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Science does not necessarily promote self-criticism

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It can insulate people from it.

The Wall Street Journal article by John Horgan that reviews Darwin follower Jerry Coyne’s latest is behind some paywall. But we hear from a reliable source that it says, among other things:

Mr. Coyne repeatedly reminds us that science, unlike religion, promotes self-criticism. but he is remarkably lacking in this virtue himself.

The popularity of multiverse theories, a hypothetical corollary of several highly speculative physics theories, merely shows how desperate scientists are for answers. Multiverse enthusiasts seem to think that the existence of an infinite number of universes will make ours appear less mysterious. The problem is none of these other universes can be observed, which is why skeptics liken multiverse theories to untestable religious beliefs.”

Wow. Reviewer Horgan is playing our song. Truth is, he helped write it.

He has this weird obsession with evidence. Maybe there is a cure for that—and we will all be forced to hork it down.

Also, as I (O’Leary for News) said earlier, what is with this stupid claim that science, in particular, promotes self-criticism? As opposed to what? Business? Try going five quarters in a row without sales, and see what happens.

Business is self-correcting too (market discipline). So is religion (reformations and revivals, for example). In fact, all human endeavours that succeed for any length of time must be self-correcting.

Otherwise, they just explode/implode.

So why are we still listening to nonsense about science, typically promoted by science promo hacks?  (Horgan does not appear to be one of those.)

Also: Keep the Internet free. Give to Uncommon Descent (currently a tax number charity) in the US.

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13 Replies to “Science does not necessarily promote self-criticism

  1. 1
    ppolish says:

    You are entitled to criticize opinion, but not allowed to criticize fact. Evolution is fact. Evolution is true. Haha. Ha.

    Any wonder Dawkins & Coyne & Krauss & Harris & Etc will never do great Science? Nope. Will any of their followers do great science? Nope. It’s true. A fact.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    For some reason the paywall dropped for me.

    Same thing happened for me on Metaxas’s Christmas Eve WSJ article on fine-tuning:

    Here is the article for anyone interested in reading it in full:

    Preaching to the Converted
    In the 19th century, believers often found their faith bolstered by science and boosted its advance in turn.
    by John Horgan
    May 29, 2015 4:28 p.m. ET
    I’ve never understood the appeal of preaching to the converted. What’s the point? Why bother bashing believers in ghosts, homeopathy and Allah or non-believers in global warming, childhood vaccines and evolution in ways that cannot persuade but only annoy those who don’t pre-agree with you?
    This question kept coming to mind as I read “Faith vs. Fact,” the latest in a seemingly endless series of books that berate religious believers for their foolishness. Biologist Jerry Coyne reveals early on that his goal is to enlist more people in his anti-religion crusade. He was disappointed that his previous book, “Why Evolution Is True,” a tutorial on Darwinian theory, failed to vanquish creationism. What Americans need, Mr. Coyne decided, is “not just an education in facts, but a de-education in faith.” His shrill, self-righteous diatribe is more likely to hurt his cause than help it.
    Although Mr. Coyne and I have bickered in the blogosphere (especially about free will, to which I will soon return), I share his enthusiasm for science—as a source of both truth and power over the world—and his concern about religion’s ill effects. I opened his book hoping to find arguments that I could borrow for my writing and teaching. But Mr. Coyne’s defenses of science and denunciations of religion are so relentlessly one-sided that they aroused my antipathy toward the former and sympathy toward the latter.
    Mr. Coyne castigates not only religious believers but even non-believers less hostile to religion than he is. He reviles “accommodationism,” the notion that science and religion can find common ground. This view, he claims, “gives unwarranted credibility to faith, a credibility that, at its extremes, is responsible for many human deaths and might ultimately contribute to the demise of our own species and much other life on Earth.” If we don’t all agree with Mr. Coyne, in other words, we’re doomed.
    Mr. Coyne overlooks any positive consequences of religion, such as its role in anti-slavery, civil-rights and anti-war movements. He inflates religion’s contribution to public resistance toward vaccines, genetically modified food and human-induced global warming. Conversely, he absolves science of responsibility for any adverse consequences, such as weapons and ideologies of mass destruction. “The compelling force that produced nuclear weapons, gunpowder, and eugenics was not science but people.” Right. Science doesn’t kill people; people kill people.
    Naïve readers of Mr. Coyne might conclude that science is rapidly filling in the remaining gaps in our understanding of reality and solving ancient philosophical conundrums. He claims that free will, the notion that “we can choose to behave in different ways,” is being contradicted by research in genetics and neuroscience and “looks increasingly dubious.”
    As evidence, he cites scientific revelations that our choices are often influenced by factors of which we are unaware. Of course they are—Freud told us as much, and Sophocles for that matter. But it is absurd to conclude that all our conscious deliberations are therefore inconsequential.
    Science has shown merely that simplistic, billiard-ball-style notions of causality cannot account for the complexities of human reasoning and decision-making. How the brain, a physical object, generates thoughts, emotions, memories and other subjective phenomena remains one of science’s abiding mysteries.
    Mr. Coyne’s critique of free will, far from being based on scientific “fact,” betrays how his hostility toward religion distorts his judgment. Evidence against free will, he says, “kicks the props out from under much theology, including the doctrine of salvation.” Mr. Coyne thinks that if religious people believe in free will, it must be an illusion.
    Mr. Coyne’s loathing of creationism, similarly, leads him to exaggerate what science can tell us about our cosmic origins. Mr. Coyne asserts that “we are starting to see how the universe could arise from ‘nothing,’ and that our own universe might be only one of many universes that differ in their physical laws.” Actually, cosmologists are more baffled than ever at why there is something rather than nothing.
    The popularity of multiverse theories—a hypothetical corollary of several highly speculative physics theories—merely shows how desperate scientists are for answers. Multiverse enthusiasts seem to think that the existence of an infinite number of universes will make ours appear less mysterious. The problem is, none of these other universes can be observed, which is why skeptics liken multiverse theories to untestable religious beliefs.
    Mr. Coyne repeatedly reminds us that science, unlike religion, promotes self-criticism, but he is remarkably lacking in this virtue himself. He rejects complaints that some modern scientists are guilty of “scientism,” which I would define as excessive trust—faith!—in science. Calling scientism “a grab bag of disparate accusations that are mostly inaccurate or overblown,” Mr. Coyne insists that the term “be dropped.”
    Actually, “Faith vs. Fact” serves as a splendid specimen of scientism. Mr. Coyne disparages not only religion but also other human ways of engaging with reality. The arts, he argues, “cannot ascertain truth or knowledge,” and the humanities do so only to the extent that they emulate the sciences. This sort of arrogance and certitude is the essence of scientism.
    Compared with “Faith vs. Fact,” another new book about science and religion, “Private Doubt, Public Dilemma,” is refreshingly modest and nondogmatic. In what could be read as a rebuke to Mr. Coyne, biologist-turned-historian of science Keith Thomson frets that the debate over science and religion is “becoming more than a little tiresome, with many commentators on the subject making things worse rather than better.”
    Mr. Thomson takes a fresh approach, by delving into the history of the conflict in search of lessons that can help “the two sides to find their way toward common ground.” He focuses in particular on the careers of Thomas Jefferson and Charles Darwin, who struggled to reconcile the competing claims of faith and science.
    Mr. Thomson’s book brims with lively anecdotes, which illustrate his point that “our modern problems are not so different in kind from those experienced by our recent forebears.” He notes that Jefferson—in some respects the quintessential Enlightenment figure, an avid pursuer of geology and other nascent scientific disciplines—never entirely abandoned his Christian faith.
    Jefferson’s contemporaries nonetheless savagely attacked him for his impiety. Clement Clarke Moore, author of the beloved poem “T’was the Night Before Christmas,” complained that Jefferson’s geological writings contradicted biblical accounts of creation. Moore compared Jefferson to “French Encyclopedists, the imps who have inspired all the wickedness with which the world has of late years been infested.” Even centuries ago, you could insult someone by comparing him to a French philosopher.
    Later in the 19th century, William Gladstone, the British prime minister, weighed in on the controversy triggered by Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species.” Geologists, Gladstone noted, had discovered that fish appeared in the fossil record before land-based animals; these findings bolstered rather than undercut the Bible, which describes God making sea creatures before terrestrial animals. “It is surely impossible to avoid the conclusion,” Gladstone wrote, that the author of Genesis possessed divine knowledge.
    I also appreciate Mr. Thomson’s ideas for reducing the conflict between science and religion “through cooperation and compromise.” Contrary to what many science advocates are urging, Mr. Thomson opposes segregating science and religion in classrooms. The “best hope for science in the United States,” he suggests, “would be for religion to be openly and frankly discussed in schools.”
    Even better is Mr. Thomson’s call for adherents of science and religion to “join forces to do good.” As an example of a common goal, he cites “environmental stewardship.” In 2011, representatives of religious as well as environmental groups voiced concerns about the risks of mercury contamination at a hearing of the Environmental Protection Agency. “The authority of the scientists,” Mr. Thomson writes, “was strengthened by the testimony of the religious groups; the cause of the religious groups was bolstered by the data and analyses of the scientists.”
    Some prominent scientists have been working to build more alliances of this kind. In his 2006 book, “The Creation,” the biologist Edward O. Wilson appealed to Christians to join forces with him and other scientists trying to preserve biodiversity. Mr. Wilson’s book helped inspire several evangelical groups to take up the cause of conservation. Surely even Jerry Coyne would welcome this kind of accommodationism.
    —Mr. Horgan directs the Center for Science Writings at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. His most recent book is “The End of War.”
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/pr.....1432931302

  3. 3
    jstanley01 says:

    A link from Google to WSJ articles will take you to the entire article when other links don’t.

    BTW, John Horgan is clueless about the meaning of, “Don’t preach to the converted.” It means, you don’t need to preach to people who already believe in whatever it is that you’re evangelizing about. Duh.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Here’s a neat quote that I just found that goes well with Horgan’s article:

    A Neurosurgeon, Not A Darwinist – Michael Egnor
    Excerpt: “I read all that I could find. Johnson. Dawkins. Wells. Berra. Behe. Dennett. Dembski. What I found is this: The claims of evolutionary biologists go wildly beyond the evidence.
    “The fossil record shows sharp discontinuity between species, not the gradual transitions that Darwinism inherently predicts. Darwin’s theory offers no coherent, evidence-based explanation for the evolution of even a single molecular pathway from primordial components. The origin of the genetic code belies random causation. All codes with which we have experience arise from intelligent agency. Intricate biomolecules such as enzymes are so functionally complex that it’s difficult to see how they could arise by random mutations….
    “The fight against the design inference in biology is motivated by fundamentalist atheism. Darwinists detest intelligent design theory because it is compatible with belief in God.
    “But the evidence is unassailable. The most reasonable scientific explanation for functional biological complexity–the genetic code and the intricate nanotechnology inside living cells–is that they were designed by intelligent agency. There is no scientific evidence that unintelligent processes can create substantial new biological structures and function.”There is no unintelligent process known to science that can generate codes and machines.
    I still consider religious explanations for biology to be unscientific at best, dogma at worst. But I understand now that Darwinism itself is a religious creed that masquerades as science. Darwin’s theory of biological origins is atheism’s creation myth, and atheists defend their dogma with religious fervor.
    – Michael Egnor is a professor and vice chairman of the department of neurosurgery at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
    http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/.....egnor.html

  5. 5
    Mapou says:

    Jackasses like Coyne and Dawkins are not interested in science. They’re only interested in bashing religion, especially Christians. They got a bone to pick with Christian churches. They think they can use science to feed their perverted obsession (we know that Dawkins was molested as a child; but what’s Coyne’s excuse?)

    It’s really easy to spot a true scientist. A true scientist only criticizes science because he or she knows that this is how science improves. Coyne and Dawkins are not true scientists.

    Erecting a wall around science is a sure sign that science has been taken over by impostors, pretenders and other jackasses. But not for long, I predict. Their worst nightmare is about to become true. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’ll be watching the whole thing unfold with a beer in one hand, a bag of cheetos in the other and a smirk on my face. 😀

  6. 6
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Mapou

    Erecting a wall around science is a sure sign that science has been taken over by impostors, pretenders and other jackasses.

    That’s a great insight. Coyne actually wants to purify the scientific population within the walls so any scientist who is even respectful of religious belief is “unfit”. In the end, the group of “true scientists” according to his rules just keeps getting reduced. Then, the most entertaining part of it is when they start fighting with each other and then declaring their own inner-circle of ‘real science’ is the true one. They’re only going to destroy themselves – and they’ll do some damage to science along the way.

    I find it hard to believe that anybody can take Coyne seriously.

  7. 7
    Silver Asiatic says:

    He was disappointed that his previous book, “Why Evolution Is True,” a tutorial on Darwinian theory, failed to vanquish creationism.

    Talk about an arrogant egotist. His little books and blog are going to vanquish belief in creation?

    What Americans need, Mr. Coyne decided, is “not just an education in facts, but a de-education in faith.”

    Coyne doesn’t actually offer any arguments against faith — he doesn’t seem to know anything about it.

    His shrill, self-righteous diatribe is more likely to hurt his cause than help it.

    That’s the best thing about him.

    Multiverse enthusiasts seem to think that the existence of an infinite number of universes will make ours appear less mysterious.

    That’s a keeper.

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    If science was truly as self correcting as Coyne and other materialistic atheists pretend it is, then why have these materialistic atheists not allowed science to ‘self-correct’ their false materialistic presumptions?

    “If you go back and look at the premises which underlie materialism, They are all presumptions that were made back in the 17th and 18th century. Those (presumptions) are: reality, locality, causality, continuity, and determinism. All of those concepts were assumed to be self evident. And all of them have been disproved by quantum theory. The last one to fall was locality. (John Bell’s theory of non-locality disproved locality, which has now been proven I think 11 times in 11 different experiments throughout the world.),,, Anyone who says, “Well, I want to believe materialism and I don’t want to believe quantum physics.” Okay then, get rid of your cell phone, along with anything you have with a transistor in it. Get rid of your MRIs, get rid of all those things. Because quantum electro-dynamics is the theory which allows those things. It is the most proven theory in all of science.”
    Dr. Alan Hugenot – Hugenot holds a doctorate of science in mechanical engineering, and has had a successful career in marine engineering, serving on committees that write the ship-building standards for the United States. He studied physics and mechanical engineering at the Oregon Institute of Technology.
    quote taken from 16:35 minute mark of interview
    http://www.skeptiko.com/276-al.....-research/

  9. 9
    Axel says:

    I’m borrowing your above post #8, BA77 to start a thread on Christian Forums. I hope it’s all right with you. If not I can delete it. If I just post it as a regular post, it won’t get the attention it deserves.

  10. 10
    Mapou says:

    jstanley01:

    BTW, John Horgan is clueless about the meaning of, “Don’t preach to the converted.” It means, you don’t need to preach to people who already believe in whatever it is that you’re evangelizing about. Duh.

    Actually, Horgan is light years ahead of you in his understanding. You’re the idiot here.

  11. 11
    bornagain77 says:

    Axel, I certainly don’t mind and am glad that you find it as interesting as I did.

  12. 12
    ppolish says:

    jstanley01, this is not about “preaching to the choir”. The followers of Dawkins/Coyne are choirboys and girls.

    This is about preaching to the group that are NOT followers. The converted religious folk. Preaching to them is NOT effective. Helping them, bribing them, brainwashing them – those strategies are more effective.

    “Preaching to the Choir” is not the same as “Preaching to the Converted” is this case.

  13. 13
    Axel says:

    Absolutely, BA. More great grist to the mill. Alongside Cornelius’ piece-meal demolition of Evolution, between the pair of you, you seem to be building up a Christian-apologetic magnum opus. And thank you for the OK. Certainly the death of materialism and evolution.

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