Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

“Have you ever actually tried just being nice to them?”


If “them” are the new atheists, here’s the kind of thing you’d get in response:

The ever-charming new atheist Sam Harris, author of The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, offers us his view of Francis Collins, BioLogos, and the Templeton Foundation:

Collins has since started an organization called the BioLogos Foundation, whose purpose (in the words of its mission statement) is to demonstrate “the compatibility of the Christian faith with what science has discovered about the origins of the universe and life.” BioLogos is funded by the Templeton Foundation, a religious organization that, because of its astonishing wealth, has managed to purchase the complicity of otherwise secular scientists as it seeks to re-brand religious faith as a legitimate arm of science. 

Would Collins have received the same treatment in Nature if he had argued for the compatibility between science and witchcraft, astrology, or Tarot cards? Not a chance. In fact, we can be confident that his scientific career would have terminated in an inferno of criticism.

As should come as no surprise, once the eyes of faith have opened, confirmation is everywhere. Here Collins considers whether to accept the directorship of the Human Genome Project:
I spent a long afternoon praying in a little chapel, seeking guidance about this decision. I did not “hear” God speak—in fact, I’ve never had that experience. But during those hours, ending in an evensong service that I had not expected, a peace settled over me. A few days later, I accepted the offer. (p. 119)

One hopes to see, but does not find, the phrase “Dear Diary” framing these solemn excursions from honest reasoning. Again we find a peculiar emphasis on the most unremarkable violations of expectation: Just as Collins had not expected to see a frozen waterfall, he had not expected an evensong service. How unlikely would it be to encounter an evensong service (generally celebrated just before sunset) while spending “a long afternoon praying in a little chapel”? And what of Collins’ feeling of “peace”? We are clearly meant to view it as some indication, however slight, of the veracity of his religious beliefs. Elsewhere in his book Collins states, correctly, that “monotheism and polytheism cannot both be right.” But doesn’t he think that at some point in the last thousand years a Hindu or two has prayed in a temple, perhaps to the elephant-headed god Ganesh, and experienced similar feelings of peace? What might he, as a scientist, make of this fact?

In case you wondered. UD did not get the award last year for being nice to them. Too high a bar for us.

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CY @ 3, Forcefully refuting foolishness is not vitriol. Bluntly pointing out intellectualy dishonesty (cf. "... We won’t do it with the same strategy as a PZ Meyers or a Sam Harris. People should be able to see a clear distinction") is not vitriol. But the "nice" people -- who are anything but nice when they get riled -- are 'agin' it; they are against stating the truth when doing so "offends" those who are either lying or refusing to reason properly. Ilion
From long direct experience, I despise "nice"-ianity and its intellectually dishonest practitioners. Ilion
CY and News: Pardon, but --
while I agree that we need to be civil (including guarding the civil peace of justice from the likes of those who recently tried mafioso style threats against my family: we know you, we know where you are, we know those you care for . . . and a lot of the evo mat crowd CHEERED this on! not to mention applauding blatant slander, patently dishonest strawman caricature and just plain rudeness ) --
. . . I think Plato pointed out that there is a deeper problem at work, the inherent amorality of evo mat thought, since c 400 BC, leading to ruthless factions and abuses wherever such gain power enough to do damage. We need to make it plain to the public just where that sort of behaviour is coming from, and raise in that context the implications of amoral worldviews for the survivability of our civilisation. As the just linked thread shows, even so simple a process as analysing how rights entail duties, thus the objective reality of oughtness, thence the value of the Categorical Imperative for judging that which is morally sound/unsound, would make a big difference. Beyond that, at worldviews and civilisations level, our civilisation is going to have to make a big decision as to whether it can survive if its intellectual and power elites are dominated by amoral worldviews and agendas. GEM of TKI kairosfocus
News, Well you may be right re: Dawkins. Even WLC has pumped up his dismay over Dawkins' refusal, but he seems to have done so in a respectful way. How? "Here's a chair, you're welcome to sit in it." Sounds more like an invitation than a smear tactic to me. Wouldn't it be interesting if PZ employed the same strategy to say, Michael Behe? See, I think we really have to be diplomatic with these people if we want to gain an audience with them. Dawkins met WLC already in debate down in South America, so I imagine he has a new appreciation for his influence now that he has encountered him. The thing about Dawkins also is that he stated on one occasion quite emphatically that he's willing to debate anyone. Then he stated the complete opposite when it comes to "creationists." The fact that WLC is not the kind of "creationist" Dawkins earlier envisioned (the Ken Ham sort of creationist) might be a point for understanding and more willingness to engage; unless our instincts are correct that he's afraid of such engagement. CannuckianYankee
Agree with most of what you say, not re Dawkins. Dawkins has been grossly oversold by media, well beyond any possible achievements, a fact he must know perfectly well. Surely he is not such an idiot as to think that his achievements put him where he is today. He represents something the pop science media needs. In that case, it's reasonable to assume that he doesn't meet Craig because he can't. Antony Flew earned his distinctions without becoming a household word. If he had declined to debate Craig, one might challenge him to meet any Christian academic of his choice - knowing full well that he would not pick one of God's beloved idiots, just to secure himself a victory. Could we make the same assumption about Dawkins, if realism is given the vote, alongside charity? News
The strategy of the new atheists, which can easily be detected in their many blogs, is one of confrontation, and it doesn't have to be (and in fact should not be) "nice." There's a mood nowadays that accepts the notion that the politics of "nice" has been an utter failure; thus, the radical polarization between right and left, religious and non-religious e&. I think we owe it to ourselves to reject that mood. We should be confrontational, but "nice" about it. We should respect when someone has something valuable to contribute to the issues at hand. It may be true that far too often the opposite is reciprocated, but we can redirect without attacking the person. If this is their strategy, it clearly won't work if we engage in the same. It will end up as simply an ad hominem back and forth. PZ Meyers has stated that it's not his intention to convert the unconvertible; the already "diehard and undereducated religionist," but those who are on the fence, who haven't decided either way. He clearly believes that his confrontational vitriolic strategy will work with them. If we have an opposite strategy of respect, we will win those on the fence who are put off by Meyers' form of confrontation and theatrics. I think these issues are too important to be smeared before the undecided crowd as excrement. We should be careful with our words. Sam Harris at least has the decency to engage with theists as is shown in his recent debate with William Lane Craig. We should encourage such gatherings even if we ultimately disagree, and we should thank them for engaging. If Richard Dawkins decides not to fill that empty chair in October, we should respect his decision and not jump to conclusions that he was afraid of being clobbered by Craig; even though that will in my estimation be the outcome. I doubt if for example, Antony Flew was persuaded towards the design argument because of vitriol flung at him by theists. He saw a good argument and was persuaded, despite any personality conflicts along the way. It's these types of sincere folk we need to try and reach. We won't do it with the same strategy as a PZ Meyers or a Sam Harris. People should be able to see a clear distinction. I think the way to confront Harris regarding Collins is to simply state: "well I think you're wrong, and here's why..." CannuckianYankee
junkdnaforlife, Funny part is that those racists allways by default want to sell idea, that they are the intelligent ones, but other races - lessers. What if it is just opposit. If they accept idea of racism, then it is very possible, that there exists race which is more intelligent then they are, so question is - would they accept their own conclusions, and how would they know if they are the dumb ones? My observations shows very consequent pattern, that atheism and logic is not compatible traits. Shazard
James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA: "...people of African descent appear to be innately less intelligent than white Europeans." What Sam Harris says about aforementioned jem:
"Watson’s opinions on race are disturbing, but his underlying point was not, in principle, unscientific. There may very well be detectable differences in intelligence between races. Given the genetic consequences of a population living in isolation for tens of thousands of years it would, in fact, be very surprising if there were no differences between racial or ethnic groups waiting to be discovered. I say this not to defend Watson’s fascination with race, or to suggest that such race-focused research might be worth doing. I am merely observing that there is, at least, a possible scientific basis for his views."
Residual fragments of root ideologies responsible for mankind's most horrific century can be clearly identified within Sam Harris's secular "reason". junkdnaforlife

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