Science and the Sacred

Science and the Sacred


Why I Think the New Atheists are a Bloody Disaster

michael_ruse.jpg

Every Friday, “Science and the Sacred” will feature an essay from a guest voice in the science and religion dialogue. This week’s guest entry was written by Michael Ruse, author and philosopher of biology at Florida State University. His upcoming book “Science and Spirituality: Making Room for Faith in the Age of Science“, published by Cambridge University Press, argues against the extremes of both creationism and “new atheism”.

In my seventieth year I find myself in a very peculiar position. Raised a Quaker, I lost my faith in my early twenties and it has never returned. I think of myself as an agnostic on deities and ultimate meanings and that sort of thing. With respect to the main claims of Christianity – loving god, fallen nature, Jesus and atonement and salvation – I am pretty atheistic, although some doctrines like original sin seem to me to be accurate psychologically. I often refer to myself as a very conservative non-believer, meaning that I take seriously my non-belief and I think others should do (and often don’t). If someone goes to the Episcopal Church for social or family reasons, or because they love the music or ceremonies, I have no trouble with that. Had I married a fellow Quaker, I might still be going to Quaker meetings. But I have little time for someone who denies the central dogmas of Christianity and still claims to be a Christian, except in a social sense. No God, no Jesus as His son, no resurrection, no eternal life – no Christianity. As it happens, I prefer the term “skeptic” to describe my position rather than “agnostic,” because so often the latter means “not really interested” and I am very interested. Like Thomas Henry Huxley, I am deeply religious in a total absence of theology. Unlike his grandson Julian Huxley (and others like Edward O. Wilson), I am totally uninterested in a “religion without revelation.” I loathe the term and the idea of “humanist.” One religion in this lifetime is quite enough thank you.

Without burnishing my halo too much, I think – and I warned you that I am a very conservative non-believer – that the most important parable is that of the talents and that in this lifetime, although never succeeding (thanks to my own moral frailty), I have tried hard to use that which has been given to me. In particular, I have striven to move beyond the comfortable life of a university professor – and I have been a full-time philosophy prof since I was twenty five – to engage in the public sphere on issues that I think morally important. Specifically, I have engaged in the science-religion debate – more precisely in the Darwinism-Creationism debate – for over thirty years. I have written on the subject, I have lectured regularly on the subject (on average, I give a talk about every two weeks and many are on this topic), and I have appeared as witness in a court case to defend the US separation of Church and State.

That the Creationists and fellow travelers, notably proponents of Intelligent Design Theory (IDT), would dislike my views I take as axiomatic. They should dislike my views for I spend my life fighting against these people. I say this notwithstanding the fact that, at the personal level, I have good and friendly relations with many of the leaders, including Duane T. Gish, Phillip Johnson, and Bill Dembski. I do not consider these people to be evil or motivated by money – anything but this latter, Gish could have made millions in the motivational speaking arena – although I deplore their beliefs and think them deeply dangerous. I will say however that I was disappointed that when Ben Stein tried to make me seem foolish in his movie Expelled, not one of them sprang publicly to my defense. Anyone who did not condemn that gross piece of distortion of the issues should feel really ashamed.

Which brings me to the point of what I want to say. I find myself in a peculiar position. In the past few years, we have seen the rise and growth of a group that the public sphere has labeled the “new atheists” – people who are aggressively pro-science, especially pro-Darwinism, and violently anti-religion of all kinds, especially Christianity but happy to include Islam and the rest. Actually the arguments are not that “new,” but no matter – the publicity has been huge. Distinctive of this group, although well known to anyone who studies religion and the way in which sects divide and proliferate, is the fact that (with the possible exception of the Catholic Church) nothing incurs their wrath than those who are pro-science but who refuse to agree that all and every kind of religious belief is wrong, pernicious, and socially and personally dangerous. Recently, it has been the newly appointed director of the NIH, Francis Collins, who has been incurring their hatred. Given the man’s scientific and managerial credentials – completing the HGP under budget and under time for a start – this is deplorable, if understandable since Collins is a devout Christian.

I am not a devout Christian, yet if anything, the things said against me are worse. Richard Dawkins, in his best selling The God Delusion, likens me to Neville Chamberlain, the pusillanimous appeaser of Hitler at Munich. Jerry Coyne reviewed one of my books (Can a Darwinian be a Christian?) using the Orwellian quote that only an intellectual could believe the nonsense I believe in. And non-stop blogger P. Z. Myers has referred to be as a “clueless gobshite.” This invective is all because, although I am not a believer, I do not think that all believers are evil or stupid, and because I do not think that science and religion have to clash. (Of course some science and religion clashes. That is the whole point of the Darwinism-Creationism debate. The matter is whether all science and religion clash, something I deny strongly.)

Let me say that I believe the new atheists do the side of science a grave disservice. I will defend to the death the right of them to say what they do – as one who is English-born one of the things I admire most about the USA is the First Amendment. But I think first that these people do a disservice to scholarship. Their treatment of the religious viewpoint is pathetic to the point of non-being. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course. Proudly he criticizes that whereof he knows nothing. As I have said elsewhere, for the first time in my life, I felt sorry for the ontological argument. If we criticized gene theory with as little knowledge as Dawkins has of religion and philosophy, he would be rightly indignant. (He was just this when, thirty years ago, Mary Midgeley went after the selfish gene concept without the slightest knowledge of genetics.) Conversely, I am indignant at the poor quality of the argumentation in Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and all of the others in that group.

Secondly, I think that the new atheists are doing terrible political damage to the cause of Creationism fighting. Americans are religious people. You may not like this fact. But they are. Not all are fanatics. Survey after survey shows that most American Christians (and Jews and others) fall in the middle on social issues like abortion and gay marriage as well as on science. They want to be science-friendly, although it is certainly true that many have been seduced by the Creationists. We evolutionists have got to speak to these people. We have got to show them that Darwinism is their friend not their enemy. We have got to get them onside when it comes to science in the classroom. And criticizing good men like Francis Collins, accusing them of fanaticism, is just not going to do the job. Nor is criticizing everyone, like me, who wants to build a bridge to believers – not accepting the beliefs, but willing to respect someone who does have them. For myself, I would like America to have a healthcare system like Canada – government run, compulsory, universal. It is cheaper and better. But I engage with those who want free enterprise to be involved in the business. Likewise I engage with believers – I don’t accept their beliefs but I respect their right to have them.

Most importantly, the new atheists are doing terrible damage to the fight to keep Creationism out of the schools. The First Amendment does not ban the teaching of bad science in publicly funded schools. It bans the teaching of religion. That is why it is crucial to argue that Creationism, including its side kick IDT, is religion and not just bad science. But sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If teaching “God exists” is teaching religion – and it is – then why is teaching “God does not exist” not teaching religion? Obviously it is teaching religion. But if science generally and Darwinism specifically imply that God does not exist, then teaching science generally and Darwinism specifically runs smack up against the First Amendment. Perhaps indeed teaching Darwinism is implicitly teaching atheism. This is the claim of the new atheists. If this is so, then we shall have to live with it and rethink our strategy about Creationism and the schools. The point is however that the new atheists have lamentably failed to prove their point, and excoriating people like me who show the failure is (again) not very helpful.

I think that P. Z. Myers and his crew are as disastrous to the evolution side – and people like me need to say this – as Ben Stein is disastrous to the Creationism side – and the Creationists should have had the guts to say so. I have written elsewhere that The God Delusion makes me ashamed to be an atheist. Let me say that again. Let me say also that I am proud to be the focus of the invective of the new atheists. They are a bloody disaster and I want to be on the front line of those who say so.



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Brent Rasmussen

posted August 14, 2009 at 10:15 am


“violently anti-religion”
Really. Violently anti-religion? Name one single instance where any of the “new atheists” have been “violent” and I’ll agree to consider your stance.
What’s that? There isn’t one you say?
This is what just floors me about the “can’t we all just get along?” crowd. To be a “militant” religionist a person would have to pick up a gun, or strap on a bomb and kill someone.
To be a “militant” or “violent” atheist, however, all we have to do is speak, write, or somehow simply announce that we *exist*.
I do not respect your position on this at all.



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tm61

posted August 14, 2009 at 10:28 am


I’ve tried to make the point that science is the process of asking questions about the material universe and looking for answers that refer only to the material universe. This means that “God” can never be part of the answer to a scientific question, nor can “God” be the subject of a scientific question – you can’t say “God did it” and you can’t ask “is there scientific evidence for (or against) the existence of God”.
If your car won’t start and you look at only material reasons – is it out of gas, is the battery dead, etc. – you haven’t denied the existence of God, and you haven’t said “God is powerless when it comes to cars”. You simply haven’t said anything about God. It’s the same with science in general and evolution in particular.



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Kathryn

posted August 14, 2009 at 10:28 am


Thanks, Professor Ruse, for this post. You’re right – people like you are critical in this debate – because you bring a new perspective to the table and show that one doesn’t have to be a Christian to be personally offended by the New Atheists (or others, for that matter). It’s a complicated fight with adversaries coming from many different philosophical and theological positions! I look forward to your new book. And incidentally, I watched “Expelled” again this week and if it’s any consolation, Ben Stein makes almost everyone look foolish in a dishonest way.
Brent: I think what Professor Ruse means by militant is not physical violence but a style of blatant ad hominem attack that does nothing to further the intellectual discourse. It’s hurtful and only serves to provoke an emotional response.



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Jay Hutchison

posted August 14, 2009 at 10:46 am


Those of us who read Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennet and crew don’t do it for you or to keep creationism out of schools and we don’t care if you think they are a bad influence.



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Michael N.

posted August 14, 2009 at 10:51 am


Yes, I am a fervent believer in the freedom of speech and the freedom of belief, but to be fair, this acquiescing and meek form of defending secularism and science has been an utter failure thus far in the U.S. at any rate. Meanwhile, the side of militant fundamentalism has only gotten a stronger hold on this country’s institutions, holding one of the two major political parties hostage. Even to this day almost half the population of the U.S. do not accept evolution…is this what your “old” atheism wanted to accomplish? Don’t get me wrong. I’m uncomfortable about militancy in just about anything, but frankly, if you can call the New Atheists a “disaster” shouldn’t you have excoriated your creationist friends a bit more vigorously about not speaking out about “Expelled” than say that you were “disappointed”.



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Michael N.

posted August 14, 2009 at 10:53 am


Yes, I am a fervent believer in the freedom of speech and the freedom of belief, but to be fair, this acquiescing and meek form of defending secularism and science has been an utter failure thus far in the U.S. at any rate. Meanwhile, the side of militant fundamentalism has only gotten a stronger hold on this country’s institutions, holding one of the two major political parties hostage. Even to this day almost half the population of the U.S. do not accept evolution…is this what your “old” atheism wanted to accomplish? Don’t get me wrong. I’m uncomfortable about militancy in just about anything, but frankly, if you can call the New Atheists a “disaster” shouldn’t you have excoriated your creationist friends a bit more vigorously about not speaking out about “Expelled” than say that you were “disappointed”.



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tm61

posted August 14, 2009 at 10:53 am


Jay:
Does that mean you don’t care if Dawkins, et al. make it more difficult to keep creationism out of schools?



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tm61

posted August 14, 2009 at 10:56 am


Michael N.:
You said “..almost half the population of the U.S. do not accept evolution”
How many of those reject it because people like Dawkins say “you have to give up your faith to accept evolution”?



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Laner

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:07 am


I think this article is quite weak, and completely lacking in any evidence or examples to back up the claims. There is no middle ground on these issues. You say you get on with these creationists, and I think that it shows through in this piece. I think you are probably too close to the creationist fundamentalists and you are afraid to criticise them too much for fear that it will be taken as personal. Sometimes people and ideas are really ‘stupid’ and need to be called as such. I think your position is too weak and pandering and ultimately does a disservice to science and reason.



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Jaki

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:17 am


“If teaching “God exists” is teaching religion – and it is – then why is teaching “God does not exist” not teaching religion? Obviously it is teaching religion.”
Seriously! The thing is, no science teacher goes in teaching “god does not exist”. They teach evolution without ever a syllable of god . Your wrong on this point Ruse.



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designsoda

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:20 am


“you don’t care if Dawkins, et al. make it more difficult to keep creationism out of schools?”
Well, do they? Make it harder to keep creationism out of school that is? Some evidence would be nice. Considering the new atheists books have been around for about only 5 years I would say you have none.
Is there an epidemic of moderate religious people who believe in evolution turning around and saying they don’t believe in evolution anymore on account of the “violently anti-religion” Dawkins?
“Violently?” Really?



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Sciros

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:20 am


Demonstrate that Dawkins et al. have made it “more difficult” to keep creationism out of schools. The “new atheist movement” is VERY recent, and has had some success in getting non-religious people to organize and bring the issue of religion and the separation of church and state more out in the open. For DECADES we have had what I guess is the “alternative” — pitiful appeasement and an appeal to the rubbish sentiment that science and religion can easily coexist — and what has that done for keeping creationism out of schools? As for the awful argument that “you need to be a sophisticated theologian to criticize religion” which has been thrown at everyone who’s criticized religion, not just Dawkins, it has never made any more sense than to say that one must be an expert at Dungeons and Dragons before claiming that dragons aren’t real.



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Your Name

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:21 am


Quote from the article: “But if science generally and Darwinism specifically imply that God does not exist, then teaching science generally and Darwinism specifically runs smack up against the First Amendment. Perhaps indeed teaching Darwinism is implicitly teaching atheism.”
Science does not even implicitly teach atheism. A supernatural being is simply utterly unnecessary in science, and hence it does not come up one way or another.
And what is up with “Darwinism?” That is a pejorative term that the Creationists like to use. Are we to talk also about Copernicanism? Galileeism? Einstenism? Do those words sound stupid? Yes, they do, because they are.



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designsoda

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:23 am


“How many of those reject it because people like Dawkins say “you have to give up your faith to accept evolution”?”
Do you have the numbers? Seriously, some evidence would be good.
And did Dawkins actually say what’s in those quotes?



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Deon

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:29 am


One quibble: you say that “the matter is whether *all* science and religion clash, something I deny strongly.”
Everyone denies that, but that’s not the argument. Of course we’re aware that religion does not come into particularly sharp disagreement with say, entomology. The point is that when science and religion do come into conflict, religion essentially always wins. There is no scientific evidence that will ever sway a believer from even the flimsiest of “evidence” painfully teased from the Bible. This is the problem that people like Dawkins, Myers, and Hitchens are talking about. The problem that religion prevents progress in many areas in which it counsels its followers are taboo.
I think that there’s room for debate on this issue, but in putting words into the mouths of your opponents, such as when you imply that they dislike you because, unlike them, you don’t think every believer is evil and stupid, your arguments are at least as untenable as the worst of The God Delusion, whose logic you are ashamed of.



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Wilson R. MacLeod

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:30 am


It seems like he wants to have this science versus religion debate, but only if no one gets offended…



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Amanda

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:30 am


I think you are afraid of offending the majority. I think that is a sign of weakness. Your entire argument is flawed.



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A.C. Mattern

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:33 am


I enjoyed this piece and glad to see that there are some pushing for some sort of middle ground. That middle ground doesn’t have to be very big or permanent but it seems to be the only place where discussion, discovery and mind-changing can occur. Both sides have its militant faction, and that’s fine if their goal is to hold the line and defend the preeminence of their position (whether that be faith or evolution) but total annihalation of opposing beliefs is just not going to happen. Strategies need to change.
I’ve always hoped that there would be a coffee table book with the intent of sharing both sides of the debate. Glossy pictures are a must, but details of both sides of issue with an opportunity for friendly commentary/critiques of the opposing view. Also a breakdown of disagreements within a school of thought would be helpful since any belief that each side is homogeneous in its perspective is false, from what I’ve seen. Self-awareness and admitance on what gaps exist would also be be helpful and honest. Those contributing wouldn’t have to be unbiased, just willing to be factual. There’s been enough vitriolic debate, how about some willing discussion from both sides?



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Jay Hutchison

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:36 am


The ONLY people’s fault it will be if creationism is taught in schools is the creationists themselves.
The battle between creationism and evolution in schools was defeated in the courts before The God Delusion was written. I just don’t think its fair to blame these authors.



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tm61

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:37 am


designsoda:
No, I don’t have the numbers (it was a question).
I don’t have a record of everything Dawkins has ever said, but I’m pretty sure he’s in agreement with the statement.



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Ray Ingles

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:51 am


Look at the civil rights struggle that women and blacks had to undergo in the U.S. – being exclusively polite and circumspect didn’t work. A great deal of MLK’s success (though far from all) has to be credited to people like Malcolm X who agitated and were impolite to the point of simply raising the issue. I can think of just one civil rights campaign that succeeded without an aggressive struggle: Jews in Europe. It only took several centuries
Just a few days ago, the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers took out ads on buses that said, “Don’t Believe In God? You’re Not Alone.”, and listed their name and website. The transportation department pulled the ads because of complaints.
Think about that. If simply declaring that atheists exist is considered ‘militant’, how can any progress be made at all without engaging in ‘militancy’?



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designsoda

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:51 am


“No, I don’t have the numbers (it was a question).”
That didn’t stop you from implying that the number was significant did it?
“I don’t have a record of everything Dawkins has ever said,”
Then don’t put your imaginary statements in quotes. It’s dishonest.
“but I’m pretty sure he’s in agreement with the statement.”
You need more than that to quote a person accurately. Also, you’re wrong. Prof. Dawkins very likely doesn’t believe such a ridiculous generalization. And I’m pretty sure he’s never explicitly said what you put in quotes.



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Jon

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:57 am


Professor Ruse appears to have had his feelings hurt by these “New Atheists” one too many times, while his Creationist friends have gladly accommodated his accommodationist position. Ruse’s argument reminds me of the fight for equal civil rights in the middle part of the last century, wherein certain craven elements wrung their hands and urged the oppressed minorities to sit back and zip it lest they be put down forcefully. One could in fact go farther back and look at the foundation of the United States and recognize that our revolution was fomented by a few courageous and idealistic men unwilling to shut up and accept the status quo. The way Ruse treats atheism is the same way many people treat homosexuality; he’s willing to accept it, and engage in it himself, but he secretly loathes it and wishes it would go away, or at the very least have the decency to remain hidden out of sight. As someone who was woken from the sleep of faith some years ago, I have found Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, et al to be refreshing, humorous, and helpful to the unbeliever, and – having seen a few struggling folks find strength in their writings – inspiring to many who previously sat on the fence, undecided. Ruse can be content to sit on his hands – or even to reach them out to Creationists – while better, braver men enter the fray. His intellectual cowardice seems to have suited him fine thus far.



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Crystal

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:59 am


I consider myself one of these “New Atheists” you so despise. Before I read Dawkins’ God Delusion, I felt very helpless and alone in my Atheism, especially as I live in the heart of the Bible Belt in the US. My family, my community, and all my friends are staunch Christians. It was through the Richard Dawkins Foundation that I discovered, while I may not find support within my own community at home, I DO have support out there. There ARE others like me. There ARE people who are banding together to flush religion out of our schools and government. Before becoming immersed in this “New Atheist” community, I didn’t realize how bad it had become. Prominent news networks don’t talk about the ridiculous influence religion has in our government institutions – after all, they, like you, would rather not piss anyone off. They don’t want to infringe on people’s right to practice religion, and they certainly don’t want to lose viewership.
While I really couldn’t care less whether or not someone prays at a particular hour or believes chewing on a cracker will somehow make them holier, I DO care when those beliefs are being injected into my government and into the schools my children will attend. I agree that everyone has the right to practice whatever silly religion they wish, as long as it does not interfere with the health, safety, or the civil rights of any other person. What I can NOT tolerate is the abuse of certain people in government institutions, injecting their personal beliefs into the system, infringing upon the rights of other people, causing science to halt, and starting unprovoked holy wars.
There are those of us who will no longer tolerate such things. It has gone on long enough. In the eight years Bush was president, we as a nation have regressed intellectually, halted progress in science, and been stripped of our civil rights. It must stop. While you may think it’s fine and dandy to say “Can’t we just get along?” and molly-coddle the Religious Right, it is clear that, no, we cannot get along. Not when religious beliefs are being forced upon the community, not when dogma is being taught in schools instead of science, and not when our 1st Amendment rights, which you are so fond of, are being denied.
The “New Atheists” don’t want to get rid of religion – they want to be free of it grip, and they want their government to be free of its poisonous influence.



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MAGonzalez

posted August 14, 2009 at 12:03 pm


You are right, most americans are religious. Yet, those religious who oppose creationism, many understand our worries and claims.
The “new” atheists, simply put, claim that religion (and all that is included with it) be TOTALLY SEPARATE from politics and public areas and systems.
Francis Collins is indeed qualified. But he should not make a presentation to a group of scientists and place god on his PowerPoint slides (god written on lower case on purpose).
Religious beliefs should be kept private. This is their main argument. Also, we never see the muslims criticizing vociferously when they are about to give 40 slashes to a reporter for wearing pants. We dont see the pope condemning the priests who molested children and stripping them of their position!!!!!
If the regular, middle class american religious moderate will not make a stance against the violation of their views, then they are also HYPOCRITES! Because they take advantage of the “religious gratification” but turn the cheek away when a priest molests a child, a muslim blows a bus, etc.
The “new” atheists have taken the “dirty” job of calling out all of the abuses.



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Your Name

posted August 14, 2009 at 12:10 pm


It is somewhat telling that men like Bill Dembski wouldn’t stick up for Prof. Ruse after Ben Stein’s “Expelled”. Things have been this way before the likes of Dawkins, etc. Since the Scopes trial, creationists have been able to loudly repeat lies and half-truths ad nauseum and the response from the scientific community has either been dismissive or reluctantly engaged until now. Scientists should be busy with science, not pointless debate. Yet, this has allowed one side to carry the debate, to frame the questions to dictate the battlefield:
Creationism: We should be allowed to push our beliefs into science.
Science: Well, look, your beliefs are valid, but…
Creationism: Thanks! We’ll settle right in…should a diorama of Noah’s Ark be by the windows or in the back by the coat rack?
I agree science needs better PR, but a little pushback is right and proper at this stage too, since creationists never had to play by these rules. If they get to tell me that I’m going to hell, I get to call “shenanigans” on that.



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cauri

posted August 14, 2009 at 12:16 pm


Things cannot continue as they have gone. The world gets more and more dangerous nowadays and it principally has to do with the direct beliefs of one religion or another. People taught to “have faith” will believe almost anything once they have accepted that they should believe information from an “accredited” source without proof, evidence or even a minimum of questioning.
If the only way to make sure that this pernicious method of brainwashing and controlling people lies in a forceful stance against the root of the problem, then it must endure a little bit of name-calling.
Many people (such as Michael Ruse, it seems) have not had to deal with any of this on a personal basis so can debate it intellectually, however those of us that have had in your face experiences of the aggressive and destructive capabilities of religious belief have a different response. All the liberals arguing for equal rights in a politically correct manner in mid-last century USA: they were all white. Like all civil-rights movements this requires a stronger will.
The argument for me does not really have to do with religion vs science, but rather with the negative effects of religion to society itself. It holds back scientific progress, promotes reasons for intolerance and generally dumbs down the population of the world. We’ve outgrown it as humans and it’s time we all accepted that and enjoyed our future.



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peter

posted August 14, 2009 at 12:23 pm


michael ruse asserts that the god delusion would fail an introductory philosophy course, yet fails to give any details or examples. i found the book well reasoned so i would like some elucidation on that claim.
as for pretending to respect the beliefs of people who one disagrees with in order to cajole them into accepting science, that strikes me as extremely odd. surely the best way forward is to have a frank discussion about it. people who want to dig their heels in regardless of the evidence or take refuge in being offended instead of having a debate cannot be swayed by reason anyway.
as others have said, it is groundless to call atheists violent. no doubt some atheists are violent, but is there some reason to believe they are more likely to be violent than religious people? i am both an atheist and a pacifist.



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Happy_Heretic

posted August 14, 2009 at 12:25 pm


Refutation by denigration again. Its becoming passe it has been put out there so many times recently. I teach a basic course of philosophy. I assign Professor Dawkins book for my class. It is lucid, well argued, and pointed. Of course I assign the writings of Anselm and Aquinas as well (thier writings were very, much antagonistic towards non-belief).
I take issue with one part of your screed. You wrote, “people who are aggressively pro-science, especially pro-Darwinism, and violently anti-religion of all kinds, especially Christianity but happy to include Islam and the rest.” I think the word “violently” is clearly overstating your case. Where is the neo-athiest violence exactly? “fervently” yes… Violently absolutely not.
Finally let me use your own words to supply my own invective here. My augmentation are in quotes):
–Let me say also that I am proud to be the focus of the invective of the “accomodationist” atheists “who have failed so miserably at promoting secular acceptance and freedom in the U.S. and abroad”. They “have been” a disaster and I want to be on the front line of those who say so.
HH =)



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AndyB

posted August 14, 2009 at 12:29 pm


As others in these letters have so eloquently pointed out Professor Ruse is very accomodating when insulted by the religious but seems to take it very personally when his views are attacked by atheists. He is “disappointed” when he is made to look like an idiot by creationists but goes back for more. What is he hoping for? That they will see that they are wrong and so repent and announce that they think evolution is the true explanation for what we see around us? Sorry Prof but for all their pleasant behaviour they will use you (as they obviously have for some time) as a patsy.



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Sonny of Dee

posted August 14, 2009 at 12:37 pm


Sir,
Better to be good than right, eh? “Noooo, don’t rock the boat!” BALDERDASH! And be careful who you call violent. Come to Louisiana and spend a day with me. I will show you violence. Violence that will appear the moment I mention my anti-theism to someone. You, sir, are making things harder on em who have to live right in the middle of jesus-land.
Sonny Dee



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Michael

posted August 14, 2009 at 12:38 pm


Teaching “God does not exist” in schoold is, as far as I know, not on the agenda of any of the “New Atheists”. If in teaching science, it makes statements against the religious beliefs of some people so be it. Do we stop teaching the history of the Native Peoples in the Americas because it counters Mormon beliefs? Do we not teach the germ theory of disease because it is against the Christian Science concept of God? Science teaches the evidence, as best we can currently know it, and formulates theories that attempt to accountfor the current evidence.
Teaching critical thinking and basing beliefs upon evidence is perhaps the most valuable educational lesson we can give our children and if that challenges the beliefs of a segment of the population.
The time has come for atheists and agnostics to politely but forcefully counter religious superstitions.



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Ido

posted August 14, 2009 at 12:49 pm


designsoda and tm61:
designsoda seems to be correct. In chapter 4 Dawkins writes the following on page 158:
“I frequently recommend [Kenneth] Miller’s book, Finding Darwin’s God, to religious people who write to me having been bamboozled by Behe”.
Anyone who knows Miller, his scientific work and his Christian beliefs would know that he is arguing for evolution while still keeping a god in the process. The fact Dawkins recommends such a book renders such a generalized statement almost impossible.



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nickpol

posted August 14, 2009 at 12:52 pm


I can’t find any contact form at the site. So my question here, may I translate this post into german language and release that at the brightsblog?
Please let me know, if not and of course if yes. :)
Looking to here from you.
nickpol
Admin&Editor of the Brightsblog at wordpress.com



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Pilot22a

posted August 14, 2009 at 12:59 pm


Quoting the Quasi Quaker … “I am pretty atheistic”
Is that like being a little bit pregnant?
So, I am in my 80’s and there is no god, no ghosts or goblins and Mr. Ruse, no Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy. Santa? Well, that could be anyone.
Sir, you are either an atheist or not. Agnostic is just a believer who won’t admit it.



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Your Name

posted August 14, 2009 at 1:34 pm


The penultimate paragraph is a disaster. These are not the arguements of a professor of philosophy and would cause me much embarassment had I written them. Whether or not God ( forgiving for the moment that “God” is so ambiguous a proposed phenomenon as to be meaningless)exists is an empirical question. As much so as the existance of any phenomenon is an empirical question. The threshold for accepting the validity of an empirical propostion is not that of mathematical certainty but the strength of the evidence in its favor. There is no evidence for the existance of any god I’ve ever heard proposed( perhaps you’ve heard of different gods)and the statements “God exists” and “God does not exist” are hardly equivalent when viewed in this light. It isn’t certainty without proof that makes something religon or not. No empirical statement is ever proved. Rather it is accepting the proposition without evidence that makes “God exists” faith and “God does not exist” a statement as reasonable as “Werewolves do not exist”.
With regard to the incompatiblity of Darwinism and religon, there are several points to be made but I think I’ll leave you with one to mull over. The arguement from design (Paley’s version) was an arguement of necessity. Biological entities are complicated,complexity implies design,design implies Designer,Designer can only be my God. Darwin showed you can get apparent design without a designer. If you were an individual who reasoned God from the design arguement(but of course, no one really beleives in gods for rational reasons) the Theory of Evolution would, in fact, invalidate your reasoning.
I will not dignify any of the attacks on the so called “New Atheists” with comment except to ask what you meant by “violently anti-religon”? Surely you don’t mean physically violent? Is there a particular person or incident your referencing?



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Bobby2998

posted August 14, 2009 at 1:44 pm


“I lost faith” and “the original sin seems accurate” in one sentence? Well yes. What about “I endorse democracy” and “a dictator seems accurate”? Or “I believe in the free market” and “communism seems accurate”? Or “I only like beach holidays” and “Austria seems accurate”.
Don’t bother. Your mindset was probably formed in a closed fundamentalist community under great pressure. As a grown up you don’t have a clue how it is like being grown up without adult fairytales, mandatory weird twists of logic in order to keep the adult fairytales alive, group stress and deliberate ignorance. You may consider yourself agnostic by christian fundamentalist standards, in the real world you aren’t. You even sound like a scary deluded fundamentalist yourself, “mr Disaster”.
Good luck introducing the Big MrX factor in scientific theories. E=MC^2+MrX looks great, sure. 1+1=2+MrX look great too. I am not going to use it I am afraid. Not in these formula’s, not in other formulas. Not even in my daily life. Simply because it works without that MrX of you and it makes sense. Invoking a certain version of MrX doesn’t. Good day sir.



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Peter Beattie

posted August 14, 2009 at 1:53 pm


What an execrable article. When Ruse isn’t bandying about distortions, outright lies, and completely unsubstantiated assertions, he’s either smugly patting himself on the head or whining about how mean the Grown-Up Atheists have been to him. What a disgrace for anyone involved in philosophy.
A sampling of Ruse’s dishonesty:
the extremes of both creationism and “new atheism”
To imply that those two things are as far from a perceived middle ground or even argumentatively comparable is at best disingenuous. Creationists are trying to push an agenda into classrooms; the “New Atheists” (a philosopher really should have no truck with such an ill-defined term) are doing the exact opposite, i.e. trying to prevent others from pushing such an agenda. They have never, repeat: never, called for atheism to be introduced into classrooms.
Actually the arguments are not that “new,”
Dawkins’s and Dennett’s arguments about the origins of design and complexity are, as far as I can tell. Ruse either dissembles about them or doesn’t understand them.
Distinctive of this group … is the fact that … nothing incurs their wrath than those who are pro-science but who refuse to agree that all and every kind of religious belief is wrong, pernicious, and socially and personally dangerous.
Which is quite simply a shameless lie. No member of “this group” has ever demanded that anyone agree to anything of that sort. The only thing they object to in a pro-science person—to use the word “wrath” here is imbecilic—is the mixing of science with religion.
Francis Collins … has been incurring their hatred
That, I suppose, is libellous. It is also, of course, false. All Harris, Coyne, PZ Myers et al. have expressed were their reservations. Ruse rather tellingly doesn’t present a single piece of evidence for his frankly outrageous claim. As far as I can tell, not a one of that group has said anything other than, ‘He’ll be a competent administrator, but I’d be glad if the job went to somebody who didn’t mix his science with his religion.’
Richard Dawkins … likens me to Neville Chamberlain
Completely false. Dawkins refers to a school of thought, not individuals. Look it up on page 67 of The God Delusion.
Jerry Coyne [used] the Orwellian quote that only an intellectual could believe the nonsense I believe in
Again, libellous. The implication of a totalitarian motive on the part of Coyne is as false as it is preposterous.
This invective is all because, although I am not a believer, I do not think that all believers are evil or stupid
Another stupid lie. Nobody has said any such thing, and if Ruse had bothered to back his claim up with evidence, he might even have noticed.
I believe the new atheists do the side of science a grave disservice.
And that’s all he offers: his belief. Sorry, but that’s just pathetic.
I am indignant at the poor quality of the argumentation in Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and all of the others in that group.
Really? All of the others? Well, first, generalisations are always wrong. Second, again no evidence whatsoever. And in the light of Ruse’s own record, his indictment here is laughable. At least on this topic, apparently he couldn’t form a coherent argument if his life depended on it.
If teaching “God exists” is teaching religion – and it is – then why is teaching “God does not exist” not teaching religion? Obviously it is teaching religion.
This is so idiotic—as well as an argument by rhetorical question and an equally daft appeal to obviousness—that a rhetorical question must suffice, lest my brain hurt even more. If you have two hobbies, hunting and fishing, say, and you also do not collect stamps: do you now have three hobbies?



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Richard

posted August 14, 2009 at 2:05 pm


The logic in a good argument is completely foreign to him, ergo it is of poor quality; it matches nothing that he considers quality. The violence of a logic that dismantles a fatuous premise and leaves it twitching on the paving-stones is just humiliating to the person who holds it.
I think that his ilk feel actual logic as violence because their entire worldview is so easily and utterly dismissed, just as the whispering child’s voice questioning the existence of the Emperor’s New Clothes would be heard as ‘shrill, strident, and violent’ to the ears of those whose job it is to clean those clothes, and press them, and make sure that everything in the room is color coordinated with them.
I am just reminding myself, here, not to accept that the debate be framed by people like the well-named Ruse.



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Your Name

posted August 14, 2009 at 2:44 pm


“If teaching ‘God exists’ is teaching religion – and it is – then why is teaching ‘God does not exist’ not teaching religion?”
If teaching “Shiva/Allah/Raven/etc exists” is teaching religion – and it is – then why is teaching “Shiva/Allah/Raven/etc does not exist” not teaching religion?
I believe in most cases schools get around this by simply leaving Shiva/Allah/Raven etc. out of the curriculum. The science teacher does not go out of his/her way to say “Raven did NOT create humans the way the stories of the tribal elders say.” The science teacher simply teaches what scientists know based on current evidence. The same can easily be done by leaving out other names for religious figures such as “God” and “Yahweh.” If a child brings up a question like that, the teacher can say “that is part of religion, not science. Ask your parents.”
Sure, the New Atheists would like to see frankly atheist teachers allowed to express their views, but they recognize the reality of schools serving a diverse population. They DON’T have to hold themselves back in their own books!



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Jerry Coyne

posted August 14, 2009 at 2:53 pm


Hee hee, I’m amused to see the faithful here censoring perfectly civil but critical comments, such as Peter Beattie’s above. Well, come on over to my website to see it and others.



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sailor

posted August 14, 2009 at 3:01 pm


“If we criticized gene theory with as little knowledge as Dawkins has of religion and philosophy, he would be rightly indignant.”
And his side would of course rebut with cogent answers based on evidence as the likes of PZ do to creationists all the time. Something sadly lacking in arguments from the religious side. I have not read one that made sense.
The problem with religion is is a mishmash of faith unsubstantiated by fact. Hard evidence does not exist so this is really meaningless.
Does a Catholic really have to know everything about the most advanced thoughts and rituals priestesses had about Zeus or Thor to decide they does not exist? That is where your logic leads.



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designsoda

posted August 14, 2009 at 3:06 pm


“(Sorry designsoda..I don’t have any statistics to support this opinion. And even though the statements are in quotes, I’m not implying that anyone actually said them.)”
This says it all doesn’t it?
So you admit that there is no data to support Prof. Ruse’s claim that the so-called “new” atheists are hurting the cause of teaching evolution in class. And you further admit that none of the “new” atheists actually said any of the strawman “quotes” you’re writing.
If no one actually said those words your imaginary new atheist would say, then who are you arguing with? Yourself?



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Simon

posted August 14, 2009 at 3:23 pm


I fear if Dawkins isn’t allowed to comment on theology, then Ruse can’t comment on Dawkins beliefs till he understands evolution as well as Dawkins, as Dawkins may have some deep understanding from evolutionary biology that reveals theism as undefensible that can’t be understood without a professional level of understanding of evolutionary biology. See it cuts both ways.
Indeed I think it rather perculiar that Francis Collins is prepared to believe in a creator god who’ll fine tune the Universe’s constants to produce evolution and a world suitable for life, but then won’t tune the initial conditions to save us a battle of 4 billion years of random mutations. Such wilful disbelief shows that evolution isn’t good at producing logical thinkers.



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tm61

posted August 14, 2009 at 3:31 pm


“So you admit that there is no data to support Prof. Ruse’s claim that the so-called “new” atheists are hurting the cause of teaching evolution in class”
..and your data that proves that they’re not harming it is….?
I haven’t seen any research papers with titles like “The Effectiveness of Incivility Towards People of Faith in Advancing the Teaching of the Theory of Evolution”.



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John Tate (UK)

posted August 14, 2009 at 3:38 pm


“This invective is all because, although I am not a believer, I do not think that all believers are evil or stupid,”
No, Michael, it’s not. Nowhere do any of the ‘New Athesists’ claim that all believers are evil or stupid. Dawkins specifically states that some are just ignorant, and that is no crime. We are all ignorant about something or other.
Any invective aimed at you must be for some other reason. Perhaps you have written other articles of the same calibre as this one. If so I’m not at all surprised you get more than your share! It is inevitable.



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Thom

posted August 14, 2009 at 3:47 pm


First of all, the term and idea of ”humanist” is broad. I’m guessing you’re thinking about the concept that humans have inherent dignity and value, and that ethics can be based around and on humans. Sure, without any evidence, that would be an religious viewpoint. However, one can also look at it from a practical standpoint and argue out of utility and compatibility with evidence and history to choose what source of ethics one wants to use. As time goes by, and science builds our understanding about human nature, the foundation of humanism grows stronger.
Secondly, stating your credentials isn’t a good way to start a post. If you really need to strengthen your arguments out of a position of authority, go ahead, but that doesn’t do anything. When discussing philosophy, knowing the names of the philosophers and the exact lines in the bible becomes arbitrary. The arguments are everything. The power of logic dominates.
Thirdly, describing the new atheists as violently anti-religious is dishonest. At what point did the expression of their anti-religious views become violent? When they published their books? When they did the calm seminars and interviews? At what point would you describe a theist to be ”violently religious”?
Lastly, the credentials of Collins as a project leader is not what the new atheists are criticizing, and thus bringing them up is meaningless. His role as director of NIH is. If the job was only to be a kind of project leader, the points made by the new athiests would be less relevant, but it clearly isn’t. The job is about being the face of American science. Sure, the management of the branch is important, but in these times, the public relations is FAR more so. And that is the points the new atheists are pointing out. He will be deciding partially on ethical grounds on what projects get the ”go”, and which get the ”no”. And based on his lectures on what can be known about human nature, this is a valid cause for concern.



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Fletch

posted August 14, 2009 at 3:54 pm


“This invective is all because, although I am not a believer, I do not think that all believers are evil or stupid, and because I do not think that science and religion have to clash.”
I hate to be the one to break this to you, seeing as you are an educated man…. You cannot presume someone’s emotional position based upon your emotions, incited by their words. Can you not see the straw man which you have created?
They hate. Aggressive. Violent. I find what you are doing very interesting. It is called projecting. It’s easy to claim vitriol, and anger, when that is what you feel, and that is prominent on the side of the fence towards which you are falling.
I see a man in the twilight, subconsciously formulating a case to offer St. Peter because he fears that he has been wrong all this time…and hell sounds vewy skewy…



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tomh

posted August 14, 2009 at 3:55 pm


tm61 wrote:
“..and your data that proves that they’re not harming it is….?”
That’s just silly, like saying, you can’t prove there is no god so you should believe. Ruse and others are making a fact claim, it’s up to them to provide evidence for it. Except that they don’t, they just make unsupported assertions.



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designsoda

posted August 14, 2009 at 3:57 pm


“..and your data that proves that they’re not harming it is….?”
I don’t have it. I also don’t have data that the New York Mets, the Loch Ness Monster, and Angelina Jolie are NOT harming the cause.
All kidding aside… are you serious? Now the burden is on the “new” atheists to have to prove they aren’t hurting the cause? Shouldn’t YOU be the one to provide the data that they are hurting the cause? How about Prof. Ruse? Seeing as that’s the point of the article?
“I haven’t seen any research papers with titles like “The Effectiveness of Incivility Towards People of Faith in Advancing the Teaching of the Theory of Evolution”.”
An yet, that doesn’t stop Prof. Ruse from writing an article like the one above. And it doesn’t stop you from implying that the new atheists have had a negative effect on teaching evolution in school.
Maybe this will help:
“Evolution Education and the Science-Religion Conflict: Dispatches from a Philosophical Correspondent,”
http://cruller.cc.trincoll.edu/NR/rdonlyres/985BF1A8-56F0-4010-8C1E-8A63786E79E6/0/Chapter3.pdf (PDF)
Somebody actually took the time to study this problem. With data and everything!



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Michael N.

posted August 14, 2009 at 4:01 pm


Um,tm61, you are the one making a positive argument that somehow the “new” atheists are hurting the cause. You’re asking designsoda to give evidence for the negative, but here’s some data: between 1982 and 2004, the Gallup organization showed a steady 44% to 47% of the population holding to creationism. “New Atheism” was coined around 2005 I think? C’mon people…we’re all supposed to be about the data here!



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Your Name

posted August 14, 2009 at 4:01 pm


tm61 wrote:
“..and your data that proves that they’re not harming it is….?”
That’s just silly, like saying, you can’t prove there is no god so you should believe. Ruse and others are making a fact claim, it’s up to them to provide evidence for it. Except that they don’t, they just make unsupported assertions.



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Ray Ingles

posted August 14, 2009 at 4:02 pm


tm61 – Oh, come on. Ruse is the one advancing the claim that ‘atheists are hurting the cause of teaching evolution in class’. It’s up to him to support it. Just because he says so doesn’t make it so, and it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s automatically true until proven false.
There’s even some evidence against the idea – “the youngest adult age cohorts are the least Creationist”:
http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2009/08/the_future_belongs_to_the_darw.php
I’d say the ball’s in Ruse’s court.



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JBlilie

posted August 14, 2009 at 4:08 pm


It’s amusing also how none of Dawkins’ critics, who universally accuse him of childish theology and of disbelieving a strawman god never provide any specific rebuttals of his arguments (the so-called arguments for god are just parlor games anyway) or provide the “real” definition of god that is different from the one Dawkins disbelieves and is consistent with Christian (or any other) doctrine.
Dawkins admits that god is not disprovable. He also admits that a plausible argument can be made for a deistic kind of god that started the universe and then stood back; but he also points out that there’s no good reason to believe in one either.
99% of theology is hand-waving, smoke and mirrors, and sophistry.
As a philosophy prof, Mr. Ruse would be appalled by the ad hominem nature of his own essay. No data, no facts, just smear.
As Dr. Coyne pointed out recently on his blog: The scientific community in the US has been following an accommodationist policy for decades and: it hasn’t worked. American scientific illiteracy is just as bad now as ever. The first so-called “New Atheist” book, Sam Harris’s The End of Faith appeared in 2004. You know that definition of insanity: Keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.



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Fletch

posted August 14, 2009 at 6:08 pm


“This invective is all because, although I am not a believer, I do not think that all believers are evil or stupid, and because I do not think that science and religion have to clash.”
I hate to be the one to break this to you, seeing as you are an educated man…. You cannot presume someone’s emotional position based upon your emotions, incited by their words. Can you not see the straw man which you have created?
They hate. Aggressive. Violent. I find what you are doing very interesting. It is called projecting. It’s easy to claim vitriol, and anger, when that is what you feel, and that is prominent on the side of the fence towards which you are falling.
I see a man in the twilight, subconsciously formulating a case to offer St. Peter because he fears that he has been wrong all this time…and hell sounds vewy skewy…



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Satheist

posted August 14, 2009 at 6:41 pm


Dawkins converted me to atheism. PZ keeps me interested in science. The new atheists write bestsellers, defend separation of state/church, buy ads, and organize clubs. They are my heroes.
American is a religious country. Ruse, your skills are better put promoting evolution and stopping religious extremism than it is criticizing the methods of OTHER atheists. Atheism doesn’t need you doubting and whining about the ways of other atheists. If you want to appease, fine. But stop criticizing the New Atheists and just get out their way.
“Let me say also that I am proud to be the focus of the invective of the new atheists.”
Wow, that’s something to be so proud of. Please, grow up.



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Neal Jansons

posted August 14, 2009 at 7:07 pm


It’s very simple: claims involving matters of fact should be subject to the same epistemological standards. If some claims fail to be justified under those standards, they should not be believed. If someone believes things in the face of this failure, one of two things are true: 1) there is something wrong with their epistemological standards for justified belief or 2) the standards are not being applied.
Most religionists simply don’t apply the standards, and nothing is “new” about the New Atheist’s arguments except this: the dogged and vocal refusal to allow religious assertions to simply get a free pass in the testing of propositions. There have always been atheists, but they usually want, like you, to be tolerant and avoid conflict, so they pretend like religious claims about, say, the origin of humans or the existence of a soul, are somehow not empirical questions with empirical answers. This special privilege for religious ideas is what is being challenged, this special status where religion gets to make public claims, claims that generate legislation and results in the oppression of women, homosexuals, and (of course) atheists all over the world, without having those claims subject to the very same kinds of tests we demand for any other proposition.
In short, simply demanding that the religious either prove their claims or stop making them (and stop attempting to govern the world by them), is not some horrible abuse of religious people…it is the desire to take their beliefs seriously. They can’t simultaneously want us to “respect their beliefs” (which always seems to translate to aiding and abetting them) and to also treat them like fantasies not subject to confirmation. Either these beliefs are true, in which case they are arguably far more important than theories of physics and engineering, or they are false, in which case they cause needless suffering and should be abandoned as superstitions like not bathing to keep evil spirits away. In either case, religious claims cannot continue to have the special privilege of governing without justification according to the same standards we use for everything else.



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Jon

posted August 14, 2009 at 7:20 pm


From now on, whenever some believer or apologist asserts that “Religion is simply another way of knowing”, or suchlike my response will be “Knowing WHAT, exactly?”
I am prepared to offer a $US500 prize for the first believer who can come up with a single fact which is a) demonstrably true; b) clearly deriveable from religious belief; c) unobtainable via the normal routes of science, logic, maths or common sense.
Switchboard operators are standing by…



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Thomas

posted August 14, 2009 at 7:33 pm


“violently anti-religion of all kinds” – a wild accusation, which has never been demonstrated or espoused by any ‘new atheist’.
“Francis Collins, who has been incurring their hatred” – to my knowledge, no respectable public intellectual, journalist or mere blogger has expressed any form of personal hatred towards Dr Collins. Articles concerning his NIH appointment, however strong, express concern over his ability to maintain an objective position within the largest, publicly-funded research facility on earth.
“I do not think that all believers are evil or stupid” – an appalling attempt to achieve moral superiority, by implying that ‘new atheists’ feel that all believers are “evil or stupid”. Many people, regardless of their level of belief, are indeed evil and/or stupid. What ‘new atheists’ concern themselves with are morally or scientifically retarded propositions, not the people espousing them.
“Americans are religious people” – ‘non-religious’ is the only growing demographic in the United States at the moment. Numbers of religious people in the United States are falling across the board. (Source: American Religious Identification Survey 2008, based on 54,000 interviews in 2008, margin of error +/- 0.5 percentage points.)
“then why is teaching “God does not exist” not teaching religion?” – This is a disgraceful statement. No ‘new atheists’ has demanded the teaching of non-belief in schools. Schools should, however, teach the scientific method of analysing and understanding the world around us. If this implies the non-existence of a deity, then too bad for the believers, but it certainly doesn’t rub against the First Amendment.
Sir, I am severely disappointed by almost the entirety of your article. All of your concerns seem to hinge on conflicts of personality. Your critique of Dawkins’s work, although not an opinion I share, is a perfectly respectable one to hold. However, your disagreement seems to be with the individual exponent or the delivery of an argument, not with the validity of the argument itself. If you feel that their literary style is childish or tasteless, I would sincerely enjoy reading your improvement. Furthermore, the constant fear that creationism is somehow gaining ground as a result of the activities of ‘new atheists’ is entirely unfounded. Creationists have lost every single battle in this war, whilst books such as ‘God is not Great’ or ‘The End of Faith’ have remained bestsellers. These points of public discussion help in bringing the problem -I stress the negativity of the word problem- of faith further into the public consciousness. However, these are differences that would be best settled, if we are to progress further as a society.



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Michael

posted August 14, 2009 at 9:13 pm


“Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course.”
At my university we specifically use Dawkin’s argument against design in first year philosophy of religion. But in second year they’ve omitted all arguments for god except the fine-tuning argument which we demolish early to move onto evolutionary ethics, as they expect you to already be familiar with simple everyday people’s books like The God Delusion, and some of Mackie’s more detailed arguments against god.
You can’t make science and religion agree unless you omit the fundamental metaphysical claims of religion or omit the need for evidence in science. Ruse’s arguments for evolutionary ethics are pretty fail, as is his leap-of-faith jump from is to ought. Peter Woolcock gave us a special lecture simply arguing against all of his ideas.



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Your Name

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:03 pm


People are far more swayed by fear than reason, and since many religious traditions bind belief and doubt to fear of eternal punishment and death, it is not surprising to see people having very strong reactions when they feel that their believes are under threat.
Evolution undermines a literal Genesis, and without the fallen man of Genesis, what need is there of a redeemer. There is the rub for many believers. It is why they fight tooth and nail, and especially when it is combined with the fire and brimstone imagery of the book of Revelations. Put is together, bind people by their fears and reinforce it within their families and churches, and what you have is a recipe for delusion, neurosis and dangerous expressions of their fears.
There is a point in trying to find accommodation, to not ridicule a person, to take from religious traditions those things which are valid and useful, and to leave religion outside the science labs and science classrooms. Science has no opinion on that which is outside its purview. To maintain this separation, carries an obligation upon professors, researchers and students to not bring any religious tenets into the practice of science, including atheism. Over a drink, outside the confines of science, people are free to argue theology and philosophy to their heart’s content. Just don’t place the mantle of science upon your shoulders and speak with the authority a preacher who assumes he speaks on behalf of God. You commit the same error of hubris if you do this, and the one thing I take from Greek mythology, (and others), is that the gods punish hubris mightily. We need to be mindful and aware of our ignorance as well as the things we have gleaned through science.
Hubris, it is epitomized in the following little Cold War ditty:
To break the simple atom,
Mankind was so intent.
Now I’m afraid the atom may
repay the compliment.
To be ignorant is fine, we all start that way, and will remain ignorant of many things. Ignorance with curiosity leads to exploration and discovery. Blind and prideful, a man who is bound to false beliefs is incapable of learning what he denies a priori out of fear.



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Pluto Animus

posted August 15, 2009 at 12:00 am


“I think what Professor Ruse means by militant is not physical violence but a style of blatant ad hominem attack that does nothing to further the intellectual discourse.”
Actually, Kathryn, what you inaccurately describe as “as hominem attacks” is just criticism of intellectually bankrupt ideas.



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Chris P

posted August 15, 2009 at 12:19 am


I’m sorry, I am tired of respecting people who believe in religion. They cannot agree amongst themselves and get special privileges to boot. We have seen enough murders of atheists, gays, abortion doctors and transgenders to know that the religious are wrong.
Respect and appeasement do not work. Example does not work. Reason does not work because they are unreasonable people. Europe proves that less religion is better. Atheism needs to fight the religious BS in this country. Myers, Dawkins and the rest are excellent encouragement for people to change, to resist the constant barrage of misinformation from the religious and to nail the hypocrisy of the likes of the Donahues of the world for what it is. Pure BS.



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Harlon M.

posted August 15, 2009 at 12:30 am


Seems obvious: “I have been a full-time philosophy prof since I was twenty five – to engage in the public sphere on issues that I think morally important. Specifically, I have engaged in the science-religion debate – more precisely in the Darwinism-Creationism debate – for over thirty years. I have written on the subject, I have lectured regularly on the subject (on average, I give a talk about every two weeks and many are on this topic), and I have appeared as witness in a court case to defend the US separation of Church and State.”
The world passed him and his ideas by. Get over the petty jealousy of the success of the so called New Atheists (who have been non-believers their entire lives). The only reason to call them New Atheists is in the pejorative.
This is the only life you get. Get over yourself and learn to enjoy it.



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Harlon M.

posted August 15, 2009 at 12:34 am


After all these years, get over your jealousy. Dawkins is not a New Atheist. He has been a non-believer all his life. You write this to make yourself appear to be more of a non-believer, it is weak and pathetic.
By your age, if a lifetime of philosophy hasn’t taught you to leave jealousy and bitterness behind, you’ve learned nothing.
Perhaps your attitude explains your lack of inclusion in the group of respected writers attacking this issue.



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James

posted August 15, 2009 at 12:36 am


Ummm. No. The believers have had THOUSANDS OF YEARS to get their act together. You actually believe that people like Dembski and Pat Robertson should be treated like respectful opponents? Their core theology is to bring about the End Times (as stupid as that may seem). Sorry, but your argument does not wash. The “New Atheist” is not “violently” anti-religious. In fact, the “New Atheist” has more respect for the rights of the blind faithful to their own idiocy than they have for the “New Atheist” but that doesn’t mean the religious shouldn’t be ridiculed for their violently aggressive anti-science theology.



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Morgan MacLaren

posted August 15, 2009 at 12:57 am


Wait, how can Hitchens, Dennett, Myers and Dawkins be accused of being poor at philosophy when the arguments in this article don’t even make sense? Especially in the second to last paragraph.



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'Tis Himself

posted August 15, 2009 at 1:29 am


The “New Atheists” are the old atheists who’ve come out of the closet. The fundamentalists and evangelicals are thoroughly disgusted that we even exist, let alone are vocal about disbelief in deities. So to keep “atheist” Michael Ruse and his creationist buddies happy (and yes, Ol’ Mikey hangs around with creationists like Ken Ham and Bill Dembski) we should just shut up. Well guess what, Ruse, it ain’t happening. And if that makes you sad because it makes your creationist friends disgruntled, that’s your and their problem.



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Oldwhale

posted August 15, 2009 at 2:03 am


Prof. Ruse, having seen your credentials, I am in no way qualified to debate you in your position. But allow me to make this observation. You state that you are under attack from the “new atheists” and even the religious or Christian ITDers. Yet, you close by saying, “Let me say also that I am proud to be the focus of the invective of the new atheists. They are a disaster and I want to be on the front line of those who say so.” I have read all of Dawkins’ books but prefer the works on the IDT/Evolution topic by Carl Sagan. I side with their position because it is science and factual exploration that first came under attack by those defending creationism. There is no overlapping magistera. Dawkins and all the rest are motivated to give a very solid push-back of equal force. Edward Humes’ Monkey Girl gives us a clear understanding of what it takes to keep science in the class room. Has the cause of keeping science in the classroom been hurt or helped by the writings of Dawkins? Would your position hve been more effective?
Perhaps the attacks you are experiencing are not because you are standing on any front line but positioned on the battle line between these two positions dedicated to containing the opposing point of view. While this is not a comfortable place to have put yourself, I see no virtue in saying you support one argument and yet find a way to accept the other.
Perhaps, like you, I experience a sense of awe when confronted with the real philosophical questions of why we are so fortunate to be “here” and yet find that the only real answer is because of the wonderful complexity of Darwinian evolution. You are also a philosopher so it is right for you to address these questions. I respect my relatives and friends that cling to their faith when they say, “Thank God”. I reply to them that it is much more appropriate to say thanks to your own good efforts and the success of your forbearers.



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Bernard Kirzner, M.D.

posted August 15, 2009 at 3:39 am


A Disaster? Hardly, but Dawkins isn’t trying to educate people about science when he puts on his “new atheist” hat.
Crystal has it right. “I consider myself one of these “New Atheists” you so despise. Before I read Dawkins’ God Delusion, I felt very helpless and alone in my Atheism…It was through the Richard Dawkins Foundation that I discovered, while I may not find support within my own community at home, I DO have support out there. There ARE others like me.”
The point of the New Atheists is not to convince people of the validity of Evolution or science. It’s to rally the troops of rational people to stand up for rational thought, Enlightenment values, scientific neutrality and not bowing to religious beliefs or believers, out of some special deference to people of religion, or because reality is offensive to their beliefs.
The purpose of science is to understand the world, and Dawkins is an excellent instructor in books such as the selfish gene or the Ancestor’s Tale, and his soon to be released book on evolution. He never even mentions religion is these books. They are about science and proselytize by just showing how logical Evolutionary Biology is.
Mishael Rule is mixing up these two hats that Dawkins wears, but he shouldn’t. Teaching evolution is not religion, it’s intent is to understand the world as it is. The opposition to it is religious, not the teaching of it.
Pushing for open expression of Atheistic ideas is not science. It’s not quite religion either.
Just because both Evolutionary understanding of the world, and Atheistic philosophy are opposed by the same religious people, does not equate them. One is science, the other philosophy, neither religion.



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Matti K.

posted August 15, 2009 at 3:44 am


“…aggressively pro-science, especially pro-Darwinism, and violently anti-religion …”
That sounds really bad. What is the body count?



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bazar

posted August 15, 2009 at 4:04 am


By all means, Neville Chamberlain, let’s reach out to the deluded and whatever you do, let’s not call them out on their delusions.
Tooth Fairies, Easter Bunnies, Gods… We should ‘respect’ their ignorance, shouldn’t we?
A typical case of “I am an atheist BUT let’s not burden the simple folks with the truth”.



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prof.

posted August 15, 2009 at 5:20 am


Lolz to one more pseudo-scientific fool who doesnt even understand the basic idea of science itself. Nor the word “theory” apperently. Or else he should be first to notice the functionality of probability in a scientific argument.
But then again – how should he – as a philosopher.



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Andrew T

posted August 15, 2009 at 7:28 am


I appreciate the tone of your comments, but disagree with your premise. As an American, living through 8 years of a Bush administration in which a big part of the justification for leading young men and women to war was because the President “prayed about it,” new atheists like Dawkins are doing more good than harm. Many in America who identify themselves as “religious” are actually just people raised in a religion who are too intellectually lazy to think about it. The God Delusion caused many who were indifferent to consider what being religious means for the first time. And Bush showed the danger of passively accepting others’ viewpoints without critical thinking. Atheists have historically been ignored in public debate. Dawkins, and others, bring that viewpoint to the forefront. Atheists and nontheists are no longer being ignored by the public. Quiet acceptance of religious dogma is much more harmful than stepping on a few toes while achieving the larger goal of making people think.



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Cyberguy

posted August 15, 2009 at 9:29 am


Michael Ruse
This article is so wrong on so many levels – it is full of strawman arguments, ad-hominems, inconsistencies and logical fallacies from end to end, and it is currently being soundly refuted (to put it mildly) on blogs around the world. I won’t repeat what is being said – you can search it out yourself.
You should be ashamed to produce an article as poor as this.



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Phil

posted August 15, 2009 at 11:35 am


Sounds like you had a fun childhood. Original sin seems to be accurate psychologically. I grew up in staunch catholic home. To raise a child in such an environment is nothing short or child abuse. Its indoctrination and evil.I am now one of the those “new atheists” you seem intent on condemning. You are sounding like a man who is in the twilight of his years aiming for one more shot at glory before he passes into obscurity.
At your age you should know better.Lighten up. Chill out. Put on a Cat Stevens record,smoke a bit of spliff. Have a laugh at the world and be what youve always been, A new Atheist.



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Skeptikal

posted August 15, 2009 at 11:43 am


Those who maintain that religion is compatible with science are usually guilty of a bait and switch scam. The bait is to compare a watered down, abstract, deistic religion that doesn’t make any factual claims, to science, and the switch is to then pat the fundamentalists, with their obnoxious and irrational tenets, on the head and say: See? don’t worry, religion and science are perfectly compatible.
Nobody cares what people believe privately, but as soon as arguments based on religion are used to support some decision which affects the public (school curriculum, stem cell research, gay marriage, the Iraq war, sexual practices) then that religion is no longer a sacred cow and should be attacked with full force by all who hold it false. That is just basic democracy.
Apologists such as Ruse who are eager to defend religion from factual attacks need to explain why religion should enjoy a special status in cases where it is a direct detriment (at least as perceived by that attackers) to public interests. What makes religious claims untouchable? And how is democracy and open society served by having some claims untouchable?
For example, if you want to barge in onto the public square with obnoxious claims such that your particular deity hates homosexuals or that it wants adulterers (and rape victims) stoned to death then you should expect the existence of that deity to be questioned.



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No Spam

posted August 15, 2009 at 1:12 pm


Mr. Ruse, why do apologists keep leaning on the same arguments about the criticism of Francis Collins? To repeat your statement from this article:
“[N]ewly appointed director of the NIH, Francis Collins … has been incurring their hatred. Given the man’s scientific and managerial credentials … this is deplorable, if understandable since Collins is a devout Christian.”
Have you read any of the arguments of the New Atheists? They’re pretty well articulated, and do not reflect your characterization of them. The so-called New Atheists are very accustomed to the idea that Christians dominate public offices in the country, and do not object to this in principle as long as faith remains a personal matter and doesn’t get in the way of good policymaking.
This is the crux of the case against Collins, who does not “incur hatred” because he is a Christian at all, but rather because he routinely lets his Christianity cloud his judgment. Rather than merely being a scientist who is a Christian, he’s turned his stature into a megaphone for superstition. Plenty of scientists who are Christian manage to keep their religion out of their science, and Collins’s failure to do so is the reason he’s not a good choice to lead the NIH.
Inventing the positions of the New Atheists and criticizing them amounts to a straw man argument. Must you really sink that low?



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Mike McCants

posted August 15, 2009 at 2:04 pm


“Let me say also that I am proud to be the focus of the invective of the new atheists.”
You’re an idiot. Now, doesn’t that make you proud. The slight problem is that it’s true – you are an idiot.



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Benny H

posted August 15, 2009 at 2:20 pm


I can’t imagine what you mean by “I am pretty atheistic, although some doctrines like original sin seem to me to be accurate psychologically.” Can someone explain to me how original sin is accurate psychologically?



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Brooks Alexander

posted August 15, 2009 at 4:59 pm


All you atheist stalwarts who claim to “follow the evidence wherever it leads” might want to “follow” this: unbelievers are more vulnerable to superstition than believers are! That’s not a claim or conjecture, its an experimental finding uncovered by Rodney Stark and William Bainbridge in the course of a scientific sociological survey, and reported in the article “Superstitions: Old & New”, from The Skeptical Inquirer – of all sources. Here is just part of what the authors said in their summary and conclusion:
“ ‘born agains’ are much less likely than others to accept raadical cults and pseudo-scientific beliefs . . . while the group with no religious affiliation is receptive to these unscientific notions. Those who hope that a decline in traditional religion would inaugurate a new age of reason ought to think again . . . a further decline in the influence of conventional religion may not inaugurate a scientific Age of Reason, but might instead open the floodgates for a bizarre new Age of Superstition.”
Do you find that hard to believe? Surprise . . . scientists are just like anyone else when their cherished assunptions are challenged. Don’t take it from me – check it yourself. It’s in the Skeptical Inquirer, Summer, 1980, pp. 18 – 31



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Wes Wessells

posted August 15, 2009 at 5:56 pm


I definitely disagree with Prof. Ruse and feel these so called “new atheists” are doing more good than harm and I have read their books and Prof. Ruse’s books. I’m always intrigued when philosophy professors say that Dawkins and other don’t understand true religion or philosophy and make a hash of the arguments like the ontological argument, etc. but virtually never give an example. Take the very old ontological argument for example. I would love to see a good defense of it that doesn’t involve distorting the meaning of words and simple logic.
To start with, just by saying, “can you imagine a force or power that is greater than others” you have already violated good sense. First, one can imagine almost anything, unicorns for instance, second if one says “yes” than the game is up because that assumes a “god” or supernatural power already without any evidence or analysis. This can only be a circular argument at best and makes no sense. So it goes with all the other arguments. Infinite regress will always be an insurmountable problem with “first cause” arguments, The “fine tuned” argument is one of the worst and the complaints against it are well known: if a god has to “fine tune” things for life than he couldn’t have created the universe and is as beholden to its requirements for life as people and if he did create the whole universe than there would be no fine tuning required at all since the type of life would be at his total whim and we could have been made of silicone and required no oxygen, etc. What are these great new arguments for gods existence?



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Jack H.

posted August 15, 2009 at 6:55 pm


I speak from the theist side of the science-religion debate. My reading of Dawkins and Hitchens and cursory acquaintance with Dennett convinces me that is Ruse is right on when he says these new atheists’ critiques of religion show an abysmal lack of understanding. Almost any theologian in my own tradition (Roman Catholic) is committed to the scientific enterprise, including research and teaching about evolution. Those who have taken up the pseudo-scientific cause against all religion are fighting a centuries-old understanding of religion and the Bible. That understanding still needs to be corrected, but Ruse is absolutely: there is no need for science and religion to be in conflict. I would add that the debate between atheism and theism ought to continue, not because science demands it but because it’s important in itself. It ought to proceed on the basis of mutual respect and a much greater effort at understanding.



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Pierce R. Butler

posted August 15, 2009 at 7:43 pm


… some doctrines like original sin seem to me to be accurate psychologically.
Please explain this further, or point to a working psychologist who actually uses this concept in a professional context.



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Dave

posted August 16, 2009 at 1:32 am


I mainly care the public should understand the scientific *method*. My criticism of Francis Collins is he misleads the public about the scientific *method*. Collins can believe any religion he likes for all I care, but when he promotes his religious beliefs, Collins wants the public to accept (his) argument from (his) authority about fine tuning in physics — a science. Collins also claims moral feelings in humans could *only* have been created by a god, which is a baffling dismissal of parsimony or Occam’s Razor in the scientific *method*. Collins misleads his audience to think (his) arguments from (his) authority are the scientific *method*.
If my criticism of Collins misleading the public makes me a New Atheist, fine. Just get this much correct — My problem with Collins is not his religion. My problem with Collins is he misleads the public about the scientific *method*.



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Jessica

posted August 16, 2009 at 4:41 am


I would very much disagree with the previous poster Dr. Kirzner. The issue is not “reality” versus religion, although he and other new atheists try to frame it that way. The problem with “new atheism” is that it is trying to have it both ways, but it simply cannot.
Science is essentially a tool or method to study the natural world. Religion focuses primarily on the supernatural. Religion is separate from science. Science in a pure sense makes no judgments on a world outside of what can be measured.
Now whether or not science dictates, in the view of new atheists, the whole of reality is in fact not science, but philosophy. One cannot prove or disprove the existence of God using science – remember that science itself says nothing as to what cannot be measured. The question is whether the disconnect between some people’s religious beliefs and scientific facts/theories is due to a limitation of religion – or of science. That is a philosophical question.
I think that Michael Ruse is pointing out that the new atheists are conflating the scientific with the philosophical, and in the process are doing science (as well as atheism) a disservice.



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Ian Braidwood

posted August 16, 2009 at 8:45 am


Professor Ruse,
I’m sorry you feel embattled, but neither you or Dr Collins have been attacked. Attacks involve fists, baseball bats, guns or some other weapon, whereas you have only been criticised. By using violent language, you blur a crucial distinction between atheists and the religious: that we do not use violence or even coercion. We are civilised.
The criticism of Dr Collins has not been simply because he is a christian, he has stated views which will affect his judgement on issues like stem cell research. Poor judgement is a legitimate cause for concern whatever its root.
I’m surprised at your naivety, expressing disappointment at the lack of criticism from evangelicals of Expelled. The religious have always lied: the donation of Constantine and the witholding of the copernican revolution from the Qing dynasty Chinese show this very clearly. It is no different today, as the revisions of Of Pandas and People show that the religious aren’t even honest, leave alone spiritual.
Science has always been independent of religion. That has been one of its greatest strengths; allowing it to minimise doctrinal bias and giving it a perspicacity never previously attained by humans.
That you would endanger that independence by seeking raproachment with christianity shows poor judgement. The religious want to own science to control what she says. Dialogue with christians would make science partisan and suspect.
Yes, individual scientists are welcome to their religious beliefs, but they must understand that those beliefs must not colour their conclusions and that brings us back to Dr Collins.
If he could assure people that his christian beliefs will not colour his administration, there would be no problem.



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No BS

posted August 16, 2009 at 9:59 am


Prof.
Consider how much neural hard-wireing the Quakers have done to your poor brain at an early age. It must suck to constantly have to tamp that down when thinking rationally. You have my sympathies.



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Cedric Katesby

posted August 16, 2009 at 12:04 pm


I have good and friendly relations with many of the leaders, including Duane T. Gish, Phillip Johnson, and Bill Dembski. I do not consider these people to be evil or motivated by money…
Eeew Yuk! Something smells bad.
Why would anybody want to get chummy with liars and frauds?
People like them are disgusting.
Doctors should not have tea and scones with snake-oil salesmen and faith healers.
Scientists should not cosy up to science deniers.



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sinz54

posted August 16, 2009 at 12:29 pm


Posters like Crystal and Kirzner have admitted what the real rationale of the New Atheists is.
It’s not to advocate science to the general public, by whatever tools work best.
It’s for atheists to “come out of the closet,” and walk proudly and defiantly: “Say it loud: I’m an atheist and I’m proud!” To let their fellow atheists know they’re not alone and there is solidarity in working together.
The New Atheist movement is trying to do for atheists what the gay rights movement did for gays–be accepted and even appreciated as moral equals.
In that sense, New Atheists aren’t about science. They’re about themselves, and overcoming the sense of oppression and self-pity they’ve been wallowing in for years.



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Todd Greene

posted August 16, 2009 at 2:25 pm


There are certainly pragmatic nuances to be considered in dealing with people who follow traditionalized superstitions. Such as, for example, getting in bed with Christians who accept evolutionary science for the purpose of countering the promotion of unscientific and anti-scientific rhetoric by the ID creationists and other creationists based on their particular religious beliefs.
That does not in any way imply that or even make it a good idea to not take religious belief itself head-on. Religious belief has no right to some special dispensation from critical and open scrutiny just because it is religious belief. I realize that that has been the standard imposed by religious believers, but it is precisely that standard that we are eliminating, because it’s a bad standard.
We are also certainly going to have disagreements about the expediency in any particular circumstances of what to say or do, or not say or not do. But when it comes to arguing in a blanket manner atheists should never articulate broad-based criticism of religious belief from our position of critical scrutiny (relying on reasoning and what we know about reality through scientific examination and analysis) *openly and forcefully*, your criticisms appear to be way off on the wrong track. There should be nothing but praise for those atheists who are equipped to do so and do it well, and Richard Dawkins has certainly demonstrated himself to be one of them.
By the way, your next to last paragraph, beginning with “Most importantly, the new atheists” has some serious problems with it.
(1) Creationism is bad science. It isn’t science anyway, it is religious belief run amok deliberately generating pseudoscience propaganda to create a scientific facade (not solely because of but in large part due to trying to get around the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment). Who among atheists is giving short shrift to the fact that creationism is religion, and that thus in certain specific contexts such as public school science classes it’s in violation of the First Amendment? No one. Yet here you are writing as if not pointing this out is some kind of problem for atheists. Frankly, the insinuation is quite ridiculous. Creationists have been and are being countered on both fronts.
(2) The statement “There is no good scientific evidence for Bigfoot” isn’t religion, it’s simply the fact of the matter. If for whatever reason a teacher were to state that as a teacher, it wouldn’t be religion, it would simply be a teacher stating the fact of the matter. Teaching “There is no good scientific evidence for God” is exactly the same. Again, there are practical considerations here about a teacher discussing such a thing in a class in a public school, but that doesn’t make it religion and it really does seem silly for someone to attempt to argue otherwise. I mean, we’ve only dealt with the “atheism is a religion” nonsense for, oh, like a million times already. And why in the world are we getting it from *you*? Would you be caught making that statement, it’s religion for someone to say “There is no scientific evidence that Aphrodite exists”? I would serious doubt it, *but that’s what you did*. It’s a grave disservice.
My judgment is that your overall essay is predominantly based on kowtowing to the anti-atheist bigotry of Christians that is so prevalent in the U.S. I’m sorry, but that’s not an argument.



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MJT

posted August 16, 2009 at 4:30 pm


1. “New” is a worthless description if I’ve ever seen one. It would paint us as “neo-Nazis”, as if the original Nazis weren’t bad enough… I sincerely doubt most religious people care how “new” or “old” atheists are, and I sincerely doubt atheists are doing any damage to science by being severely critical of the severe faults of religion.
2. “Darwinism” is not the correct nomenclature — in your mind does this word mean something different than “evolution”?
3. There is absolutely no reason to say “violently anti-religion”. You do violence (metaphorically, of course) to the English language by characterizing your opponents like this. This is plain dishonesty.
4. No one is proposing we teach “God does not exist” in science classes. How about we just leave it at this: “There is no evidence ‘God’ is a natural being that can be empirically studied.” If there is evidence, perhaps someday the kiddies will get taught about it.
5. The ontological argument is such a JOKE. If you intend to refute Dawkins’ arguments, you’ll have to do better than anthropomorphizing a comically-fallacious argument by saying you “felt sorry for it”, and proceed to not refute Dawkins. (Unless, that is, you thought your imaginary refutation was so perfect, that simply by imagining it and providing no evidence for it, it would magically become a perfect argument that actually existed, or else it would be less-than-perfect for lack of existence.)
This article is a disaster.



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expat8

posted August 16, 2009 at 5:03 pm


I am not a christian nor an atheist. I have never been satisfied with the Darwinian explanation since the first time I was introduced to it along with early reading books, but I have no problem with those who feel that the world is essentially a large chemical machine. Certainly this is how most view it these days. Even many theists (including Christian and including fundamentalists of that ilk) regard the world as some sort of ‘objective’ matter-based thing or situation, with God being something separate and above, operating from a different level. The quantum crowd have proven far more famous than influential I fear.
I find the debate tedious and circular in that there is no such thing, really, as totally objective fact/truth that is not laced with a priori assumptions. Somebody wrote above, for example, that there is little scientific evidence for Bigfoot. Actually, there is quite a lot, including tribes living today who frequently meet with them around the camp fire. But how do you prove that or prove the photos? All can be faked. The point is not to argue about Bigfoot, simply that any schoolteacher saying that it is a fact that there is no evidence for Bigfoot is just voicing an opinion that it is a fact, no more no less. Belief in God is an opinion; atheistic view is an opinion.
More importantly, but not at all unrelated, I think the disallowing religion in schools has been an unmitigated disaster. I would much rather see many more and smaller schools organised around religion – in those communities for whom religion matters. Why should not a small, mainly Christian town have mainly Christian schools? It would create a much more dynamic, and intelligently so, Christian culture and community. Those who don’t like it can leave, it’s a big county/State/country. Similarly communities that want to cluster around other religions, or atheism, or science, or farming skills, or laisser faire, why should they not do so?
This forced separation of religion from the public sphere is perhaps understandable in terms of political governance given that we are a multi-ethnic society, but is a huge mistake, a form of liberal tyranny if you will, when imposed on local communities. Similarly, those communities who wish to teach that Darwinianism is a flawed, mechanistic theory unsubstantiated by evidence and mainly motivated by socialistic, anti-religious bigotry should feel free to do so. It’s just an opinion, after all, no more or less valid than the ones their opponents are so fond of.
In short: I’m for the Fourth Amendment in the Schools and for local communities running themselves and their education and other cultural institutions however they want to, even if that includes politically incorrect positions. This would include local communities excluding gays, blacks, whites, females, males, old people, young people, cripples, body builders, millionaires, drunks, priests, clowns, lettuce, meat, junk food and so on! Why not? Let Freedom Ring!



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intepid

posted August 16, 2009 at 7:24 pm


“violently anti-religion”
Gee thanks guy, can you back that up? I mean, how many people have been beaten up by an atheist recently?
I can’t believe the way this sort of language gets thrown at the New Atheists, when all they do is talk, speak and write. They don’t intimidate, they don’t harass, they don’t stalk, and they don’t even hold demonstrations. And yet according to useful idiots like yourself they are aggressive/violent/militant.
You equate lack of respect to violence, and this is just not the case. It’s especially galling that you, a non-believer, would be offended by those who refuse to pay lip service to something which has delivered (at best) dubious benefits to humanity while exacting a very real cost.
“If we criticized gene theory with as little knowledge as Dawkins has of religion and philosophy” – ok, so if we all go read the Bible and do a theology course, then we’ll be qualified to point out that there is nothing to justify a belief in a supreme being, let alone giving a free pass to His earthly representatives to channel His will as they see fit? If there is no God, then how is someone without a background in theology wrong to point this out? If there is no God (or at least no evidence of one) then why enter into any debate about His intentions?
Please, stop railing against the New Atheists with your hateful, violent rhetoric. You are setting back the cause for appeasers everywhere.



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His Shadow

posted August 16, 2009 at 10:57 pm


Yeah, this is very tiring. The simple fact of the matter is that for the majority of Western civilization, there was never any “debate” about the existence of god. You either believed or didn’t but had to keep silent. If you expressed your skepticism of imaginary super friends dictating human behavior, you were denied rights, denied property, and denied life.
Now that it has become painfully clear that most religious traditions are tradition for traditions sake with no intrinsic value, we have to put up with a constant whine from theists who lament the good old days when they could request that authorities silence dissenters.
Turnabout is fair play. You believers are being asked to put up or shut up. You have ridiculed, attacked, condemned, persecuted and tortured non-believers when you had the power. Now you pen hysterical screeds bemoaning the lack of respect for your needless and moribund nonsense in an age where your ideas have to compete on merit without the backing of the sword and the torch.
Your ideas have been found wanting.



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Pierce R. Butler

posted August 16, 2009 at 11:20 pm


Jessica – Religion focuses primarily on the supernatural. … I think that Michael Ruse is pointing out that the new atheists are conflating the scientific with the philosophical…
And I think that Jessica is conflating the supernatural with the philosophical. That may be rather problematic with no few philosophers, even by the standards of Florida State.



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Aaron

posted August 17, 2009 at 12:08 am


I’m really with him on a lot of his sentiments. But where I disagree is in the second to last paragraph (the “most importantly” paragraph) where he makes the claim that teaching Darwinism (the “ism” in that word still makes me crinkle my nose) is teaching religion.
My understanding of his position is that teaching Evolution or Creationism are both questionable with respect to the First Amendment. He’s saying the teaching of Evolution is venturing into religious grounds (effectively saying that God doesn’t exist) and therefore qualifies as teaching of a religious nature. I don’t know if he’s trying to use that as the beginnings of the ‘bridge’ in the debate he’s trying to build, but my opinion is that he’s way off here. I don’t see how teaching Evolution teaches religion any more than teaching that the Sun burns Hydrogen teaches religion. If it is, then we might as well say that teaching that the Sun is the center of the solar system is also a religious teaching. Just because something we know to be true contradicts Christian scripture 1) doesn’t mean that it is itself a religious and 2) technically doesn’t disprove God, nor any other deity. It’s just what 21st century scientists feel has been validated so much that it’s fit to teach our young people.
He says: “Perhaps indeed teaching Darwinism is implicitly teaching atheism. This is the claim of the new atheists.” I don’t think this is the claim of the new, old, or any other kind of atheist. Again, I don’t think teaching Darwinism implicitly teaches atheism any more than teaching Geology implicitly teaches atheism. If we teach that the Grand Canyon was formed over millions of years, then by Ruse’s argument also says this is making some sort of religious statement since it clearly contradicts scripture in terms of the age of the Earth. Does the Geological record promote atheism? Of course it doesn’t. And neither does “Darwinism.” All it does is teach that the Bible and other holy texts are anything but authorities on science.



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Heretic_for_Christ

posted August 17, 2009 at 12:39 am


Sorry, but I am unimpressed with this essay. Let me pose a question:
Would it be fair to characterize all of Christendom on the basis of the acts and words hard-core fundamentalist dominionists? Would it be fair to characterize all of Islam on the basis of the words and acts of Al Qaeda and the Taliban?
No?
You say that these groups draw disproportionate attention to themselves but are not representative of what most Christians and Muslims are really like?
Okay–and maybe hard-core militant atheists are not representative of what most atheists are really like. Certainly, among the literally hundreds of atheists I have known, all say “I don’t believe in God” but few go on to add, “…and anyone who does believe in God is an irrational, credulous fool.”
And finally, what is the author talking about in contemptuously dismissing humanism as another religion? Portraying atheism as a religion has been a favorite ploy of religious apologists, but it is phony–some militant atheists may be guilty of the same type of arrogance as routinely characterizes some militant religious fundamentalists, but an arrogant attitude does not constitute a religion. Even so, humanism and atheism are unrelated concepts–humanists may or may not hold religious beliefs, and atheists may or may not hold humanist perspectives. So the classification of humanism as a religion is truly bizarre.
A university professor should display a higher level of thinking than is evident in this essay.



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Sara

posted August 17, 2009 at 1:42 am


Ian Braidwood says:
“By using violent language, you blur a crucial distinction between atheists and the religious: that we do not use violence or even coercion. We are civilised.”
Hey, Ian. Have you ever heard of an ideology called Marxism or read about any of the famous communist atheists in recent history like Stalin or Mao? Ever hear of Fidel Castro? How about the atheist Chinese communist party of today?
Ian, if you want to be a loud and proud atheist you have to let go of your religious mythology and zeal first. Atheists are famous for the use of violence and coercion in an effort to force others to accept their belief structure. In fact, more people have been murdered by athiests in the name of their zealous anti-religion cause in recent history than have been people murdered in the name of Christ. Sad but true, Ian.
You will be able to find one chapter of your murderous history documented in the Black book of communism. You will find that atheists have coerced and murdered hundreds of millions, Ian, just in the history of atheism of one book covering one atheist empire.
Ian, it is unwise for people in glass houses to be throwing rocks. So dismount that high horse you are riding before you fall off and hurt your illusionary superior self.



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Marina

posted August 17, 2009 at 2:16 am


Dear Prof. Ruse,
I agree with Ian Braidwood’s comments. You categorise yourself as ‘a very conservative non-believer’. You categorise yourself a lot in fact but always stay in the safe centre of arguments. I have waded through your article and my conclusion is just this: too many clever words. You believe in God or you don’t – that is what faith is all about. There will be many intellectuals debating and analysing, ad infinitum, for ‘sides’ – but the acceptance that we do not know and cannot control everything is based on faith alone. We can only continue to try to unravel the mysteries of nature – and this is the challenge we have on this earth – to keep on learning without harming, in any way, the natural order of things.



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PhysicistDave

posted August 17, 2009 at 2:32 am


Michael Ruse wrote:
>Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course.
That is a rather bluntly frank statement to make about an academic colleague!
But, since, you clearly want to pursue that sort of frank discussion, may I be equally frank?
As a scientist myself (Ph.D. in physics from Stanford), I would not consider it a negative if someone were too intelligent to pass your introductory class in philosophy.
To be quite frank, as a scientist, I have noticed that more than a few scientists consider the discipline of philosophy to have an intellectual standing only slightly higher than the disciplines of phrenology or astrology.
You and your colleagues have had well over two thousand years to establish your bona fides as a discipline able to produce truth or insight into the nature of reality.
You have failed.
I find you intellectually unimpressive.
Dave Miller in Sacramento



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Elijah A. "NatureBoy" Alexander, Jr.

posted August 17, 2009 at 8:26 am


My findings are theism disallows objective investigation of subjects because of the concept of good and evil associated with it. Atheism, when maintaining the belief in right an wrong, prohibits objective investigation. They both are using the military strategy of “divide and conquer”, so in having a divided mentality revelation is lost from the investigator.
Because I define religion as “a way of life which teaches on existence and how man came to be what we are today”, Darwin’s theory of evolution should e considered as much of a religion as ITD. If one is not permitted in public school’s classroom neither should the other.
Therefore, both the theist and atheist practices are disasters which cause me to agree with Michael Ruse’s conclusion.



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Daniel

posted August 17, 2009 at 9:17 am


Mr Ruse,
Thank you for your civility, thoughtfulness and charitableness. As a Christian I think you have exemplified a gracious and constructive form of dialogue. You disagree with Creationism and IDT, but have disagreed without demonizing. You do a service to the public dialogue on religion and science. Sadly many Christians and atheists (of the Dawkins-Hitchens-Dennett-Harris variety) figure screaming and personal attacks constitute thoughtful inquiry. My hope is that believers and non-believers will be able to emmualate your honest humility as we continue to have this debate that profoundly effects our education systems and society.



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Elijah A. "NatureBoy" Alexander, Jr.

posted August 17, 2009 at 9:55 am


My findings are theism disallows objective investigation of subjects because of the concept of good and evil associated with it. Atheism, when maintaining the belief in right an wrong, prohibits objective investigation. They both are using the military strategy of “divide and conquer”, so in having a divided mentality revelation is lost from the investigator.
Because I define religion as “a way of life which teaches on existence and how man came to be what we are today”, Darwin’s theory of evolution should e considered as much of a religion as ITD. If one is not permitted in public school’s classroom neither should the other.
Therefore, both the theist and atheist practices are disasters which cause me to agree with Michael Ruse’s conclusion.



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GFA

posted August 17, 2009 at 11:44 am


So Prof., The “new atheists” say that the theory of evolution is atheistic. You counter that because religion can’t be taught in schools, neither ID or ToE should be taught. Does it follow that any scientific discovery that shows religion is wanting can’t be taught because that would be religion? If so, you have just made religious dogma unassailable by the education system. Congratulations, I am sure the Templeton foudation have put another fat cheque in the post to you.
It has obviously escaped your attention that atheist is not a religion, just like not collecting stamps is not a hobby.
If science happens to show that religous knowledge is false – tough – it is just maybe because the atheist hypothesis that “Man created God” is correct.



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David Blackwell

posted August 17, 2009 at 12:30 pm


Talk of invective! Michael Ruse may have addressed these criticisms in his book, Science and Spirituality, though if so, how effectively may well be another question. Who’s claiming that the arguments against religious literalism and supernaturalism in The God Delusion, for example, are “new”? What’s new (and welcome for many of us as a contribution to critical thinking) is the publicity the book has engendered. Nowhere in his posted piece does Ruse back up his claim that religion and science don’t necessarily have to clash or provide a single example demonstrating where they don’t.
As for the accusation Ruse again serves up that the “new atheists” are theological illiterates, I can only say that having tried to read and make sense of theology over the decades, having been an active (but for some time now former) member of both very conservative and very liberal churches during that time, and having listened to (for example) exchanges between Dawkins and defendants of religion such as the Archbishop of Cantebury and the former Bishop of Oxford (neither surely theological illiterates), I can only heartily concur with one of Ruse’s targets, the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, when the latter states:
“I myself have looked over large piles of recent religious thought in the last few years in the course of researching my own book on these topics, and I have found almost all of it to be so dreadful that ignoring it entirely seemed both the most charitable and most constructive policy” (In a letter to The New York Review of Books, March 1, 2007, p.49)
And while I’m at it, I think it’s quite fair to ask how much of a theologian (or philosopher) the “new atheist” target, Francis Collins, is?
All of the above said, in one thing Ruse is right, however: name-calling and abusive language by either side tend to turn people off, and in that respect not help the cause for which those who employ such tactics claim to stand.



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Lynn

posted August 17, 2009 at 1:40 pm


As a person who does believe in a higher power yet does not follow any of the major 3 religions I find the verbally violent attacks I receive are more from those who do not believe in any form of higher power than those who are religious fanatics. I am constantly told I am “stupid” for believing and am “brainwashed” for believing.
I am a well read person who has done many years of personal research and study. My spiritual path is mine and mine alone. Yet those who call themselves atheists feel the need to thump into my head why I should NOT believe as strongly as those who used to try and thump in my head why I had to believe as they did.
Neither side screaming at me is going to make me change my mind nor inspire me to listen. Whether either side believes what they do out of fear or past experiences or whatever I find a calm discussion goes much farther than a shouting match where both sides are screaming and calling each other names.
Those atheists who shout at me that I have no proof that any form of higher power exists can also not prove it does not. When asked why I believe my answer is a calm “I just do”. My reasons why will not change a militant atheist’s mind so I don’t even try. Yet they find they have to try to break my will and make me confess I don’t have a reason why and therefore conclude I have a weak will and have been brainwashed and that I am the enemy. At that point any discussion is completely a waste of time.
I also believe that man’s desire to understand is both in science and belief in a higher power. Science has answered the questions of many so called “miracles” and continues to do so. I find that wonderful and fascinating and support the sciences completely. I hope one day that science CAN find proof one way or the other but do not believe it to be in my lifetime. But until then, each question science answers produces 10 more wonderful questions that spur the mind and inflame the desire to search for those answers. And that is the miracle of science and man. The belief in something MORE. Whether it is science answering those questions or the personal search for more spiritually.
There are extremists on both sides and those extremist keep the fuel going on the fires of the debate ensuring that those flames of anger never die. There is a middle ground yet neither side wants to come to the middle to talk. To back down even a little is considered defeat. That mind set more than any other is what will ensure no progress. And that is a sad stalemate.



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G

posted August 17, 2009 at 1:58 pm


I thought Quaker was oatmeal. Everyone has to believe in something no matter how you were brought up. It’s good vs. evil. Are you good or are you evil. Think real hard about that question and your answers will be revealed. It’s simple, don’t make things so hard… geez.



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Former Canadian Health Care Worker a.k.a. Christoph

posted August 17, 2009 at 2:10 pm


You’re dumb.
The Canadian health care system isn’t better. Look at cancer survival rates, waiting lists, doctor availability, etc.



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David Cook

posted August 17, 2009 at 2:10 pm


A church friend tipped me off to this piece by Michael Ruse because he and I both agree with Ruse on the “bloody disaster” that constitutes the “new atheists” unmitigated attack on religion in general and the accompanying “belief in God” that goes with most religions. I find the absolutism and certainty about the evil of religion and the utter stupidity of a “belief in God” on the part of the atheists to be a mirror image of the absolutism and certainty of many “believers” from just about all the world’s great religions. In the manner of Michael Ruse, I have a theory that only a reasonably serious personal brush with “religious belief” and an “encounter with God” at some level and at some point in life (as for Ruse was his engagement with Quakers), makes a charitable critique of religion possible. The new atheists are both religiously and theologically ignorant because they cannot think outside the box of reason and empiricism. Theology/religion/sacred scriptures, etc. exist in the realm of poetry, story, imagination, and mythos, employing a different language and different pathway to “truth” and “meaning”. Science employs the language of logos, reason, rationality, empirical verification, etc. The one source of “truth” does not obviate or displace the other. Both ways of approximating (none offer certainty) “reality” are legitimate and both ways are important to the fullest kind of existence. When you place your entire understanding of existence in one camp to the exclusion of the other you have no sensible argument to make from your one side against the other. My faith would be nothing without the doubts and uncertainty that lie at the heart of my religious understanding. Would there were doubts and uncertainty at the heart of the way the new atheists understand life, they wouldn’t be so quick to dump all of religion in the dustbin of rejected hypotheses.



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Don L

posted August 17, 2009 at 2:12 pm


Nothing is more foolish than those who consider themselves to be intellectuals who don’t believe God exists, only to then spend the rest of their live fighting Him.



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Scott W. Somerville

posted August 17, 2009 at 2:34 pm


Thank you, Michael, for these words. May God give you courage and grace as you try to be a sane and humane person in the middle of this debate. Although I’m on the other side of the fence, theologically, you’ve set me an example of civility that will take a lot of effort to live up to.



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Gregory

posted August 17, 2009 at 2:36 pm


Hi GFA!
Your stamp collecting example does not withstand scrutiny. Atheists are not merely “not stamp collecting” they are denying the existence of all stamps and often proclaiming the intellectual failings of anyone who does. The frequent insistence that a “there are no stamps” sign be placed side by side with every “stamps love you” sign shows that while atheists do not think of themselves as a religion they want to be placed along side religions and accorded the same attention and respect that religions obtain. In essence saying “we are not a religion we just want to be treated like one”.
There is an interesting legal issue Japan whereby companies tried hiring contract labor rather than full time employees in order to avoid the requirements of an employer/employee relationship placed on employers by their government. As a response the government has adopted the position that if a contractor is expected to show up and work at the same facility as employees, and is given equipment simmilar to employees then that contractor is an employee in the eyes of the law and entitled to the full suite of employee entitlements.
Seen through this lense, atheism is indeed a religion. A diety free objective and materialistic religion to be sure but a religion none the less.
-G



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JR

posted August 17, 2009 at 2:38 pm


In my now fifty-fifth year, I’ve all but given up on caring what other people say they believe, having concluded that what matters is one’s behavior. I don’t care if someone is has the invisible world (god, etc.) figured out or refuses its existance (aethist, etc.), as long as they exhibit good manners and behave in a civil manner.
At the statistical extremes, organized world views predict behavior — such as the Taliban beheadding school girls for going to school, or socialist aethists stealing private property — reason enough to listen to the debates and watch the majorities in the public square.
My complaint with the present crop of aethists is they offer nothing to replace the gods they deny. Okay — so there’s no god. What do you offer the person who did not steal or kill you because, until you destroyed the belief, the persons restraining faith in God? In other words, leave someone better than you found them, or leave them alone.
Cheers.



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Scot

posted August 17, 2009 at 2:41 pm


You were gaining my respect for your intellect and understanding until this: : “For myself, I would like America to have a health care system like Canada – government run, compulsory, universal. It is cheaper and better.”
You just lost all credibility as an intellectual person that base opinion on fact. You make that claim on the same day that Canada’s top doctors meet to discuss the utter failure of the Govt run Canadian health care and weigh the need for a return to privatization! Not very smart to do. Not to mention the surveys showing that it is highly unpopular by the citizens. Who was it that said the best thing about Canadian health care was Michigan? Does it matter who said it when it seems to be true?
I just hope you put more time and research into your atheist/Darwinian views than you do your political health care ones.



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styrgwillidar

posted August 17, 2009 at 2:49 pm


I’m religious but accept the goal of science- pursuing an understanding of how our world/universe works. One of the things that differentiates man from the other animals, in my opinion, is the desire to acquire knowledge. To know the why behind things, to increase our understanding. To pursue truth. I think that desire is also a drive to understand our Creator better by understanding and appreciating his creation. It is also interesting to me that man applies that increased knowledge to improve the condition of others. To do that we have to accept what can be demonstrated to be true about reality. If reality contradicts my religion, my religion is wrong.
We also have a desire to be right. To be correct. Be it science or religion the most vicious arguments boil down to forcing the other side to admit they’re wrong vice understanding the differences and basis, or admit that neither side has enough information to prove their position. (Man Caused Global Warming/Life After Death)
Evolution versus creationism. Based on the scientific evidence, I will accept evolution as a mechanism that God has designed into the world vice evidence he doesn’t exist. I accept it as further evidence that the Bible (or the Holy book of your choice) are not to be taken literally, but must be interpreted- The problem between religions is who has the authority to properly interpret them.
Scientists of faith, must admit that God’s existence can not be definitively proven so lack of belief is completely logical and reasonable. For a scientist who is an atheist, he has to admit that God’s existence can not be disproven. He can not prove that such a belief is wrong. God’s existence is irrelevant to examining how the world works. So, both must focus on working within the physical reality to improve understanding of how the physical world works and confine their arguments to what the data shows about this reality. Just as they must accept the data contradicting their theory or hypothesis about reality, they must accept the limitations on how it applies to the existence of a deity. For the religious, this may lead them to conclusion as to whether a particular religion’s teaching is incompatible with the evidence, but it won’t disprove God. For the atheist, it may even show them intricacies that seem contradictory to random devolpments, but that still doesn’t prove God.



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David

posted August 17, 2009 at 3:02 pm


Dear Mr. Ruse,
Thank you so much for your thoughtful, clear and intelligent writing. I am an orthodox Jew, and I am always interested in hearing various points of view, so long as they are respectful. Your writing is not only respectful and polite, but also thought provoking. It seems to me that you are a fearless truth-seeker, and I just wanted to cheer you on with this little message of encouragement.
We may disagree on various issues, but I applaud your fight to improve this big debate’s overall tone! Kudos to you. May we live to see the day when these important issues can be discussed by all, in depth, with a civil tone.
Warm regards,
David



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Victor

posted August 17, 2009 at 3:09 pm


Honestly, I do not think New Atheism is so much about getting people to stop believing in God as it is about giving a bunch of insecure intellectuals a venue in which to feel superior to society at large.



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Paul Graves

posted August 17, 2009 at 3:31 pm


To the first poster, I’d like to say, as a Canadian, that I love our health-care system, and I do not, personally, know a single person who would want to privatize.
To the author, thank you for writing this. This “new athiesm” has gotten out of control; what surprises me the most is the dogmatic, unthinking fervor of its adherents.
By the way, there’s a typo in there. You write, “non-stop blogger P. Z. Myers has referred to BE as a ‘clueless gobshite’.”



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anti_supernaturalist

posted August 17, 2009 at 3:33 pm


Natura naturans: atheists restore to nature its “innocence”
The de-deification of western culture (including the sciences) is our task for the next 100 years.
1. we free culture from the dead hand of near eastern mythological speculation
A mishmash of near eastern magical texts makes spurious claims of being god-given. Their nihilistic dualism and androcentric understanding of the universe and of human nature are too damaging to contribute to a humane planet-wide ethos.
2. we free culture from a death impulse characterized by “sin” and “guilt”
The universe evinces neither affect, nor morality, nor intellect. Neither physical nature nor human nature say anything about a superordinate, supernatural realm populated by creators or law givers.
Nature is silent. There is no concept of truth in nature. Indeed, there are no concepts whatsoever in nature. Nature knows nothing. Natura naturans. Nature acts.
Nature is neither meaningful nor meaningless. Neither a source of comfort (natural theology) nor a source of despair (existentialism). Both are rooted in the same mistaken presupposition that supernatural meaning can be found by searching “the starry heavens” for gods or by quarrying human inwardness for moral laws.
3. we show that religion is a pointless cultural artifact
Instead, religions belong to cultures embedded in nature. And cultures are our distinctive human-all-too-human handiwork. Religions are obsolete, replaceable cultural artifacts.
Any specific religion reenacts and institutionalizes cultic myth. It gets spread through recruitment, custom and conquest — financially supported by tax code and state funding — enforced by indoctrination, intimidation and violence.
Xian mythology, like related big-4 monotheisms zoroastrianism, post-exilic judaism, and islam, posits a moralized universal order which never existed. No more can be found in “the starry heavens” than the ancestors put there. (Theology is fifth-rate fan fiction.)
5. alleged god-given morality is rooted in ancient imperial propaganda
Some pseudo-meaning derives ultimately from Sargon I’s (2334-2279 BCE) imperial propaganda when the very first violent yoking together of disparate Sumerian city-state cultures occurred in what is now Iraq. Sargon I appears on a low relief sculpture as a god receiving a legal and moral code directly from a greater god enthroned above him.
In what may be the first myth of divine origin of royalty and morality turns out to be ancient political spin. Still works today, doesn’t it?
6. we present a “way” of knowing superior to world hating monster-theisms
Adjust your understanding, adjust your expectations, and you will have a right relationship with the only total reality there is, natura naturans. Nature naturing — without any gods’ assistance.
the anti-supernaturalist



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John Lodge

posted August 17, 2009 at 3:33 pm


I agree with Victor. Adding to his thoughts: I have yet to meet a truly humble atheist. Granted, I have met my fair share of Christians who have possessed a “superiority complex”–but in my experience, they are few and far-between.
I find it unfathombable in this day and age that folks still believe that all the order and reason in the universe came from ex nihilo on its own. Such a presupposition defies logic. Yet Christians are considered the “unenlightened” ones. Pshaw.



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ramblinrose

posted August 17, 2009 at 3:33 pm


ouch! 5 paragraphs before you make your point? way tooo wooorddddyyyy!!!! Unfortunately, I don’t think you offer any “new” thought on what you term are the “new” atheists. I’m bored with both atheists and people of religion. None of you offer any new arguments or thought processes. Just the same old vile “need to prove” or “need to believe” behavioral pattern proving disastrous for either “side”…its kind of like a wicked joke…or rather two schools of thought/children that would rather argue than see how truly similar they really are. “Let me prove to you there is something/one to believe in” vs. “Let me prove to you there is nothing/no one to believe in” is best a worn out argument and at worst redundant. A well worn coin with one side telling the other it is invalid. One need not have religion to have values, morals or ethics! I agree with JR…but more importantly disagree with the thought that all that matters is behavior. While behavior is vitally important for me I do think one should also recognize that regardless of our interpretation of our “reality” or of whether there is a God or not…we are experiencing LIFE. Explanation or no that is a profound experience. Talk all you want…no explanations needed either way for this girl. Living is enough! Behavior indicates what is in the heart and what people really think and who they really are but all of this talk of God does/doesn’t exist is not relevant (irrelevant isn’t a word by the way bad grammar) what is truly relevant is how good we make our “life experience” excellent, and happy. I’d imagine that talking about “it” too much would ruin the experience. By the time you’ve inspected the butterfly of life and pinned it to the matted display board of known and verifiable results and answers it no longer flies, one has killed the butterfly dead…it no longer carries pollen from plant to plant, no cocoon for next year…all this talk kills the butterfly of experience and answers not one question and doesn’t read as much fun learned nothing here. soap box off



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John Lodge

posted August 17, 2009 at 3:34 pm


btw, that should be “unfathomable”–I don’t want members of the Richard Dawkins fan club to crucify me in backhanded fashion for my egregious typographical error.



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Fearsome Comrade

posted August 17, 2009 at 3:57 pm


I see that all the “new atheists” in the comments are so angry that they’ve been portrayed as rude and angry that they’ve gone off and left a bunch of rude, angry comments.
Good job, guys…I think you’ve proved his point well enough in your own words.



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justin

posted August 17, 2009 at 4:29 pm


A kindred spirit!
I will never understand why it has been accepted by both parties that science and religion are opposed.
Thank you for summing up my beliefs better than I could possibly do as a graduate student of computer science who can barely put two words together without a grammatical error.
I too have been calling myself an agnostic. I will not be associated with the “atheists”, and am also very conservative.
I hope you continue to be vocal.



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D'oh!

posted August 17, 2009 at 4:33 pm


“For myself, I would like America to have a healthcare system like Canada – government run, compulsory, universal. It is cheaper and better.”
That’s it, make a long, passionate argument ‘beseeching in the Bowels of Christ’ for the Neo-Atheists not to weaken their case by exposing their ignorance of matters about which they are not experts, then go right ahead and do it yourself.
When Darwinists, such as yourself, argue that religious people are (pick you own term, you seem sensitive about this) because they believe – in the absence of hard evidence -that God created the universe, you immediately hoist yourself on your own petard.
You believe that everything in the universe was created out of nothing and has always existed even when it didn’t. (Not my beliefs, remember, your beliefs – although I doubt very seriously that, like me, you have a workaday understanding of exactly what it is that real scientists – as opposed to ‘Neo-Atheists’ – actually believe about the origin of the universe).
So, religious people believe that God created the universe, and people like you believe that nothing created the universe. Yes, B E L I E V E.



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justin

posted August 17, 2009 at 4:34 pm


Thank you for placing my beliefs in a far more eloquent form than I ever could.
I too call myself an agnostic. I will not be associated with the “atheists”.
I will never understand why both sides accepted the fallacy that science and religion are opposed.
I also have a great deal of respect for Christian thought, and am also conservative.
I hope you continue to be vocal. It’s time to stand up to the Dawkins crowd giving the rest of us a bad name.



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jt

posted August 17, 2009 at 4:34 pm


i am only 15 years old but i have many more things to say about my own faith than most full grown adults. i agree with you on some of the things that you mentioned before like how teaching a sort of pseudo-atheism is practically teaching religion. But i thing that i would like to add to the, i guess criticism, of new atheism, is that it can be proved by scientific means that a god does exist. For instance, the 2nd law of thermodynamics states that everything tends to disorder. Yet this universe seems so finely tuned in so many different ways that makes life even possible, is amazing. A small list of these things include distance from the nearest star, amount of certain elements, like fluorine (or fluoride, cant remember which) that is found mainly in white dwarves. Another thing that needs to be ‘fine tuned’ is electron to atom ratio, which needs to be in a very small ratio to work. There’s a fairly large list of things, which I cant remember where it is. Anyway, all me what you will, but I just felt like adding this in.



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styrgwillidar

posted August 17, 2009 at 5:36 pm


JT,
You are making the mistake of assuming God is the only possible reason for complexity. You reason that God created things in specific ratios to make specific things happen. A scientist can only say that specific things happen because specific ratios exist. The ratios existence can be shown to be the causation or requirement for specific things to happen. But coincidence is as likely an explanation for things to exist at certain ratios as God designing them that way. I believe in God, but I understand that existence in and of itself is not proof of a deity.
More interesting is that we see the universe as being driven by cause and effect. Our reasoning has led to various theories for existence, for example the ‘big-bang’. However, if the universe is driven by cause and effect, what caused the ‘big-bang? Again, at some point, if we are correct in thinking everything has to have a cause we run into the problem of a first cause. Perhaps we are wrong, perhaps at some point cause and effect was not required. Maybe, like Newton’s laws only explained motion under limited circumstances- we don’t have a full knowledge of thermodynamics, that at the universal level more factors come into play. Or, perhaps the universe is cyclical- big-bang, expansion, contraction, big-bang, expansion, contraction…. eternally. Or, is there a level of existence independent of our universe? A level where cause/effect, time do not apply- where literally there is no beginning and no end but somehow caused our universe to exist?
Bottom line- as much as the New Atheist point us back to the path of acknowledging reality and showing where religions are leading folks away from real truth, they are doing a good thing. If there is a God,
nothing in truth can harm or disprove His existence and we can not be afraid or resistant to the pursuit of truth and knowledge.



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PhysicistDave

posted August 17, 2009 at 5:40 pm


JR wrote:
>My complaint with the present crop of aethists is they offer nothing to replace the gods they deny. Okay — so there’s no god. What do you offer the person who did not steal or kill you because, until you destroyed the belief, the persons restraining faith in God?
Nothing, JR. We offer absolutely nothing.
A meaningless universe, devoid of meaning, purpose, or comfort.
That is one of the things I truly love about science and one of the central reasons I became a scientist many decades ago: I truly love the idea of stripping my fellow human beings of all the false comforts that give their lives false hope and false meaning.
I am not a Christian, JR. I do not have Christian values.
John Lodge wrote:
>I have yet to meet a truly humble atheist.
Thank you for the compliment. False humility is not a virtue. We do not share Christian values.
John Lodge also wrote:
>I find it unfathombable in this day and age that folks still believe that all the order and reason in the universe came from ex nihilo on its own. Such a presupposition defies logic. Yet Christians are considered the “unenlightened” ones. Pshaw.
Learn about modern cosmology, John – i.e., “inflationary cosmology” due to Alan Guth et al.
You are decades behind the times in what you think scientists believe about the ultimate origin (or lack thereof) of the universe.
jt wrote:
>i am only 15 years old but i have many more things to say about my own faith than most full grown adults.
[snip]
>For instance, the 2nd law of thermodynamics states that everything tends to disorder. Yet this universe seems so finely tuned in so many different ways that makes life even possible, is amazing. A small list of these things include distance from the nearest star, amount of certain elements, like fluorine (or fluoride, cant remember which) that is found mainly in white dwarves. Another thing that needs to be ‘fine tuned’ is electron to atom ratio, which needs to be in a very small ratio to work.
Perhaps, jt, if you wait until you acquire an *adult* knowledge of science, you can avoid saying foolish things about science.
Dave Miller in Sacramento



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Elijah A. "NatureBoy" Alexander, Jr.

posted August 17, 2009 at 5:53 pm


My findings are theism disallows objective investigation of subjects because of the concept of good and evil associated with it. Atheism, when maintaining the belief in right an wrong, prohibits objective investigation. They both are using the military strategy of “divide and conquer”, so in having a divided mentality revelation is lost from the investigator.
Because I define religion as “a way of life which teaches on existence and how man came to be what we are today”, Darwin’s theory of evolution should e considered as much of a religion as ITD. If one is not permitted in public school’s classroom neither should the other.
Therefore, both the theist and atheist practices are disasters which cause me to agree with Michael Ruse’s conclusion.



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PhysicistDave

posted August 17, 2009 at 7:38 pm


styrgwillidar wrote:
>If there is a God, nothing in truth can harm or disprove His existence and we can not be afraid or resistant to the pursuit of truth and knowledge.
Excellent point.
I am a scientist and a militantly outspoken “New Atheist,” but I will cheerfully admit that I might be wrong
What I will not concede is that I should simply shut up and not explain publicly why I think religious believers are horribly mistaken. Ruse is as wrong to urge us “New Atheists” to be quiet as he would be to urge Christian fundamentalists to be quiet.
I think Christian fundamentalists are tragically mistaken, but I frankly like most fundamentalist I know personally quite a lot, and I certainly would not urge them to refrain from presenting their views in public. (I also find that the average Christian American understands more about the economics of health care than does Prof. Ruse.)
People should speak up freely and openly.
And, if I am wrong about God, I am confident that He is a Big Enough Man to accept my error with equanimity, unlike Prof. Ruse.
Dave Miller in Sacramento



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Daniela

posted August 17, 2009 at 9:22 pm


This is a wonderful post. I think that ultimate peace on Earth would could be attained the moment religious and irreligious people learned to mind their own business. Sadly, with the evangelists and New Atheists, this is only a distant dream.



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styrgwillidar

posted August 18, 2009 at 12:29 am


Dave,
Thanks. Although religious I have to concede that the existence of God is not a provable point. A discussion of why God would have the universe work that way is theology and not germane to this article.
The New Atheist movement does help to focus on what the goal of science is, explaining how the physical world works, furthering man’s knowledge. I don’t want anyone to be silenced. I want all sides heard and their points considered. You seem to have the same attitude that I do in one respect, we both are willing to admit we may be wrong since the basic issue of God’s existence is not provable either way.
As I stated in an earlier post, I think a lot of problems arise by those who have to be right. Folks who aren’t satisfied unless the other side concedes. Like you, I do not agree with the fundamentalists but don’t feel the compulsion to prove to them I am right/they’re wrong. I am willing to admit to both the New Atheists and fundamentalists that I could be wrong.



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J. Daniel Sawyer

posted August 18, 2009 at 7:51 am


Dr. Ruse has always been an eloquent science popularizer, but in the matter of public policy debate he seems to have very selective judgment. I must confess, despite my affection for his scientific books, I had a good deal of trouble finding more than a handful of facts in this article that weren’t either false, distorted, ignorant, or calumnious – so much so that I spent a quite a while composing a point-by-point rebuttal, only to discover it doesn’t fit here. Those of you interested in it can find it at http://www.jdsawyer.net.
As to the charge that the new atheists are seeking to promulgate religion (or irreligion) in schools, one need only read their work to see that this isn’t the case. The notion that teaching facts which contradict a given doctrine constitutes a violation of the First Amendment demonstrates either a facile rhetorical con trick or a terrible ignorance of American Constitutional Law and case law.
It’s always a sad thing to see an eloquent man stoop to the kind of groundless rhetorical grandstanding and hypocrisy we see on display in this article. Dr. Ruse, may your next foray into the battleground of ideas prove more reasoned!



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Paul Norris

posted August 18, 2009 at 9:30 am


I have to agree with PhysicistDave. I’m pretty damn sure there is no God. I’m also perfectly able to admit that I may be wrong. I’m also fairly positive that a deity capable of creating the universe/s will be pretty understanding of anyone who collates all the available data and concludes the truth is the non-existence of ‘God’
That I should be quiet and ignore all the bible bashers is just plain ridiculous.
BTW Styrgwilladar The big bang is a singularity occurring in a black hole in another universe IMHO.



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mempheel

posted August 18, 2009 at 1:09 pm


I think some of you are missing the Muse’s point, if not intentionally then quite obtusely. No one’s suggesting that the “new atheist” is wrong to attack “creationism” with appropriate vigor at every opportunity (as has the author for many years), just that the response should be grounded in the scientific method, e.g. limited to the realm of observable data and its implications. The theological & philosophical musings of profoundly underqualified (if occasionally witty) skeptics such as Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens do little to advance the cause of evolutionary materialism, and much to mobilize the faithful.
As a believer who finds the circumstantial scientific evidence for design (creation singularity, extreme improbability of abiogenesis, etc.) compelling, I find Muse’s defense of Francis Collins refreshing and brave. Would that those on my side of the debate maintain the same commitment to truth, and demonstration of grace.



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Todd I. Stark

posted August 18, 2009 at 2:33 pm


I appreciate this statement of Michael’s thoughts. There’s a real spirit of honest reflection and a certain amount of charity and disclosure here that I find very admirable.
I also think I share the lamentable perception that the work of Dawkins is as crude in its treatment of psychology and social and cognitive dynamics as it is sometimes brilliant on the biological relationships between living things.
However I do disagree with the perception of Dennett in particular as presenting poor argumentation, and I’d partiularly love to see a calm, reasoned conversation between Ruse and Dennett on their differences if that were possible, the way Dennett and Rorty once hashed things out in a very illuminating dialog.
Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell” does seem to avoid important nuances of the psychology of religion, but on the other hand it allows for the potential relevance of these nuances far more than Dawkins seems to do, which makes for a far more informed argument on they important points. He does see the issues as psychological and about meaning-making rather than simply about “dangerous fairy tales.” That’s not a minor difference in perspective to me.
When outstanding intellectuals and scientists like Ruse, Dennett, Dawkins, Collins, Hitchens, and so on are so unable to even find charity for the views of their fellow travellers in order to put bounds on their real differences and actually understand each other, how do we expect lesser mortals to think more deeply on the issues?
It’s great to stand for something consistent and worthwhile, but the differences between Ruse and Dennett for example on most substantive issues are so miniscule compared to those between evangelicals and biologists that it seems insane to me that they see themselves on opposite sides of a cultural divide.
These are our role models for scholarly virtues and deep thinking, they should try to get along and find solutions to their common problems (which are HUGE) instead of getting so caught up so much of the time in battering each other on the details and strategies.



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PhysicistDave

posted August 18, 2009 at 6:31 pm


styrgwillidar wrote to me:
>You seem to have the same attitude that I do in one respect, we both are willing to admit we may be wrong since the basic issue of God’s existence is not provable either way.
Well… it might end up being provable one way or the other, you know.
I think we can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the God of the most literal fundamentalists (the God who created everything in six literal 24-hour days) does not exist, for example.
I have a similar view of the ancient Olympian Gods, of the God of the New Testament who literally brought about a Virgin Birth, Resurrection, etc.
And Dawkins does offer a serious argument that no God can exist who was not created by something else. That argument is not totally convincing, of course, as Dawkins himself realizes, but it does raise some interesting questions.
So, I’m not sure that the existence or non-existence of God is, in the end, unprovable.
It has not been proven yet, of course.
Incidentally, almost all “atheists” concede this (and then we are told that we are mislabeling ourselves and should call ourselves “agnostics” and it degenerates into a silly word game).
What Mike Ruse, and many of the commenters here, are debating is whether atheists, fundamentalist, etc. should speak loudly, openly, and contentiously in the public square about what we think we do know or whether we should just have the good grace to shut up.
On that issue, I am for everyone – atheists and fundamentalists alike – speaking up openly and freely.
I think one misconception that Ruse and others may have is that the loud debates between atheists and fundamentalists mean that we all hate each other. We don’t. We vehemently disagree. That is not hate, and everyone should recognize that distinction. Vigorous, open, and contentious debate can coexist with personal respect and even fondness.
All the best,
Dave



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Carlo

posted August 18, 2009 at 8:25 pm


PhysicistDave:
I think the point Ruse is making is that even the most vigorous debate requires that each side takes the other side seriously and makes a bona fide effort at understanding the thought process of those he wants to talk to.
Dawkins, for instance is so obviously ignorant about Christianity, that there is not much to debate. My only reaction on reading his work is: “Sir, your notion of God is so stupid, I must congratulate you for not believing in it. I do not believe in it either, so we are in full agreement. End of debate.” I cannot asy the same to Michael Ruse, who obviously knows what he is talking about.



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David

posted August 18, 2009 at 11:06 pm


Mr. Ruse mentioned, “The First Amendment does not ban the teaching of bad science in publicly funded schools. It bans the teaching of religion. ”
Mr. Ruse is wrong, however, in suggesting that the First amendment bans the teaching of religion in publicly funded schools. It restricts the Congress from establishing a religion. In fact, those same men who passed that legislation passed the Northwest Ordinance both under the Articles of Confederation and immediately after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Thus, they clearly disagreed with Mr. Ruse’s wrong interpretation. The Ordinance clearly states in Article 3:
“Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
Peace



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PhysicistDave

posted August 18, 2009 at 11:15 pm


Carlo wrote to me:
>Dawkins, for instance is so obviously ignorant about Christianity, that there is not much to debate. My only reaction on reading his work is: “Sir, your notion of God is so stupid, I must congratulate you for not believing in it. I do not believe in it either, so we are in full agreement. End of debate.” I cannot asy the same to Michael Ruse, who obviously knows what he is talking about.
Well… actually, Carlo, I attended a Christian church for nearly twenty years, and I have numerous friends, neighbors, and relatives who are active Christians of various denominations, and I talk with them about, and observe, their religious beliefs and behavior in great detail. I have supplemented those “field observations” with readings in numerous books by a wide variety of Christian thinkers, from St. Paul to Germain Grisez.
Based on my experience, I would say you have it exactly backwards: Dawkins has a very,very good understanding of Christianity as it is actually lived, and Michael Ruse is quite clueless.
Dave



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rick turner

posted August 18, 2009 at 11:17 pm


Why do so many of you uncritically accepet the precepts of evolution and Darwinism? What should I read to help me understand why it is so attractive?



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PhysicistDave

posted August 18, 2009 at 11:27 pm


I urge anyone here who wishes to establish the quality of Michael Ruse’s judgment to do a very simple experiment.
Mike says some very nice things about Duane T. Gish. He says some very insulting things about Richard Dawkins.
So, go get a copy of Gish’s brilliant classic, “Evolution! The Fossils Say NO!” and read it.
All the way through.
Cover to cover.
I did. You can too.
Then read any book by Richard Dawkins.
Then see if you respect Mike Ruse’s judgments about Gish and Dawkins.
A simple little experiment.
Try it.
Dave



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PhysicistDave

posted August 18, 2009 at 11:44 pm


rick turner wrote:
>Why do so many of you uncritically accepet the precepts of evolution and Darwinism?
Rick, we are not being “uncritical”: some of us are actually scientists who really know this stuff (my wife and I both have Ph.D.s from Stanford).
I myself, for example, have actually analyzed raw data on radioactive isotope decay from geological samples (used to show the chronology in Genesis is false) and raw data on evolutionary changes in protein sequences (helping my wife, who is a biologist).
You also wrote:
>What should I read to help me understand why it is so attractive?
It is attractive because it has been shown to be true, more certainly than that the earth moves around the sun. (Anyone who doubts this: please, what evidence do we have that the earth moves around the sun? Very few Americans know.)
As to books, there is a very elementary, but good, book, “Evolution,” written for kids by Irving Adler. A good adult book is Ridley’s “The Problems of Evolution.” You might try Kitcher’s “Abusing Science.” And there are numerous university level texts by, e.g., Futuyma and many others that you can find in any decent university library.
But science is *hard*. Do not anticipate that reading any of these books will be like reading “Harry Potter.”
If you are unwilling to work very hard at understanding this stuff, well, just don’t bother.
Dave



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Daniel Cabral

posted August 19, 2009 at 12:02 am


I like Dawkins so much, that I am always interested in criticism about his work, just so I can detach my thoughs from him. I am open toany other perspectives about the religion problem to help me form my own ideas about it.
I was very open minded about this text, but by the end I was quite deceived. There’s no argument in it, only very careful and polliticaly correct mild opinions about the subject.
The only argument I found in it is fallacious. When the author says that “If teaching ‘God exists’ is teaching religion – and it is – then why is teaching ‘God does not exist’ not teaching religion?”
Well. If teaching kids to fight and appreciate war is an evil way to indoctrinate them – and it is – then why is teaching respect, peace and free will not an evil doctrine? Well, because they are not equally valuable.
The argument of the author implicity says that “god exists” and “god doesn’t exist” are equivalent. The problem here is that the first idea needs to be proved, the second is far more plausible and science-friendly. Hence, they are NOT equal.
Also, not only ONE atheist that I know (famous ones included) has ever said that kids should be taught that god DOESN’T exist. They simply shouldn’t be taught that it EXISTS. Science, logic, ethics and free will should do the rest.
I will look for some more writings by this guy, to see if he has anything interesting to say. Because his arguments and ideas here are totally LAME.



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Your Name

posted August 19, 2009 at 12:19 am


Dave, you seem to be taking Ruse’s emarks against Dawkins very personally. I hope that your beliefs (or the lack of beliefs as you likely prefer) are not dependent upon Dawkins’ respectability. Posting two criticisms just seems a bit over-the-top.
Why is it that Dawkins refuses to debate Dr. William Lane Craig who is a real philosopher? Could it be that he doesn’t want everyone to know that the emperor has no clothes?
Ruse isn’t the only atheist who takes issue with Dawkins & co.



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Your Name

posted August 19, 2009 at 1:40 am


PhysicistDave, The thing about an all powerful deity is that He pretty much can do as He likes. I may trust and hope He’s understanding but I might just catch him on a bad day. His creation, his rules and I don’t think he cares much whether I like them ;) But how can pursuing truth be wrong? As to the Bible- no denomination takes it literally. Every denomination- including fundamentalists- take some parts literally and some as symbolic/allegorical. Heck, Luther dropped a few books and added a few words. Who has the authority to declare what constitutes scripture in the first place? Always fun to get a Christian explaining why their particular interpretation is correct. Sorry, I’ve strayed off topic a bit.. I agree that for a society to be open, and for us to progress, we all have to be willing to speak up giving reasoned arguments and be willing to listen to and consider other points of view. My thinking differs from Ruse in that I define science as simply concerning itself with what can be demonstrated and proven about the way this world works. That doesn’t need a God, and even as a religious person, God can get in the way because it’s too easy to point to him as an explanation vice using the brains He gave us to look at the world and understand it. Without the pursuit of knowledge, we’ld be sitting in trees somewhere foraging for food or evading predators vice typing on computers to each other in unknown regions of the world. Perhaps He wants us to get off our keisters and help ourselves? So, I don’t have a problem with the New Atheist boldly proclaiming what they not only believe to be true, but can back up with evidence. I don’t agree with Dawkins that God is a delusion. I do agree that we exist in a universe which operates governed by rules which can be determined and that do not require the constant intervention of a deity. I agree with the New Atheists that if the body of evidence shows that evolution is a real phenomena, it should be accepted. Schools should not teach as science that which can not be proven using scientific methods. At best, creationism is a weak hypothesis… As to proving there is a God, if He exists and wanted us to know that to a certainty He would simply reveal himself. Ergo, there is a reason for uncertainty… but again that’s theology and this is about the value of pursuing science.



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PhysicistDave

posted August 19, 2009 at 2:19 am


“Your Name” wrote to me:
> Posting two criticisms just seems a bit over-the-top.
I’ve responded to points raised by various different posters here. That is not “over the top.” It is courtesy. Stop being silly.
You also wrote:
> Why is it that Dawkins refuses to debate Dr. William Lane Craig who is a real philosopher? Could it be that he doesn’t want everyone to know that the emperor has no clothes?
Dawkins has been very clear and very explicit about this.
He has stated quite clearly that he has found through rueful experience that debating with con artists, liars, and frauds only gives them credibility they do not deserve.
Initially, as a scientist myself, I disagreed publicly with him on this. But, my own experience dealing with such people over the last five years has convinced me that he is right.
Let me put this bluntly: Dawkins and I and other scientists have something very valuable – we actually know beyond rational doubt some incredibly fascinating, incredibly useful things about how reality works.
In the normal course of events, we are paid rather good money for sharing this information with others or for using that information for practical purposes. For example, I not only have published papers in theoretical physics; I also hold several patents in the fields of computers and communication systems.
On occasion, out of the goodness of our hearts, we are willing to give some of that valuable information away for free – on the Web, in personal appearances, etc.
But we have decided we will not do so to people who treat us with contempt, who claim that we are wrong even though they are utterly ignorant of science, etc.
I think that is a very sensible decision for us to make: generosity is one thing, but we really are not obligated to subject ourselves to personal abuse from foolish, rude, and uneducated people.
No doubt that perspective does not meet Christian standards of humility, but, then, we are not Christians. And, I do recall a Christian saying about “casting pearls before swine.”
As to Craig being a “real philosopher,” I am afraid that I consider that a mark against him. I know there are some philosophers who are neither con artists nor fools, but I do not think they are in the majority.
Dave



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PhysicistDave

posted August 19, 2009 at 2:31 am


Some dude wrote to me:
>I don’t agree with Dawkins that God is a delusion.
If you could read and understand Dawkins’ book, I think you would reach a different conclusion.
But, as I explained to another dude (or are you the same anonymous dude?) in my preceding post, I really do not think either Dawkins or I would be well-advised spending our time trying to change your mind.
Dave



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Nuno Fonseca

posted August 19, 2009 at 7:07 am


PhysistDave,
Dawkins and Hitchens are perfectly unprofessional in areas that are not their expertise. Dawkins has no understanding of logic and epistemology and Hitchens would perhaps make more sense if he kept the fruit du vin out of his system. Instead of complaining about the surface level of mere internet articles, you’d do well in reading the actual Christian extensive and detailed responses that refute these men’s allegation point by point. McGrath’s book would be a start.
Of course that it is very convenient that someone like Dawkins wouldn’t debate Christian scholars that do this professionally, but to say that they’re con-artists on the basis of being Christians shows that not only Dawkins can’t be think through his prejudices and closedmindedness, but also that according to this perspective, Dawkins can’t really be debated at all, for, as he as stated, even deist scientists aren’t real scientists and agnostic ones are of dubious credibility.
Or it is something more foundational?: putting it plainly, if one is a naturalist like both these men, and believes the axiom that all that can be known must be empirically perceived and pragmatically verified, not only he can know that this axiom is true – since he cannot empirically perceive nor pragmatically verify that all that can be known is to be empirically perceived and pragmatically verified – one can’t even entertain the idea of debating for nor against the existence of that abstract category: God.
Kudos.
(PS: Have you seen the videos of Hitchens discussing the very viable possibility of the origin of the universe by alien civilisations? I just wanted to hear your defense of him without losing face.)



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PhysicistDave

posted August 19, 2009 at 8:18 am


Nuno Fonseca wrote to me:
>Dawkins has no understanding of logic and epistemology
Well, I am sincerely happy for you that you feel your personal knowledge both of Richard Dawkins and of epistemology are so vast that you can judge that he has “no understanding of logic and epistemology.” None at all, eh? Of either logic or epistemology?
With all due respect, until you fill us all in on the source of your vast knowledge, I think I will prefer the knowledge of a world-renowned scientist and Oxford professor over yours!
You also wrote:
>Hitchens would perhaps make more sense if he kept the fruit du vin out of his system.
I’ve heard those rumors too.
Hitchens is (sometimes) a clever writer, and he can make some good points, but, in fact, an aging Troskyite (he is open about his Trot loyalties) who was very belligerent in supporting the unnecessary US war in Iraq is not exactly my personal hero.
New Atheists are not a monolithic block, you know.
You also wrote:
>Instead of complaining about the surface level of mere internet articles, you’d do well in reading the actual Christian extensive and detailed responses that refute these men’s allegation point by point. McGrath’s book would be a start.
I’ve read McGrath. A pompous, ignorant fool.
When a scientist switches to theology, it is usually proof that he is good at neither science nor theology: Polkinghorne, McGrath, etc.
You also wrote:
>Have you seen the videos of Hitchens discussing the very viable possibility of the origin of the universe by alien civilisations? I just wanted to hear your defense of him without losing face.
You are a silly person. No, I have not seen the video, and I feel no need to defend the various silly ideas Hitch comes up with.
You are a good example of why Dawkins and I have no intention of debating the likes of you.
And you need to learn what “kudos” means.
Dave



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Filipe

posted August 19, 2009 at 8:56 am


PhysicistDave said:
> You are a good example of why Dawkins and I have no intention of debating the likes of you.
For a guy who doesn’t want to debate, you talk to much…
> When a scientist switches to theology, it is usually proof that he is good at neither science nor theology
And what is Dawkins doing when he writes a book about God? You can say philosophy, and I could answer “So, when a scientist switches to philosophy, it is usually proof that he is good at neither science nor philosophy”
And the new atheits should stop worshipping Dawkins. Guys, he’s just a man.



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Anonymous

posted August 19, 2009 at 9:25 am


Boy, it’s amazing how a lot of the commenters here seem to insist that their views are totally immune to criticism and disagreement.



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Anonymous

posted August 19, 2009 at 10:04 am


Building upon that, let me say this: Regardless of what side of the coin you’re on, you need to be perfectly okay with people not only disagreeing with you but also lobbying some constructive criticism of your views. Many believers (myself included) feel they have good reasons for believing in God. You may disagree with them and personally perceive them as insufficient, but you can’t claim your disagreement to be a full-blown fact. It’s a simple difference of opinion. Nothing more, nothing less. Similarly, even as a Christian, I will happily admit that people have valid reasons for being skeptical of religious belief. But that doesn’t mean I don’t disagree with them overall.
Not stirring up debate here. Just saying.



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Carlo

posted August 19, 2009 at 10:54 am


PhysicistDave:
your reply to my post just goes to show that different people have very different understanding of what Christianity is. The fact that you share Dawkins’s understanding should not prevent you from considering the possibility that other people may see things quite differently, and perhaps more intelligently.
For instance, I have lived in the US for 20 years and I can tell you that the English-speaking Protestant view of Christianity (which is also shared by many Catholics) is not very representative of the Christian intellectual tradition.
A fideistic view of religion is deeply built in the protestant theology, and is maintained when people become atheist. In fact, the most evident thing to me (as an outsider) is that all these “new atheists” are protestant atheists, in the sense that they share uncritically in a protestant theology. Also the whole science-religion problem is a thoroughly Protestant problem.
I read Darwin’s autobiography when I was 14, at the same time I was reading Augustine and Pascal, and it was completely obvious to me that there was no possible contradiction until I came to work as a scientist in the US. Then I discovered this crazy idea that one should read Genesis literally (the opposite of what St. Augustine did!) and that science somehow contradicts revelation.
At the same time I started working with professional scientists (like you and Dawkins) and I discovered that, while most had no faith, everybody took for granted the same theology as the fundamentalists. No one had read Pascal, or St.Augustine, or Aquinas, or Maritain, or Duhem. Then people like Dawkins come up with moronic arguments like “God must have been created by something else” and all I can see in my mind is St. Thomas Aquinas rolling on the floor laughing… Sigh!!!



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Karol Karolak

posted August 19, 2009 at 11:27 am


Michael Ruse, you are definitely right about PZ Myers who bills himself as a biologist and scientist of some sort and at the same time claims that existence of life on Earth does not violate Second Law of Thermodynamics. When he is pressed on that subject he is unable to provide any plausible explanations. When he is presented with explanation that Brownian ratchet is the exact mechanism that is used by living organisms to overpower limitations imposed by the Second Law of Thermodynamics he refuses to acknowledge such information and he keeps insulting people who point out to him his complete ignorance of basic science.
Please visit this link:
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/03/gary_goodyear_believes_in_evol.php



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adriana

posted August 19, 2009 at 5:04 pm


So sad.
You people need to find JESUS.
He is love.



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PhysicistDave

posted August 19, 2009 at 5:31 pm


Carlo wrote to me:
>your reply to my post just goes to show that different people have very different understanding of what Christianity is. The fact that you share Dawkins’s understanding should not prevent you from considering the possibility that other people may see things quite differently, and perhaps more intelligently.
[snip]
>No one had read Pascal, or St.Augustine, or Aquinas, or Maritain, or Duhem. Then people like Dawkins come up with moronic arguments like “God must have been created by something else” and all I can see in my mind is St. Thomas Aquinas rolling on the floor laughing… Sigh!!!
Carlo, you assume that we are ignorant of Pascal, Aquinas, et al.
That merely shows *your* own ignorance.
We know “Pascal’s Wager”: it is easily refuted – google it.
We know how Aquinas used his substance/accident metaphysics to defend transubstantiation. That pretty much speaks for itself.
Look, the fundamental issue here is, on the face of it, are theology and philosophy intellectual disciplines deserving the same sort of respect as real intellectual disciplines such as mathematics, history, and physics? Or are theology and philosophy intellectual “disciplines” only in the sense that phrenology, homeopathy, and astrology are intellectual “disciplines”?
To honest, intelligent, well-educated people, the answer is rather obvious.
Dave



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PhysicistDave

posted August 19, 2009 at 5:38 pm


Karol Karolak wrote:
> Michael Ruse, you are definitely right about PZ Myers who bills himself as a biologist and scientist of some sort and at the same time claims that existence of life on Earth does not violate Second Law of Thermodynamics. When he is pressed on that subject he is unable to provide any plausible explanations.
KK, the explanation is quite simple: the earth is not a thermodynamically closed system. Free energy (AKA “negentropy”) is provided by the sun. The Second Law is not violated, and no scientifically literate person claims that it is.
See, e.g., Brillouin’s classic “Science and Information Theory.”
Anyone who takes Thermodynamics 101 or Stat. Mech. 101 learns this (if they learn anything).
Ladies and gentlemen, I offer you Karol Karolak as the very model of a modern Christian believer!
Dave Miller in Sacramento



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Bill

posted August 19, 2009 at 6:34 pm


It’s interesting that in the posts following an article critical of the “new athiests” we get a post from one of their very own.
Dave uses all the tricks of the trade. Carlos mentions Pascal not his wager but that doesn’t stop Dave from trying to use it. Carlos mentioned Aquinas not transubstantiation but that doesn’t stop Dave from trying to use that, too.
He offers a broad brush stoke “2nd Law” explanation that offers nothing of real value. He even tries a “fundemantal issue” argument that is almost an exact quote from Richard Dawkins himself. He ends his post by personally insulting a Christian.
Well done Dave. You couldn’t have done a better job showing why Mr. Ruse was spot on in this article.



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PhysicistDave

posted August 19, 2009 at 6:46 pm


An Anonymous dude wrote:
>Many believers (myself included) feel they have good reasons for believing in God. You may disagree with them and personally perceive them as insufficient, but you can’t claim your disagreement to be a full-blown fact.
Oh, yes, we most assuredly can claim that!
Your God has no more existence than Santa Claus.
Of course, now I’ll be attacked for being dogmatic about the non-existence of Santa Claus.
You do not have any good reasons for believing in God.
The fact that you are free to claim otherwise does not change the fact that you living a fantasy.
And I think you know it.
When Christians honestly thought they had reasons to believe in God, they publicly stated their reasons. Now, we get little more than “I can believe if I want to! So, there!”
Indeed.
Of course, there are still the Karol Karolaks of the world who use their invincible ignorance of science to justify their belief!
Dave



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Bill

posted August 19, 2009 at 6:56 pm


Ah! Dave just won’t let up.
More arguments copied from Richard Dawkins. More personal insults directed toward Christians. You just can’t make this stuff up!



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PhysicistDave

posted August 19, 2009 at 8:20 pm


Bill wrote:
>He [Dave] offers a broad brush stoke “2nd Law” explanation that offers nothing of real value.
And you have by that statement just revealed your utter lack of understanding of science.
My statement about the Second Law, unlike Karolak’s statement, has the real value of being correct. You will not find a competent scientist anywhere on earth who thinks that the “existence of life on Earth” violates the Second Law, as poor Karolak claims. Indeed, you will not find a competent university science student anywhere on earth who believes that. I don’t think even Mike Ruse is ignorant enough to believe that (although his pal, the brilliant Duane T. Gish certainly is!).
That bothers you, Bill?
Yes, it should.
I offer you as exhibit B, as another example of the very model of a modern Christian believer, along with Karolak.
I couldn’t make up guys like you and Karolak if I tried.
This thread is just a goldmine.
Bill, the very model of a modern Christian gentleman, also wrote:
> He [Dave] ends his post by personally insulting a Christian.
Hmmm… describing you or Karolak as the “very model of a modern Christian gentleman” is an insult?
Dave



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PhysicistDave

posted August 19, 2009 at 8:25 pm


Filipe wrote to me:
>And what is Dawkins doing when he writes a book about God? You can say philosophy…
But I wouldn’t.
Philosophy is the handmaid to theology.
No, Dawkins was simply pointing out the grave evil that religion has done (such as emotionally abusing millions – or is it billions? – of innocent children with threats of hellfire) and the fact that science refutes religion.
I’d call that not “philosophy” but science.
Filipe also wrote to me:
>And the new atheits should stop worshipping Dawkins. Guys, he’s just a man.
“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with Darwin, and the word was made flesh. And they called his name ‘Dawkins’!”
Makes more sense than the silly and vicious Christian lies.
Dave



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Carlo

posted August 19, 2009 at 11:48 pm


PhysicistDave:
sorry, but your comments show that you have read neither Pascal nor Aquinas, so please don’t embarass yourself any further. BTW neither Pascal’s wager neither transubstantion have anything to with what I said: that both you and Dawkins share an anti-intellectual, fideistic understanding of Christianity. Again I can only congratulate you for no believing in it, since if I were in your shoes I would not believe in it either!
As for your naive belief that science is the only form of knowledge
let me tell you: I have 20 years of scientific studies on my back, degrees in both mathematics and physics and a few dozen publications in both subjects, and one thing is obvious: science (which I love and gives me a living) has NOTHING to say about the deepest philosophical questions. Including the question of what is rational knowledge. Because, you know, your belief that “only science is rational” is NOT A SCIENTIFIC STATEMENT. It is a PHILOSOPHICAL statement. SO by our own logic it is irrational!



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True Believer

posted August 20, 2009 at 12:19 am


Dave, you said, “When Christians honestly thought they had reasons to believe in God, they publicly stated their reasons. Now, we get little more than “I can believe if I want to! So, there!” Indeed.”
Indeed, eh?
I do have reasons to believe in God, and I have publicly stated them. The trouble is: people like you that think believing in God is equivalent to believing in Santa Claus aren’t convinced by my reasons and will never be convinced by my reasons, but what’s worse is you want me to not be allowed to believe what I have reason to believe because you’re unconvinced. That’s why Christians like me start calling out that we have a right to believe if we want–because we get the sense that you want to take it away from us.
I’m sure you’ll want me to list my reasons or you’ll just call me out on it. I warn you, though, you’re not going to be convinced, but hey, you don’t have to be convinced. They’re good enough for me.
Out of the numerous reasons I have, I’ll pick the two biggest:
1) Prophecy. Prophecy in the Bible is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. I’ve looked at other prophets like Nostradamus and psychics, but nothing really compares. Isaiah, for example, predicts the life and death of Jesus Christ, and he wrote it all down hundreds of years before Jesus was born into the world. Daniel had a detailed vision (which was then interpreted in the text so that we don’t have to worry about our own faulty interpretations) that contained information on 4 large world empires to be followed by a kingdom not of the earth. Daniel died before the third (Greek), fourth (Roman), and heavenly (church) kingdom arrived. So, how did they know? They say they were told by God, and I have no way to disprove that claim. The power to predict hundreds of years into the future is even now beyond human ability much less back then.
2) Joseph’s reaction to Mary. Joseph was engaged to marry a virgin. She got pregnant and he knew he didn’t do it. Well, we all know what that means, right? Obviously she’d been sleeping around, right? What would you do? Back then, he could’ve had her stoned publicly, but he was going to be kind about it and simply break off the engagement. So far this sounds exactly like a normal reaction from a cuckolded man, but then the unthinkable happens: he comes to believe that Mary is still a virgin and that the child inside her is from God. Why the change of heart? According to him, an angel told him about in a dream. Must’ve been a fairly convincing dream to bring around a man that was sure his bride-to-be had cheated on him. If Joseph was convinced, how can I question that? Just as with predicting the future, we’re now talking about a power beyond human ability.
There you go. Those are a handful of my reasons (you might also look into the conversion of Paul–fairly interesting to read from his own account how he went from dead set against the Christian heresy to one of the most ardent Christian evangelists). I find them convincing. Now let me believe what I have reasoned to believe, and I’ll let you believe what you have reasoned to believe.



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PhysicistDave

posted August 20, 2009 at 12:59 am


Carlo wrote to me:
>Because, you know, your belief that “only science is rational” is NOT A SCIENTIFIC STATEMENT. It is a PHILOSOPHICAL statement. SO by our own logic it is irrational!
Well, Carlo, that is an old verbal trick that philosophy professors try to pawn off on naïve freshmen: if anyone tries to criticize philosophy as a whole, then they have made a “PHILOSOPHICAL statement” (and I love those CAPITAL letters: it makes your claim so much more compelling!) and are thereby self-refuting.
But of course it is just a silly verbal trick, nothing more. No intelligent person ever falls for it.
You also wrote:
>both you and Dawkins share an anti-intellectual, fideistic understanding of Christianity.
Well, I am certainly aware of numerous attempts over the centuries to give a rational defense of Christianity, from Aquinas to C. S. Lewis.
But, let’s be honest for a moment – they all failed.
For example, Aquinas’ substance/accident stuff just has not worked out. Needless to say, the ontological proof failed completely (as Aquinas of course saw).
There are, you know, people who believe that a rational defense can be given for astrology. But no such rational defense exists.
Just like Christianity.
I find it interesting that folks like you who claim there is rational evidence for Christianity are diminishing in number, and that even those of you who do make such claims are better at claiming such evidence exists than actually presenting the evidence.
Of course, that is because there is no such evidence.
You also wrote:
> science (which I love and gives me a living) has NOTHING to say about the deepest philosophical questions
Maybe that is because those “deepest philosophical questions” are really just pointless twaddle.
(And love those CAPITAL letters again!)
I don’t want you on my side, Carlo. Believe as you wish. But do not expect intelligent people to respect your beliefs.
We no longer intend to maintain the pretense that your beliefs are anything except silly superstitions.
Dave



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PhysicistDave

posted August 20, 2009 at 1:07 am


True Believer wrote to me:
>you want me to not be allowed to believe what I have reason to believe because you’re unconvinced.
That is a blatant, grotesque, and slanderous lie, and I hereby ask you to apologize for lying about me.
I have said nothing of the sort.
I am an ardent and uncompromising defender of freedom of expression, even of those I disagree with.
Please admit your slanderous lie and apologize.
Liar.
The old Christian technique, used for so many millennia.
Lying.
Dave



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Dan

posted August 20, 2009 at 6:07 am


Carlo,
Thanks for your intelligent and kind posts on this thread. I enjoyed reading them. Thank you for the way you are representing Christianity. I wish all of us Christians could present our beliefs in such a rational and calm manner, without resorting to ignorance about science and name calling.
Thanks again,
Dan



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Carlo

posted August 20, 2009 at 9:21 am


PhysicistDave:
you did not criticize philosophy as a whole. That would require some intelligent (philosophical!) argument. You just IGNORANTLY DISMISSED philosophy as a whole because it does not fit with your prejudices.
(and yes, I will use capitals when I need to stress some point I am making, thank you)



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True Believer

posted August 20, 2009 at 9:31 am


Dear PhysicistDave,
I’m glad to see that you can take my words out of context and dismiss the entirety of my post without addressing any of the issues. You have lived down to my expectations entirely. Congratulations.



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M

posted August 20, 2009 at 9:58 am


Guys, no offense, but is there any need to keep feeding the troll?



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Carlo

posted August 20, 2009 at 10:10 am


M:
it is kind of fun. By the time he brings up for the fourth time the “substance/accident” stuff (which has nothing to do with Thomas’s arguments re. the existence of God, by the way…) he will have made a complete fool of himself…



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Your Name

posted August 20, 2009 at 8:08 pm


The Greeks divided something in half and kept doing it until they could divide no more. They decided what they had was the smallest and most basic element in the universe and they called it the ATOM. Milliniums later physicist discovered the ATOM and to their shock they realized it was mostly empty space. Today on occasion you might see a bewildered looking person with buises and bandages and black eyes wandering about, this is a physicist trying to prove the empty atom theory by walking through walls. So one day the wife of a physicist comes home and catches him in bed with another woman. “WHO IS THE WOMAN!” she demands. WHAT WOMAN???? Dave the Physicist implores. “Oh yeah right that ain’t no woman and this ain’t no SHOT GUN!!”



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rick turner

posted August 20, 2009 at 8:20 pm


Levity provided by Rick Turner



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GFA

posted August 21, 2009 at 6:52 am


>True Believer
>August 20,
>1) Prophecy. Prophecy in the Bible is … contained information on >4 large world empires to be followed by a kingdom not of the earth. >Daniel died before the third (Greek), fourth (Roman), and heavenly >(church) kingdom arrived.
Oh please! A book put together about 1600 years ago has the prophesies apparently written 2500 years ago match the events 2000 years ago! Not hard for a fiction writer to scribe.
Only 3 “empires”? I assume you mean the Macedonian empire of Alexander for the “Greek”. Then the Romans. What about the Sassanids, or Charlemagne? What about the Spanish empire, or the Swedish kingdom, or the British empire? What about the Chinese? Does your prophesy even tell you what counts as a “empire”? – land area, population controlled, time span – so how do you even count “empires”. Basically, your prophesy is so vague as to be useless, and you are just being naive to believe it.



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True Believer

posted August 21, 2009 at 8:16 am


GFA,
You may actually want to do some research some time into how the Bible in its current form came to be put together. There is proof for all but the most closed of minds that the prophecies contained therein were written in the time periods claimed therein. If your mind isn’t closed, check it out. If you’ve already made up your mind that prophecy can’t possibly be true and you’ll accept any other answer, then you shouldn’t check it out because you won’t learn anything.
Also, what’s your complaint with Daniel’s vision of four (not 3. 4.) empires to be followed by the church? It happened. Daniel lived during the Bablyonian empire. That’s 1. He also survived to some time during the Medio-Persian empire. That’s 2. Yes, Alexander’s Macedonian empire was 3, and then the Romans were 4. During the Roman empire the church became established on earth. So what about the others you listed? They were all either after the church arrived (and the vision was concluded) or in a different area of the world than the church started. Why would the vision about the formation of the church include them? You might want to read the vision sometime. It’s actually not vague, which is the most impressive thing regarding Biblical prophecy as compared to other so-called prophets.



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Scott

posted August 21, 2009 at 11:57 am


I think the point is that to rail against zealotry and emotionalism by using zealotry and emotionalism, like Dawkins et al do, is hypocritical.



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Your Name

posted August 21, 2009 at 11:58 am


For a more interesting read… check out PZ’s response
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/08/michael_ruse_probably_wont_be.php



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Your Name

posted August 21, 2009 at 12:09 pm


@Scott – Have you ever read any Dawkins? Dawkins may be zealous but he is zealous in the promotion of rational thought and science. Emotional – I wouldn’t make that charge… his lectures have more of the of dry british humor that you would expect from an Oxford professor.
Here’s a few samples of his writings.
“After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked—as I am surprisingly often—why I bother to get up in the mornings.”
“The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry.”
“Evolution [is] a theory in a special philosophical sense of science, but in terms of ordinary laymen’s use of language, it’s a fact, … Evolution is a fact in the same sense that it’s a fact that the Earth is round and not flat, [that] the Earth goes round the Sun. Both those are also theories, but they’re theories that have never been disproved and never will be disproved.”
Does that sound like emotional language? Or passion?



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PhysicistDave

posted August 26, 2009 at 1:49 am


True Believer, the Liar for Jesus wrote to me:
> I’m glad to see that you can take my words out of context and dismiss the entirety of my post without addressing any of the issues
Liar.
You really did write to me:
>you want me to not be allowed to believe what I have reason to believe because you’re unconvinced.
Anyone can check for himself that I did not take it out of context.
You simply lied.
And you lack the guts to admit it.
This gets to what is really wrong with Mike Ruse’s horrible essay: Christianity has been surviving for two thousand years simply by lying.
Mike Ruse wants to compartmentalize that lying in religion and just treat it as an isolated matter.
But lying does not stay isolated that way, as you have here demonstrated.
Start lying about the Bible and such, and, eventually, the lying spreads out and engulfs much else.
You show that.
Liar.
You also wrote:
>There is proof for all but the most closed of minds that the prophecies contained therein were written in the time periods claimed therein.
Well, you will have trouble finding a responsible Biblical scholar who agrees with that!
But, then, lying is what makes Christianity possible isn’t it?
Fortunately, Christianity is dying. The fraction of Americans who are Christians has dropped by ten percent or more over less than twenty years (vide the massive ARIS survey).
It will not be too long before traditional Nicene Christians are viewed in America as they are viewed in most of the world: as quaint relics who unaccountably believe in the superstitions of a bygone era.
And, of course, as pathological liars, like you.
Dave Miller in Sacramento



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Edward T. Babinski

posted August 28, 2009 at 12:23 am


This week your guest entry was written by Michael Ruse? The same Michael Ruse asked this question…
“Did Jesus die uniquely to save the sins of human beings on planet Earth, or is he being strung up somewhere in the universe on every Friday?”
– Michael Ruse, “Booknotes,” Biology & Philosophy, Vol. 14, No. 1, Jan. 1999]



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Ernie

posted August 29, 2009 at 5:19 am


How is “railing” against creationism considered “zealotry”? Refusing to cater to nonsense and sticking with scientific fact is not zealotry or “emotionalism”, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean.
It’s like calling someone who refuses to believe in superstition close-minded. But hey, I guess arguing that the Earth is round versus a flat Earth is also zealotry by some eh?



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Paul Trip

posted September 1, 2009 at 10:04 pm


Evolution is a faith claim. Richard Dawkins recently said the following,
“‘I believe, but I cannot prove, that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all ‘design’ anywhere in the universe, is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection.'”1.
1. “Dawkins made this remark in response to a question posed by the New York Times to a number of prominent scientists: ‘What do you believe what you cannot prove?’ The published responses on January 4, 2005.”



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Charlie

posted September 8, 2009 at 10:47 am


Hey Paul Trip, Dawkins says that because philisophically one cannot prove anything. When you sip your coffee, you believe it is coffee due to it’s taste, smell, and looks. It can never be “proven” what you drink is coffee. I think it is safe to believe in something if strong evidence supports it. The origin of life arising from evolution is a theory supported by evidence. Evolution and natural selection are directly observed in the present and all past records of extinct species support that this process made life what it is today.



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Charlie

posted September 8, 2009 at 11:03 am


In response to the article, I agree that hatred against another group of people based solely on their belief is terrible. Yet we do not only see this with “New Atheists” but also in almost every other belief in the world. I think we cannot attack Atheism, but we should attack hatred instead. I think this new atheist group arose from the hatred seen by a specific group of Christians on Atheists.



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Your Name

posted September 11, 2009 at 2:43 pm


Can a Darwinian be a Christian? Evolution is widely accepted in the Catholic Church (taught in Catholic Schools etc.) The genesis story itself pretty much follows the big bang theory – Darkness/Void then light, then eath and sea, then fish and birds (dinosaurs decendants of birds, interesting), then mammals, then humans being most evolved came last.
The issue on the 7 days is moot. Time is relative, just ask Einstein.
Seems to be pretty good evolutionary science for Moses who had very little to go on at the time…
I do resent the idea that because I have a world view of religion or that the cosmic omnipresent entity is more “real” than a god of a particular religion that it somehow weakens me as referring to myself as Christian. I can believe in the teachings and the message and that miracles do exist (in their way) without claiming that my belief system is the only way or that the souls of Christians are the only ones that get saved or whatever. The more you understand the symbols in the text, the more God reveals that dogma is unnessary.



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Richard

posted October 2, 2009 at 2:15 pm


YourName: very mushy stuff. Just because the Cathoholics (sic) say they accept evolution doesn’t mean they understand it, nor does it mean that evolution is compatible with religion. All it means is they are not fighting it, which effectively protects them against debate.
The Genesis story is widely out-of-sync with modern cosmology (which, by the way, has nothing whatsoever to do with evolution), most clearly in that Genesis has light being created long before the sources of light (stars) are created – because the Bronze Age tent-dwellers who made up the bible stories around their campfires knew nothing about stars. There is nothing in the bible that would have been new knowledge to one of those sheep herders.
As for miracles, the one most often claimed is recovery from some ailment. But answer me this: why have amputees never, ever, not even once been helped by prayer or miracle?
The answer of course, is simple. It’s because the other ones are all made up, and the regeneration of limbs cannot be faked.



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Richard

posted October 2, 2009 at 2:26 pm


Charlie: I don’t see any hatred for people of faith evident in ‘the new atheists’, and I doubt very much that an example can be given. Also, there is no belief system in atheism.
Atheism is a belief system if ‘not collecting stamps’ is a hobby.



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Richard

posted October 2, 2009 at 2:31 pm


Charlie, evolution doesn’t attempt to explain life’s origins.



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Agnostic

posted October 27, 2009 at 5:40 pm


Well, the New Atheists do promote hatred… read:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113889251
And they mistakenly have faith in the belief that evolution is incompatible with religion.
Also a bit hypocritical of them to say they embrace reason but want to proselytize their view by employing “whatever it takes” tactics. I am sick of these New Atheist bigots. Time or New Atheism version 2.0 to start.



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denis long

posted November 7, 2009 at 7:35 am


there are enough religeons in the world with out you adding another one. you are more than a little biggoted.



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Anglican

posted November 10, 2009 at 12:49 pm


QUOTE:
“very mushy stuff. Just because the Cathoholics (sic) say they accept evolution doesn’t mean they understand it, nor does it mean that evolution is compatible with religion”
Did somebody say Ken Miller, or Francisco Ayala? I suspect they know rather more about both evolution and religion than the writer of the above, who is a typical new atheist bigot.



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Davn

posted November 21, 2009 at 8:30 pm


New atheists aren’t atheists, they’re Anti-Christian’s. It’s turned into a massive ego war more than anything else.



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oldfuzz

posted January 12, 2010 at 5:43 pm


The definition of new atheist is anti-religious which reveals either:
1. a reluctance to be honest or
2. a disregard for accuracy in language or
3. a disrespect for the noble view of true atheists who may or may not be anti-theist, but are not required to be anti-religious.
If they could make their points on Fox News they would be speaking to their intended audience.



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oldfuzz

posted January 24, 2010 at 6:47 pm


On the question of teaching creationism in school, I believe it should be as a cultural creation myth along with others, especially the Hopi creation myth which was most likely created after Genesis as the Hopi and their ancestors have been in the American Southwest for at least 10,000 years, a time frame which fits the Christian creationist model.
Our children should be introduced to tribal mythologies so they can understand the cultural worldviews that existed prior to science.



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nyo

posted February 4, 2010 at 12:15 pm


“I am pretty atheistic, although some doctrines like original sin seem to me to be accurate psychologically”
Where do you think this psychological phenomenon comes from? Is it from holy books written thousands of years ago from the mind forged manacle of detestable old men? The evidence would say yes. You know we were a species on the planet long before this superstitious codification. Let’s spell out the notion of “original sin” for what it is, original sin says the human species was created sick and commanded to be well by a celestial dictator who can convict us of thought crimes to a so-called everlasting place of fire and misery? The latter a gift from the supposed lord and savior, Jesus Christ — some moral teaching huh? But you say you’re pretty “atheistic”. Are you sure about what you believe at all? Or do you take whatever you wish à la Carte? Perhaps you’re a Solipsist.



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nyo

posted February 4, 2010 at 2:58 pm


“Our children should be introduced to tribal mythologies so they can understand the cultural worldviews that existed prior to science.”
And where does this end, should we not then teach Alchemey before children are introduced to Chemistry? Astrology, Horoscopes, Tarot, Psychic Readings before they are introduced to Astronomy? Religion before they are introduced to Psychology, Ethics, and Philosophy — hmm we’ve already capitulated that. So, how exactly should we stultify the education of children with nonsense and immoral teachings?



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nyo

posted February 4, 2010 at 3:00 pm


…oldfuzz I sure you’re not advocating this but it is food for thought.



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George Ayer

posted February 20, 2010 at 1:17 am


I would love to comment on Michael Ruse’s text. I really believe he is barking up the wrong tree in his criticism of the new atheists. The reason for this is that Darwinism has a comprehensive explanation for supposedly all life on earth. I should note that it is with no actual evidence – for example the millions of missing transitional fossils that should be there, or the fact that no matter how many human babies are born with deformed arms they will never by random mutations turn into wings and fly refutes this. This last concept is akin to what they force feed us in the science textbook that supposedly reptiles evolved into birds, even though they did not have the genetic info for wings. The genetic info can only be either re-combined, lost or specialized, but can’t go beyond itself to genetic info not possessed by that species, that would be a miracle, not science (could a pocket calculator miracle transform itself into a PC!!) Therefore Darwinism is a religion posing as science, and the real scientific evidence points beyond itself to a Creator of miracles. Christians in the “middle” like Francis Collins or philosophical agnostics who give Christians the “right to believe” like Michael Ruse are unlikely to convince the skeptical crowd. No the God of the Christian religion and the bible, is also the God of science, and therefore nothing in revelation is contrary to real findings in science. Darwinism is a religion, not science, let’s call a spade a spade!! I should acknowledge that traditionally the Catholic Church have held that faith and reason do not conflict, and this has been recently re-iterated by Pope Benedict XVI. While some Catholics and other Christians try to say that faith and science are on different plains, and therefore the bible is trying to teach us what has happened religiously and science is teaching that God did it through Darwinism, in reality this brings a logical problem as the very nature of Darwinism is to explain how matter gets more intelligent by itself, instead of God programming the intelligence as the Supreme Designer. Are we to believe it is just an accident that DNA is more complex than our most amazing technological achievements? All of this squares with the traditional Catholic interpretation that God created all things, in the beginning, according to their whole substance out of nothing (Dogmatic and infallible teaching of the First Vatican Council). Therefore God made each created kind, at the beginning of time, in its entirety out of nothing, matching the 6 day creation we see in Genesis, and Catholics to be consistent with their faith need to be as literal with the Genesis creation as they are with the Sacraments, particular with the Eucharist where Jesus changes bread and wine into His Body and Blood. The beautiful thing is that these matters of faith, are also confirmed in science. The evidence for dinosaur and human co-existance through the fossils in the same layer in Paluxy Texas, live tissue found in a broken T.Rex bone, the Ica Burial Stones depicting Inca knowlege of dinosaur and human co-existance in Peru, the clay figurines of dinosaurs made by the Chipuero natives in Acambaro Mexico, the 100’s of cross cultural so called dragon myths. These show that dinosaurs and humans co-existed from creation, matching the traditional Catholic Christian faith. Who was the Creator? Jesus Himself. In approxamitely 700-800 A.D. a priest was going to leave his ministry because he had a hard time believing that Jesus literally transformed bread and wine into His Body and Blood through His ministry, and at what he thought would be his last Mass the Sacred Species transformed into Heart Tissue and Blood right before Him. Just type in Lanciano, Italy into your internet browser, you can go their today and modern science has acknowledged its blood type, and the incorruptibility of the miracle!! Man’s opinion keeps changing, but the Word of God abideth forever, amen! If you want to know more about why Catholics are returning to the truth of 6 day creation as all the Fathers of the Church, Medievals, and Church Councils taught as a consensus for at least 1900 years, I invite you to check out http://www.kolbecenter.org!! Thank you for reading my blog response, and may you come find rest in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and find His mercy and grace for your salvation, for His Word and Church are trustworthy! Come home to Him and His Bride the Church!! God bless you, George Ayer, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada



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Patrick Flannery

posted February 20, 2010 at 11:28 am


New atheism is a political response to a political problem. Through the 80s and 90s we saw a surge in activism in the Christian Right with a corresponding willingness in politicians to use the tenets of Christianity as a basis for political argument. Even more disturbing was the unwillingness of anyone, even those who disagreed with the Christian Right, to point out the obvious danger in allowing this kind of discourse in supposedly pluralistic, democratic institutions. As a society, we seemed to be on the brink of not only being irrational in fact (as has probably always been the case), but of accepting as valid literally any position provided its proponent believed it fervently enough. Theistic faith was leaking out of the churches and televangelist programs where it did indeed come into conflict with the scientific rationality that is supposed to be the test for truth in our public spaces. It was equally clear that the “efforts” of old-school atheists to win over believers with a charm offensive of tolerance and respect had accomplished exactly nothing. Most people still felt, as they always have, that the supernatural claims of religion are rubbish, but their ability to articulate this politically, or at least insist on reason-based policy making was steadily being eroded. It was time to state the atheist position more bluntly, to expose the utter emptiness of religion’s claims to truth beyond the spiritual, and to insist that religion retreat back into its box with astrology and tarot-reading before we reached a place where a president could actually call for a holy war or launch a new Inquisition. Some would say the effort came too late.
I don’t see how you can characterize the efforts of the New Atheists as a failure. The threat of Creationism being taught as science is much reduced and the market has been flooded with excellent books explaining evolution to the layman and refuting Creationist drivel. There is now a large and outspoken community of atheists with a high-profile set of intellectual leaders where anyone who is so inclined can find support and education. Thousands of atheists are “out of the closet” and willing to openly challenge religious claims in debate. Mainstream media is more willing than ever to include an atheist viewpoint in discussions and atheist authors are interviewed and held up as important experts. Actors, athletes and other public figures are much subdued in their public God-praising. At the very least, no one can be unaware that there is a legitimate alternative to a religious viewpoint and, given the weakness of that viewpoint, most people will step back somewhat if they subject it to honest scrutiny.



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Kk

posted March 11, 2010 at 11:22 am


“…the “new atheists” – people who are aggressively pro-science, especially pro-Darwinism, and violently anti-religion of all kinds…”
You have described the new atheists as violent…how are they violent? I am very interested in the movement but I cannot think of one time where ANYONE involved participated in a violent act. Even if there was ONE person who acted in a violent matter (which I would like to hear about) that is not enough to describe these people as violent in anyway. If you read Dawkins’ book he specifically talks about nonviolence.
Also, Creationism IS teaching religion because the source for it is a religious text. When taught evolution in school it was NEVER mentioned that God did not exist. A belief in God is compatible with evolution and therefor, evolution is NOT teaching atheism. Also, evolution is a part of science, which as science is taught in school then so should evolution.



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Kenny Kaczor

posted March 11, 2010 at 12:18 pm


I see less reasons for “why” these “new atheists” are supposedly a disaster and simply assertions (without any reasons given) and personal declarations towards how you feel to certain people and “new atheists” in general. Perhaps a better title would have been “I Think the New Atheists are a Bloody Disaster” instead of “Why I think the New Atheists are a Bloody Disaster.”
As already noted, you stretch your credibility pretty thin when you claim that these “new atheists” have been violently anti-religion. Probably just a poor choice of words, but that goes along with such shallow thinking.



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C

posted March 17, 2010 at 4:37 pm


George Ayer: Your a damned fool. I hope God judges you more kindly than I would. Your attacks on human intellect should be considered a sin. Take it from a fellow Christian: to be truly faithful to the God that so marvelously created us, we should at least fully investigate the validity of our own claims before we inadvertently lie (sin) to others about them. God bless, and go do some real research.



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Edgar Andrews

posted April 7, 2010 at 4:44 am


Readers of this thread might be helped by reading my new book “Who made God? Searching for a theory of everything” (obtainable from Amazon on line). Writing as a physicist I explore and expose the claims of the new atheists at many levels and in a user-friendly manner. The scientific shortcomings of macro-evolutionary theory are exposed and a biblical Christian worldview presented as an alternative to the barren landscape of scientific atheism. Read the reviews on http://www.amazon.com and more on http://www.amazon.co.uk
Edgar Andrews, Emeritus Professor of Materials Science, University of London, England



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Nikolina

posted March 29, 2011 at 2:44 am


I see where you’re coming from, but I don’t see that anyone is trying to make “there is no God” a part of the curriculum. Just because something implies that God probably doesn’t exist doesn’t make it religious.
I can argue that the fact that cancer exists or the earthquakes in Japan and Haiti happened suggest that there is no God, but that doesn’t make their occurrence a primarily religious issue.
Or for instance the bible says that adultery is wrong, and therefore NOT legislating consequences for it is just as much a religious statement as doing so.
Holy Scripture covers a lot of topics. We can’t claim that anything that happens to contradict what one of the many religions say is now a religious statement or position.



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Stephen Bolton

posted May 1, 2011 at 11:05 am


“But sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If teaching “God exists” is teaching religion – and it is – then why is teaching “God does not exist” not teaching religion? Obviously it is teaching religion. But if science generally and Darwinism specifically imply that God does not exist, then teaching science generally and Darwinism specifically runs smack up against the First Amendment. Perhaps indeed teaching Darwinism is implicitly teaching atheism.”

Can someone explain to me how Darwinism is religion as Muse attributes it to here. If one thinks that science is a religious affair maybe you shouldn’t call your self an atheist or agnostic. Atheism in early ancient Greek, the adjective atheos (ἄθεος, from the privative ἀ- + θεός “god”) meant “godless”. It was first used as a term of censure roughly meaning “ungodly” or “impious”. Karen Armstrong states that “During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the word ‘atheist’ was still reserved exclusively for polemic … The term ‘atheist’ was an insult. Nobody would have dreamed of calling himself an atheist.”

Is the only way that Atheism is religious is because it is the negation of religion, the opposite of what is there. Had it been the other way around in history we would be arguing for Theism and trying to undermine Atheism.

But seriously how is someone without religion; religious….



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SparksinTexas

posted February 2, 2012 at 12:44 pm


Interesting take. Did you know you are used by Creationists to prove that evolution should not be taught in science classes because it is just a religion.

“Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit in this one complaint. . . the literalists [i.e., creationists] are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.”
It all boils down to which religion you wish to follow, that of Christianity, or that of Evolution, as neither can be definitively proven or disproven and each are at odds with the other, it is a personal choice as to which to follow. Which is really what a belief system is all about.



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Neil Laing

posted April 8, 2012 at 1:07 pm


Michael,
Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I AM an evangelical Christian with a degree in Zoology & Botany. I am totally convinced with science and believe it a wonderful discipline that should be kept free from religious stricture (in view of the past disastrous control by the church). I have absolutely no problem with evolution and find the distortions of groups like answersingenesis to be the kind of thing that prevents dialogue between believer and non-believer, so probably view them as you do Dawkins and the new atheists. I am reading The God Delusion at the moment and find it has fatal flaws in the argument, but it not only helps me understand Dawkins’ viewpoint, it has also brought me a greater conviction of the truth of the Bible. I have never found this kind of challenge disturbing – I must be a “died-in-the-wool faith-head”!!!
I have written various small pieces of teaching for churches and include one on “Creation” in which I examine 6 different theories and try to evaluate them from a scientific and theological viewpoint. I would be glad to correspond if you have the time.



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ed

posted April 25, 2012 at 11:18 pm


Genisis 1:1 clearly shows the heavens & earth existed before the “creative” days. This means the science saying the universe and earth are millions or billions of years old and the bible agree. The following creative days can span thousands of years. The word “day” is not limited to 24hrs. How long was your grandfathers “day” or the “day” of the dinosaur?



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Ian McK

posted April 25, 2012 at 11:46 pm


I think your article is missing the point that these ‘so-called’ New Atheists are making with their sudden appearance in the worlds media. That being, ‘Bring on the debate’, now, before the faithful kill us all. Never in the history of the world has a rational, reasonable and non-controversial comment garnered much more than, ‘Yeah that sounds about right’. Ergo, no further discussion.
For the most part Atheists care little what believers believe, so we have nothing to fight about. That said, it seems obvious that the world is now in a spiral of tit for tat religious sniping and actual war with belief in God (our God against your God) at it’s core. These days it’s not about whacking away with a sword, face to face with the heathen, its fingers on buttons, drones and inter-continental missiles. How long will it be before some moron with an imaginary friend decides that his God is on his side and BOOM? ‘We’, Atheists, are sick to death, literally, of getting caught in the crossfire.
Believers have charged Atheists with many things, the most common pejorative being that Atheists have no morals. Rubbish, the religious do not own morals. What the religious do have is a pulpit. Non-believers are finding (and have finally decided it seems) that we have to fight back against the tyranny of religious belief. Sitting on the fence (don’t bother me, I’m agnostic) is no longer good enough and building bridges cannot happen when one side has actual bums on seats (or pews or rugs) while the other side has no physical place it exists. To where do you build the bridge?
Dawkins and the like have finally been able to plant our flag, be they totally accurate or not, and found many in the world willing to rally at its base. I hope, as it seems you do as well, that we meet somewhere in the middle of this “debate we have to have”.
Science does not have all the answers, it never claims to, that is at the core of what science is, constant scrutiny and change given new evidence. Science lives outside the mind and tries to deal with fact and measurement. Religious belief lives inside the mind and wallows in fiction (this does not mean it has no positive function). Somewhere there are answers for us all but not if religion continues to refuse to at least listen, with an open mind, to those who say it isn’t so. Central to your argument is the statement that the New Atheists is causing the religious to close ranks and move further to the conservative, IDT and “doing terrible damage to the fight to keep Creationism out of the schools”. So, what, say nothing? Don’t offend them? They offend us most mightily.



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Frank

posted May 18, 2012 at 12:58 pm


I can certainly see the dangers that you mentioned, having myself fallen foul of them. I, like many others, looked to speakers such as Dawkins and Hitchens as authority figures, due to perhaps gaps in our own knowlegde. I can only speak for myself, but I gravitated towards the ‘new atheist’ camp, simply because they were the most vocal.

It was only my need to assililate more knowledge in theology and philosophy which caused me to look any further. The problem as I see it is, most people will settle in an ideology which seems to fit with what they’re looking for, and they’ll remain there.



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posted August 17, 2012 at 11:08 am


You really make it appear so easy along with your presentation but I to find this matter to be actually something that I believe I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely wide for me. I’m taking a look ahead to your next post, I’ll attempt to get the grasp of it!



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Brendan McClelland

posted June 22, 2013 at 4:04 pm


I love this article since it proves that even atheists can be dogmatic as well. Thank you, Mike.



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Herman

posted July 1, 2013 at 3:28 pm


Some critics of this article are missing the point. I have seen many “new-atheist” and how aggressive they get. Maybe they do not plant bombs, but they “bomb” out any criticism of their ideas. They are not even prepared to consider the possibility that they maybe wrong. The moment you point out any counter argument to what they believe they retaliate by saying (or implying) that you are stupid. In the process they antagonize. This hinders any sensible debate.
Some “new-atheists” even say (or imply) that religious people are insane. (delusional, etc.)
Dawkins is one person who is not “kind” to people who disagree with him. This shows a lack of scientific process/thinking. (found in “new-atheists” and in many fundamentalistic religious people) Only my way is correct. A scientist should have an open mind. If you allow your world view to control your scientific thinking you are not a true scientist. (but then again there is no such thing as a 100% objective scientist especially when you consider science about origins)



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Brendan McClelland

posted September 1, 2013 at 3:46 pm


What a refreshing article. Accomondationists like Michael Ruse, are the ones we need to defend evolution against creationism.



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Ryan

posted January 8, 2014 at 3:12 am


Especially considering that there seem to be neo-Lamarckian mechanisms, I don’t see why the fight should be between the Neo-Dariwnian synthesis and the creationists. The real sticking point seems to be common descent. If we could agree that chimps and humans had a common ancestor, I have no problems with epigenetic inheritance, inherited response to sensory stimuli, inducible mutations via Heat Shock Proteins, or other evidence that creatures have ‘evolved to evolve.’



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