A theistic evolutionist gets the shaft

I obviously don’t agree with many of this minister’s ideas, but he’s no enemy of science and didn’t deserve the treatment he’s gotten from the Royal Society (U.K.). Decide for yourself whether this was warranted, but it smells like bullshit to me. (thanks, hopper3011)

  1. #1 by Lofcaudio on June 5, 2009 - 10:45 am

    Nice find Kevin (or hopper3011)! Thanks for sharing. Professor Reiss eloquently presents the views that I currently hold on such issues. I especially enjoyed this paragraph:

    “But nor do I think I see sunsets any more beautifully than Harry Kroto does, just because I have religious faith,” Reiss adds quickly. “One might see things differently, but religious belief doesn’t make you a morally better person, a nicer person, a wiser person or anything like that.” While he finds militant atheists wearing, it is still the religious fundamentalists, with their agenda of hate and terror, who cause him most despair.

  2. #2 by Gingerbaker on June 5, 2009 - 12:03 pm

    Perhaps it was a witchhunt.

    Or perhaps the Royal Society decided that they didn’t want to give such vivid legitimacy to the idea that religion and science are indeed compatible. Which is a perfectly fine viewpoint, you know, and one that doesn’t require compartmentalization of ones faculties for reason.

    It is a viewpoint that I happen to agree with, and one that seems to me to be more in line with the mission of a scientific organization. What should the public statements of a scientific organization be on what science has to say about religion? Philosophy? English literature?

    I don’t think so. Perhaps I am simple-minded, but I think the proper sentiment – if stated at all – of a scientific agency on religion is… what does science actually have to say about religious claims.

    And science does have quite a bit to say about the historicity of Jesus, Moses, Mohammed; the existence of gods, the human soul, etc. And it is not salutary to religion. So why do we NEVER hear this?

  3. #3 by kemibe on June 5, 2009 - 12:12 pm

    The odd thing is that this guy completely understands why he got the deal he got, but it’s not going to change his mind any. He seems *this* close to letting go of what he seems to realize are completely inappropriate, pathological ideas.

  4. #4 by hopper3011 on June 6, 2009 - 12:37 pm

    I’m not sure that I would classify any of his ideas as inappropriate or pathological; I’d go so far as to say that there are many atheists who would struggle to put as cogent a case for their beliefs.
    Something that has always bothered me: why, as an atheist, do you care what anyone else believes?As an atheist, surely you can see that the universe is pointless, your existence is pointless, and the only meaning you can give to life is the meaning you choose, so why do you feel the need to mock someone who hasn’t got the courage to face up to the pointlessness? If someone needs a crutch to help them find a meaning for their life, let them get on with it is what I say.
    In a couple of million years (maybe sooner if we keep going this way) it won’t matter who believed what, so why waste your time trying to convince others?

  5. #5 by kemibe on June 6, 2009 - 12:46 pm

    I guess I would answer that by saying that fundamentally I don’t care what anyone believes, but I admittedly have a very low tolerance for illogical thinking, even though (and perhaps because) I am not immune to it myself.

    Maybe “pathological” and “inappropriate” are not the best words to have used. “Wrong” might suffice. But in any case, it should be clear that I think this guy was treated poorly despite the fact that I part ways from him on various philosophical levels, so I hope people understand that despite my ongoing desultory mockery of the hyper-religious (who seem to exist in scant numbers in the U.K. compared to here), I do not appeal to the idea of some fascist atheist dystopia wherein people are legislated out of consideration merely for believing in God. That is undesirable and unworkable in any useful society.

  6. #6 by kemibe on June 6, 2009 - 12:52 pm

    Also, the whole “everything will be gone in a few million years anyway” has never struck me as a very sound reason for accepting or rejecting anything. I could seemingly use this fact for not caring about anything at all, and more proximally might say that because I’ll be dead in 100 years, screw whatever stupid shit I do now. I think we’re all interested in smoothing out our own rides, and tend to try to make them entertaining in our own individual, discordant ways.

  7. #7 by hopper3011 on June 7, 2009 - 2:29 pm

    I could seemingly use this fact for not caring about anything at all

    That would be Sartre’s position: the realisation that nothing at all matters is a step forward in the evolution of the human animal.
    I think probably that, being at base a rational being, you couldn’t care about nothing – it is a part of the facticity of rationality that we invest our existence with meaning, but the fully developed rational animal realises that that meaning is all a crock of shit anyway.
    Religious people are basically afraid of the realisation that they are in charge of, and solely responsible for, the meaning they choose to give their lives, so they relinquish their autonomy to choose to a higher power. This is (one way) of living life in mauvaise foi – there are others but they aren’t relevant here.
    By creating a higher power and relinquishing oneself to it, the religious person denies the freedom of choice that we all possess, and creates an external force who can be made responsible for the results of their actions. People who need this crutch are to be pitied, but you won’t change them by ridicule – and perhaps change is not your intention? I’ll admit that there is a certain amusement in prodding them, but it is meaningless beyond that.
    Religious belief is not the only way to be in bad faith – some atheists (and I’m not lumping you in with this group), particularly the sort of militant atheists who write books blaming the religious for everything, are also in bad faith: they are denying their own responsibility by placing the blame for their predicament externally.
    My point is (I think I had one!) firstly that Reiss is basically inoffensive, so if you have to have religious people the more like him the better, and secondly that his beliefs are not actually wrong (that is, his views are no more proveable than the contention that God doesn’t exist).

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