June 12, 2012
Over at his website (which most of us call a blog), Jerry Coyne has been discussing sophisticated theology and illustrating this with reference to a book (“Questions of Truth”) by Polkinghorne and Beale. As part of that discussion, Jerry has compiled a list of arguments that are often presented as evidence for God:
- The Big Bang: what got it started in the first place? After all a quantum vacuum isn’t nothing.
- Why is science possible at all? The human ability to apprehend truth must be a gift from God, since it couldn’t have evolved (see Plantinga)
- The “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” proves that God designed the universe
- Ditto for the existence of physical “laws”
- Only God could have give us the “innate” human sense or morality (see Francis Collins)
- The “fine-tuning” of the universe (that is, the values of physical constants) is evidence for God
- The appearance of humanoid creatures on the planet—creatures capable of apprehending and worshiping a God—is evidence of His handiwork.
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June 12, 2012
I wandered over to R. Joseph Hoffman’s blog this morning, and saw on the front page:
I have come to the following conclusion: Scholarship devoted to the question of the historicity of Jesus, while not a total waste of time, could be better spent gardening.
Great. However, I came to that conclusion several decades ago. When I read the arguments, it looks to me as if one side (the historicists) are arguing that the glass is half full, while the other side (the mythicists) are arguing that the glass is half empty.
Apparently, Hoffman did not just come to this conclusion. He was reblogging his own post from two years earlier.
May 21, 2012
I don’t comment much on religion. However, I don’t see anything inherently wrong with such criticism. Daz addressed the topic in his recent post “For People Who Don’t Believe In God, You Atheists Sure Do Talk About Him A Lot” and I think he made his point very clearly and succinctly.
I particularly liked his final line:
I certainly respect your right to your private belief. And when that belief truly is private, I’ll shut up.
I recommend that you read his entire post.
May 15, 2012
Victor Stenger has written about science and the supernatural in a Huffington Post blog, and Jerry Coyne has further commented at his site. Toward the end of his piece, Stenger says:
So, scientists and science organizations are being disingenuous when they say science can say nothing about the supernatural.
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May 13, 2012
Jerry Coyne posted this at his site:
The history of science and theology together shows that the former constantly nibbles away at the ambit of the latter, forcing theologians into ever more abstract conceptions of God, in which He either disappears or His actions become undetectable. This rearguard action, consisting entirely of special pleading and post facto rationalization (also called “making stuff up”), is known as Sophisticated Theology.
I sometimes think that Jerry overdoes his posting about religion. But I do completely agree with that quoted statement.
May 11, 2012
An imaginary part of the human anatomy that some people are able to use to increase their power of self-delusion.
February 22, 2012
There have been several recent posts at Jerry Coyne’s site, related to the views of Neil deGrasse Tyson. They began with “Neil deGrasse Tyson goes all militant“, and there are followup posts here and here.
My personal take on the first of those posts was that I did not see Tyson as going all militant. In fact, I did not see his comments on religion as much different from what I have seen in other video talks, though he does raise some interesting questions.
In any case, those posts and the featured videos are worth reading and watching.
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November 20, 2011
Physicist Alan Lightman apparently thinks that there is a central doctrine to science.
As a both a scientist and a humanist myself, I have struggled to understand different claims to knowledge, and I have eventually come to a formulation of the kind of religious belief that would, in my view, be compatible with science. The first step in this journey is to state what I will call the Central Doctrine of science: All properties and events in the physical universe are governed by laws, and those laws are true at every time and place in the universe. Although scientists do not talk explicitly about this doctrine, and my doctoral thesis advisor never mentioned it once to his graduate students, the Central Doctrine is the invisible oxygen that scientists breathe. We do not, of course, know all the fundamental laws at the present time. But most scientists believe that a complete set of such laws exists and, in principle, is discoverable by human beings, just as 19th-century explorers believed in the North Pole although no one had yet reached it.
First a little context. Lightman is apparently arguing the view that science itself involves some kind of faith. That’s a claim that we often hear coming from theists. However, Lightman is no theist, so it is a bit surprising that he makes this assertion. John Wilkins argues against the view that science involves faith, and it was John’s post that led me to Lightman’s Salon article. John criticizes the view that science involves faith, and rightly so. But he does not directly comment on the question of whether there is a central doctrine. Dan Dennett criticizes Lightman in a follow up Salon article but Dennett does not comment directly on the central doctrine question. I will comment on it here.
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November 4, 2011
I usually prefer to stay away from the religion wars. However, Larry Moran has raised the question in an interesting form. His recent post arises from the public discussion of the debate between John Haught and Jerry Coyne. Larry asks:
Here’s the question. Is it okay for those scientists and philosophers, and their supporters, to fight back (e.g. Jerry Coyne)? Or is it considered “bad form” to attempt to refute the arguments of one of the “good guys”?
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October 11, 2011
Said by Jerry Coyne:
Theology is merely an intellectual game of self-foolery. And many theologians are very good at it.
Very well said. And Jerry’s choice of wording is impeccable.
That pretty much summarizes why I gave up on religion many years ago. I guess I’m not very good at self-foolery.