Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Separation of Science and Religion

The separation of the religious and the scientific means in the end the separation of the religious and the true; and this means that religion dies among true men.

(James Denney - Studies in Theology 1894)


Blogger allygally said...

The separation of religion and science is not a matter of choice.

The dawning realisation by Christians in the late 19th century that the real observed world is at odds with their religious beliefs is just that: a realisation that someday soon "true men" would have to choose, and that religion would be the loser...

10:06 am  
Blogger Antony Latham said...

Now that we know random mutations + natural selection + billions of years cannot produce the complexity of life - (this has been superbly shown in Michael Behe's new book 'The Edge of Evolution'which goes through all the latest scientific evidence concerning mutations) and now that we know about the stunning fine-tuning of the universe; I am perplexed as to why anyone who is a scientist continues to feel that belief in a creator is incompatible with 'Truth'.

5:45 pm  
Anonymous PaulH said...

We know nothing of the sort.

Michael Behe's book has been roundly savaged by just about everyone and their mums as containing strawman arguments, meaningless statistics and a woefully flawed set of assumptions concerning fitness landscapes. Not to mention that in the process he has to acknowledge that common descent and speciation are explainable by evolution. Not to mention his claim that your 'loving god' also specifically designed the mechanisms to allow malaria to cause pain and suffering and death to millions of people.

Nice work Jehova.

The noise of the cretinationists rushing to construct cunning defences of Behe's text is distinctly underwhelming. I'm not even sure that Behe's defending his book.

We "know" the universe was fine tuned? Surely the universe has some constants that enable life/chemistry/physics as we know to exist. If the constants were different, we either (a) wouldn't exist, or (b) we'd be completely different. No creator required.

I am perplexed as to why anyone continues to feel that belief in a creator is compatible with anything at all.

2:55 pm  
Blogger Antony Latham said...

paulh - I am sorry but you are demonstrating plain intolerance to other poeple's views and evidence which is soundly based. I would be interested to hear what piece of Behe's work you specifically find incorrect. If trillions of malaria parasites cannot produce any mutation that confers meaningful new complex beneficial information in their genome - then why are you so surprised that some doubt the power of random mutation to, say for example, form the speech area in your cerebral cortex in far fewer generations /numbers of organisms. The complexity of the neurology of speech is stunning.

Behe has already replied to 3 well known critics - check out his book on where he has up to date comments on critiques from Jerry coyne, Michael Ruse and Sean Carroll. Have you read Behe's book?

As for the fine tuning - you are out of touch with cosmologists. Not least the former astronomer royal Martin Rees - who has admitted (in his book Just six numbers) that we cannot get away with your sort of argument (any more than the prisoner facing a firing squad with 50 marksmen, who finds after they have fired that they have all missed - could say, "so what - I am alive, so they must have missed. What is so strange about that!"

11:28 pm  
Anonymous PaulH said...

I take issue with your 'we know' attitude because we 'know' nothing of the sort.

Intolerant? Yes, I am. When it comes to spin, dishonesty and distortion along with indiscriminate quote mining, distortion and wilful ignorance, you'll find that I'm extremely intolerant. Especially when the people responsible for this dreck are trying to foist their fallacious views on other people.

Which piece of Behe's work specifically is incorrect? Well for starters any of his assertions that things are too tricky to evolve so that someone, somewhere has to tinker with them. There's enough reviews out there pointing out the flaws in his work that I'm pretty much inclined to dismiss the whole thing as incorrect.

If he's so right, and all his research has led him to these conclusions, why is he not publishing in proper journals, with studies that people can replicate to back up his claims?

Thanks for pointing out that Behe's responded to his critics, I'll have a squizz later on, and see if he's any more convincing.

As to the 'fine tuning' argument, Rees has three possibilities. 1 the constants just 'are', 2. The constants were manually frigged or 3. There's a whole bunch of universes.

Only the second option appears to require a creator, and it tells us nothing about anything anyway. If the constants were intentionally set, are you claiming that the same creator that's setting these constants is the same one that's messing with my genes? Where's your evidence for this? Where are your proposed mechanisms for carrying this out?

The best that ID has produced so far seems to be a bunch of error ridden and fallacious statements aimed at discrediting the current theories of evolution/development. And then tried to force them on schools/children/gullible churchgoers who don't have the tools to argue effectively back.

That's why I'm intolerant.

7:43 pm  
Blogger Antony Latham said...

paulh - I asked if you could give me any specific part of Behe's book which you disagree with - and why. I suspect you have not read it because you have not made any serious effort to show us where he is merely appeal some higher authorities. Do you not have your own views?

Behe has used actual evidence that is verifiable and sound to demonstrate what mutations can and cannot do. He uses data. Where is your data for asserting that he is wrong? I am absolutely open to seeing Behe trounced with reliable science. We all want the truth do we not? Give us your evidence.

The reviews that I have seen that are against his book - such as that by Dawkins in the New York Times review of books, have been of astoundingly low quality....mostly sneering and pompous attacks that do not deal with the actual science...and in Dawkins' case - completely in error (when he calls the breeding of dogs evidence for evolution).

In Rees' book he actually gives only number 2 and 3 of your list to be possible. As I have already stated he does not agree that 1 is arguable. He plumps for 3 without any evidence - ie based on his philosophy rather than science. In doing so he goes against Occam's razor proposing a less parsimonious idea which has no basis in any data.

6:13 pm  
Anonymous Brian said...

I think you'll find that ID is the 'appeal to higher authority' due to it's inherent misunderstanding of science. How much 'pathetic level of detail' is necessary to persuade you of Behe's misrepresentation of scientific facts. Reviews are just that - brief. I'm sure the nit-picking detail will be here soon but if Behe has produced such earth-shattering science why has he chosen to address it to a lay-audience rather than the scientific community?

8:59 am  
Blogger Antony Latham said...

brian - He has addressed it to the scientific community and they are responding. See his blog (attached to the site for his book). You will see responses by scientists. As for publishing ID material in journals - there is still a complete cold shoulder given to any such submissions. This will eventually change but if an editor (as happened recently in Washington) allows any paper that hints at ID he is likely to be sacked.

There have been no arguments yet given which I have seen which in any way undermine his conclusions. Have you any? Random mutations are shown by exhaustive data to be completely unable to provide the goods for biological complexity.

6:00 pm  
Anonymous Brian said...

Serious scientists (those better qualified than I am) are taking this junk apart. Avoiding the normal route of peer review is par for the course with ID because the target audience is not scientists (it doesn't have any science) but believers - as Dembski has admitted it is a guaranteed source of income. This engagement with scientists is, no doubt, something they would choose not to do as it distracts them from their own work. I'm sure you don't see it that way though?

7:56 pm  
Blogger Antony Latham said...

brian - I am sorry but you are merely blustering here. What is it you actually disagree with about his book? You must stop appealing to 'serious scientists'.

Are you, for example, arguing against his data concerning the mutation rates in malaria, his analysis of the ability of such mutations to counter anti-malarials or do anything new, or his analysis, based on verified data of the likelihood of getting, at one time, a change of 2 amino acids to form a new type of protein...etc. This is where the argument is. It is foundational to Darwinism. So far the 'serious' scientists have failed to counter any of his arguments (in complete contrast to what you have asserted)- and there are plenty trying to.

It is essential to be better informed before making reflex statements. I am more than happy to discuss this on a more detailed basis but unless you come up with some better information I am unlikely to continue in this thread.

10:20 am  
Anonymous Brian said...

I'll have to apologise - I obviously lack your level of understanding of evolutionary biology - which is why I am happy to accept the word of scientists who work in the field (when I'm ill I go to a doctor). I have yet to read anything that would lead me to consider Behe's book as anything other than an income generator.

Once again, why has he chosen to make money rather than subject his thesis to proper scientific scrutiny? Controversial ideas do not make for bad science. I will concede that it makes it harder to make headway but he's not even trying to engage the scientific community he has distanced himself from. Do you still accept any of his arguments from DBB?

12:33 pm  
Blogger Antony Latham said...

Brian - I am not saying that you have to know a great deal about biology to have a discussion. But it is dangerous to be so certain unless you understand both sides of the argument. If you read only the rabid attacks from people like Dawkins then you will see how heated this whole thing is. Certain evolutionists have staked their whole careers on Darwinism and they hate to see this philosophy undermined...and it is mostly philosophy rather than science.

Behe (in one of his recent replies to a critic of his book) says that he has tried to put his ideas to peer reviewed journals and he recounts the reply of one editor who said the journal's policy was to only accept pro-darwinian papers. No openness in other words. The establishment closes its ranks and careers are in jeopardy if there is even a whiff of assent to Behe's ideas. It is a herd mentality.

You say he is making money - is there something wrong with getting royalties from books? Of course he gets far less than Richard Dawkins and I am sure much less than most novelists - so the argument goes both ways. I have also written a book on the subject but I assure I get very little for it. He does however regularly have open public debates with leading darwinists - so he is not hiding in some corner.

Yes I do hold to virtually all he has said in DBB. What in particular do you not agree with? His new book actually makes it even more clear (in one of the appendices) why the flagellum is irreducibly complex...and he deals with all the ideas thrown against it by the established Darwinian world.

Do you not think there is much that is spiritually at stake here also? To admit the possibility of a creator is a very serious and polarising thing...hence the flack thrown at him, which I have to say he deals with in a gracious manner.

8:38 pm  
Anonymous Brian said...

It may surprise you to learn that I have probably read more of the bible than the OOS. I know which one I believe though. As an atheist it is irrelevant to invoke a creator for anything so this line of discussion is moot.

I have no issues with Behe making money but as a trained scientist he is aware of what he is doing. Dawkins, and other scientists, publish books as an aside to their mainstream work not as their only outlet. Contentious ideas are no barrier to peer review but bad science is. I have no problem accepting that he has personal conviction in what he is delivering but at what point does he start listening to his critics - which are numerous? The scientific literature is full of ideas that have been superseded or later shown to be
erroneous. The whole point of science is to be inquisitive not entrenched and lazy;
I would imagine this whole debate has been wonderful for those involved in flagellum research. With advances in knowledge since DBB came out the issue of the flagellum being IC (just this one point) has surely been put to rest. Behe might gain some semblance of credibility by admitting so and moving on. The agenda though is not to advance knowledge but to evangelise the 'Truth' and the two are incompatible.

11:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correction, Brian:

Dawkins hasn't done any original research in years -- perhaps not since he published The Selfish Gene in 1976. After all, he only made it to the rank of Reader in the Oxford Zoology faculty. His chair, conferred about ten years, is privately endowed and designated in 'the public understanding of science'. It would be interesting to see whether Behe or Dawkins has published more papers in peer-review scientific journals.

11:54 pm  
Anonymous Brian said...

I made no comment about Dawkins being active in research and given his present role it doesn't surprise me. My point is that both he and Behe hold academic posts and have peer-review publication records in their respective fields. If Behe wishes to present radical ideas for scrutiny then he knows what route to go down but I suspect he knows the shortcomings will be irrelevant to a non-scientific audience.

The big bang theory overcame it's initial concern because the evidence supported it. The opposite case occurs with ID but due to entrenchment this debate continues. I await the day an ID proponent publicly states something along the lines "..we suggested X may be an example of IC but the evidence suggests it isn't..".

ID, being a revealed Truth, doesn't appear to have the luxury of dynamic thinking that defines (and drives)scientific understanding.

8:39 am  
Anonymous John said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:08 am  
Anonymous Brian said...


I read the first one, painful though it is, and I'm not sure it has a point? I'll skip the rest.

I'm always amused by the concept of a 'church of science'.

11:57 am  
Blogger Alan Grey said...

Actually, this quote is means in the end the separation of science and the true.

When you rule out an explanation a priori, you are no longer looking for truth, you are looking for something that agrees with your assumptions.

5:26 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...


Good point. Thank you.

8:27 am  
Blogger Pépé said...

ID can be falsified if it can be shown that complex specified information is the result of something other than intelligence.

If ID can be falsified, then it is real science.

4:09 pm  
Anonymous George said...

I have no idea who Behe is but Antony Latham's book is terrible. and i find the claims within it that the "tide is turning against darwinism" quite amusing.

5:57 pm  

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