News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on November 13, 2011 in News

New SEP article from Jesse Prinz: Culture and Cognitive Science.

The Think Atheist Radio Show is probably the podcast with the content most similar to Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot.

Jim Houston at Talking Philosophy discusses Dawkins and “Who designed the designer?

From Twitter:

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark November 13, 2011 at 6:26 am

Outside of seminaries, are there any academic positions whatsoever where “unorthodoxy” is explicitly named as grounds for dismissal? Appalling. I’m a lot more sympathetic than most atheists to the efforts of sophisticated Christian apologists, but this sort of incident reminds me how insane the intellectual culture is.

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joseph November 13, 2011 at 9:04 am

Yay for Squila and Ben Goldacre

Also check out the electro sensory ability of the duck billed platypus

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Greg November 13, 2011 at 9:51 am

Luke,

Thanks for the promotion of our radio show. Our show was not as polished as yours starting off. I had a $40 mic, no editing experience, and had never taken any speaking classes. I think you can see a rather significant gain in quality in the newer episodes though.

Cheers!

Greg

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antiplastic November 13, 2011 at 11:39 am

“But the point is that ‘there was a drought’ does not fail as an explanation of the poor crop because it does not explain why there was a drought.”

Oy vey!

The only bigger strawman than thinking that apologists don’t have a special-pleading retort handy for WDTD is thinking that the skeptic thinks “all explanations require explanations”. Mote, meet beam.

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Leo November 13, 2011 at 12:01 pm

I was just sketching something like Hypothesis months ago, someone else got the idea out first … I feel coroborated but a little bit dissapointed about myself, got outsmarted in some sense, while I think they still lack some important ideas to make it more user friendly…, It’s nice to see it’s going to be Open Source and there are going to be APIs, maybe I’ll use them, who knows.

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Thomas November 13, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Appalling. I’m a lot more sympathetic than most atheists to the efforts of sophisticated Christian apologists, but this sort of incident reminds me how insane the intellectual culture is.

I´m a christian, and I completely agree that this is appalling. I actually don´t even believe it, just yet! But “the Christian intellectual culture” certainly isn´t like that (if the story is true) everywhere.

(And just to reminder you, others than christians do this too. Richard Stenberg, for example, lost his job when he agreed to publish Stephen Meyer´s ID-paper in a professional journal. I´m not an ID-advocate, but my point is that a very good professional lost his job just because he went against the orthodox views.)

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antiplastic November 13, 2011 at 3:18 pm

And just to reminder you, others than christians do this too. Richard Stenberg, for example, lost his job when he agreed to publish Stephen Meyer´s ID-paper in a professional journal.

I’m sorry to be the one to have to break this to you, but you’ve been lied to by the people you trust.

Sternberg was never fired from any job.

http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/08-04-17/#part2

See also here:

http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/12/creating_a_martyr_the_sternber.php#more

Even hired gun and professional science-enemy Tom Gilson is no longer pushing this lie.

But since Christian “intellectual culture” is, as you maintain, something more than a din of lies and dishonesty, I’m sure you will rush to correct your brethren with this new information.

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cl November 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm

“Outside of seminaries, are there any academic positions whatsoever where “unorthodoxy” is explicitly named as grounds for dismissal?”

Duh! Biology. And politics. Physics too.

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epistememe November 13, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Cl, please site examples

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Thomas November 13, 2011 at 4:50 pm

But since Christian “intellectual culture” is, as you maintain, something more than a din of lies and dishonesty, I’m sure you will rush to correct your brethren with this new information.

Like I said, I´m not an ID-advocate, so this really isn´t a big deal to me. I just gave an example from my memory. Now if you are correct, then thank you very much for that information! I didn´t know that.

My original point was that close-mindedness is a common human condition among everyone, and that not all christians exhibit that (just as not all naturalists exhibit that, although some, like the internet new-atheist types, do).

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cl November 13, 2011 at 6:37 pm

epistememe,

Cl, please site examples

What, you want me to wipe your ass for you, too? Don’t be so lazy. Use that thing called the internet and see what you can find.

As for me, I already know it’s true and don’t care to convince you or earn your respect.

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epistememe November 13, 2011 at 7:34 pm

cl,
“As for me, I already know it’s true and don’t care to convince you or earn your respect.”

You seem to feel you can state your opinion as fact, but that only works in religion and Fox Noise.

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cl November 13, 2011 at 7:39 pm

No, you’ve got it wrong, presumably because you prefer contrarian culture wars over thinking. I’ve stated fact as fact, and you’re just confirming my suspicions about intellectual laziness. Show me that you can actually do two minutes worth of research, then let’s talk about what you find.

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cl November 13, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Oh, and a necessary correction:

You seem to feel you can state your opinion as fact, but that only works in religion and Fox Noise.

No, that works quite well on many so-called “rationalist” blogs, this one included. As just one obvious example, the many claims of the variant “God does not exist.”

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joseph November 13, 2011 at 10:40 pm

@Epistememe & CL,

I am sure that CL, though he is not jumping at the opportunity to be helpful, can find examples because at the end of the day Christianity does not have a monopoly on arseholes.

Not quite the same but I remember, offhand, that the winner of this year’s nobel prize for chemistry (discovery of quasicrystals), and Cantor were somewhat persecuted by other great scientists who disagreed with them.

Perhaps it happens more often among religious groups because counter-ideological ideas are seen as threatening to the eternal salvation of the soul (and possibly a very real danger of damnation). If science goes off track for a bit it…delays the enlightenment of humanity until we sort it out. The stakes are different.

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joseph November 13, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Sorry, read mathematicians in the case of Cantor

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Reginald Selkirk November 14, 2011 at 6:26 am

Thomas: I´m not an ID-advocate, but my point is that a very good professional lost his job just because he went against the orthodox views.

You say you’re not an ID advocate, and yet here you are promulgating ID propaganda.

You say that Richard von Sternberg is/was a “very good professional,” without citing any evidence. His behaviour speaks otherwise.

You say that von Sternberg “lost his job.” This is false. He had a non-paid position at the Smithsonian, and he did not lose it.

You state that the reason for von Sternberg allegedly losing his job was “just because he went against the orthodox views,” ignoring some obvious reasons – that he subverted the normal editorial process and the normal peer review process to get Meyer’s paper into print. This is not the behaviour of a “very good professional.”

BTW, the core issue at the bottom of all this is the Meyer paper. It is not a high quality piece of science. While purportedly on the Cambrian explosion, it is a laundry list of the usual ID BS. It contains no new or valid research. It contains things that I personally know to be false. Unless you are willing to stand up for the Meyer paper, you cannot claim that von Sternberg was acting as a “very good professional” by sneaking it into print.

http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/12/creating_a_martyr_the_sternber.php“>Creating a Martyr: The Sternberg Saga Continues

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Mark November 14, 2011 at 8:29 am

(And just to reminder you, others than christians do this too. Richard Stenberg, for example, lost his job when he agreed to publish Stephen Meyer´s ID-paper in a professional journal. I´m not an ID-advocate, but my point is that a very good professional lost his job just because he went against the orthodox views.)

Others have already commented on Sternberg/Meyer. But I want to point out that random individuals being fired for ultimately ideological reasons is very different from a named, explicit, institutional policy against dissenting from orthodoxy. That is what’s so insane.

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Thomas November 14, 2011 at 9:06 am

I already said that I was wrong about Sternberg! It´s not a big deal for me. Ok?

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mp November 14, 2011 at 10:21 am

@joseph

Aren’t the Licona case and cases purported in other disciplines dissimilar? In the other cases, the individual who was “persecuted” by the establishment was going outside of the received opinion, the consensus or the mainstream. In the Licona case it is not at all clear that he is going outside of the received opinion, the consensus or the mainstream. As I have been told by many an apologist, it is theologically acceptable to suggest that there are stories in the bible that aren’t historical. If that’s true, then the Licona case is more nuanced than those you quoted, I think.

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drj November 14, 2011 at 10:26 am

@antiplastic

Even hired gun and professional science-enemy Tom Gilson is no longer pushing this lie.

Just curious, as I’ve commented over at Tom’s website before – what’s behind the “hired gun” label?

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Reginald Selkirk November 14, 2011 at 11:40 am

Thomas: Four errors in one sentence is no big deal? If you place so little value on your own word, why should anyone else value it?

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joseph November 14, 2011 at 11:46 am

@mp

Yes, hence:

“Not quite the same but…”

Too understated?

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Thomas November 14, 2011 at 11:54 am

Reginald Selkirk,

I made a mistake. I didn´t know that. I was wrong. I´m sorry.

Ok? Now calm down.

Back to the point, this Licona case is quite insane according to intelligent christians, also (see for example: http://randalrauser.com/2011/11/first-they-came-for-michael-licona/). So people can be idiotic, whether they are christians, muslims, naturalists, or whatever.

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Reginald Selkirk November 14, 2011 at 12:39 pm
Reginald Selkirk November 14, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Back to the point, this Licona case…

I see that Randal Rauser (for whom I have little respect) writes Albert Mohler off as a “crank” – although Mohler is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His views may appear extreme from a secular, fact-based perspective, but not within Evangelical Christianity.

The Licona case shows what goes on at many Christian colleges which do not meet secular standards. It is not uncommon for faculty of theology and biology to be dismissed from such institutions. Even ID Creationist William Dembski ran into problems concerning his views on the age of the Earth:
HOW OLD? Age of Earth debated among SBC scholars
Wouldn’t it have been exciting if Dembski had would up getting “expelled” over that issue? In my view, anyone still touting an Earth of 10,000 years or less is not worthy of the title “scholar.”

Another issue is that, even at secular colleges, Religious Studies faculty positions are biased towards believers. Consider the case of Michael Quinn, one of the top Mormon Studies scholars around:
Expelled scholar of Mormon history can’t find work
The problem is that chairs in religious studies are usually funded by rich alumni, and are seen to exist to serve the faithful who attend college.

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Reginald Selkirk November 14, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Jobs in Jeopardy for Christian Scholars Who Believe in Evolution
Tue, Aug. 09 2011

(John) Schneider taught theology at Christian Reformed School Calvin College for 25 years until he was forced to resign after writing a paper that questioned the historical Adam.

Daniel Harlow, a religion professor at Calvin College, was investigated by the school after writing a paper with the same premise as Schneider’s, proposing that there is no historical Adam.

Karl Giberson was a professor of physics at Eastern Nazarene College until he was dismissed due to his support of evolution.

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Luke Muehlhauser November 14, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Reginald,

Thanks.

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Tony Hoffman November 14, 2011 at 4:52 pm

I sympathize with Licona; a key factor in my deciding not to pursue a career in History was fear of being beholden to a History Departments political leanings or deemed out-of-fashion by the same. That, it seems to me, is the risk one runs of pursing a career in the soft sciences.

But Licona has also chosen to make it waaay harder on himself by choosing to be a New Testament scholar. Although he may have strayed just far enough away from the holy right to cause his ouster from the big sponsors of the field he was trained in, he’s still bat shit crazy to me, and it’s that lonely middle ground that makes him a kind of useless that should drive anyone to drink. So here’s to hoping he learns enough to use what practical knowledge he’s gained from his training and turn it into something useful.

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Tony Hoffman November 14, 2011 at 5:06 pm

“Just curious, as I’ve commented over at Tom’s website before – what’s behind the “hired gun” label?”

I’m not sure what was meant either, but I’m curious. I think that Gilson has some official title with Campus Crusade for Christ (I think they recently changed their name?), for one. And he beats a drum for the the Discovery Institute something fierce, and I’ve wondered aloud over there if he doesn’t receive some kind of compensation from the DI (either directly or indirectly), what with all his absurd fawning and bowing over their patently ridiculous statements. Come to think of it, that question may be what got me banned from commenting over there.

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Neil Patrick Harris November 14, 2011 at 8:30 pm

“What, you want me to wipe your ass for you, too? Don’t be so lazy. Use that thing called the internet and see what you can find.

As for me, I already know it’s true and don’t care to convince you or earn your respect.”

I am open minded on this topic, but I honestly can not find anything other than conspiracy websites. It takes just as long to go to Google and copy and paste a link as it does to come here. If that is too much, just name a few examples and I will Google and paste them.

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Reginald Selkirk November 15, 2011 at 7:42 am

List of instructors EXPELLED for teaching evolution

Steve Bitterman was an instructor who taught the Western Civilization course at Southwestern Community College in Red Oak, Iowa. In 2007, at the age of sixty, he was fired because he did not teach the story of Adam and Eve as literal truth.

And many other examples.

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Reginald Selkirk November 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm

mp: Aren’t the Licona case and cases purported in other disciplines dissimilar?

I looked up Licona. I presume this is the controversy alluded to:

Apologist’s questioning of Matthew 27 creates theological war of words.
A fiery debate has erupted over a leading Southern Baptist apologist’s questioning of Matthew 27. The question: whether Matthew’s reference to many saints rising from their graves after Jesus’ resurrection might not be literal history.

Geisler accused Licona of denying the full inerrancy of Scripture…

Full inerrancy? Does Geisler believe that insects have four legs, that bats are a type of fowl, and that rabbits chew their cud? (All in Leviticus chapter 11)

Their may be people crazier than Licona, but he still seems batshit insane to me.

One difference between these theological differences and cases involving scientific fields at secular universities: science is not a matter of faith, so “denial of the orthodoxy” may involve the denial of substantial amounts of actual evidence. I.e. someone fired for teaching creationism at a secular university (and no one is providing examples here) involve questions of competency, not just orthodoxy.

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Tony Hoffman November 15, 2011 at 3:03 pm

In the article Reginald linked to, Licona is quoted as writing, “At present I am just as inclined to understand the narrative … as a report of a factual (i.e., literal) event as I am to view it as an apocalyptic symbol.”

So, we have at issue an uncorroborated story, written by an anonymous author, based on hearsay, and written decades after the event, that a bunch of zombies popped out of their graves and started walking around. Believing that the likelihood of that story’s events being factual is about 50/50 isn’t a case of being incompetent; it’s a case of being crazy.

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Reginald Selkirk November 16, 2011 at 6:32 am

A Case Against An Historical Jesus…
THIS WAS WRITTEN AND COMPILED BY JIM WALKER.

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Lee A.P. November 16, 2011 at 7:20 pm

epistememe,

What, you want me to wipe your ass for you, too? Don’t be so lazy. Use that thing called the internet and see what you can find.

As for me, I already know it’s true and don’t care to convince you or earn your respect.

Cl,

The atheists are correct and you are not. Infinity. No double infinities allowed.

Yeah. That just happened! YEAH!

Also, allow me to say, na na na boo boo, place your head in doo doo.

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box November 18, 2011 at 4:59 am

Hey, cl

What happened to your website? It still says it’s down for maintenance. When will you start blogging again?

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