Strategy

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Re: Strategy

Postby rich99 » Wed May 04, 2011 11:46 am

psiloiordinary wrote:This was partly what was winding me up about the influx of new commentators criticising us (without checking their facts first) and not having contributed anything to this particular battle before hand.

Purely a personal emotional reaction but then I am an evolved mammal and so subject to such.

I can understand that - and apologies for being one of those people :-)

neil davies wrote:However I wouldn't have said it was a piece specifically refuting NOMA though, which is what I was getting at

I came across this recently, which sums up several of the issues people have with a NOMA style outlook:
http://www.gspaulscienceofreligion.com/index.html

Peter Henderson wrote:Michael's correct. Dawkin's strategy won't work, and there are many, many scientiists of religious faith (not just Christians)

Out of interest, has dawkins (or any other high profile Gnus) ever said what their aim actually is? There was a comment over on butterflies & wheels which fits my (current!) understanding of the differences between the Gnu's & other atheists:

I think that is one of the things that separate me and other gnus from the “be nice to religion” crowd. They are very concerned with political, instrumental matters like unity, cohesion, community, universal affection, sensitivity, solidarity, outreach, mutual understanding, and avoiding the remotest possibility of offending anyone by disputing an idea. We are more concerned with trying to think clearly and honestly about particular metaphysical, ontological, and epistemological views. Their concerns are more social or political, ours are more epistemological. This makes a difference.


It seems to me that the Gnus are against what they see as untruths, and aren't willing to make concessions - for them it's all about whether something is true or not. You've all said that you don't think their approach works in the anti-creationist fight. But is that what they're trying to do? Is their main aim not just to publicise what they see as untruths?
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Re: Strategy

Postby Brian Jordan » Wed May 04, 2011 12:04 pm

rich99 wrote:It seems to me that the Gnus are against what they see as untruths, and aren't willing to make concessions - for them it's all about whether something is true or not. You've all said that you don't think their approach works in the anti-creationist fight. But is that what they're trying to do? Is their main aim not just to publicise what they see as untruths?
All of which applies to creationism. It isn't true, be one atheist or theist.
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Re: Strategy

Postby cathy » Wed May 04, 2011 12:37 pm

It seems to me that the Gnus are against what they see as untruths, and aren't willing to make concessions
I think you'll find the creationist say exactly the same thing-again and again.

I haven't a clue what their aims are but I've see ophelia benson in full bully mode. They seem to be the removal of all religion which ain't gonna happen? They don't seem to have noticed that as liberal moderate religion declines gnu atheism doesn't always replace it, fundamentalism or mad new age crap or normal indifference does. I don't know what they have achieved in real terms? Someone will have to tell me. The popes visit passed off without note, faith schools still exist and so does religion so if those are aims they're not winning yet. Scinece only supports science, neither side can really hijack it yet.

I've decided to go cos I'm heartily fed up now, but before I do, I want to make perfectly clear that my gripe is not with the gnu/new atheists but the undue importance being attached to them on this site. This is the third thread devoted to them and I really can't see why Roger brought them up again when referring to strategy, why he says he's asked them specifically and not other groups and what they would positively bring that is so different to anyone else. Everybody else has had to live with what is the policy.

Nobody criticised them before the JC letter, nobody minded them joining in or setting up their own fights and nobody said they shouldn't be invited or asked-it's a good idea once. However, they are just one group and whatever heavy web traffic is associated with them it is probably far outweighed by groups like mumsnet or NCT which would also have a vested interest and be far less nit picky and precious. In addition what little I've seen lately, eg the timing of the JC letter and the refusal to correct what is factually incorrect (they can still have their opinions) and some of the stuff printed by Dawkins on the pharyngula site has not been positive.
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Re: Strategy

Postby rich99 » Wed May 04, 2011 1:04 pm

cathy wrote:They seem to be the removal of all religion which ain't gonna happen


This gets brought up again and again, and is definitely false. They may wish (ideally)for a world where religion doesn't exist, but all the big Gnu bloggers have said that they uphold peoples right to free worship in whatever way they see fit.

cathy wrote:Scinece only supports science, neither side can really hijack it yet.


Except that science can be used to test specific religious claims.

cathy wrote:I've decided to go cos I'm heartily fed up now, but before I do, I want to make perfectly clear that my gripe is not with the gnu/new atheists but the undue importance being attached to them on this site.


A valid point - apologies for stringing it out. I've leave you to carry on your good work - sometimes I just like the debate :-)
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Re: Strategy

Postby cathy » Wed May 04, 2011 1:47 pm

This gets brought up again and again, and is definitely false. They may wish (ideally)for a world where religion doesn't exist, but all the big Gnu bloggers have said that they uphold peoples right to free worship in whatever way they see fit.

I don't agree. If that was true they'd have no problem joining any campaign and working alongside believers to achieve a specific aim without gobbing off about their specific beliefs-most of the religious manage to. They certainly wouldn't write reams about how if all catholics/muslims/christians didn't support the worse excesses of their religion they'd leave it (their assumption being to be part of religion is to be totally uncritical of it-wrong- and doesn't really fit into real life, after all I voted labour despite my antipathy to Iraq), they wouldn't assume that every person that has a religion is the same and they wouldn't be new atheists they'd be atheists. All of those are the major assumptions I'd picked up from brief visits to the Dawkins site where they have all been specifically stated. Just try challenging them on any of them and see what happens.

Except that science can be used to test specific religious claims.

Such as? It has disproved the all the creation myths and it has disproved hippy s@@@ like reiki or homeopathy or clairvoyance and prayer because all of those are very specific and easy to test. However once you get into the more nebulous areas it hasn't the tools to test it and at best you can draw vague conclusions but so can the other side. It wasn't science that made me an atheist.

I've leave you to carry on your good work - sometimes I just like the debate
Debate is really interesting it's was my assumption from the start of the thread that the new atheists are considered in someway any more informed or special than the rest of us, and should be pandered to that has p'd me off. And you have never done that. Now I really am going cos that assumption is not what I joined for and I really am fed up.
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Re: Strategy

Postby Peter Henderson » Wed May 04, 2011 1:49 pm

Except that science can be used to test specific religious claims


How do we test for extra terrestrial life then Rich ? I'm talking about microbial life, not little green men, before anyone accuses me of repeating Ben Stein again. By this logic, the absense of evidence means that the concept of extra terrestrial life of this nature is a religious claim, not a scientific one.

Or how about abiogenesis ? Although scientists appear close to understanding how life started, we're still as far away as ever from understanding how life got started in the first place, and we still don't know of the existance of life anywhere, except on Earth. Because of absence of evidence, would these concepts not be religious by your logic ?

At least that's what the creationists would claim.
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Re: Strategy

Postby rich99 » Wed May 04, 2011 2:40 pm

cathy wrote:I don't agree. If that was true they'd have no problem joining any campaign and working alongside believers to achieve a specific aim without gobbing off about their specific beliefs-most of the religious manage to. They certainly wouldn't write reams about how if all catholics/muslims/christians didn't support the worse excesses of their religion they'd leave it (their assumption being to be part of religion is to be totally uncritical of it-wrong- and doesn't really fit into real life, after all I voted labour despite my antipathy to Iraq), they wouldn't assume that every person that has a religion is the same and they wouldn't be new atheists they'd be atheists. All of those are the major assumptions I'd picked up from brief visits to the Dawkins site where they have all been specifically stated.


I don't follow your logic - I've seen pieces from Dawkins etc where he has stated that he's for the rights of an individual to do whatever they want, as long as it doesn't impinge on others. I lack a link right now, I'll try & find one. But I don't understand how you get from that to your other arguments. Believing in the rights of individuals to worship however they want doesn't mean you can't say they are wrong, and it doesn't mean you can't criticise them. It's quite possible to say 'you're wrong, and here's why, but as long as it doesn't affect others you are entitled to do so'. The Gnu's are vocal about their criticisms - they've said religion is crazy, but I've never heard them say they want to stop people worshipping in their own time.

cathy wrote:Except that science can be used to test specific religious claims.
Such as? It has disproved the all the creation myths and it has disproved hippy s@@@ like reiki or homeopathy or clairvoyance and prayer because all of those are very specific and easy to test. However once you get into the more nebulous areas it hasn't the tools to test it and at best you can draw vague conclusions but so can the other side. It wasn't science that made me an atheist.


It can be used to test any specific religious claim. But if you remove all the specific claims then you're not actually left with anything, other than saying 'there may be a higher power out there somewhere who maybe once did something'. The only way to make religion non-amenable to science is to make it so vague as to be almost pointless. For me, it was a mix of science & experience of the wider world that stopped me being religious.

cathy wrote:it's was my assumption from the start of the thread that the new atheists are considered in someway any more informed or special than the rest of us, and should be pandered to that has p'd me off.

I don't think anyone's said that - they've said they get a lot of notice, and thus might make good allies, but I don't think anyone said they were better than anyone else. FWIW, I think your suggestions of mumsnet etc are very good, and not something I would haver thought of.

Peter Henderson wrote:How do we test for extra terrestrial life then Rich ? I'm talking about microbial life, not little green men, before anyone accuses me of repeating Ben Stein again. By this logic, the absense of evidence means that the concept of extra terrestrial life of this nature is a religious claim, not a scientific one.

Or how about abiogenesis ? Although scientists appear close to understanding how life started, we're still as far away as ever from understanding how life got started in the first place, and we still don't know of the existance of life anywhere, except on Earth. Because of absence of evidence, would these concepts not be religious by your logic ?


Again, I don't follow your logic. I said science can test religious claims, I didn't say anything about concepts that lack evidence being religious? The concept of microbial extra-terrestrial life is just a hypothesis, until any evidence emerges. Likewise abiogenesis - it's a hypothesis. You take a hypothesis & test it. Abiogenesis is currently being tested in many labs. Absence of evidence does not mean that something didn't happen, it just means no-one has yet tested it. The difference between that & testing religious claims are people have tested religious scientifically, and they have got negative results. It's the same as all the clinical trials that go on every day, and produce a negative result. No-one says 'because your drug failed to treat these patients, the concept of this drug not working is religious'. No evidence means any hypothesis is tentative until someone tests it, a negative result means that whatever claim you made was probably wrong. it seems to me you are mixing up 'no evidence' with 'negative evidence'?
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Re: Strategy

Postby cathy » Wed May 04, 2011 7:33 pm

I don't follow your logic - I've seen pieces from Dawkins etc where he has stated that he's for the rights of an individual to do whatever they want, as long as it doesn't impinge on others. I lack a link right now, I'll try & find one. But I don't understand how you get from that to your other arguments. Believing in the rights of individuals to worship however they want doesn't mean you can't say they are wrong, and it doesn't mean you can't criticise them. It's quite possible to say 'you're wrong, and here's why, but as long as it doesn't affect others you are entitled to do so'
I don't think I said that they are against the rights of people to worship as they please, I think I said one of the eventual aims is to get rid of religion. As for saying they are wrong, nobody has said they can't. It's just they can't then expect people to agree with them. Nor can they expect to take some kind of intellectual high ground, unless their arguments deserve it. Nor is that a realistic aim, nor are they going about it the right way.

The Gnu's are vocal about their criticisms - they've said religion is crazy, but I've never heard them say they want to stop people worshipping in their own time.

Nobody objects to them being vocal but if they wish to dish it out they need to be able to take it as well. Recent events have suggested that isn't the case. Dawkins 'christians who believe in evolution are deluded' quip, no matter how much he or you or anyone else believes it does play into the hands of creationists and extremists. That doesn't help the fight against insidious creeping creationism. Simple fact, simple criticism, nobody is forcing them to stop or give up, they're just pointing out a fact. That is not cosying up to religion or accomodationism it is a simple statement of what is happening. Yet the baying that often goes on in response to that comment suggests they really do consider themselves above any criticism. That is always an unattractive trait.

Then there was the JC letter. Whatever anyones opinions it was wildly inaccurate and there was zero checking by either the authors or signatories. And whilst some of those signatories weren't the brightest bunnies in the bunny bunch, others, like Dawkins did know better. That too is a valid criticism that the new atheists don't seem to be taking on board. If they are going to adopt some kind of rational moral high ground they really need to be rational and honest rather than hysterical.

I've seen pieces from Dawkins etc where he has stated that he's for the rights of an individual to do whatever they want, as long as it doesn't impinge on others.
Every right thinking person agrees with that. That is not a specific new atheist thing it is a decent human being thing. I think I've already said that what I've learnt from here is that when some religious nutter breaches the rights of others (eg B&B couple) and screams about the rights of persecuted christians you only have to dig a little deeper to find some fundamentalist group like christian voice behind it. Not the general christian community. Creationism is always wrong and is usually linked to the worse of religion as well. My motto is always my rights end where yours begin.

I would assume not impinging on the rights of others also includes not preaching to them? In which case the gnu atheists perhaps should heed their own advice sometimes. Telling folk they are stupid to believe is as much preaching as telling them they need to find Jesus.

I said science can test religious claims
Some it can. Most it can't. I had science qualifications long before I became an atheist. If pushed by atheists I could argue my position then without distorting the science at all as I probably could now. Mainly by pointing out what science can and can't show. When people distort science it really bugs me.

I don't think anyone's said that - they've said they get a lot of notice, and thus might make good allies, but I don't think anyone said they were better than anyone else. FWIW
They do get notice but not as much in this country as they think. As for good allies, yes they would, all allies are useful but it would have to be on the bcses terms like everyone else here-what I'm saying is they're not important enough to warrent special treatmetn. They've been asked and have chosen not to. Fair enough.

My annoyance was at my mistaken idea that Roger was claiming they were somehow special and should be asked again and again and cosied up to. That was a mistake on my part and I apologise to Roger for making it. However I have a lot of respect and liking for all the bcse and so am naturally going to take against folk that I perceive as bullying them and belittling what they do-given the collosal amounts they do do and what they have ACTUALLY practically achieved. Especially from a group that haven't as of yet, offered a workable alternative or done anything practical as far as I can see. Though I could be wrong. So seeing what looked like a claim that they were the good debaters and someone he'd wasted time trying to get on board made me see red. Plus I didn't think I could cope with another thread devoted to Dawkins. He starting losing my respect a while back (I've already said why elsewhere) and his behaviour in endorsing a letter he knew was wrong and doing down bcse as an organisation was shit for someone in his position. Unless he removes his endorsement of that letter until it is corrected I have no reason to have respect for him at all.
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Re: Strategy

Postby Peter Henderson » Wed May 04, 2011 9:07 pm

From a well known scientist, who's also a Christian:

http://www.starcourse.org/jcp/testing_god_3.htm

Jocelyn Bell Burnell:
One of the things that I can never answer is whether my feeling that there is a god is simply some kind of neurological pattern in my brain. I have no answer to that, I just do not know. But the evidence would lead me to think otherwise, because I’m not the only person who feels this, who has the same experiences. And I can recognise what I call god in other people as well, it’s not just in me.


Neil might have come across her in his OU videos !
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Re: Strategy

Postby Peter Henderson » Wed May 04, 2011 9:11 pm

Absence of evidence does not mean that something didn't happen, it just means no-one has yet tested it.


Indeed Rich, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
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Re: Strategy

Postby Brian Jordan » Wed May 04, 2011 9:32 pm

rich99 wrote:You take a hypothesis & test it. Abiogenesis is currently being tested in many labs. Absence of evidence does not mean that something didn't happen, it just means no-one has yet tested it.
Typo? No, it means that nobody has found evidence yet. In this case, evidence of its happening in the past might well come behind making it happen in the present. Splendid Ph.D. project doing abiogenesis, nightmare project finding remnant peribiogenic evidence. But oh, the kudos for whoever who finds it first!
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Re: Strategy

Postby dannyno » Wed May 04, 2011 10:23 pm

I think you'd be hard pressed to find many people who have contributed more to the popularisation of evolution than Dawkins or Coyne, even if it is true that their atheist commitments are a (successful) recruiting tool for creationists. They've both published excellent and accessible books explaining why evolution is true. So it would make (or rather, would have made) sense to try to get them onside if you could.

But those bridges are thoroughly burned. As things stand, it would seem pointless to pursue those particular "celebrities", even if just for a supportive name on a letter head. You've kind of made clear that you don't want them, and they appear to have made clear they are not interested in being associated with you. So why bother?

In any case, there seems to be a consensus among BCSE supporters that in fact Dawkins and Coyne have harmed anti-creationism by in one way or another linking atheism and evolution. My view,as I've said rather too lengthily previously, is that if the BCSE is prepared to challenge creationist theology, then why not also challenge creationist use of atheology - rather than taking it at face value. Thus if creationists are saying, "well, Dawkins says you have to be an atheist if you're an evolutionist", you can explain what Dawkins actually says and why.

As cathy just said,

Dawkins 'christians who believe in evolution are deluded' quip, no matter how much he or you or anyone else believes it does play into the hands of creationists and extremists. That doesn't help the fight against insidious creeping creationism...


No point arguing here about whether it really does play into their hands or not, clearly it is in fact the case that Dawkins is (mis)used by creationists. I would have thought it was obvious that if Dawkins really does think that Christianity and evolution are incompatible, theologically, then you cannot expect him not to say so just because creationists may leap on statements to that effect for their own ends. I would go further and say you *shouldn't* expect that kind of self-censorship from anyone. It may or may not be really true that it "doesn't help", but lots of things "don't help", including things that happen to be true (or could be true, or even are at least arguable). That it doesn't help doesn't make it untrue, I mean. After all, the biggest obstacle to acceptance of evolution among people who believe that Genesis is an accurate description of the origin of human beings, is the fact that evolution is in direct contradiction of the Genesis story. Fact is, BCSE necessarily has a very narrow focus, and Dawkins et al don't share that narrow focus. So either the BCSE can live with that, or it can't. If you can't, you need to look for other allies.

That is not cosying up to religion or accomodationism it is a simple statement of what is happening.


Nothing is ever a "simple statement" in this area. I don't see why you have, strategically, to take creationist claims about Dawkins at face value any more than you'd take their claims about Darwin's religious beliefs at face value. I think creationist "glee" about Dawkins' brand of atheism is likely to be as disingenuous as everything else they do.


I would assume not impinging on the rights of others also includes not preaching to them?


I wouldn't. I'd say preaching is a free speech issue. But you don't have the right to have your preaching listened to, and you shouldn't have the right to preach at children in publicly funded schools (actually in any school, morally, but publicly funded schools, politically).

Anyway, to come back to the strategy point, BCSE seems to have a clear position that creationism is a dangerous theocratic cult. This strikes me as eminently marketable to all manner of groups and populations for whom "creationism is scientifically false" would be seen as dull and worthy. You do have a potent message if you can get it heard above the noise.

I wouldn't write off the "new atheist" crowd either, though it doesn't feel like quite as big a phenomenon in the UK as it is in the US, for the obvious reasons. But a lot of angry people there, as I don't have to tell you, willing to stick their oar in, sign petitions etc. It's a constituency you have to learn to understand and communicate with, if you want them to engage at all, just as you'd learn to understand mumsnet or any other group. Roger says he's tried, but...

Look, there ain't no way I'll become a member, after the way I've been treated (and who cares about me anyway, right?), but I'm not a sectarian and the cause is important enough that I wouldn't just dismiss all your work. I bet there are others out there who you have written off as "not helping", or who have written you off as "accommodationist", who would still sign a petition, or write to an MP, or use your info in debates etc.

Don't cut off your nose to spite your face. Whatever the hell that means.

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Re: Strategy

Postby dannyno » Wed May 04, 2011 10:29 pm

Peter Henderson wrote:
Absence of evidence does not mean that something didn't happen, it just means no-one has yet tested it.


Indeed Rich, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.


This has become a slogan that nobody bothers thinking about any more. Truth is, it depends.

Is there anything under my bed? Evidence of absence is not absence of evidence.

But anyway, when it comes to abiogenesis we're not really quite in an absence of evidence situation in the first place.

There is, isn't there?, evidence that biological life arose from inorganic matter. What needs testing is which theory of how this happened is the best one.

Dan

[on edit: crucial bit missed out, now added]
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Re: Strategy

Postby dannyno » Wed May 04, 2011 10:54 pm

Peter Henderson wrote:From a well known scientist, who's also a Christian:

http://www.starcourse.org/jcp/testing_god_3.htm

Jocelyn Bell Burnell:
One of the things that I can never answer is whether my feeling that there is a god is simply some kind of neurological pattern in my brain. I have no answer to that, I just do not know. But the evidence would lead me to think otherwise, because I’m not the only person who feels this, who has the same experiences. And I can recognise what I call god in other people as well, it’s not just in me.



I won't post any further on this, lest the thread get locked, but I'm fascinated by this.

A "feeling that there is a god" probably is a "neurological pattern", like any feeling. The question is whether there is a God, and it would seem difficult to demonstrate that by showing that other people apart from yourself also think that there is. But then recognising "what I call god in other people" seems to be a different claim again. And perhaps this recognition itself is "simply" a neurological pattern. Which then leads to me thinking, "is my feeling that there isn't a god simply some kind of neurological pattern in my brain? I'm not the only person who feels this, and I can recognise the same experiences in others, not just in me..."

But even more interesting to me is whether Jocelyn recognises god - or rather, "what I call god" - in everyone or just some other people, or indeed lots of other people but not everyone. Does Jocelyn recognise "what I call god" in people who feel that there is a different god, or who recognise in Jocelyn what they call god? Does Jocelyn recognise "what I call god" in people who don't feel that there is a god, or feel that there isn't?

Juicy stuff. But I'll say no more here.

Dan
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Re: Strategy

Postby dannyno » Wed May 04, 2011 11:08 pm

cathy wrote:
It seems to me that the Gnus are against what they see as untruths, and aren't willing to make concessions
I think you'll find the creationist say exactly the same thing-again and again.


So do lots of people. So do you: what concessions would you make to a creationist on the fact of evolution and the undesirability of teaching creationism instead of science in schools?

I don't think you can legitimately draw a moral or political equivalence between gnus and creationists on this basis alone, even supposing it to be accurate. Creationists, after all, are a dangerous, freedom-hating, undemocratic, theocratic cult. Gnus on the other hand, are, er, not a dangerous freedom hating undemocratic theocratic cult.

Dan
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