Friday, 15 November 2013

A few questions from unkleE

I’ve been asked a few questions by unkleE:

“Hi neopolitan, I wonder if you'd mind my asking a few clarifying questions please?

"When someone like Barnes personally corrupts science in support of a theist agenda, he needs to be called on it, personally."

Could you outline, please, exactly how Barnes corrupts science, and also how he uses it in support of a theistic agenda (two separate questions)?

"the Templeton Foundation and the Discovery Institute .... Barnes doesn't come out and say he's a theist, he doesn't necessarily act like an apologist ..."

Can you offer any evidence that Barnes has any connection with either of those two bodies, and that he is an apologist, or are you using these references for some other purpose? How would any such connection or action make any difference to the science Barnes outlines?

""unbiased cosmologists" including Martin Rees - Templeton winner and Paul Davies - Templeton winner. You're being a little untruthful to include those two in your list of "non-theists".

Have you any evidence that either is a theist? Have you read any of their books or papers? Can you give me any quotes in support? Or is it just 'guilt by association'?

How does Barnes corrupt science and how does he use it in support of a theist agenda?

A scientist directing people to read William Lane Craig’s work as “worth a read” is corruption enough.  Read elsewhere in my blog about the various nonsense that Craig comes up with.  That a serious scientist might support the author of such nonsense is mind boggling.

In the article “An Open Letter to Luke Barnes”, I encouraged him to make his position clear, as a theist or otherwise.  He failed to do so.

Can I offer any evidence that Barnes is linked to the Templeton Foundation or the Discovery Institute?

You drew a conclusion from words in two separate paragraphs regarding those organisations.  I don’t think that Barnes is an apologist, he would have be more forthright about his position if he were.  As I said: “he doesn’t act like an apologist, but he sits at the edges using his apparent scientific credibility to defend scientific corruptions”.

How would any such connection or action make any difference to the science Barnes outlines?

I’m not saying that Barnes is connected to the Templeton Foundation or Discovery Institute; that was your conclusion.  But there are people who are linked to these organisations and they deliberately try to find aspects of science that can be bent to apologetic arguments.  Basically, they look for the gaps in which god might still reside.

An example of such a “gap” is central to the argument of irreducible complexity.  Note the provenance of the link.  Here’s another one, which is slightly less favourable.

The Discovery Institute in particular pushes for apologetic science to be taught in schools.  I use the term “apologetic science” to cover creationism in various forms, including the biological anti-evolution arguments (or arguments for guided evolution) and also cosmological arguments such as fine-tuning.  Whether the Discovery Institute will move into other areas of physics is yet to be seen, Intelligent Falling is certainly an option given that gravity is only a theory.  Medicine is another fertile field – after all, why should such a potent antibiotic such as penicillin have been hiding in mould if not placed there by a caring and thoughtful god (note that this argument will have be made quickly before we are overtaken by the evolution, oops I mean “intelligent design” of multidrug resistant bacteria).

I suspect that the corruption of the minds of students will have a knock-on effect on what science is done and how, although I agree that it won’t affect the underlying science – evolution and gravity will work the same way as it does now irrespective of how well our children and grand-children understand the processes in the future.

Martin Rees and Paul Davies – theists or non-theists?

Martin Rees claims to have no religious views at all, he agrees to the description “a church-goes who doesn’t believe in god”.  He’s only a “non-theist” in so much as he’s not specifically a theist.  His recognition by Templeton is based on his willingness to accommodate religion for example in education, in part because he’s worried that if given a choice between “God and Darwin, there is a risk they will choose their God and be lost to science”.  As someone who identifies as a non-theist, I don't think that this is compatible with good education.  While I agree that being too confrontational can be counterproductive, I disagree that intelligent people should roll over and let poorly educated pulpit thumpers twist the minds of children unchallenged.

Paul Davies, if anything, is likely to be a deist – but then again he could be a theist.  He certainly pushes for the unification of science and faith, which would be a strange position is he was profoundly sceptical about faith.  Here’s an article by Davies that indicates that he has a strong mystical streak, if not a specifically Christian one.

If unkleE means by “non-theist” anyone who is not an evangelical or apologist, or anyone who for whatever reason fails to identify themself overtly as a theist, then ok, I agree, both Martin Rees and Paul Davies (and perhaps even Luke Barnes) are “non-theists” in that sense.  They’re just not non-theists in the same category as most people who identify themselves as non-theists.

Is it guilt by association?
Certainly there is an element of this.  Imagine the outcry if a philosopher or scientist accepted money from NAMBLA (by which I don’t mean the fictional “North American Marlon Brando Look-Alikes”).  While the Templeton Foundation and Discovery Institute are not (quite) in the same league as the real NAMBLA, being willing to accept money from such organisations is a statement in itself.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Neopolitan, I'm sorry I only noticed this now, after you'd gone to the trouble of writing responses to my questions. Thank you.

    I see you're not saying Barnes is a theist, or an apologist, or that he is associated in any way with the Templeton Foundation, so thanks for clarifying that. It means we need no longer discuss those organisations.

    But I'm having trouble seeing how your responses justify your original statements.

    1. You say Barnes "corrupts science" because he said that a particular writing by WL Craig was worth reading. He also recommended some articles on fine-tuning by atheists. He also criticised some writings on fine tuning by atheists and by theists.

    Can you explain how those achievements, or the science of fine tuning itself, can be "corrupted" because he recommends authors (from whatever religious persuasion) who write worthwhile things, and criticises authors (of whatever religious persuasion) who don't?

    2. Martin Rees says he doesn't believe in God. That makes him a non-theist doesn't it? You say "He’s only a “non-theist” in so much as he’s not specifically a theist." But isn't the definition of a non-theist a person who's not a theist? So isn't your statement a tautology?

    3. Yes, I guess Paul Davies is a little mystical - but how does that make him a theist? Sam Harris is a mystical atheist. Are you saying that to be a non-theist, someone has to hold some additional belief to not believing in God? What would that additional belief be, in your view?



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