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View Diary: Book Review: Unscientific America (351 comments)

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  •  an analogy I like (16+ / 0-)

    From the above linked pharyngula post:

    In order to be what it is, though, science must live. It's a process carried out by human beings, and it can't be gagged and enslaved and shackled to a narrow goal, one that doesn't rock the boat. Imagine they'd written a book that tried to tell artists that they shouldn't challenge the culture; we'd laugh ourselves sick and tell them that they were completely missing the point. Why do you think some of us are rolling our eyes at their absurd request that scientists should obliging accommodate themselves to a safe frame that every middle-class American would find cozy? They don't get it.

    As a practicing scientist, I don't agree much at all with the ideas of Mooney in this book and his whole ideas about 'framing science'.  I acknowledge that my position is not especially pragmatic.  

    I think Mooney is proposing something like the DLC for the democratic party.  The DLC tried to make liberalism more palatable to mainstream America and in the process neutered liberals from boldly standing for their principles.  I'm personally not interested in such an endeavor for science.

    •  pragmatism (5+ / 0-)

      this book has nothing to do with framing and it is not my idea.

      it is false that we are asking anyone to be boring and centrist. that has nothing to do with it.

      we are saying, give people opportunities to be innovative. we're being mischaracterized.

      •  a question for you (9+ / 0-)

        I haven't read this book but I did read PZ Myers' review in which he claims you said the following:

        Following this, he proceeds to damn the "New Atheists" for "collapsing the distinction" between methodological and philosophical naturalism, and argues that Dawkins is taking a philosophical position and misusing science to claim it "entirely precludes God's existence."

        My question is, did you in fact say that Dawkins uses science to "entirely preclude God's existence?"

        If you did, that is an extreme mischaracterization and strikes me as an easy way for you to just kick around Dawkins to make inroads with the masses.  That is pragmatism rather than reality.

        Here is what Dawkins actually wrote in his book:

        'I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.'

        •  we use that phrase (4+ / 0-)

          although it is not attributed to dawkins.

          i've read dawkins book in some detail, and our objection is to his making god's existence a scientific question. i realize he does not ascribe full certainty to his atheistic conclusion--but he claims he can reason scientifically about god's existence. we're saying that a lot of theologians, philosophers, etc, would say that's a category error.

          i really have to ask that you read our book, rather than its misrepresentation in skewed reviews.

          •  Of course theologans disagree. (7+ / 0-)

            That's a bit like saying that the acupuncturist disagrees that the efficacy of his practice is a scientific question.

            Not to "pile on" you, as some seem to be doing.  I appreciate the effort you are making and your point of view.  But I only am willing to coddle the religious so much.

          •  Nonsense (14+ / 0-)

            Here is your quote

            The American scientific community gains nothing from the condescending rhetoric of the New Atheists—and neither does the stature of science in our culture. We should instead adopt a stance of respect towards those who would hold their faith dear, and a sense of humility based on the knowledge that although science can explain a great deal about the way our world functions, the question of God's existence lies outside its expertise.

            This advice is terrible in the face of places like the Texas Board of Education which had a voted on a challenge to evolution in March 2009.  The chariman of the Texas Board of Education at that time, Dr. McLeroy, believes that God created the earth less than 10,000 years ago.  Your proposal that we "adopt a stance of respect toward" people like Dr. McLeroy is utter nonsense.

            As someone said before me, I call a stone a frickin' stone.  I call an idiot a frickin' idiot.

            Please give me your proposal for dealing with the likes of Dr. McLeroy and the Texas Board of Education.

          •  Yes, you did (13+ / 0-)

            Tsk, tsk, Chris. Here's the quote in context.

            But much like the anti-evolutionists do, the New Atheists often seek to collapse the distinction between methodological and philosophical naturalism. In The God Delusion, for instance, Richard Dawkins makes the dubious claim that the existence of God is, as he puts it, "unequivocally a scientific question." Quite a lot of philosophers -- and scientists -- would disagree. It is one thing to say that scientific norms and practices preclude ascribing any explanatory force to God in, say, the movement of atoms, or the function of DNA. It's quite another to say they entirely preclude God's existence. In rejecting God or any other supernatural entity, Dawkins is taking a philosophical position.

            You unequivocally assign that view to Dawkins. He's the only person you mention, twice, in that paragraph, and you are using him as your sole example of the attitude you are trying to illustrate.

            Your comment is remarkable in that not only do you claim it is others that are misrepresenting your views, but right here you are misrepresenting what you actually said. My paragraph is a very accurate summation of what you wrote.

            •  you're right (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              simplicio, kaolin

              I've looked at the passage again (should have been a lot more careful before), and you are right--and I made an error. It does clearly ascribe this view to Dawkins.

              Now that I've read your criticism on your blog, I think "entirely preclude" states too strongly Dawkins' position, and we should have been more nuanced here. However he does still try to claim that God's existence is a scientific question.

              Thanks for catching this.

              •  Isn't it more like a "meaningful god" (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                simplicio, fayevski

                or something like that of which he speaks (I'm in lab and, thus, can't check at the moment but that's my vague recollection from reading Dawkins' books years ago)? Obviously deism has little to no scientific testability but theism, as a general principle, does. If you pray as part of your religion then the veracity of your religion is a scientific question (unless you expect prayers to not be answered, in which case I would wonder what the point is). Dawkins is correct in his view specifically because actual religious beliefs ascribe powers to gods that have real-world (i.e. measurable) consequences.

                write(*,*) transfer((/7.8675962E+34, 1.4198914E+22, 2.8759284E+20, & 7.0309227E+28, 1.5274153E-43/),(/'x'/));

                by dpryan on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 03:33:22 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  God's existence (0+ / 0-)

                is a question that can be subjected to scientific inquiry. It's only if some God did absolutely nothing from the beginning to now that could avoid any measurable impacts on physical reality. Have you even read Vic Stenger's book?

                Life isn't a battle between good and evil, it's a battle between signal and noise.

                by ChemBob on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 07:31:56 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  "Thanks for catching this"? (0+ / 1-)
                Recommended by:
                Hidden by:

                How about "I've been a pathetic asshole and have acted in extreme bad faith".

                However he does still try to claim that God's existence is a scientific question.

                And he's right!!! Certainly when it comes to the actual claims made by religions, about the age of the earth, whether evolution occurs, whether dead men can move stones, etc. ad nauseam.

          •  I'm curious... (0+ / 0-)

            Would you mind providing citations to some of the many philosophers who claim that the view that one can reason scientifically about god's existence embodies a category error.  Thanks.

          •  Bad faith. (0+ / 0-)

            PZ Myers quoted you in full and addressed your actual words, he did not misrepresent you. You, however, clearly have misrepresented Dawkins. And here you misrepresent yourself -- you are not merely saying that "a lot of theologians, philosophers, etc." are saying it's a "category error" to claim that one can reason scientifically about god's existence, you are saying it yourself. But not only are you wrong, but your own claim is a category error -- "that's a category error!" is not a rebuttal to Dawkins' arguments, which you fail to address; it's plain old bad faith.

      •  You are not being mischaracterized (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dpryan, Adzam13, Beauford, fayevski

        and you damned well know it. Frankly, we need opposition to religious fundamentalism across the spectrum of possible responses. If it weren't for Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, Harris, Stenger, PZ Myers and a few others you wouldn't even have anything to complain about, hence nothing to write. It's only because of them that we've (atheists) made any headway towards increased rationality recently and they're the primary reason you get any press.

        Life isn't a battle between good and evil, it's a battle between signal and noise.

        by ChemBob on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 11:43:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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