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The Core of the Complaint March 6, 2007

Posted by Administrator in atheism, Cultural Pessimism, Idiots.
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I have been ranting now -for months- about PZ Myers and his unreconstructed animus towards religion; to the point that I had partially constructed a post showing that he was in favor of the forced elimination of religion. I finally abandoned that effort when combing through his various posts on the subject proved that he covers himself with enough weasel phrases that such an attack on my part would not hold water. I am still convinced that in his heart of hearts, that is what he really wants, but also knows he can’t say in public wiithout offending some of his Pharyngulist Sycophantic Horde of (PSH) admirers.

That said, he wrote something today that made for an epiphany of sorts for me, to allow me to finally -and pithily- sum up the core of our differences.


He is in the midst of assaulting Vox Day for having the temerity to question exactly what science is. The gist of the argument with Day is insignificant to the following comment:

Science does not claim to hold any moral weight. Arguing that it is bad because it doesn’t impose behavioral guidelines on people is as silly as arguing that religion is bad because it doesn’t help design better digital signal processing chips for cell phones. On the other hand, damning religion for moral irrelevance is a valid complaint, since “it leads us into moral behavior!” is one of the first excuses out of any apologist’s mouth.

His first two sentences are in fact, dead on. Yet he sticks his foot in it, as he so often does, with the final clause.

Let us look at his argument and examine the premises inherent in it:

  • Premise 1: Science has a claim to examining material truths. Anything that can be sensed can then be measured and rationally explained by science.
    • Logical result: The following of science leads to rational behavior by its adherents.
  • Premise 2: Religion -broadly termed- has a claim to examining moral truths. Anything that involves ethical, moral behavior that is not traced back to the Law of Club and Fang can be explained by religion.
    • Logical result: The following of religion leads to moral behavior by its adherents.

Myers rejects the logical result of Premise 2, thereby condemning the entire premise as a useless anthropological artifact.

But the very same argument can then be used to condemn Premise 1. An example: Global warming. Much of this hotly debated scientific topic has been determined as truth and now closed off to discussion. But as has been mentioned time and time again ad nauseaum in this very blog, the argument is far from closed. And many, many people are acting irrationally in the name of rational science. The following of science should lead to rational behavior. But it doesn’t always do so.

Now, if I were like Myers, as a mirror image of him, I would then play the part of the Young Earth Creationist and condemn modern science as Godless heresy and useful for next to nothing, as he condemns religion for being useless in providing moral truths.

But I will not condemn science. I will condemn its practitioners, particularly those that are passionate fools who use science and statistics to support their own emotional versions of the truth (such as the Goracle). So does Myers (rightfully) condemn Christian fools who misuse religion to further their own emotional agendas.

But he then goes the step further and demands that religion itself is the fall guy. It is not, no more than good science is the fall guy for meritricious fools who would use the truth of science and twist it for their own ends.

Both priests of religion and of science use these roads to the truth (faith and reason) for their own means, thereby betraying their followers and seemingly rendering those sources of truth invalid.

That is nonsense. Truth is truth, be it obtained through faith/religion or reason/science. But for either side to claim that the other has no inroad to truth is misled. In religion, it leads to the Young Earth Creationist. Or the berserk Fred Phelps. In science, it leads to foaming radicals such as Richard Dawkins. . .or PZ Myers.

Odd how Phelps -and by association, Young Earth Creationists- and Myers have something in common: A denial of the truth and a desire to eliminate the voice of those that might find a truth in some other fashion than their own.

It’s a whole lot easier – and much more sensible- to believe that the truth is found through both roads, faith and reason. Myers believes truth is found only in reason, and faith is the devil. Phelps believes in individual -and horribly misguided- faith alone, and reason is the devil.

How ironic that PZ resembles so much the things he hates.

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Comments»

1. Joe - March 6, 2007

Unless you can show PZ making the argument with Premise 1, you don’t have a complaint.

2. demolition65 - March 6, 2007

Nonsense. He himself uses reductionist, rationalist definitions in the very post I refer to. I am not saying that rationalism -in and of itself- is a bad thing. I doubt Myers would disagree with the premise I wrote on its face. He WOULD disagree if he found out I was using the premise to buttress my own argument that he is an extremist. . .but that says more about his own rhetorical dishonesty than anything else.

And as a final note , I see that perhaps you meant that the logical conclusion to Premise 1 has never been proclaimed by Myers.

I submit to you that he has logically implied it more times than can be counted. But set that aside. He would have no problem with assigning the logical conclusion to Premise 2. As I said, he has done so de facto ad nauseaum. If he can indict/suggest logical conclusions to religion, when he has no training in theology and probably little more in philosophy, I with an M.S. am eminently qualified to assign logical conclusions to Premise 1 and can also suggest that those conclusions have been violated time and time again.

3. demolition65 - March 6, 2007

And by the way, either use a legit website link or no link at all. Claiming that cnn.com is your website is gratuitous nonsense.

4. Eisnel - March 6, 2007

You say that this is one of PZ Myers’ arguments:

# Premise 1: Science has a claim to examining material truths. Anything that can be sensed can then be measured and rationally explained by science.
* Logical result: The following of science leads to rational behavior by its adherents.

The problem is with your “logical result”: In your response to Joe you admit that PZ never said that, but that he “logically implied it more times than can be counted.” On the contrary, his quote even says that “Science does not claim to hold any moral weight.” and “…it doesn’t impose behavioral guidelines on people…”. How do you get from that to: “The following of science leads to rational behavior by its adherents.”?

In your response to Joe you said: “…I with an M.S. am eminently qualified to assign logical conclusions to Premise 1…” But your “logical conclusion” actually resembles a logical fallacy known as the “naturalistic fallacy”, which suggests that the way things are implies how they ought to be. In other words, it’s illogical to suggest that “is” implies “ought”. Science tells how things are, it does not say how they should be. When science explains how objects fall toward the earth due to gravity, it’s not suggesting that falling is therefore appropriate/recommended behavior, or that flying is immoral. It is not the purpose of science to lead its adherents to rational behavior, or to any sort of behavior.

On the other hand, morality is an integral aspect of religion, and religion does impose moral and behavioral guidelines on its adherents. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with PZ about issues such as whether religion is necessary for morality or whether religion can be criticized for the immoral behavior of its adherents. Debate away. His point is that it’s a relevant topic to debate.

Morality is relevant to religion, but irrelevant to science. Science is amoral. Its purpose is to explain how things work, not provide a moral or behavioral framework. Its success is measured by its explanatory power, not by how its “adherents” behave.

5. demolition65 - March 6, 2007

One step at a time:

The problem is with your “logical result”: In your response to Joe you admit that PZ never said that, but that he “logically implied it more times than can be counted.” On the contrary, his quote even says that “Science does not claim to hold any moral weight.” and “…it doesn’t impose behavioral guidelines on people…”. How do you get from that to: “The following of science leads to rational behavior by its adherents.

Following rationalism implies rational (not moral) behavior.

Science tells how things are, it does not say how they should be. When science explains how objects fall toward the earth due to gravity, it’s not suggesting that falling is therefore appropriate/recommended behavior, or that flying is immoral. It is not the purpose of science to lead its adherents to rational behavior, or to any sort of behavior.
It does very much suggest that people should be making rational decisions based on scientific discoveries. Anyone who does not follow these rational expectations are branded as “irrational”. From a religious parallel, the word would be “heretical”.

His point is that it’s a relevant topic to debate. Nah. not at all. his point is that the topic is closed. He hears no discussion that religion contributes -mightily- to moral behavior.

Science is amoral. Its purpose is to explain how things work, not provide a moral or behavioral framework. in and of itself, correct. But scientism, of which Myers is a big prophet/profiteer, is VERY MUCH engaged in establishing a behavioral framework. e.g., any decisions made outside of rationalism are insane/heretical.

6. Eisnel - March 6, 2007

You say: “Following rationalism implies rational (not moral) behavior.”

I assume you don’t mean the classic “Rationalism”, which is the epistemological theory famously opposed to Empiricism, but rather the modern Rationalist Movement? Perhaps more appropriate is Secular Humanism, which is a worldview that incorporates Rationalist thought and includes an ethical component. I accept that having a Secular Humanist worldview leads to a certain ethical code of behavior (but I would insist that Secular Humanism has a strong sense of morality). But you can’t conclude that therefore Science leads to any sort of behavior, because Science isn’t based on the Rationalist movement; it’s the other way around, the Rationalist movement relies on Science. You can say that all fathers are men, but you can’t say that all men are fathers.

From one of your other responses, it occurs to me that you may be conflating Science and “Scientism”? Is Scientism the framework by which PZ Myers draws his behavior? I certainly don’t read every word he has to say, but I haven’t noticed him refer to himself as a “Scientist”. Probably because the word is mainly used as a derogatory term, and if it is a real movement, it’s not a very well defined one. It might be a good word to take back, although I think it would just confuse people about the nature of Science. “Scientism” isn’t Science, any more than Eugenics or Social Darwinism are.

Also, about PZ Myers, you said: “Nah. not at all. his point is that the topic is closed. He hears no discussion that religion contributes -mightily- to moral behavior.”

PZ, and people like Dawkins, very vocally believe that religion is not necessary for morality, and assert that it has actually caused harm and immorality. PZ often links to blogs of people who disagree with him, and writes lengthy responses, so I can’t see how he’s not “hearing” these things. He hears what you say, he just disagrees with you. If by “the topic is closed” you just mean that he won’t change his mind, then I’m sure you’re right… do you think that if you listened to PZ enough you might change your mind? If not, does that mean the “topic is closed” for you too?

7. demolition65 - March 6, 2007

I assume you don’t mean the classic “Rationalism”, which is the epistemological theory famously opposed to Empiricism, but rather the modern Rationalist Movement? Perhaps more appropriate is Secular Humanism,

I mean rationalism.
rationalism is “any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification” (Lacey, 286).

From one of your other responses, it occurs to me that you may be conflating Science and “Scientism”? Is Scientism the framework by which PZ Myers draws his behavior? You may be correct on the conflation, and I am saying that this is the framework from which Myers operates.

He hears what you say, he just disagrees with you. In other words, he has heard the truth, but dismisses it? I honestly do not believe this. I have seen him in action with his fellow “scientists” (i use the word very loosely), such as Ed Brayton, and am convinced that anything that challenges his worldview he boxes up and neatly dismisses out of hand. He may then conjure up a paralogical argument to buttress his predisposition. So no, I disagree: He has not heard what has been said to him.

do you think that if you listened to PZ enough you might change your mind? If not, does that mean the “topic is closed” for you too?

Anything is possible, I will admit. Even Myers can cause doubt within me. I’d be lying to admit otherwise. But in the end, his scientific approach to his worldview, devoid of any element beyond the Third Act of the Mind (cf: Aristotle) to determine truth renders him incapable of fully “changing my mind.” If he were to admit that First and Second Acts of the Mind may also reveal truth. . .then perhaps a real dialogue could take place.

8. Simen - March 7, 2007

It’s a whole lot easier – and much more sensible- to believe that the truth is found through both roads, faith and reason.

Please explain what truth one might find with faith. Oh sure, you can have faith in a rational argument, but how on earth would you get any kind of truth with faith?

9. demolition65 - March 7, 2007

It’s amazing how instructive websites can be. Looking in at Simen’s place, I found any number of posts -on the front page- snarkiliy demeaning of religion. I even found one post where he talks about his 18 reasons not to bellieve in God. . .when in fact, there are really only 2:
“Everything seems to work fine without God, so he’s not there.” (The first objection is, of course, “Life sucks, so there’s no God.”). Not having read Simen’s 18 objections, I nevertheless state with confidence that the arguments are either a)nonsense, or b)reducible to the above two basic arguments.

All that said, simen asks what truth I might find with faith, and the answer, much to his head-shaking bemusement, I am sure, is the presence of God, through Eucharistic miracles. (See Joan Carroll Cruz for further explanation.)

In these instances, we have numerous instances of the communion host changed from bread to actual flesh. Tests show these felsh samples are striated heart tissue from a male with AB+ blood; very common in Semitic peoples, such as Jesus of Nazareth.

Yet, these miracles happened long before blood typing was even considered, and in the MIddle Ages, one would have trouble differentiating heart tissue from intestinal tissue. This miracle I take on faith as an example of the power of God.

Simen, with his dedicated, Scientism-related devotion to truth through the 3rd ACt of the Mind only, will insist on a lab-controlled duplication of this miracle before he believes. Fine. But then you rely upon reason alone, Simen.

Or, consider this: There is a truth that you believe in tht is based on faith.

No, really. Want to know what it is?

You have faith that reason is the only road to truth. You cannot rely upon reason alone to know that reason is the only road to truth. To do so is clearly a logical fallacy. So, there are truths, even for you, that are founded on faith.

10. Simen - March 7, 2007

It’s amazing how instructive websites can be. Looking in at Simen’s place, I found any number of posts -on the front page- snarkiliy demeaning of religion. I even found one post where he talks about his 18 reasons not to bellieve in God. . .when in fact, there are really only 2:
“Everything seems to work fine without God, so he’s not there.” (The first objection is, of course, “Life sucks, so there’s no God.”). Not having read Simen’s 18 objections, I nevertheless state with confidence that the arguments are either a)nonsense, or b)reducible to the above two basic arguments.

If all believers were like you, I’d have no trouble at all condemning religion. As it happens, I do not. If you’d bothered to read the post you referred to, you’d see that it’s called “13 reasons not to believe in God”. If you’d read it, you might have gained some insight into the issue. If you’d read it, you might have some right to say anything at all about it. You complain about attacks on religion, and then you attack my arguments without even reading them. If I said that I was confident all arguments for the existence of God were nonsense, but that I’ve never read any of them, would you take me seriously?

As it happens, I’m not anti-religion, I’m just (1) against the negative effects it has on society and (2) of the opinion that it is unsupported nonsense.

It’s truly amaing how instructive websites can be. I’m now of the impression that you’re an arrogant believer who criticizes everyone who disagrees with you without even hearing them out.

11. demolition65 - March 7, 2007

As it happens, I’m not anti-religion, I’m just (1) against the negative effects it has on society and (2) of the opinion that it is unsupported nonsense.

Speaking of having a closed mind.. .

I’m now of the impression that you’re an arrogant believer who criticizes everyone who disagrees with you without even hearing them out.

You have that right, sir. And I apologize for making a gratuitous comment about your 13 arguments; though I stand by my prediction that they are either flawed or reduced to the two arguments I posit in my original comment. I may have the time later to consider your arguments. . .when things like work and family and its attendant problems. .. such as kids with cardiac conditions. . .keep getting in the way of answering your no doubt scintillating arguments.

In the meantime, if you can consider forgiveness of my error, you have not yet addressed how I answered your question regarding finding truth through faith, or how you yourself rely upon faith in your reliance upon reason.

Or are you letting your emotions cloud your ability to reason?

12. Simen - March 7, 2007

You have faith that reason is the only road to truth. You cannot rely upon reason alone to know that reason is the only road to truth. To do so is clearly a logical fallacy. So, there are truths, even for you, that are founded on faith.

I don’t believe that it is the only way to truth. I believe it is the best way to knowledge we have found, and that has been demonstrated countless times. Now, will you mention some things that faith has brought us understanding of? Clearly, one can have a lucky strike and have faith in something true, but faith alone is no way to determine that.

13. demolition65 - March 7, 2007

I have mentioned at least one thing, that cannot be dismissed as a “lucky strike”, as there have been numerous instances of this type of miracle, all pre-dating blood typing; though I agree it cannot be replicated in the lab.

And what are other ways to the truth, other than reason?

14. Simen - March 7, 2007

Why should we assume they were, in fact, miracles? It seems to me there’s no compelling reason to believe that unless you already believe in miracles.

15. demolition65 - March 7, 2007

OK. Find me the alternative explanation. Though by definition, a miracle requires an element o fparticipation by the believer. What may be a miracle to some -lightning striking during an outdoor religious rally- can be explained as a coincidence of natural phenomena with an human activity.

BUt there are some that cannot be adequately explained as naturally occurring phenomena (at least, not yet), such as my example. Occam;s Razor figures heavily in my example as demanding that it IS a miracle.

16. Simen - March 7, 2007

Occam’s razor cuts God as an unnecessary assumption, so I wouldn’t rely to heavily on it if I were you.

Again, do you have any evidence that this cannot be explained as a natural process?

17. demolition65 - March 7, 2007

Occam’s Razor: “The principle states that the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating, or “shaving off”, those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory.” It does not demand the elimination of God as an unnecessary assumption.

The onus is upon you to then explain how these pieces of bread, coming from variant sources over hundreds of years, all were transformed into striated heart tissue fmro an AB+ person (I believe they claimed it was male, but I am not certain of that) without the benefit of extraoridinary assistance. You may assume that it was a natural process, of course.

But isn’t that assumption an indication of a level of faith?

18. Simen - March 7, 2007

Where are your sources for this highly extraordinary claim? You must prove there’s something strange going on here before I need to come up with an explanation.

19. demolition65 - March 7, 2007

See “Eucharistic Miracles”, by Joan Carroll Cruz

20. demolition65 - April 17, 2007

ANd I see that the discussion ended there. How ironic is that? 😛

21. Ed Darrell - August 16, 2008

No, nothing in science is closed off to discussion, especially global warming and climate change.

And Vox Day is an arrogant, priggish lout. If he were ever correct about something, it would be by random chance, I should think. Religion leads to rationality? Not now. Not generally. Sometimes when miracles strike.

Not with Vox Day.

22. demolition65 - August 16, 2008

. . .I’m not sure why you are ranting about Vox Day. . .he is only briefly mentioned in this post. Be that as it may.


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