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posted by n1 on Wednesday October 01 2014, @02:24AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the mental-gymnatiscs-championship dept.

David P. Barash, an evolutionary biologist and professor of psychology at the University of Washington, writes in the NYT that every year he gives his students The Talk, not as you might expect, about sex, but about evolution and religion. According to Barash many students worry about reconciling their beliefs with evolutionary science and just as many Americans don’t grasp the fact that evolution is not merely a “theory,” but the underpinning of all biological science, a substantial minority of his students are troubled to discover that their beliefs conflict with the course material. "There are a couple of ways to talk about evolution and religion," says Barash. "The least controversial is to suggest that they are in fact compatible." Stephen Jay Gould called them "nonoverlapping magisteria," noma for short, with the former concerned with facts and the latter with values." But Barash says magisteria are not nearly as nonoverlapping as some of them might wish. "As evolutionary science has progressed, the available space for religious faith has narrowed: It has demolished two previously potent pillars of religious faith and undermined belief in an omnipotent and omni-benevolent God."

The twofold demolition begins by defeating what modern creationists call the argument from complexity - that just as the existence of a complex structure like a watch demands the existence of a watchmaker, the existence of complex organisms requires a supernatural creator. "Since Darwin, however, we have come to understand that an entirely natural and undirected process, namely random variation plus natural selection, contains all that is needed to generate extraordinary levels of non-randomness. Living things are indeed wonderfully complex, but altogether within the range of a statistically powerful, entirely mechanical phenomenon." Next to go is the illusion of centrality. "The most potent take-home message of evolution is the not-so-simple fact that, even though species are identifiable (just as individuals generally are), there is an underlying linkage among them — literally and phylogenetically, via traceable historical connectedness. Moreover, no literally supernatural trait has ever been found in Homo sapiens; we are perfectly good animals, natural as can be and indistinguishable from the rest of the living world at the level of structure as well as physiological mechanism." Finally there is a third consequence of evolutionary insights: a powerful critique of theodicy, the effort to reconcile belief in an omnipresent, omni-benevolent God with the fact of unmerited suffering. "But just a smidgen of biological insight makes it clear that, although the natural world can be marvelous, it is also filled with ethical horrors: predation, parasitism, fratricide, infanticide, disease, pain, old age and death — and that suffering (like joy) is built into the nature of things. The more we know of evolution, the more unavoidable is the conclusion that living things, including human beings, are produced by a natural, totally amoral process, with no indication of a benevolent, controlling creator."

Barash concludes The Talk by saying that, although they don’t have to discard their religion in order to inform themselves about biology (or even to pass his course), if they insist on retaining and respecting both, they will have to undertake some challenging mental gymnastic routines. "And while I respect their beliefs, the entire point of The Talk is to make clear that, at least for this biologist, it is no longer acceptable for science to be the one doing those routines."

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Lagg on Wednesday October 01 2014, @02:43AM

    by Lagg (105) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @02:43AM (#100249) Homepage Journal

    Seriously, don't. It doesn't matter how flowery or good your arguments are it merely reinforces their delusion. Unlike a lot of these types I've actually seen both sides of things and the fact that my teachers either said nothing about it or tried to force compatibility between the two (they aren't, period) was one reason I had to deprogram myself and way later than I'd have wanted. All it does it rip a bandaid off slowly or at worst not at all. You better just be blunt with them and get it over with.

    I know it seems no better than the bible thumpers to outright smack them in the face with the cluebat but the difference is that the cluebat is a cluebat and the bible is a cultbat. It's not merely a matter of getting them into your "fold" it's a matter of removing delusion. I would feel so much better about myself and not feel like I missed so much learning if someone would have cluebatted me when I was in school.

    --
    http://lagg.me [lagg.me] 🗿
    • (Score: 0, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:05AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:05AM (#100257)

      The recent Debian/systemd debacle illustrates what you're saying, but in a somewhat different context.

      Some people came to the Debian project with some obviously stupid ideas, namely that systemd has some redeeming qualities (it doesn't) and that it should be adopted by Debian (it shouldn't be).

      While these people should be allowed to speak their mind, Debian should never have tried to compromise with them when it came to actually infecting Debian with systemd.

      Now the Debian project and community will most likely splinter and die out, all because they compromised with a bunch of fools with foolish ideas.

      The same thing will happen to science if scientists give up their principles in some politically correct attempt to appease fools.

      Scientists need to stand for observation, hypothesizing and rigorously following the scientific method. Debian needs to stand up for robust, quality software that's open and follows the long-proven UNIX philosophies. Compromising on these principles leads to certain disaster.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:12AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:12AM (#100263)

        Can you please STFU? TFA has nothing to do with systemd or Debian, and it's not like we haven't hashed and rehashed the subject twenty times already.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:22AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:22AM (#100267)

          The GP's comment makes good points, I think. I don't use debian, but I see the parallels between these two situations. This submission's topic is all about compromising one's principles. Seeing how compromised principles can lead to problems in one case, like debian, is useful when it comes to seeing how they could lead to problems in another case, like teaching biology.

          • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:56AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:56AM (#100286)

            Exactly! Systemd is incompatible with evolution! Doesn't work well with Enlightenment, either. And systemd is so complex, no random collection of unix programs could have come together to form it, so the must be an intelligent designer! More intelligent than us! All hail Lennart!

            (And who says it's not a cult?)

      • (Score: 1, Offtopic) by Lagg on Wednesday October 01 2014, @04:03AM

        by Lagg (105) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @04:03AM (#100288) Homepage Journal

        Please. Stupid off topic posts like yours are no better than the people who unconditionally love systemd. Most of your type don't even have a clue what traditional unix philosophies are let alone what robust software is. Just like my original post I actually put my money where my mouth is and dig into it to find criticisms and also (because I'm not a fanatical moron) things I like about it. The first of which I actually documented myself doing [youtube.com] and guess what, one of the things I like about it is the journal file format. Similarly, if you think it was a matter of being "politically correct" you can go fuck yourself. Also unlike your type I read the long mailing list thread and there were many arguments involving technical merit. Want to know the one guy who was being political? The asshole that threw a tantrum and tried to get people booted because their argument didn't match his.

        And you know what? If Debian dies (it won't) good! I'm sick of being hired to maintain machines their downstream-patched-to-shit all over it and I'm sick of people thinking that they are or ever were champions of the unix philosophy, which I say again isn't even what people like you think. Read the Unix Hater's Handbook if you want to know what traditional unix was. I'll give a hint: It wasn't a philosophy of clean, small and functional software. One would be lucky if the kernel itself didn't hang for fucks sake.

        --
        http://lagg.me [lagg.me] 🗿
        • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @06:59AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @06:59AM (#100331)

          Lagg, it is OK. There is nothing to worry about. Calm down and just admit that the systemd cult has gotten to you. As for you being who you are, well, maybe. I could be the actual Lagg, and you could be just an impostor! Not saying that is the case, but it is possible. And what kind of supreme being possessed of infinite power (lennart!!) would do such a thing as to create an impostor that is indistinguishable from the original? In a File Format????? Oh, that just oozes pure evil, the kind of pure evil that only Time Bandits or proponents of systemd could muster.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by monster on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:48PM

          by monster (1260) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:48PM (#100504) Journal

          At the risk of continuing an offtopic thread, I'll point out that although you may like the binary log format, it was a no-problem: Almost never the size of logs are a problem in real systems. Instead, having a binary format that requires special tools just to be viewed, let alone sedded, grepped or sorted, that's a problem it creates where there wasn't one.

          Plain text has clear advantages once the inflation in size is not an issue. There's a reason why most Linux admins still prefer a group of text files to store their config instead of a big binary blob (aka registry).

        • (Score: 1) by fritsd on Wednesday October 01 2014, @08:56PM

          by fritsd (4586) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @08:56PM (#100655) Journal

          "The first of which I actually documented myself doing and guess what, one of the things I like about it is the journal file format."

          Where is the spec of the journal file format? And how can you tell which version one of those files is?

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:38AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:38AM (#100280)

      It depends on the religion. Not all of them are incompatible with evolution. It is not the job of the science teacher to tell someone what is or is not consistent with their religion.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Wednesday October 01 2014, @11:50AM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 01 2014, @11:50AM (#100403)

        This goes against their self promotional interests of insisting very loudly there is only a binary choice, Evangelical Christianity or agnosticism. Pushing that worldview is promotional to their specific religion.

        I am pretty certain from talking to international coworkers that they simply don't understand this aspect of the "debate"

        If you're old enough, think of old coke vs new coke soda. The coke company wasn't concerned about improving your corn syrup experience, they just wanted PR that the only choice is new or old coke forget about this pepsi and water stuff. The evolution/creationism thing at least in backwards parts of the USA is the same deal. The point of it is to limit your choices and thought to evang xtianity or some sciencey stuff you don't understand anyway. Buddhists? Native Americans? Hinduism? Islam? None of that exists in the debate therefore none of that exists.... at all.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @11:00AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @11:00AM (#100390)

      It doesn't matter how flowery or good your arguments are it merely reinforces their delusion.

      If you begin your discussion of the topic by telling the other party that they're deluded, you immediately lose any chance of 'converting' them. You can not de-religion a student anymore than you can remove their love of the Yankees or their confidence that mom's apple pie is the best, so you need to find a way for them to hold both thoughts in their head. That actually requires very little compromise. Mostly it requires that one accept the Bible's truths may have been worded to be comprehensible to mere mortals: the literal word of god, but not the literal truth. Much like you might use "holes" to explain a PNP gate.

      Omniscience and omnipotence are unfathomable concepts. It's consistent with omnipotence that the rules of the universe and its initial conditions resulted in the current state of the universe. In fact, that's more or less what science claims, too. Now, science won't admit a god that intervenes or changes the rules once set in motion, but reconciling the creation story with evolution really requires very little fundamental compromise.

      Science can not disprove God. It is not possible to disprove God. If your science depends critically on the nonexistence of God, then anyone who refuses to accept that assumption will, logically, not accept any dependent reasoning. If your science is based on the weaker claim that a god is not necessary for your results, then you alienate much less of the world.

      I'm not sure why this guy thinks "omni-benevolence" is a central tenet of [Christian] faiths. The bible makes pretty clear that dude is an angry, petty child, even if given to the occasional apologetic sacrifice.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by HiThere on Wednesday October 01 2014, @07:54PM

        by HiThere (866) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @07:54PM (#100621) Journal

        Science can not disprove God. It is not possible to disprove God.
        Here is where things get tricky. There are Gods that Science can disprove. There are interpretations of God that science *has* disproven. And there are concepts of God which are totally compatible with science without any problem. (Classical Buddhism, as conveyed by the document called "The Word" and purporting to be largely the words of Buddha is one, but you need to pay close attention where he talks about what it is that is reincarnated to realize this. He's quite vague, at least in the translation that I read.) Most Unitarians I've met worship a God that is compatible with science. Historical records show that this wasn't true 200 years ago. Etc,

        For that matter, some Wicca worship a goddess that's also easily compatible with science, though many, perhaps most, don't.

        A lot of the time the question boils down to what in the scripture you see as metaphor, what politics, and what intended to be strictly religiously obeyed.

        Personally, I ... worship is the wrong word, so ... believe in Gods that are totally compatible with science...so far. Psychology will need to get a *LOT* more exact and precise before there's even the potential for a conflict.

        --
        Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @02:44AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @02:44AM (#100250)

    Look, if somebody is taking a science course then they damn well better be prepared to be subjected to real science! Why the fuck should any professor cater to those who are unable to put religion in its proper place?

    If these few students don't like science, well, screw them. They can study something else, or realize that they're studying science and then accept that science does put to shame religious beliefs in most cases. That's just how it is.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Horse With Stripes on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:54AM

      by Horse With Stripes (577) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:54AM (#100285)

      By making his case in his way, rather than your way, more students are going to learn science. And that is his job, to teach science (not to convert students to atheists or agnostics). Presenting things in a way that prepares them for the conflicts that they are going to face not only helps educate the students but it also shows respect for the students beliefs.

      I'm not a believer, but I believe in freedom of religion for everybody.

      • (Score: 2, Insightful) by kanweg on Wednesday October 01 2014, @05:36AM

        by kanweg (4737) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @05:36AM (#100305)

        " but it also shows respect for the students beliefs."

        As far as I'm concerned, showing respect to a person's belief is that I'm not the one to start a discussion on the topic (for example because someone wears a religious symbol). However, as soon as someone starts to spout unsupported assertions, I don't hold back (most of the time. Sometimes I don't respond).

        It is highly disrespectful to enter a discussion without facts (and usually an unwillingness to change your position in view of arguments, because if you were capable of that, you probably wouldn't have that position). The professor had his share of that in previous classes and deals a pre-emptive strike (with a lecture showing facts of nature).

        I think that it is very disrespectful to those people who are willing to discuss based on facts and are willing to change their view, if people who are not doing that get the same respect.

        Belief should be a personal thing. You keep it to yourself. If it makes you happy, I'm all for it. You've got only one life.

        As a professor, you don't want to get your class disrupted by people challenging you without a shred of evidence, just their beliefs instilled on them by their parents. Why did the parents sent the kid to the university if they know better how things are? You want the professor to show respect for those beliefs? No, the rules of science are different.

        Bert

        • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @05:56AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @05:56AM (#100311)

          It is highly disrespectful to enter a discussion without facts (and usually an unwillingness to change your position in view of arguments, because if you were capable of that, you probably wouldn't have that position).

          Just to let you know, you are not coming off as the kind of person who enters a discussion willing to change position.

        • (Score: 1) by Horse With Stripes on Wednesday October 01 2014, @09:28AM

          by Horse With Stripes (577) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @09:28AM (#100370)

          The professor had his share of that in previous classes and deals a pre-emptive strike (with a lecture showing facts of nature).

          I wasn't speaking to his past issues, only his current policy of giving new student "the talk". Why is being respectful a wrong course of action? He's not going to do anything but alienate his students if he tells them "my way or the highway so STFU or GTFO".

          • (Score: 3, Interesting) by HiThere on Wednesday October 01 2014, @08:01PM

            by HiThere (866) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @08:01PM (#100626) Journal

            He actually *IS* telling them "my way or the highway so STFU or GTFO", but he's doing it in a very diplomatic way. And this feels right and correct to me. He's supposed to teach science, not religion or philosophy (except, perhaps, Empiricism or Pragmatism). He's giving the students fair warning in time that they can drop the class without penalties. This is a case where being blunt (in a diplomatic way) is best for all involved. (There are many such cases, but this is clearer than most.)

            --
            Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
      • (Score: 2) by SpockLogic on Wednesday October 01 2014, @01:23PM

        by SpockLogic (2762) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @01:23PM (#100444)

        I'm not a believer, but I believe in freedom of religion for everybody.

        Just as I believe in freedom from religion for everybody.

        --
        Overreacting is one thing, sticking your head up your ass hoping the problem goes away is another - edIII
        • (Score: 2) by Wootery on Wednesday October 01 2014, @01:42PM

          by Wootery (2341) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @01:42PM (#100459)

          Nice soundbite. What's your point?

      • (Score: 2) by hoochiecoochieman on Wednesday October 01 2014, @04:02PM

        by hoochiecoochieman (4158) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @04:02PM (#100513)

        I'm not a believer, but I believe in freedom of religion for everybody.

        And where's my freedom to learn science without having to put up with their ignorance and stupidity?

        Fortunately, this is mostly a problem in the USA and Muslim countries.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by quixote on Wednesday October 01 2014, @02:44AM

    by quixote (4355) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @02:44AM (#100251)

    I've taught evolutionary biology at universities for more years than I care to mention. And, with all due respect to Barash, he doesn't get it.

    Science is a *method*. It's the study of measurable things. Note that *measurable*. They must be studied following a specific methodology (e.g. use of controls in lab science), and the results must be repeatable by anyone else following the same protocol.

    This means science cannot address anything unmeasurable, such as Love, Truth, Beauty, Justice, or, for that matter, God. (Capital letters on purpose, because I'm trying to make the distinction between measuring, say, blood pressure, and what it means to, for instance, suffer injustice. Sure, you can study the physical effects scientifically, but you're never going to capture the feeling or understanding of, say, love, in a paper in Science.) That doesn't mean any of those feelings or values are unimportant or don't exist. It only means that science has nothing to do with them.

    Religion, on the other hand, can mean any number of things to different people, but it's never about running scientific experiments on God. That doesn't mean science is unimportant or doesn't exist.

    Think about it this way. Science can come up with a cure for cholera. Religion can't. Moral values can tell you how to distribute the cure. Science can't.

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:01AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:01AM (#100256)

      This means science cannot address anything unmeasurable, such as Love, Truth, Beauty, Justice, or, for that matter, God.

      Those aren't unmeasurable any more. Neurology has long since revealed that human perceptions of "love", "beauty" or "justice" are the result of perfectly measurable electro-chemical reactions in the brain. There is no reason to believe that aesthetic or ethical properties have any existence outside of the brain.

      • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Wednesday October 01 2014, @07:28AM

        by maxwell demon (1608) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @07:28AM (#100335) Journal

        Neurology has long since revealed that human perceptions of "love", "beauty" or "justice" are the result of perfectly measurable electro-chemical reactions in the brain.

        Err, no. They have revealed that human perceptions of "love", "beauty" or "justice" are correlated with perfectly measurable electro-chemical reactions in the brain.

        --
        The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @07:47AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @07:47AM (#100344)

          Of course they "are correlated with perfectly measurable electro-chemical reactions in the brain." That is the only place these concepts actually exist. Since they only exist inside the human brain what is wrong with measuring them in the brain?

          • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Wednesday October 01 2014, @08:09AM

            by maxwell demon (1608) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @08:09AM (#100350) Journal

            That is the only place these concepts actually exist.

            That's a believe.

            And yes, I do believe that, too, but I'm able to distinguish between hard facts (there are strong correlations between certain processes in the brain and the mental states, the quantum mechanical wave function is an appropriate tool to predict outcomes of experiments) and personal believes (the mental states are those brain processes, the quantum mechanical wave function is real).

            --
            The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
            • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Wednesday October 01 2014, @08:06PM

              by HiThere (866) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @08:06PM (#100627) Journal

              Is it a belief or a definition? I think it's probably a definition. One can describe all the characteristics of some particular sorts of beauty, symmetry, use of shading, etc. and I don't find that any of them or even all of them taken together mean beauty of that particular sort. Beauty is the emotional reaction that I experience on perceiving it.

              OTOH, I'm also aware that some people appear to have a definition of beauty the exists externally, and is independent of their emotional reaction. (I'm not sure I believe that they actually do this in practice, but they use the term in that way, so that's their definition.)

              So I think that this is probably a matter of definition rather than of belief.

              --
              Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
          • (Score: 2) by q.kontinuum on Wednesday October 01 2014, @09:12AM

            by q.kontinuum (532) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @09:12AM (#100368) Journal

            The difference is that equalling e.g. love with these reactions asserts that consciousness is only based on these reactions, which appears to be a likely assumption, but is not yet proven. Imagine you could emulate the behaviour of the brain with a circuit. Would this be conscious live? If so, what if you replace a part of this artificial brain with a computer simulation, just adding some connections to behave externally like the artificial chips did. Would this still be conscious live? If so, where is the limit? Where do the calculations become live?

            I don't think science has any answer to this question (yet), and therefore it is a bit premature to assert that these electro-chemical reactions are all and everything there is to emotions, even though I understand the assumtion.

            --
            Registered IRC nick on chat.soylentnews.org: qkontinuum
            • (Score: 2) by monster on Wednesday October 01 2014, @04:03PM

              by monster (1260) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @04:03PM (#100514) Journal

              The difference is that equalling e.g. love with these reactions asserts that consciousness is only based on these reactions, which appears to be a likely assumption, but is not yet proven.

              Wasn't it that those who argue that there is something more than the physical part are those who must prove it?

              Imagine you could emulate the behaviour of the brain with a circuit. Would this be conscious live? If so, what if you replace a part of this artificial brain with a computer simulation, just adding some connections to behave externally like the artificial chips did. Would this still be conscious live? If so, where is the limit? Where do the calculations become live?

              Turing test? Also, take the opposite option: The Matrix. Is it a conscious live if the physical substrate is an human being, but the world is feeded to him by a computer simulation?

              Anyway, that's already stepping in phylosophy's territory, not science.

              • (Score: 2) by q.kontinuum on Wednesday October 01 2014, @06:15PM

                by q.kontinuum (532) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @06:15PM (#100575) Journal

                Wasn't it that those who argue that there is something more than the physical part are those who must prove it?

                And why would that be? Whoever claims to have specific knpwlesge and expects othera to beleive it needs to prove it, no matter if it is a positive or a negative assertion. I'm only assertinh that it is not yet known if there is more or not, and people should reapect each others believes.

                ...philosophy, not science

                Philosophy is roughly translated love for analytical thinking. It is not comparable to physics as it is often based on hypothesis or axioms, but I would consider it a science similar to mathematics.

                --
                Registered IRC nick on chat.soylentnews.org: qkontinuum
                • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Wednesday October 01 2014, @08:13PM

                  by HiThere (866) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @08:13PM (#100631) Journal

                  Philosophy that was precise enough that arguments could be tested for following the rules of inference and absence of contradiction would have grounds for being considered an aspect of Mathematics (which I do not consider to be a science...though it's a borderline case, and I understand those who do). A science I consider to be something that depends for verification not on logical argument, but rather on observational confirmation of its predictions.

                  Note that math is a lot more precise than science will ever be. It's proofs are more guaranteed, and its disproofs more certain. But it has no physical interpretation. Once you mix in a physical interpretation you enter the area of science. But science has existed without math (except informal logic), and math still exists without any physical interpretation.

                  --
                  Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @11:28AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @11:28AM (#100400)

        Those aren't unmeasurable any more. Neurology has long since revealed that human perceptions of "love", "beauty" or "justice" are the result of perfectly measurable electro-chemical reactions in the brain.

        Those electro-chemical reactions also happen in cultured neurons. And they can be mimicked in culture or in sea slugs by applying exogenous stimulation. Does this mean I can make my petri dish of neurons love me?

        Or maybe a different question: studies like this [nih.gov] suggest that "love" is a highly localized phenomenon, presumably related to the specific connectivity of those neurons. How far up and down the network do you need to go to distinguish "love of spouse" from "love of chocolate"? Or are they the same thing, biologically speaking?

        The point is that "Love" (etc) is meaningful only as the subjective experience of biochemical states throughout the body, including your own perception of tachycardia and oxytocin, and including memory states derived from training or history. Your subjective experience integrates connectivity and chemistry that is completely unique to you. It may bear some similarities to subjective experiences of other humans, apes, and dogs (but not cats), but you vastly underestimate the integrative nature of the brain if you think that "love" is a little red spot on an fMRI.

        • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Wednesday October 01 2014, @08:26PM

          by HiThere (866) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @08:26PM (#100637) Journal

          No. Those reactions only exist in functioning intact brains. There *are* reactions analogous to portions of the complete reaction existing in cultured neurons, but that's hardly the same statement.

          Your link requires JavaScript, so I'm can but guess what you were pointing at. My guess it that the particular experiment drew arbitrary boundaries WRT what they were looking at. Understandable as a brain is too complex to understand, so you start by analysing particular chains that seem to you to be highly connected.

          FWIW, when you identify particular chemical agents of stimulation you are tying yourself to one particular implementation. It's true that we currently only have the mammalian brain that we can try to identify emotional state in (I'm even considering avian brains to different to allow much reasoning by analogy), there's no reason to believe that the particular implementation framework is determinate. It's the logical (programmatic) structure that's significant. But this doesn't imply that beauty is either internal or external. While the GP was too certain about his point of view, you equally appear to be too certain about yours. (Well, and so do I, for that matter.) These are matters of belief and definition at the moment, with available evidence only providing a sketchy set of constraints that must be adhered to.

          --
          Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday October 01 2014, @01:20PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 01 2014, @01:20PM (#100442) Journal

        Neurology has long since revealed that human perceptions of "love", "beauty" or "justice" are the result of perfectly measurable electro-chemical reactions in the brain.

        There are several things to note here. First, they aren't perfectly observable because they aren't perfectly observed. For example, there might be entangled quantum phenomena involved (even if it isn't normally involved, one can always surgically add the hardware) which interferes with our ability to make "perfect" observations.

        Second, you ignore the higher order structure of these concepts and their independence from how the human brain stores them. After all, I can write a book about my perceptions of "love", "beauty" and "justice". A reader can in turn read the book and suddenly share to a large degree my perceptions of these concepts. In that case, are these concepts electro-chemical reactions in my or the reader's brains, or words on a page? The answer is none of the above. They are concepts that happen to have representations of varying fidelity which are inscribed in these various media.

        In conclusion, you can speak of a representation of these concepts as perceived by me as electro-chemical reactions in my brain (well, plus some additional more permanent structures such as neuron connections) or words on a page, etc. But the concept itself is not a given representation, if only because representations do not have to be compatible with each other.

    • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:31AM

      by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:31AM (#100276)

      bad example.

      Science can tell you exactly how to distribute a cure for cholera, starting with those infected, then moving outwards to those most at risk and then the general population. Simple.

      "Moral values" are subjective and get abused to the Nth degree. According to some religions it is morally acceptable to treat people who look or believe differently, or even just females as inferior and not deserving even basic respect. So first the male followers of whatever version of God would get the cure, whether they needed it or not, then the women/children, then it would get used to convince people to convert. "Oh your sick? We can cure you, just accept $DIETY as your Lord and Master", "No? oh so sorry, you can just die like the rest of the unbelievers, but remember; God loves you"

      The KKK justifies their "moral" position that blacks should be slaves by pointing at passages in the Bible. Most religions relegate women to the status of a lower second class, or more often just property.

      Is it "moral" to prevent financial aid to a country unless that country wont use it to teach about contraception?

      Is it "moral" to push your unfounded, often contradicted by facts, dogma on anyone else under penalty of death if they don't agree?

      Teachers should, above all else, teach students how to think for themselves. If the student then wants to figure out how to fit facts about evolution into some story from 2000+ years ago about how Man was created from dust, fine, but it has no place in a science classroom.

      Religion is more responsible for holding back human advancement than any other cause.

      /rant

      --
      "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Phoenix666 on Wednesday October 01 2014, @05:13AM

        by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 01 2014, @05:13AM (#100301) Journal

        I'm not sure morality is entirely subjective. It is a meta-stable social system that evolved for a reason. We don't have a mathematical formula with predictive power that can, say, state that A+B^2+logC = ISLAM!, but solid research has been done to try to gain some explanatory power. Take game theory for example. Researchers have run exhaustive computer simulations of the Prisoner's Dilemma with many variations of strategies to win, and also that have applied those strategies to many variations to the basic premise of the Prisoner's Dilemma, and the most successful strategy that emerged was Tit-for-Tat. And tit-for-tat is a fundamental component of a great many successful systems of morality (eg., "Do unto others as you would have done unto you"). So it's as blinkered to pooh-pooh morality as a vanity or affectation as it is for medical researchers and doctors to pooh-pooh the placebo effect, because what we ought to be doing as observers of nature is to study why and how morality and placebos work when their effects are real and measurable. Note, none of that requires any of us to buy in to any morality, but we should study it.

        --
        Washington DC delenda est.
        • (Score: 2) by Kell on Wednesday October 01 2014, @06:34AM

          by Kell (292) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @06:34AM (#100326)

          I do agree that game theory does give rise to morality, as you say but I must point out that tit for tat is not the "do unto others" golden rule strategy at all. In fact, tit-for-tat is the very Old Testament strategy: cooperate with those who treat you fairly, hurt those who hurt you. Perhaps better known as "an-eye-for-an-eye". The golden rule stratagem would be to always cooperate.

          --
          Scientists ask questions. Engineers solve problems.
          • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Wednesday October 01 2014, @08:33PM

            by HiThere (866) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @08:33PM (#100639) Journal

            I think you need to reread the Old Testament. The basic rule was "Those who aren't believers should be taken all possible advantage of". Sometimes this meant killing an entire city because the ruler got overly friendly with your sister before marrying her.

            --
            Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
            • (Score: 2) by Kell on Thursday October 02 2014, @03:09AM

              by Kell (292) on Thursday October 02 2014, @03:09AM (#100799)

              I have read the Old Testament plenty of times, and I would wager I know it better than a great many Christians. Specifically I refer to Leviticus 24:17-20:

              24:17 And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.
              24:18 And he that killeth a beast shall make it good; beast for beast.
              24:19 And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him;
              24:20 Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.

              Last I checked, the pentateuch is generally considered part of the Old Testament.

              --
              Scientists ask questions. Engineers solve problems.
              • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Thursday October 02 2014, @06:10PM

                by HiThere (866) on Thursday October 02 2014, @06:10PM (#101064) Journal

                Yes. There are sections where various things, given a modern interpretation, are said that are reasonably moral. (IIUC, originally that was only applied within the tribes of the Jews.) But there are lots of other sections. I pointed directly at one of them.

                --
                Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
                • (Score: 2) by Kell on Friday October 03 2014, @06:53AM

                  by Kell (292) on Friday October 03 2014, @06:53AM (#101290)

                  Since there seems to be some confusion, I will clarify.

                  My aim was to correct the misconception that tit-for-tat is the same as the golden rule (which is more correctly 'always cooperate'). Tit-for-tat is the political strategy equivalent to an-eye-for-an-eye, which I agree is considered to be part of prototypical moral codes (and brutal ones to be sure). I am not arguing that eye-for-eye is 'good' or 'ethical' (or that 'moral' is synonymous for either of those). Rather I am arguing that political norms for social behaviour arise from iterated game theory.
                   
                  Morality may be thought of as behaving in such a way that the rest of your tribe doesn't get angry and kill you. Game theoretic self-maximising behaviour can be seen to explain the prevalence and benefit of moral behaviour, without recourse to transcendental reasoning; it is pragmatic "enlightened self-interest".

                  --
                  Scientists ask questions. Engineers solve problems.
        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by PinkyGigglebrain on Wednesday October 01 2014, @07:38AM

          by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @07:38AM (#100338)

          You make several excellent points. I was not trying to totally dis morality, but point out that it really doesn't belong in the same science class with evolution. Morality would be better discussed in a philosophy or psychology class.

          At the moment I can't remember ever hearing about any other creature that display morals. The whole concept of "morality" seems to be a trait associated with human intelligence. And it really does need more study to understand how the human brain develops a sense of "morality" and evaluates situations using that framework.

          Goddess knows there are people who seem to have moral frameworks that are totally disconnected from anything even remotely like what the general population would consider "Moral". And how what is considered "Moral" can vary based on the culture, ethnic group or even family that a person is from.

          --
          "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
          • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Phoenix666 on Wednesday October 01 2014, @12:06PM

            by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 01 2014, @12:06PM (#100409) Journal

            moral frameworks that are totally disconnected from anything even remotely like what the general population would consider "Moral". And how what is considered "Moral" can vary based on the culture, ethnic group or even family that a person is from.

            That is true, but it is important to remember that morality systems are always evolving, too. To me as someone who trained in the social sciences morality and culture are part of the continuum of strategies lifeforms employ to survive and seek advantage. While acknowledging that cultural tropes and moral structures are "believed in" and deeply held, it is possible to examine them clinically for their utilitarian value. It is possible that idiosyncracies of certain cultures confer practical advantages to the viability of the system entire, even if only as a pressure valve or continual counterexample to adherents as what not to do. Think the ladyboys of Thailand or the burakumin (the untouchables) of Japan.

            Anyway it's a fascinating area of study that is certainly scientific but lacks the experimental rigor of the "hard" sciences precisely because it is so devilishly difficult to design experiments that are reproducible. Human subjects are always wanting to think for themselves and fuck with the experiment. So it actually makes the "soft" sciences much, much harder than the "hard" scientists. Physicists and chemists have it easy. And it's why Milgram was so famous, because he was about the only guy who was able to design experiments with profound impact (he's the Six Degrees of Separation and the Human Beings Will Torture Each Other When Commanded to Do So guy).

            --
            Washington DC delenda est.
      • (Score: 2) by sjames on Wednesday October 01 2014, @06:38AM

        by sjames (2882) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @06:38AM (#100327) Journal

        It's only simple if there is enough for everyone and it has equal odds of working on everyone. It becomes less so if there is significant uncertainty.

    • (Score: 1) by deimios on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:32AM

      by deimios (201) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:32AM (#100277) Journal

      Moral values can tell you how to distribute the cure. Science can't.

      Oh yes it can, and it can assure the maximum effectiveness of the cure. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_warfare#Delivery/ [wikipedia.org]

      • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Wednesday October 01 2014, @08:35PM

        by HiThere (866) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @08:35PM (#100641) Journal

        You are presuming that maximum effectiveness is the goal. This is not guaranteed, and whether it is true or not depends on your moral values.

        --
        Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:45AM

      by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:45AM (#100282) Journal

      Science is a *method*. It's the study of measurable things. Note that *measurable*. They must be studied following a specific methodology (e.g. use of controls in lab science), and the results must be repeatable by anyone else following the same protocol.

      <pedantic mode="on">
      Quite strong conditions you raise here:

      1. measurability - the fact that you can't reliable measure quantum properties doesn't stop quantum mechanics be science (observability/detectability are weaker conditions but still good enough for science)
      2. empirical repetability - the fact that some objects/systems/experiments cannot be brought under same initial conditions or subjected to an experimentation protocol doesn't make their study less scientific (e.g. astrophysics - wouldn't it be nice if you could subject a massive rotating black hole to an experimental protocol? Like, throw things in it [wikipedia.org] see if you can stop the rotation, then bring it back in the initial rotational state to let others repeat the experiment?)
        .
      3. do you exclude maths [xkcd.com] from science? (there's no good or bad answer: some will exclude it some won't [wikipedia.org]. In any case, much of the maths isn't empirical at all: nothing to measure, nothing to subject to a protocol, but... Oh, boy... plenty of passion when it comes to falsifiability)

      So... professor, is an epistemology refresher [wikipedia.org] right for you?

      (wouldn't be falsifiability [wikipedia.org] the only mandatory requirement against science?)

      </pedantic>

      Note: all the above doesn't make less valid the discourse that follows the "science=repeatable empiricism+measurements" statement.

      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Wednesday October 01 2014, @08:43PM

        by HiThere (866) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @08:43PM (#100643) Journal

        Even falsifiability is questionable. Many accepted scientific theories have predictions that can not be tested even in principle. My favourite, quantum theory, has several contradictory interpretations. It's just that the interpretations agree at every place where they can be tested. AFAIK, there is not even theoretically a way to test whether the Everett-Graham-Wheeler multi-world interpretation of quantum theory is correct. Yet few people would say that it's not a scientific theory. And this is but one spectacular edge case, there are many.

        OTOH, is string theory a scientific theory? (This question by be based on obsolete data.) There are theoretical ways to test it, but they require things like an accelerator light years in length. The math is there, precise, accurate, and formidable, but the experimental tests that have been proposed are totally unreasonable. Does that count as falsifiable?

        --
        Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
    • (Score: 2) by q.kontinuum on Wednesday October 01 2014, @04:25AM

      by q.kontinuum (532) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @04:25AM (#100291) Journal

      I agree with your main points, but not entirely with your reasons. Emotions and their underlying mechanisms are already partially understood, and their evolutionary use is obvious. The same goes for moral. Nevertheless, until now science is - at least to my knowledge - not capable to explain consciousness. What is the difference between a mechanism acting on physical/biological rules and the consciousness of being "me"? This difference does leave some space for belief.

      However, believe is widely irrelevant for daily live: All religion could teach you in the ways of behavioural rules and values is delivered to you by humans, not god, and therefore should be checked against common sense. So, believe what you want, but in the end you will have to use your own judgement and question your own believes, unless you want to make yourself the tool of other humans.

      --
      Registered IRC nick on chat.soylentnews.org: qkontinuum
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @07:57AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @07:57AM (#100345)

      >Moral values can tell you how to distribute the cure.
      Moral values =/= religion! I'm as atheist as can be (3 generations now) but I don't think my moral values are any less developed than those of a religious person.

      > Science can't.
      Sure it can. You can reason very scientifically about the most efficient way to distribute them. And then let capitalism (which ahs nothing ot do with neither science nor religion) decide.

      It's true science can say nothing about 'belief', I'll give you that.

    • (Score: 2) by opinionated_science on Wednesday October 01 2014, @10:04PM

      by opinionated_science (4031) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @10:04PM (#100688)

      a nice comment! Basically science is the method that matches observations to proposed mechanisms.

      Religion is, by definition, human contrived dogma.

      There may be a deity, but no proof has yet been found.

      I am not sure we have the language to define a being that would be, by definition, beyond science.

      Of course, anything that is beyond science, is certainly not going to be found on stone tablets or in dusty old books...

  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @02:48AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @02:48AM (#100253)

    I think the role of the biology professor is to explain evolutionary theory in detail, and address some of the controversies and answer some of the cheap shots from the Creationists, but leave the Science vs. Religion part out of it.

    If the kids are engaged by the presentation and material then they'll get into that discussion amongst themselves, long into the night, without the professor being present. That's part of what college is about. Kids are learning to think for themselves and present cogent arguments that are immediately rebutted, rather than meekly regurgitating the words of the authority figure.

    • (Score: 1) by GWRedDragon on Wednesday October 01 2014, @12:42PM

      by GWRedDragon (3504) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @12:42PM (#100425)

      >> Kids are learning to think for themselves and present cogent arguments that are immediately rebutted, rather than meekly regurgitating the words of the authority figure.

      If only it actually worked like that. In practice nowadays it is the exact opposite.

      --
      [Insert witty message here]
  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:09AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:09AM (#100261)

    Evolution as a concept is a statistical phenomenon. I studied it in my AI class from my computer science department. I have implemented evolution, and it worked. Evolution is can be proven mathematically to work. However this is not important.

    What matters is that the application of evolution to biology is scientific: it makes useful predictions. Here useful means we have prior statistical evidence that said predictions are better than chance. Thus evolution is useful, regardless of its correctness. Correctness does not matter: what matters is the predictions are useful. That is what science is. Even if creationism is true, it does not meet that criteria and is not science: it would be history. The fact that even if creationism is known to be true, and evolution is known to be false, evolution should still be used in biology (its a science) and creationism should not. I don't see how there is even an issue here.

    I think a lot of these religions people value "truth" a little too highly, and are getting it wrongly mixed into the science. Science isn't about truth: its about forming models that have we can statistically show correlate with observations. Let the religions deal with "truth": I don't care about it.

    We still teach Newtonian mechanics which we know are wrong. It is a simple model that correlates with reality: its useful science. The same is the case for quantum mechanics and relativity: until quantum gravity is solved, none of it can possible be true. Truth is not the important thing here! What matters is evolution is useful, and creationism is useless. Thus in science we teach evolution. Its not complicated.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:25AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:25AM (#100272)

      It's a truism that Man created God. But people involved with science often just dismiss that as an accident of ancient history. No. Societies have laws because societies need laws. Most societies have religion because most societies need religion. At least, they have until now. Maybe we're in a period of transition; if so, it'll last many generations, probably hundreds of years.

      So when some people just dismiss religion as useless claptrap, well, why stop there. Why do we need manners and etiquette, respect for one another, personal property, laws, protecting the environment so we can pass on a healthy earth and rich culture to our descendants (since we'll be six feet under).

      Because we're people, not machines.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by hoochiecoochieman on Wednesday October 01 2014, @04:29PM

        by hoochiecoochieman (4158) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @04:29PM (#100524)

        So when some people just dismiss religion as useless claptrap, well, why stop there. Why do we need manners and etiquette, respect for one another, personal property, laws, protecting the environment so we can pass on a healthy earth and rich culture to our descendants (since we'll be six feet under).

        The Slippery Slope Fallacy. I don't need religion to respect others or to love my children and want to leave them a better world.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:46AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:46AM (#100283)

      I think a lot of these religions people value "truth" a little too highly, and are getting it wrongly mixed into the science. Science isn't about truth: its about forming models that have we can statistically show correlate with observations.

      Science doesn't exist in a vacuum. Science already relates with the field of ethics; there's a whole list of experiments your department will not sign off on for you to "form models", because the scientific method must be subordinated to the wider values of society. Similarly, while science may have utility, it's perfectly reasonable for people to weigh findings of science against other values like their religious beliefs.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @04:19AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @04:19AM (#100289)

        Science doesn't exist in a vacuum. Science already relates with the field of ethics; there's a whole list of experiments your department will not sign off on for you to "form models", because the scientific method must be subordinated to the wider values of society.

        Are you objecting to my claim that creationism is not relevant to this? I don't see how that makes creationism relevant: its not an ethical or legal issue. Also forming models has never been an issue. I can make any theory I want: its the testing of them that traditionally has challenges. Yes, biology is hard: some things are hard or impossible to test, and there are often financial, temporal and ethical issues. So? That does't change what science is, it simple makes it harder. I have no idea what point you are trying to make here.

        Creationism doesn't make any predictions: the difference is not in how hard (or ethical) it is to test, but rather that there is nothing that creationism predicts: even if you tested it (you can't), the result wouldn't matter because creationism is useless (it predicts nothing). It is not a model that makes useful predictions.

        Similarly, while science may have utility, it's perfectly reasonable for people to weigh findings of science against other values like their religious beliefs.

        If you want to make a religion based on science, and compare it to creationism, sure, that's fine, but it is not relevant to the issue of teaching about evolution. If you want to use science for engineering that's fine. If you want to use it for farming, parenting or art, thats fine. Science is useful: it makes predictions better than chance. Use it for things: that's the point. It's not an ideological value, its a practical one. Yes, you can use it's conclusions in your ideology, but that is not science, that is one use of it that is likely beyond the scope of a science class.

        Don't scope science bigger than it is, just because it's useful. All your statements apply to math just as much as they apply to science. There is math in ethics and religion, but math class isn't distracted by the number of gods problem. You can cause massive ethical violations testing theories in math too (ex: use all your department money, CPU time and electricity and cause global warming trying to empirically find a non trivial 0 on the critical line of the Riemann zeta function). This does not mean one should consider teaching creationism in math.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @04:41AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @04:41AM (#100294)

          Use it for things: that's the point. It's not an ideological value, its a practical one.

          Of course it's an ideological value. The choice of whether to "use it" or not involves beliefs and values outside of science itself. It may well be that if a scientific finding conflicts with a deeply held belief, so in spite of its apparent utility, pursuing it is not desirable.

          You can cause massive ethical violations testing theories in math too (ex: use all your department money, CPU time and electricity and cause global warming trying to empirically find a non trivial 0 on the critical line of the Riemann zeta function). This does not mean one should consider teaching creationism in math.

          That these things can happen is a reason to teach ethics alongside math, and indeed, at many universities, doing a degree in a math or science requires taking an ethics course as part of general requirements. And for many people, ethics is deeply intertwined with their religious beliefs. It's utterly understandable how a lecturer might want to explain to his new students what he is teaching in his particular class and how it may relate to themes outside the classroom.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @01:51PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @01:51PM (#100465)

      What matters is that the application of evolution to biology is scientific: it makes useful predictions. Here useful means we have prior statistical evidence that said predictions are better than chance. Thus evolution is useful, regardless of its correctness. Correctness does not matter: what matters is the predictions are useful. That is what science is. Even if creationism is true, it does not meet that criteria and is not science: it would be history. The fact that even if creationism is known to be true, and evolution is known to be false, evolution should still be used in biology (its a science) and creationism should not. I don't see how there is even an issue here.

      Are you saying it's only "science" if it makes useful predictions? A large part of biology is taxonomy: identifying and figuring out the relationships among species. Sometimes known as "butterfly collecting." In fact, there's an awful lot of stuff that people describe as observational science that really has no connection at all to predictions or models. In the case of chemistry, cataloging the known elements allowed the prediction of new elements based on gaps in the periodic table, but there's no theory in biology to predict the existence of duck-billed platypus.

      All science is either physics or stamp collecting

      --Ernest Rutherford

      • (Score: 2) by fadrian on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:47PM

        by fadrian (3194) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @03:47PM (#100503) Homepage

        I don't like your example. Taxonomies are very much judged by their usefulness, just as are theories - it's just that a taxonomies' usefulness are judged at the meta level based on their ability to act as epistemic generators. This is why we tolerate (nay, demand) many taxonomies, understanding that different views, each focused by the epistemological lens of its own organization and enriched by clues derived from analogous structures, can sometimes elucidate the world more quickly than hewing to a single viewpoint. But don't ever say that taxonomies are not judged by their usefulness.

        --
        That is all.
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Theophrastus on Wednesday October 01 2014, @05:12AM

    by Theophrastus (4044) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @05:12AM (#100299)

    Both science and religion attempt to explain origins, interactions, and destinies. Religion is based on faith, (some say the word 'religion' inculcates the notion of belief without evidence). Science is based on a systematic exclusion of faith. There has been a constant narrowing of the need for faith based explanations, and i believe (and hope) that it will continue until humanity is divorced from that need told to comfort and control the societies members by the priest class. Every religion becomes mythology eventually, mythology becomes art, and that's how it ought to be preserved with respect from where we came.

    There are many who will say that religion is necessary to provide moral objectivism. One only has to consider the history of the world's religions to doubt that. Better to have a solid reason not to commit a crime in the form of social justice than to say that you must take it on faith that Osiris will weigh your heart against a feather to judge you after you're dead.

    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday October 01 2014, @06:58AM

      by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 01 2014, @06:58AM (#100330) Journal

      Every religion becomes mythology eventually, mythology becomes art,

      I'm all in to preserve the art of Spanish Inquisition [youtube.com].

      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Wednesday October 01 2014, @07:42AM

        by maxwell demon (1608) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @07:42AM (#100341) Journal

        Actually, when I saw your YouTube link, I expected to see this. [youtube.com]

        --
        The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Geezer on Wednesday October 01 2014, @10:29AM

    by Geezer (511) on Wednesday October 01 2014, @10:29AM (#100380)

    Lost in the noise of the atheism v. fundamentalism battle is a phenomenon that has been quietly and slowly building in Western societies since the 1960's and continues to do so.

    People are more willing to seek their metaphysical answers outside the bounds of traditional religion. A lot of it is silliness or commercial exploitation (Beatles and the Maharishi, Eckart Tolle, etc.) but nevertheless the concept of spirituality is itself evolving. Dogmatic absolutism is giving way to curiosity and critical thinking, and so the better for all.

    Einstein defined his own spirituality as wonderment at the beauty of nature. Carl Sagan left us with a nice comment on the issue that ignores religious dogma entirely:

    "Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual...The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both."

    Absolutism and dogma are the enemies of intellectualism. Always have been, always will be.

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @02:49PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 01 2014, @02:49PM (#100477)

    More than just Resistance to Science [scienceblogs.com]

    TL;DR version:

    Before you can convince creationists of anything, you first need to learn their language before any sort of actual conversation can be established. Their concept of "evidence" is not based in logic, facts, and observations like it is in science. Instead, they rely on phatic language to establish "authority" (and from that,, "trust"). To the creationist, arguments that rely on evidence or logic might as well be speaking Klingon - they see it as "foreign nonsense", because it wasn't presented properly.

    Actual science education can only begin once you can communicate properly. Until then, a very different approach is required that involves gaining their trust and establishing yourself in a position they see as an authority (there is a brief explanation of this approach in the article).

    Incidentally, this problem of not speaking the same language works both ways: the creationist's arguments are not accepted by the scientist either. If they really wanted to make progress, they would first have to learn the language scientists use, and present their initial arguments in the ways that scientists find convincing. Their failure to do this makes their arguments seem like nonsense to the scientists - which is exactly what describing evolution with facts sounds like to the creationist.