a question asked by many of his

readers: "If you find so much that is unworthy of reverence in

the United States, then why do you live here?" His answer was,

"Why do men go to zoos?" Sadly, Mencken is not here to ogle the

newest creature in the American Zoo: the Bleached Flamingo, otherwise

known as Ann Coulter. This beast draws crowds by its frequent,

raucous calls, eerily resembling a human voice, and its unearthly

appearance, scrawny and pallid. (Wikipedia notes that "a white

or pale flamingo ... is usually unhealthy or suffering from a

lack of food.") The etiolated Coulter issued a piercing squawk

this spring with her now-notorious book, Godless: The Church of

Liberalism. Its thesis, harebrained even by her standards, is

that liberals are an atheistic lot who have devised a substitute

religion, replete with the sacraments of abortion, feminism, coddling

of criminals, and -- you guessed it -- bestiality. Liberals also

have their god, who, like Coulter's, is bearded and imposing.

He is none other than Charles Darwin. But the left-wing god is

malevolent, for Coulter sees Darwin as the root cause of every

ill afflicting our society, not to mention being responsible for

the historical atrocities of Hitler and Stalin.

 

The furor caused by her vicious remarks about the 9/11 widows

("I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much.")

has distracted people from the main topic of her book: evolutionary

biology, or rather the pathetic pseudoscientific arguments of

its modern fundamentalist challenger, Intelligent Design (ID).

This occupies four of Coulter's eleven chapters. Enamored of ID,

and unable to fathom a scientific reason why biologists don't

buy it, Coulter suggests that scientists are an evil sub-cabal

of atheist liberals, a group so addicted to godlessness that they

must hide at all costs the awful "truth" that evolution didn't

happen. She accuses evolutionists of brainwashing children with

phony fossils and made-up "evidence," turning the kids into "Darwiniacs"

stripped of all moral (i.e., biblical) grounding and prone to

become beasts and genocidal lunatics. To Coulter, biologists are

folks who, when not playing with test tubes or warping children's

minds, encourage people to have sex with dogs. (I am not making

this up.)

 

Any sane person who starts reading Godless will soon ask, Does

Coulter really believe this stuff? The answer is that it doesn't

much matter. What's far more disturbing than Coulter herself (and

she's plenty disturbing: On the cover photo she has the scariest

eyes since Rasputin) is the fact that Americans are lapping up

her latest prose like a pack of starved cats. The buyers cannot

be political opponents who just want to enjoy her "humor"; like

me, those people wouldn't enrich her by a dime. (I didn't pay

for my copy.) Rather, a lot of folks apparently like her ravings

-- suggesting that, on some level at least, they must agree with

her. And this means that the hundreds of thousands of Americans

who put Coulter at the top of the best-seller lists see evolution

as a national menace.

 

Well, that's hardly news. We've known for years that nearly half

of all Americans believe in the Genesis account of creation, and

only about 10 percent want evolution taught in public schools

without mentioning ID or other forms of creationism. But it's

worth taking up the cudgels once again, if only to show that,

contrary to Coulter's claim, accepting Darwinism is not tantamount

to endorsing immorality and genocide.

 

First, one has to ask whether Coulter (who, by the way, attacks

me in her book) really understands the Darwinism she rejects.

The answer is a resounding No. According to the book's acknowledgments,

Coulter was tutored in the "complex ideas" of evolution by David

Berlinski, a science writer; Michael Behe, a third-rate biologist

at Lehigh University (whose own department's website disowns his

bizarre ideas); and William Dembski, a fairly bright theologian

who went off the intellectual rails and now peddles creationism

at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. These are the "giants"

of the ID movement, which shows how retarded it really is. Learning

biology from this lot is like learning elocution from George W.

Bush.

 

As expected with such tutors, the Darwinism decried by Coulter

is the usual distorted cardboard cut-out. All she does is parrot

the ID line: There are no transitional fossils; natural selection

can't create true novelty; some features of organisms could not

have evolved and therefore must have been designed by an unspecified

supernatural agent. And her "research" method consists of using

quotes taken out of context, scouring biased secondary sources,

and distorting what appears in the scientific literature. Judging

by the shoddy documentation of the evolution section, I'm not

convinced that the rest of the book isn't based on equally shoddy

research. At any rate, I won't belabor the case that Coulter makes

for ID, as I've already shown in TNR that her arguments are completely

bogus.

 

What is especially striking is Coulter's failure to tell us what

she really believes about how the earth's species got here. It's

clear that she thinks God had a direct hand in it, but beyond

that we remain unenlightened. IDers believe in limited amounts

of evolution. Does Coulter think that mammals evolved from reptiles?

If not, what are those curious mammal-like reptiles that appear

exactly at the right time in the fossil record? Did humans evolve

from ape-like primates, or did the Designer conjure us into existence

all at once? How did all those annoying fossils get there, in

remarkable evolutionary order?

 

And, when faced with the real evidence that shows how strongly

evolution trumps ID, she clams up completely. What about the massive

fossil evidence for human evolution -- what exactly were those

creatures 2 million years ago that had human-like skeletons but

ape-like brains? Did a race of Limbaughs walk the earth? And why

did God -- sorry, the Intelligent Designer -- give whales a vestigial

pelvis, and the flightless kiwi bird tiny, nonfunctional wings?

Why do we carry around in our DNA useless genes that are functional

in similar species? Did the Designer decide to make the world

look as though life had evolved? What a joker! And the Designer

doesn't seem all that intelligent, either. He must have been asleep

at the wheel when he designed our appendix, back, and prostate

gland.

 

There are none so blind as those who will not see, and Coulter

knows that myopia about evolution is a lucrative game. After all,

she is a millionaire, reveling in her status as a celebrity and

stalked by ignorazzis. I have never seen anyone enjoy her own

inanity so much.

 

But after ranting for nearly a hundred pages about evolution,

Coulter finally gives away the game on page 277: "God exists whether

or not archaeopteryx ever evolved into something better. If evolution

is true, then God created evolution." Gee. Evolution might be

true after all! But she's just spent a hundred pages telling us

it isn't! What gives? As Tennessee Williams's Big Daddy said,

there's a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room.

 

What's annoying about Coulter (note: there's more than one thing!)

is that she insistently demands evidence for evolution (none of

which she'll ever accept), but requires not a shred of evidence

for her "alternative hypothesis." She repeatedly assures us that

God exists (not just any God -- the Christian God), that there

is only one God (she's no Hindu, folks), that we are made in the

image of said God, that the Christian Bible, like Antonin Scalia's

Constitution, "is not a 'living' document" (that is, not susceptible

to changing interpretation; so does she think that Genesis is

literally true?), and that God just might have used evolution

as part of His plan. What makes her so sure about all this? And

how does she know that the Supreme Being, even if It exists, goes

by the name of Yahweh, rather than Allah, Wotan, Zeus, or Mabel?

If Coulter just knows these things by faith alone, she should

say so, and then tell us why she's so sure that what Parsees or

Zunis just know is wrong. I, for one, am not prepared to believe

that Ann Coulter is made in God's image without seeing some proof.

 

Moreover, if evolution is wrong, why is it the central paradigm

of biology? According to Coulter, it's all a big con game. In

smoky back rooms at annual meetings, evolutionists plot ways to

jam Darwin down America's throat, knowing that even though it

is scientifically incorrect, Darwinism (Coulter says) "lets them

off the hook morally. Do whatever you feel like doing -- screw

your secretary, kill Grandma, abort your defective child -- Darwin

says it will benefit humanity!"

 

Unfortunately for Coulter (but fortunately for humanity), science

doesn't work this way. Scientists gain fame and high reputation

not for propping up their personal prejudices, but for finding

out facts about nature. And if evolution really were wrong, the

renegade scientist who disproved it -- and showed that generations

of his predecessors were misled -- would reach the top of the

scientific ladder in one leap, gaining fame and riches. All it

would take to trash Darwinism is a simple demonstration that humans

and dinosaurs lived at the same time, or that our closest genetic

relative is the rabbit. There is no cabal, no back-room conspiracy.

Instead, the empirical evidence for evolution just keeps piling

up, year after year.

 

As for biologists' supposed agenda of godlessness -- how ridiculous!

Yes, a lot of scientists are atheists, but most have better things

to do than deliberately destroy people's faith. This goes doubly

for the many scientists -- roughly a third of them -- who are

religious. After all, one of the most vocal (and effective) opponents

of ID is Ken Miller of Brown University, a devout Catholic.

 

The real reason Coulter goes after evolution is not because it's

wrong, but because she doesn't like it -- it doesn't accord with

how she thinks the world should be. That's because she feels,

along with many Americans, that "Darwin's theory overturned every

aspect of Biblical morality." What's so sad -- not so much for

Coulter as for Americans as a whole -- is that this idea is simply

wrong. Darwinism, after all, is just a body of thought about the

origin and change of biological diversity, not a handbook of ethics.

(I just consulted my copy of The Origin of Species, and I swear

that there's nothing in there about abortion or eugenics, much

less about shtupping one's secretary.)

 

If Coulter were right, evolutionists would be the most beastly

people on earth, not to be trusted in the vicinity of a goat.

But I've been around biologists all of my adult life, and I can

tell you that they're a lot more civil than, say, Coulter. It's

a simple fact that you don't need the Bible -- or even religion

-- to be moral. Buddhists, Hindus, and Jews, who don't follow

the New Testament, usually behave responsibly despite this problem;

and atheists and agnostics derive morality from non-biblical philosophy.

In fact, one of the most ethical people I know is Coulter's version

of the Antichrist: the atheistic biologist Richard Dawkins (more

about that below). Dawkins would never say -- as Coulter does

-- that Cindy Sheehan doesn't look good in shorts, that Al Franken

resembles a monkey, or that 9/11 widows enjoyed the deaths of

their husbands. Isn't there something in the Bible about doing

unto others?

 

The mistake of equating Darwinism with a code of behavior leads

Coulter into her most idiotic accusation: that the Holocaust and

numberless murders of Stalin can be laid at Darwin's door. "From

Marx to Hitler, the men responsible for the greatest mass murders

of the twentieth century were avid Darwinists." Anyone who is

religious should be very careful about saying something like this,

because, throughout history, more killings have been done in the

name of religion than of anything else. What's going on in the

Middle East, and what happened in Serbia and Northern Ireland?

What was the Inquisition about, and the Crusades, and the slaughter

following the partition of India? Religion, of course -- or rather,

religiously inspired killing. (Come to think of it, the reason

Hitler singled out the Jews is that Christians regarded them for

centuries as the killers of Christ. And I don't remember any mention

of Darwinism in the Moscow Doctors' Trial.) If Darwin is guilty

of genocide, then so are God, Jesus, Brahma, Martin Luther, and

countless popes.

 

As Coulter well knows, the misuse of an idea for evil purposes

does not mean that idea is wrong. In fact, she accuses liberals

of making this very error: She attacks them for worrying that

the message of racial inequality conveyed by the book The Bell

Curve could promote genocide: "Only liberals could interpret a

statement that people have varying IQs as a call to start killing

people." Back at you, Ann: Only conservatives could interpret

a statement that species evolved as a call to start killing people.

 

Coulter clearly knows better. I conclude that the trash-talking

blonde bit is just a shtick (admittedly, a clever one) calculated

to make her rich and famous. (Look at her website, where she whines

regularly that she is not getting enough notice.) Her hyper-conservativism

seems no more grounded than her faith. She has claimed that the

Bible is her favorite book, she is rumored to go to church, and

on the cover of Godless you see a cross dangling tantalizingly

in her décolletage. But could anybody who absorbed the Sermon

on the Mount write, as she does of Richard Dawkins, "I defy any

of my coreligionists to tell me they do not laugh at the idea

of Dawkins burning in hell"? Well, I wouldn't want Coulter to

roast (there's not much meat there anyway), but I wish she'd shut

up and learn something about evolution. Her case for ID involves

the same stupid arguments that fundamentalists have made for a

hundred years. They're about as convincing as the blonde hair

that gets her so much attention. By their roots shall ye know

them.

 

Jerry Coyne is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution

at the University of Chicago.

 

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I think Coyne overlooked one obvious and devastating rebuttal to Coulter: most evolutionary biologists in history have been Christians!

 

Also, Coyne falls for the "Christians are IDers, evolutionists are atheists" argument and never challenges it.

 

"Coulter finally gives away the game on page 277: "God exists whether

or not archaeopteryx ever evolved into something better. If evolution

is true, then God created evolution." "

 

What Coulter does is very common in the creationist community: turing the creationism vs evolution debate about two scientific theories into an atheism vs theism debate. What I dislike is that Coyne goes along with it!

 

Why? I suspect because Coyne is an atheist and would like to "prove" his faith by science just as much as Coulter wants to "prove" her faith by science. But Coyne's acceptance of Coulter's basic logical error does is also harmful to science. Having science "prove" there is no deity is just as erroneous as Coulter trying to have science "prove" there is one.

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What Coulter does is very common in the creationist community: turing the creationism vs evolution debate about two scientific theories into an atheism vs theism debate.

 

I agree with you completely, except the part above: creationism isn't a scientific theory.

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Also, Coyne falls for the "Christians are IDers, evolutionists are atheists" argument and never challenges it.

I don't think Coyne ever premised this in this particular article. I'm not familiar with his other works, but it's certainly not the case that he never challenged it here. See:

 

As for biologists' supposed agenda of godlessness -- how ridiculous!

Yes' date=' a lot of scientists are atheists, but most have better things

to do than deliberately destroy people's faith. This goes doubly

for the many scientists -- roughly a third of them -- who are

religious. After all, one of the most vocal (and effective) opponents

of ID is Ken Miller of Brown University, a devout Catholic. [/quote']

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I agree with you completely, except the part above: creationism isn't a scientific theory.

 

Of course it is: a refuted (or falsified) theory. Being falsified doesn't remove a theory from science. It just moves it from the short column of currently valid theories to the very long column of falsified theories. However, from 1700 to 1830 creationism was the accepted scientific theory.

 

The reason we have this confusion that creationism is not science is because of lawyers. When creationists wanted YEC taught in public school science classes, the ACLU lawyers decided that their argument would be that creationism is not science. They then got Michael Ruse to mistakenly define science such that creationism would be excluded. So, instead of a definition of science and scientific theories done by scientists or philosophers of science, we got one made up by lawyers.

 

In the process, we lost the most potent argument against creationism. Saying "creationism is not a scientific theory" says nothing about its truth value. There are lots of statements/ideas that are not scientific theories but which we accept/know are true. By putting creationism outside science, we were unable to pronounce on whether it is true. However, if we evaluate creationism like we do any other scientific theory, then we can pronounce will absolute confidence that it is wrong. (And still keep it out of science class becaus the proponents don't want it taught as wrong, but as valid.)

 

"There is another way to be a Creationist. One might offer Creationism as a scientific theory: Life did not evolve over millions of years, rather all forms were created at one time by a particular Creator. Although pure versions of Creationism were no longer in vogue among scientists by the end of the eighteenth century, they had flourished earlier (in the writings of Thomas Burnet, William Whiston, and others). Moerover, *variants* of Creationism were supported by a number of eminent nineteetn-century scientists -- William Buckland, Adam Sedgwick, and Louis Agassiz, for example. These Creationists trusted that their theories would accord with the Bible, interpreted in what they saw as a correct way. HOWEVER, THAT FACT DOES NOT AFFECT THE SCIENTIFC STATUS OF THOSE THEORIES. EVEN POSTULATING AN UNOBSERVED CREATOR NEED BE NO MORE UNSCIENTIFIC THAN POSTULATING UNOBSERVABLE PARTICLES. [emphasis mine] What matters is the character of the proposals and the ways in which they are articulated and defended. The great scientific Creationists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries offered problem-solving strategies for many of the questions addressed by evolutionary theory. They struggled hard to explain the observed distribution of fossils. Sedgwick, Buckland, and others practiced genuine science. They stuck their necks out and volunteered information about catastrophes that they invoked to explain biological and geological findings. Because their theories offered definite proposals, those theories were refutable. Indeed, the theories actually achieved refutation." Philip Kitcher, Abusing Science, the Case against Creationism, 1982, page 125.

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I don't think Coyne ever premised this in this particular article. I'm not familiar with his other works, but it's certainly not the case that he never challenged it here. See:

 

I stand corrected.

 

It's such a minor challenge. I had to read the article 3 times (twice deliberately looking for it) before I found it. Coyne should have made it his central thesis. It's so easy to overlook after the much lengthier paragraph before it:

 

"What's annoying about Coulter (note: there's more than one thing!)

is that she insistently demands evidence for evolution (none of

which she'll ever accept), but requires not a shred of evidence

for her "alternative hypothesis." She repeatedly assures us that

God exists (not just any God -- the Christian God), that there

is only one God (she's no Hindu, folks), that we are made in the

image of said God, that the Christian Bible, like Antonin Scalia's

Constitution, "is not a 'living' document" (that is, not susceptible

to changing interpretation; so does she think that Genesis is

literally true?), and that God just might have used evolution

as part of His plan. What makes her so sure about all this? And

how does she know that the Supreme Being, even if It exists, goes

by the name of Yahweh, rather than Allah, Wotan, Zeus, or Mabel?

If Coulter just knows these things by faith alone, she should

say so, and then tell us why she's so sure that what Parsees or

Zunis just know is wrong. I, for one, am not prepared to believe

that Ann Coulter is made in God's image without seeing some proof."

 

Now, you can look on this as Coulter's inconsistency. However, any theist is going to look on this as the standard atheist attack against theism. Right here Coyne turns this into an atheism vs theism fight: theism has no evidence and is therefore not valid.

 

So, after delivering such a viscious attack against theism (and particularly Christianity), are we really supposed to take Coyne's weak paragraph of 1/3 of scientists being theists seriously?

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Coulter's books aren't worth buying to refute. Next time you're thinking about buying an Ann Coulter book solely for the purposes of refuting it, put it back and pick up a Noam Chomsky book instead :D

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most evolutionary biologists in history have been Christians!

 

In the 20th century, most of the contributors to evolutionary biology were atheists. Dobzhansky, Fisher and perhaps Ayala (if you consider him a notable contributor) were notable exceptions... But Haldane, Hamilton, Wilson, Gould, Lewontin, Kimura, Mayr, Trivers, Maynard Smith and Margulis were atheists. I'm not sure but I think Felsenstein, Ohta, Nei, Ohno and Wright were/are also atheists, or, at least, not Christians. Price is an ambiguous case, he was an atheist but he converts before committing suicide.

 

As a side note, it's very sad S.Ohno doesn't get the recognition he deserves, his work on mutations/duplication was 40 years ahead.

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In the 20th century, most of the contributors to evolutionary biology were atheists. Dobzhansky, Fisher and perhaps Ayala (if you consider him a notable contributor) were notable exceptions...

 

I said evolutionary biologists. You first try to make this "contributors" and then "notable contributor". Yes, Francisco Ayala is America's foremost living evolutionary biologist. You forgot Teilhard de Chardin, Kenneth Miller, Walcott, and others. So you have what we call "selective data". If you go through the authors of publications -- contributors -- you end up with still more than 50% of evolutionary biologists in the 20th century being Christians.

 

What you are doing is trying to rank contributors to make atheists more prominent. Please stop trying to turn this into an atheist vs theist situation with evolution = atheism. All you will do by this is hurt science. Science does not back atheism. Science is agnostic, or neutral, on the question of God. You need to ask yourself: what is more important to me? Promoting science or promoting atheism?

 

In your list, Haldane, Gould, Lewontin, Mayr, and Maynard Smith were/are agnostic. Even if not, they explicitly rejected any attempt to link evolution with atheism. For instance, Gould is famous for his NOMA. Lewontin, in a famous review of

Sagan's Demon Haunted Woodland, savagely lampooned Sagan's attempt to associate science with atheism.

http://www.nybooks.com/nyrev/WWWarchdisplay.cgi?19970109028R@p1

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I thought the whole point of the article was that it's people like Coulter who make it about theism vs. atheism. She holds up belief in God in opposition to the science of evolution. Since that belief, as a scientific theory, holds no water whatsoever, it's perfectly appropriate to refute it on those terms.

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I thought the whole point of the article was that it's people like Coulter who make it about theism vs. atheism. She holds up belief in God in opposition to the science of evolution. Since that belief, as a scientific theory, holds no water whatsoever, it's perfectly appropriate to refute it on those terms.

 

Coulter does do this. But she is mistaken. Creationism vs evolution is not about theism vs atheism. One of the most effective counters is to note that at least half of evolutionary biologists have been Christian. What you did was undermine the counter and supported Coulter!

 

The belief in God is fine as a scientific theory. It's simply one that science can't test. Therefore, it is NOT appropriate to refute belief in God on scientific terms. Science will NOT refute belief in God. In terms of science, there are still 2 questions where direct intervention of God is still a viable (unfalsified) hypothesis:

1. Why does the universe exist?

2. Why does the universe have this order rather than some other order.

 

Science deals with material causes. Science cannnot answer whether the material processes observed by science are sufficient as causes. Do the material processes require supernatural input in order to work? This limitation of science is called Methodological Materialism (or Naturalism). One way to express this is to propose the following hypothesis:

 

"The only distinct meaning of the word 'natural' is stated, fixed, or settled; since what is natural as much requires and presupposes an intelligent agent to render it so, i.e., to effect it continually or at stated times, as what is supernatural or miraculous does to effect it for once." Butler: Analogy of Revealed Religion. (but that isn't where I found the quote)

 

Now, the first statement is accurate. "natural" is only what is stated. The hypothesis is that natural requires an intelligent agent in order to happen. There's nothing in science to refute that hypothesis.

 

Therefore you can't say that "belief in God ... as a scientific theory, holds no water whatsoever" That's a wrong statement -- by science.

 

Creationism and evolution -- for the theist -- are both specific mechanisms of HOW God created. See quote below. In terms of science, both creationism and evolution are scientific theories. Evolution is a currently valid theory (supported by the data) and creationism is a falsified/refuted theory. So all science has done, for the theist, is tell the theist how God created.

 

Coulter confuses belief in a literal, inerrant Bible with belief in God. Coulter doesn't really have belief in God. Her god is a literal, inerrant Bible. This is called Bibliolatry. In theological terms, it's worship of a false idol.

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I thought the whole point of the article was that it's people like Coulter who make it about theism vs. atheism.

 

People like Coulter do this. But militant atheists also try to make the issue about theism vs atheism. PZ Meyers, Dawkins, EO Wilson, Peter Atkins, Daniel Dennett, and a host of militant atheists on the internet make the same mistake as Coulter.

 

The threat of militant atheists to science is more subtle than the threat of creationists, but even more devastating. Creationists object to particular theories and would close down research in some areas. Militant atheists would change the very nature of science and would make science just as dogmatic as they say religion is. IOW, they would turn science into a dogmatic religion.

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I suppose I phrased that poorly. I didn't really mean belief in God generally, inasmuch as "God" is a word which can mean almost anything. Rather, it is belief in the God which is held up as a counter-argument to evolutionary theory, the god that literally sculpted Adam and Eve from clay and exiled them from a garden a few thousand years ago, which can and should be refuted. That is the kind of faith that Coulter is talking about.

 

I agree that religion certainly can be completely independent of anything scientific, but it's certainly not necessarily so, or even usually so.

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I suppose I phrased that poorly. I didn't really mean belief in God generally, inasmuch as "God" is a word which can mean almost anything. Rather, it is belief in the God which is held up as a counter-argument to evolutionary theory, the god that literally sculpted Adam and Eve from clay and exiled them from a garden a few thousand years ago, which can and should be refuted. That is the kind of faith that Coulter is talking about.

 

Look at "god literally sculpted Adam and Eve from clay ... a few thousand years ago." That is a specific method of creation by a specific deity Yahweh (usually referred to as "God").

 

It is also a scientific theory that can be tested: humans are manufactured artifacts that appeared in their present form a few thousand years ago. This can be tested, has been tested, and has been shown to be wrong.

 

You and Coulter are saying that this refutes belief in Yahweh. What you are saying is: if Yahweh didn't create this particular way, then Yahweh didn't create and Yahweh doesn't exist.

 

You can easily see the non sequitor here. Yahweh simply creates by another method. And, in fact, Christianity accepts that Yahweh created by the processes discovered by science -- including evolution. Fundamentalism does not. I would submit that Fundamentalism is a new religion and is not Christianity.

 

What you have found, in general, is how God gets into science despite the limitations of Methodological Materialism -- by the back door. God is proposed to use a particular material method. Science then tests the material method. But, that isn't testing God or belief in God. Just the method. However, you can see why atheists want the non sequitor: it's the only way they can use "science" to disprove the existence of Yahweh in particular or deity in general. But it's a misuse of science.

 

Ironically, the literal text of Genesis 1 contradicts the method you stated also. In Genesis 1:25-27, people are created together -- both men and women (plural in the Hebrew). And they are spoken into existence -- "let there be" -- instead of forming one man out of clay and one woman out of a rib of the man. So Coulter's insistence on a literal Bible is contradicted not only by science but also by the text of the Bible!

 

I agree that religion certainly can be completely independent of anything scientific, but it's certainly not necessarily so, or even usually so.

 

Please expand on this. I would say that it is possible for religion to be consistent with science. That is, not contradicted by science. In fact, that has been the way it has been for centuries. Science has been viewed for most of the history of modern science simply as discovering the way that deity works.

 

It is only within the last 40 or so years that we have had the supposed conflict of science and religion. Partly that is due to the rise of Fundamentalism and partly to the rise of militant atheism.

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Demon Haunted World perhaps? Your link gives me a "page not found" error.

 

Damn! The link was valid several years ago. They changed the web address.

 

Try this one: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/article-preview?article_id=1297 But now it's not free like it used to be. Damn again.

 

Of particular interest is the sarcasm Lewontin shows in these passages:

 

"What seems absurd depends on one’s prejudice. Carl Sagan accepts, as I do, the duality of light, which is at the same time wave and particle, but he thinks that the consubstantiality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost puts the mystery of the Holy Trinity “in deep trouble.” Two’s company, but three’s a crowd.

 

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen. "

 

Notice the sarcasm that starts the description of science as absolutely materialistic. Lewontin is poking fun at Sagan's position. The complete paragraph is one of the more famous misquotes used by creationists. It is a misquote because it doesn't recognize the tongue-in-cheek critique of Sagan started by the final sentences in the preceding paragraph, or the criticisms of the book as a whole in the rest of the review.

 

Lewontin is saying that the absolute materialistic view is not part of science, despite Sagan's rhetoric (which is quite good).

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"Yahweh" is not one thing, it is a name in common by the gods believed in by billions of people. For many, it means the god who parted the Red Sea and whatnot. This is a God who can be disproven scientifically. Indeed, it's gods like that most often raised up against (and struck down by) science. Some meanings of the word "God" have absolutely nothing to do with anything science is concerned with. (Or, at least, it is arguable that they don't.) But these seem to be in the minority - most people who hold religious beliefs involving something called "God" also believe in miracles, which certainly fall in the realm of science. I don't have any statistics on that, but I don't really think it's in dispute, anyway. Is it?

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"Yahweh" is not one thing, it is a name in common by the gods believed in by billions of people. For many, it means the god who parted the Red Sea and whatnot. This is a God who can be disproven scientifically.

 

"Yahweh" is the Judeo-Christian deity.

 

How do you think Yahweh has been disproved by science? Cite particular papers if possible.

 

most people who hold religious beliefs involving something called "God" also believe in miracles, which certainly fall in the realm of science. I don't have any statistics on that, but I don't really think it's in dispute, anyway. Is it?

 

But can science disprove miracles? That is, science being conducted properly. Not usually. Miracles are one-time events. In order for science to study them, they must leave evidence we can study today. Most miracles don't do that.

 

Let me try one example: the Resurrection. Essential to Christianity as a historical event. And a miracle.

 

Now, the usual way to try to use "science" to deny the Resurrection is to say "dead people don't rise", therefore Yeshu (Jesus) did not resurrect.

 

But is this correct science?

 

Scientifically, what you have with the dead bodies is a THEORY, based upon the individual data points of dead bodies we have observed. The *theory* states that a person dead will not come back to life. However, you can never prove a theory, you can only test it. So far, all the data supports that theory. BUT, Yeshu's possible resurrection is DATA. That is the essseintial point. Data always overthrows theory. But you cannot use theory reject data. You cannot generalize from what you have observed to reject the next observation.

 

Now, Yeshu's supposed resurrection is not solid data. It happened a long time ago and it left no physical consequences around that we can objectively, intersubjectively study today. So, we are allowed to view the event as an anomaly and do not have to revise the theory. But we simply CANNOT use the theory to say the data (the resurrection) never happened.

 

Let me give you another example of theory and data. We have released several rocks and seen them fall. So we devise a theory of gravity that says that ALL unsupported objects will fall. This works well as we drop bricks, limbs, seashells, leaves, etc. But then we try a helium balloon. It goes up. Do we deny that it goes up? NO. Instead, we revise the theory to: all objects that mass more than the air they displace will fall when unsupported. The THEORY gets changed. In the case of Yeshu, IF we could find objecitve data to confirm the event happened, then our theory would be: all humans who die remain dead except when deity interferes and reverses the process.

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Quoting Bascule -- Coulter's books aren't worth buying to refute. Next time you're thinking about buying an Ann Coulter book solely for the purposes of refuting it, put it back and pick up a Noam Chomsky book instead

__________________

Noam Chomsky is to the left what Coulter is to the right

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I said evolutionary biologists. You first try to make this "contributors" and then "notable contributor".

 

Are you serious ? I did not "tried" anything, I have not asked the religious affiliation of all evolutionary biologists, I really doupt you did and I really doupt you can show me a statistic proving most evolutionary biologists are/were christians. What's the basis of your claim ?

 

... I don't know the religious affilication of most evolutionary biologists, BUT, I do know the stance of many of the most important evolutionary scientists of the 20th century.

 

You forgot Teilhard de Chardin, Kenneth Miller, Walcott, and others. So you have what we call "selective data".

 

de Chardin did nothing for evolutionary biology, he presented a rather naive teleological view of evolution, did some work in paleontology, nothing spectacular. Kenneth Miller ? Again, I can't believe you're being serious ! I'm talking about giants like Fischer, Ohno, Kimura, Haldane... Kenneth Miller is not even an evolutionary biologist, he's a cell biologist and a science popularizer. I wasn't aware that Walcott was a christian, but anyway I don't consider him a notable contributor, those people have listed have all thought a lot about evolution and our understand of the phenonemum have increased because of their intellect. Sure, the notion of "notable contributor" is somewhat arbitrary, but still I think it's fair to say Walcott have nothing to do among the other scientists I've listed. As for Ayala being the "foremost living evolutionary biologist", I don't know who you are or why you say that, but I find this claim exagerated. It's true he's an important evolutionary biologists, I really like his work, but certainly not the foremost. The problem is that many evolutionary biologists have no conctact with the public, Dawkins is probably the most "popular" evolutionary biologist, he's a succesfull science popularizer but a poor evolutionary theorist. While people like Ohno are barely known even if their contribution to evolution were phenomeral. Scientists like Nei, one of the greatest living evolutionary biologists, don't care about self-promotion and are only known to evolutionary biologists.

 

Promoting science or promoting atheism?

 

You're right that science isn't atheistic in nature, but science and atheism are far from being mutually exclusive. I'm promoting rationality over superstitions/faith. I can recongnize when someone has done a service to science wether I agree with him/her or not, but the fact is that most of the great evolutionary biologists were not christians, you're simply dead wrong with that affirmation.

 

In your list, Haldane, Gould, Lewontin, Mayr, and Maynard Smith were/are agnostic

 

First of all, the distinction between agnostic/weak atheism is not very clear in many cases. If by agnostic you mean "someone that really doesn't take any position", Gould wasn't an agnostic, he believed the existence of an anthropomorphic god to be highly unlikely, that's "weak" atheism to me. And, anyway, you said "most were christians", wether they were atheist or agnostics, something's certain; they were not christians. I'll have to verify all my informations, I never did extensive research on the religious beliefs of those people but I know they were not christians.

 

Let me try one example: the Resurrection. Essential to Christianity as a historical event. And a miracle.

 

Now' date=' the usual way to try to use "science" to deny the Resurrection is to say "dead people don't rise", therefore Yeshu (Jesus) did not resurrect.

 

But is this correct science?[/quote']

 

... and it's the same thing with all stories for children, you can't "disprove", it doesn't mean it's believable. We can't use theory to say we're 100% certain Jesus did not ressurect, but scientifically speaking, it's unlikely.

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I didn't make any claims about particular events. I merely said that miracles, as physical phenomena which leave physical traces, fall into the realm of science, and can potentially be disproven with as much rigor as a scientific theory. It doesn't have to be repeatable (as obviously, like you say, it wouldn't be), it merely has to leave behind physical traces.

 

The example you use, the ressurection of Jesus, is not something that is ever likely to be proven or disproven, although it potentially could be, if events were reconstructed from current physical evidence. While it is possible that it might be part of the miracle to specifically not leave traces or even to leave contrary traces, this is essentially the same argument as "well God could have planted all the dinosaur bones at the appropriate sediment levels and decay rates when he made the world 6000 years ago." While that is true, it goes beyond the rigor possible in science generally, and so we say it is demonstrated that there are objects older than 6000 years, and hence the existence of a god which created the universe 6000 years ago is scientifically disproven.

 

EDIT:

 

Looking back, it seems like we have a deeper misunderstanding. The heart of your argument is distinguishing between the existence of God and the methods of God. I don't make that distinction. If person A believes every word in the Bible is literally true, and person B believes in a benevolent creator but doesn't believe there has ever been a miracle, can you really say they believe in the same God? I don't think so. Yet, from science, you could potentially go from one belief to the other, and so I say person A's god is "disproven," even though they both might be "Yahweh."

 

I also said "God is a word that can mean almost anything," which is an important point. If what you think of as "God" changes so radically, but you still call it by the same word, the word loses it's meaning. If science is defined for you as "the investigation of God's methods," then "God" simply means "what is." That is to say, it doesn't mean anything at all.

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I really doupt you did and I really doupt you can show me a statistic proving most evolutionary biologists are/were christians. What's the basis of your claim ?

 

I said "at least half of all evolutionary biologists", not "most". Again you are trying to change terms. Looking at scientists in general -- which would include evolutionary biologists -- 40% are theist with a very conservative definition of theism. EJ Larson and L Witham, Scientists are still keeping the faith, Nature, 286: 435-436, 1997 (April 3)

 

"Forget philosophy for a moment; the simple empirics of the past hundred years should suffice. Darwin himself was agnostic (having lost his beliefs upon the tragic death of his favorite daughter), but the great American botanist Asa Gray, who favored natural selection and wrote a book entitled Darwiniana, was a devout Christian. Move forward 50 years: Charles D. Walcott, discoverer of the Burgess Shale fossils, was a convinced Darwinian and an equally firm Christian, who believed that God had ordained natural selection to construct a history of life according to His plans and purposes. Move on another 50 years to the two greatest evolutionists of our generation: G.G. Simpson was a humanist agnostic, Theodosius Dobzhansky a believing Russian Orthodox. Either half my colleagues are enormously stupid, or else the science of Darwinism is fully compatible with conventional religious beliefs -- and equally compatible with atheism, thus proving that the two great realms of nature's factuality and the source of human morality do not strongly overlap."

SJ Gould, Impeaching a self-appointed judge. Scientific American, 267:79-80, July 1992.

 

BUT, I do know the stance of many of the most important evolutionary scientists of the 20th century.

 

And you get to define "important". So that you can exclude anyone you don't want. See the examples:

 

de Chardin did nothing for evolutionary biology, he presented a rather naive teleological view of evolution, did some work in paleontology, nothing spectacular.

 

His work in paleontology was solid and he is considered an important contributor to paleontology. His work on the relationship of evolution to religion is remembered, but it is a sideline.

 

Kenneth Miller ? Again, I can't believe you're being serious ! I'm talking about giants like Fischer, Ohno, Kimura, Haldane... Kenneth Miller is not even an evolutionary biologist, he's a cell biologist and a science popularizer.

 

No, he's an evolutionary biologist and has written one of the most popular scientific textbooks. He's a charter member of NCSE and the most effective defender of evolution against attempts to include creationism in science class. He was a star witness for evolution at the Dover trial and it was his testimony that caused Judge Jones to rule that IC had been refuted.

 

I wasn't aware that Walcott was a christian, but anyway I don't consider him a notable contributor,

 

Walcott discovered the Burgess Shale and thought a lot about the Cambrian explosion.

 

This simply shows your religious bias, pettiness, and attempt to exclude data you don't like. As I said, it's selective data. Equivalent to Gish looking at some juvenile forms of birds that have claws and declaring Archie to be "fully a bird". Or looking at the one paper that showed Lucy did not have a fully modern gait and saying she walked like an ape.

 

Sure, the notion of "notable contributor" is somewhat arbitrary, but still I think it's fair to say Walcott have nothing to do among the other scientists I've listed.

 

But among his contemporaries he was.

 

As for Ayala being the "foremost living evolutionary biologist", I don't know who you are or why you say that, but I find this claim exagerated. It's true he's an important evolutionary biologists, I really like his work, but certainly not the foremost. The problem is that many evolutionary biologists have no conctact with the public, Dawkins is probably the most "popular" evolutionary biologist, he's a succesfull science popularizer but a poor evolutionary theorist.

 

And I can't find too many publications in peer-reviewed journals, either. Can you?

 

Scientists like Nei, one of the greatest living evolutionary biologists, don't care about self-promotion and are only known to evolutionary biologists.

 

Which also characterizes Walcott. But you apparently don't know him. :)

 

You're right that science isn't atheistic in nature, but science and atheism are far from being mutually exclusive.

 

I never said they were. Science is agnostic. Which means it does not exclude either theism or atheism. See Gould above.

 

But the point is that science and theism are not mutually exclusive. And that is the argument that is effective against Coulter and her cronies. If you try to make science ONLY atheist, then you play right into her hands.

 

I'm promoting rationality over superstitions/faith.

 

I submit that you are promoting a different superstition/faith that is no more scientific than creationism. Also, theism is rational.

 

the fact is that most of the great evolutionary biologists were not christians, you're simply dead wrong with that affirmation.

 

I said "at least half". And the only reason you think you are right is that you exclude any theist from being "great evolutionary biologist". Again, this reminds me of Gish. He excludes all transitional fossils as being transitionals, then he says "there are no transitional fossils".

 

First of all, the distinction between agnostic/weak atheism is not very clear in many cases. [/Quote]

 

So-called weak atheism is an untenable position. It either becomes agnosticism or strong atheism.

 

If by agnostic you mean "someone that really doesn't take any position", Gould wasn't an agnostic, he believed the existence of an anthropomorphic god to be highly unlikely, that's "weak" atheism to me.

 

The Judeo-Christian deity is not anthropomorphic. But anyway, I presume you can quote Gould?

 

I never did extensive research on the religious beliefs of those people but I know they were not christians.

 

Did you read what you wrote? You never did research, but you know? Yet I have done some research.

 

... and it's the same thing with all stories for children, you can't "disprove", it doesn't mean it's believable. We can't use theory to say we're 100% certain Jesus did not ressurect, but scientifically speaking, it's unlikely.

 

And this is where your faith threatens science. We can disprove many of the stories we tell children. We can falsify Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, etc. In fact, I have inadvertently done the experiments that disproved TF.

 

As I said, there is reason to doubt the data. BUT you can NEVER use theory to disprove data or even show it "unlikely" That is simply dreadful science.

 

Take a look at this below. Tachyons are a lot like God: can't detect and are a pain in the ass. Yet what is our scientific attitude toward them? Do we say they are "unlikely"?

 

"1. Tachyons: can we rule them out.

 

The special theory of relativity has been tested to unprecedented accuracy, and appears unassailable. Yet tachyons are a problem. Though they are allowed by the theory, they bring with them all sorts of unpalatable properties. Physicists would like to rule them out once and for all, but lack a convincing nonexistence proof. Until they construct one, we cannot be sure that a tachyon won't suddenly be discovered.

 

3. Time travel: just a fanstasy?

 

The investigation of exotic spacetimes that seem to permit travel into the past will remain an active field of research. So far, the loophole in the known laws of physics that permits time travel is very small indeed. Realistic time-travel scenarios are not known at the time of writing. But as with tachyons, in the absence of a no-go proof, the possibility has to stay on the agenda. So long as it does, paradoxes will haunt us.'' Paul Davies, About Time, 1994.

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I didn't make any claims about particular events. I merely said that miracles, as physical phenomena which leave physical traces, fall into the realm of science, and can potentially be disproven with as much rigor as a scientific theory. It doesn't have to be repeatable (as obviously, like you say, it wouldn't be), it merely has to leave behind physical traces.

 

You said you could falsify Yahweh. Want me to get the quote by you? Now you seem to be backing off.

 

The example you use, the ressurection of Jesus, is not something that is ever likely to be proven or disproven, although it potentially could be, if events were reconstructed from current physical evidence.While it is possible that it might be part of the miracle to specifically not leave traces or even to leave contrary traces, this is essentially the same argument as "well God could have planted all the dinosaur bones at the appropriate sediment levels and decay rates when he made the world 6000 years ago."

 

What "current physical evidence"? The key here is current. At the time, there was indeed physical evidence: the risen Jesus with nail holes and a wound in the side. So it's not the same argument. In this case, the miracle healings, the loaves and fishes, et. there was evidence. It's just that the evidence does not persist to our time. You've confused apples with oranges.

 

As you noted, science is incapable of testing the Oomphalos theory -- the idea that God only made the universe LOOK old. The refutation for that theory is not in science. It's in theology. Within Christianity, that theory is not valid.

 

If person A believes every word in the Bible is literally true, and person B believes in a benevolent creator but doesn't believe there has ever been a miracle, can you really say they believe in the same God?

 

False dichotomy. There are many positions other than these two. But no, they don't believe in the same deity, but not for the reason you think.

 

A person who believes the Bible is literally true has the literal Bible as a god. It's the equivalent of a graven image. It's not Yahweh.

 

Looking back, it seems like we have a deeper misunderstanding. The heart of your argument is distinguishing between the existence of God and the methods of God. I don't make that distinction. ... Yet, from science, you could potentially go from one belief to the other, and so I say person A's god is "disproven," even though they both might be "Yahweh." ... so we say it is demonstrated that there are objects older than 6000 years, and hence the existence of a god which created the universe 6000 years ago is scientifically disproven. ...

 

There are several different statements here:

 

1. God exists.

2. God created the universe.

3. God used creationism to create the universe.

 

Yes, I understand that you don't make the distinction between method and existence, but that is the error. It's obvious why you don't want to make the distinction and you want to tie the 3 statements together: it's the only way you can falsify God and make atheism look valid. But it's equally obvious that the statements are separate. If God doesn't create the way stated by the theory of creationism, that does not mean God didn't create. All it says is that God didn't create THAT way.

 

All you can do is say "a literal interpretation of the Bible is disproven". You are making the same non-sequitor mistake as creationists: if Yahweh did not create this way, then Yahweh does not exist. You can readily see that this does-not-follow.

 

I'm going to attach a file. It's part of Hiram Berry's essay in Is God a Creationist? edited by Roland Frye. This is a critique of creationism from the standpoint of Christian theology that came out after the McLean vs Arkansas trial in 1982. Berry does a much more extensive job of showing that it is not valid to make the link between existence and method that you, and creationists, want to make.

 

I also said "God is a word that can mean almost anything," which is an important point.

 

No, it's not. It's simply a way to get you off the hook of being unable to disprove the existence of God. Instead of showing the weakness of atheism in this regard, you are trying to shift the blame to theism by saying "God can mean anything." But you haven't demonstrated that Christians are using the word in that sense.

 

If science is defined for you as "the investigation of God's methods," then "God" simply means "what is." That is to say, it doesn't mean anything at all.

 

But, that isn't what I'm saying. I'm not defining the word "science". Let's follow the logic from the perspective of Judeo-Christianity.

 

1. Yahweh exists.

2. Yahweh created the universe and everything in it.

therefore

3. Everything in the universe was put there by Yahweh, either directly or indirectly.

4. Yahweh is honest.

therefore

5 Studying the physical universe is studying Yahweh's Creation and

6. Such study is going to tell you how Yahweh created.

 

Notice that #1 and 2 comes from outside science. Those are conclusions reached by other evidence theists consider valid. Those conclusions are then used as premises in the present argument.

 

However, starting from those premises, it is a conclusion that science (the study of the physical universe) is going to tell you how Yahweh created. Yahweh is not "what is". Instead, "what is" is a result of the creative processes used by Yahweh. Yahweh is an entity independent of the universe.

 

Creationism in all its forms -- from YEC to the quasi-ID promoted by Coulter -- is a method by which Yahweh is said to have created. So, from the perspective of a theist (which you are not required to adhere to), evolution becomes simply the method Yahweh used to create. No conflict between evolution and Christianity.

 

It also means that evolution does not falsify Yahweh. Because the core statements concerning Yahweh don't require a specific method of creation.

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I'm talking about giants like Fischer, Ohno, Kimura, Haldane... Kenneth Miller is not even an evolutionary biologist, he's a cell biologist and a science popularizer. I wasn't aware that Walcott was a christian, but anyway I don't consider him a notable contributor, those people have listed have all thought a lot about evolution and our understand of the phenonemum have increased because of their intellect.

 

So what you are saying is: these guys are "notable contributors" to evolutionary thought and they are all atheists, therefore evolution is atheism.

 

You do realize that you are using the Argument from Authority, don't you?

 

Remember, this started out as a counter to Coulter's assertion/theory that people must either choose evolution or theism -- that evolution and theism cannot co-exist.

 

Evolutionary biologists that are both -- and even you can't belittle Dobzhansky or Fisher -- are evidence refuting her theory.

 

So tell me, why do you want us to think Coulter's theory is true?

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