Science vs Religion Wars

I have three or four draft responses to Pharyngula (PZ Myers) blog posts, but they always turn into long essays and I rarely get round to publishing. One problem is he has many signed-up readers who respond to every post, and individual comments get lost in the baying mob (just like Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science blog I find). And since my comments (as an atheist) are mainly about the baying-mob mentality, it’s hard to know how to get the point into the stream. So here a very short post with one point, track-backed to PZ’z blog.

In this Facebook extract example, the innocent / ignorant status poster and commenters are indeed misguided on attributing the +/-10ft design to God, but the one scientific response totally misses the point and proceeds (very smugly I might add) to split hairs with one quantifiable “design” detail, and get soundly booed off stage by the believers with no argument either way. But PZ and his admirers simply jump on the same band-wagon – Oh look, theists only argue using the LaLaLaLaLa fingers-in-ears methods. Dumb and dumber I say. Theist or scientist, you can both be dumb. There is a very important point of interest in this facebook post that is completely swamped by those who believe themselves intellectually superior yet prefer wars to progress.

OK, so the “10ft” quote was way off the mark, but the “Goldilocks” enigma of how much of the universe seems to be fine-tuned “just right” for our-world-as-we-know-it to exist is a very interesting question. Easily attributed to god by the ignorant, but conveniently glossed-over by science in baying-mob mode.

My point ? It’s a myth that pointing out flaws in your adversaries’ arguments is a source of progress – falsification is good in the science-lab of repeatable-cases, refereed-peer-reviews & law-courts, but not in the real world. In fact it simply deepens the divide, reinforces adversaries as adversaries and excludes middles. Middles that have nothing to do with with compromise or accomodationism or apologism – I’m as atheist as any of the four horsemen – but concerned with the exclusion of sound rational knowledge.

Pull your finger out PZ – you are supposed to a responsible scientist / atheist.

17 thoughts on “Science vs Religion Wars”

  1. If the universe was tuned differently it would be just right for whatever was there.

  2. I’m glad you didn’t post this smug, arrogant screed at Pharyngula. The commentariat would have told you, in no uncertain terms, their opinion about tone trolling.

    BTW, I fail to see how telling someone what they wrote is wrong and explaining how it’s wrong is “smug.” Perhaps it’s only smug in tone-trolling land.

  3. @Martha, true, but “whatever is there” varies vastly depending small variations in few physical constants. Worth science understanding these more thoroughly, rather than depending on hugely speculative physics.

  4. @ambidexter Nothing to do with tone-trolling, it’s about addressing the point, Whether you are rhetorically “nice” or not, the point needs to be respected whatever the qualities of the individual making it. Telling someone they’re wrong is only one part of scientific progress (a point I make explicitly above).

    How someone is told they are wrong can be smug of course. In this case it’s pretty clear that the 10ft was a misunderstood reference to 10% or some such speculation … so and extended calculation based on that number was irrelevant to the actual point – about the fine tuning (a point I also make explicitly).

    Your response does not address either / any of the points made. And in fact your only response is as a tone-troll to comment on my “smug” tone. Priceless.

  5. haha Ian, just goes to show you that Copernicus worshiping religious fanatics are no better than god worshiping religious fanatics, scientists or otherwise…. 😉

  6. Yes, that’s about the size of it Island.

    Interesting that neither Martha nor Ambidexter bothered to give their contact address or ask for notification of any response to their comments – pure ignorance by its very definition.

  7. Ian, I did ask for notification of responses and have received notification. I just haven’t had anything else to say.

  8. Well Martha, is that because you are inexcusably ignorant of the facts?… I think so…

    If the universe was tuned differently it would be just right for whatever was there.

    Martha, quantum theory says that the vacuum energy density would be about 120 orders of magnitude greater than is observed if the universe were “tuned differently”… without an anthropic constraint on the forces. This is the most natural projection of our best mostly complete theory on the subject.

    None of us should even be more than dilute energy if this were correct. It is only the completely incomplete speculations of the cutting edge that think that they can resolve the issue with “multiverses” and the like, but these speculations are not justified by a complete theory, and it is a well known fact among scientists who hate this idea anyway that this is a complete copout on the first principles that are ***most naturally*** expected to resolve the problem of the flat yet expanding universe.

    You might as well be saying that unicorns might live there too, since you seem to think that anything is possible without good reason to think so…

  9. Ah, OK martha, I thought your email would show up in the comment link if you had clicked on notification. My bad.

    Thanks for coming back. Listen to Island, he does know what he’s talking about.

  10. Island, you claimed that I am “ignorant of the facts” and posted some stuff on the Anthropic Principle. I said a truism that was correct, though not very helpful or meaningful. I was simply illustrating the speculative nature of these type of inquiries. The Anthropic Principle is equally just as much a truism, the universe is “set up” to allow our existence. So what? Is there something scientific here? How is this not a tautology? Why is the specialness of humans so important?

    Speculation about why the universe is the way it is tends not to be scientific anyway in the sense of being testable.

  11. Martha, here are some facts for you to chew on so that you can begin to understand why your reply does not even begin to address anything that I said. Figure out why what I say is correct, and you will get a clue:

    1) “I said a truism that was correct”

    Wrong, there is no truism in the observation, Martha, unless you can prove that the physics doesn’t just apply to one single universe, or unless you can provide a cosmological principle that explains why we are just an accidental consequence of otherwise highly pointed physics.

    2) The Anthropic Principle is equally just as much a truism, the universe is “set up” to allow our existence. So what? Is there something scientific here?

    Yes, in the first place, there is no “The” anthropic principle, there is there is the observation, and then there are “variant interpretations” that might explain the observation if we had a final theory that justified any one of them.

    3) How is this not a tautology?

    The observation appears to have balanced commonalities that indicate that our existence is somehow connected to the mechanism that defines the structure of the universe. The direct OBSERVATION most apparently says that there is a bio-oriented cosmological principle in effect. There is nothing tautological about the observation, Martha, only the answers are speculative…. and that’s only because we don’t have a complete theory of quantum gravity, but we will, and that will end it.

    4) “Why is the specialness of humans so important?”

    Beats me, that’s the scientific question that a true cosmological principle would clear up if left winged liberal activists scientists didn’t automatically find god faster than creationists do. Maybe carbon based life is simply necessary to the physical process?… Didya ever think of that, Martha?… I didn’ think so… you just think… OMG, it’s god.

    5) “Speculation about why the universe is the way it is tends not to be scientific anyway in the sense of being testable.”

    Nope, a cosmological principle that explains the structure of the universe from first principles is not the least bit unscientific, but you don’t appear to know the difference between the observation and the numerous speculative solutions to the unexpected and pointed physics, one of which most certainly will be scientific once we have a complete theory of quantum gravity to justify it.

    The point that you missed is that there is no tautology in the observation without a multiverse… and there is no multiverse without a complete theory, so what we observe without said multiverse is VERY STRONG.

  12. Well that was weird. WTF do left winged liberals have to do with this discussion? I am not interested in agendas so I am no longer interested in this exchange.

  13. WTF do left winged liberals have to do with this discussion? I am not interested in agendas so I am no longer interested in this exchange.

    Then you should stay away from ALL “discussions” about the AP, Martha, because the ideological/religious dogma of left winged activist scientists, or “anticentrist dogma” was the soul reason why Brandon Carter formalized the anthropic principle in the first place as as an ideological statement against the dogmatic non-scientific prejudices that scientists commonly harbor, that cause them to consciously deny anthropic relevance in the physics, so they instead tend to be willfully ignorant of just enough pertinent facts to maintain an irrational cosmological bias that leads to absurd, “Copernican-like” projections of mediocrity that contradict what is actually observed.

    a reaction against conscious and subconscious – anticentrist dogma.

    Unfortunately, there has been a strong and not always subconscious tendency to extend this to a most questionable dogma to the effect that our situation cannot be privileged in any sense.
    -Brandon Carter

    Carter’s article articulated the anthropic principle as the contrary of what has come to be called the Copernican principle, which denies that the situation of humans in the cosmological order is in any way privileged. Carter’s symposium paper, “Large Number Coincidences and the Anthropic Principle in Cosmology,” included the statement: Although our situation is not necessarily ”central”, it is inevitably privileged to some extent (IAUS 63 (1974) 291).

    However unfortunate, Carter’s point about the unscientific ideological prejudices of scientists lends a certain amount of real scientific credence to the claims of IDists, that scientists willfully suppress credible evidence that they wrongly perceive to be in support of the creationist’s position. It is just as unfortunate that this makes the lies and embellishments of the ID movement into a necessary evil, to counterbalance to the unscientific dogma that scientists commonly project into science.

    Carter was talking about an equally extreme form of counter-reaction-ism to old historical beliefs about geocentricism that cause scientists to automatically dismiss evidence for anthropic “privilege” right out of the realm of the observed reality and people go to unbelievable lengths to distort what Carter said on that fateful day in Poland, in order to willfully ignore this point as it applies to modern physics speculations and variant interpretations, which are neither, proven, nor definitively justified, theoretically.

    Left winged Copernicus worshiping religious fanatics… like I said right from the start, Martha… Where have you been?… 😉

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