I had so many options for naming this particular post, it was very hard to decide. And, I knew that I’d get reamed no matter which I chose. My other options were “Ignorance is… well, ignorance” and “Stupid is as stupid does.” Anyway, you get the idea.
Not that I’m calling PZ Myers names or suggesting that he’s not intelligent in his own area. I think he’s probably a pretty smart guy. I’m just referring to something that he posted yesterday, where he obviously stepped outside of his area of expertise, and led a host of his followers down a merry trail of dumber and dumber comments (hence my choice for the title).
The post I’m referring to is entitled Little imaginary beings, where he pokes fun at William Dembski, who wrote the forward for Peter S. Williams’ book, The Case for Angels. A quote from Dembski’s forward:
There exists an invisible world that is more real and weighty than our secular imaginations can fathom. I commend this book as a way of retraining our imaginations about that reality.
Myers apparently thinks this is hilarious, and ends with the brilliant and tactful conclusion: This crap is just plain idiocy.
Now, what’s “dumb” about that? But then, why does Myers think this is so funny? In fact, why should he be surprised at this at all?
Dembski has never hidden the fact that he believes in a super-natural, non-material reality. Dembski teaches at Baylor University, which is the largest Baptist University in the world (although someone needs to remind their president of that fact). Myers knows this. If Myers understood anything about religion or the beliefs of the majority of people in America (not to mention other places), he would know that belief in angels is consistent with both Christianity (remember the Christmas story?) and with Judaism.
So again, why should this be surprising? Why, in fact, even mention it at all? The proper response to this news, in any other forum, would be something like, “we already knew that, you lamebrain.” But, take a look at the stream of comments to the post. It makes you wonder. All of a sudden, Carry and Daniels seem like intellectuals. We all know that PZ Myers doesn’t believe in anything non-material. We accept that. It’s not news. Dembski, on the other hand, does, including believing in angels. For that matter, so do I. That is not news, either, but feel free to laugh. It is, as they say, a free country.
Now, on to this post at Touchstone Mag, which informs us that The Center for Inquiry is holding a conference in NYC, called “The Secular Society and Its Enemies,” which is “to address the alarming abandonment of Western secular values…”
Abandon? Western secular values?
“Empirical science (which is typically what people mean when they say simply “science”) limits itself to observable phenomena which can be duplicated and studied.”
Well, science can be a little more than that. There seems to be a little disagreement between scientists and YECs about the age of the Earth. If there seems to be really good “evidence” of “cause and effect” demonstrated by a lot of things that are “observed”, that is good enough for science. But yes, science observes “radioactive decay” as a phenomena which can be replicated and uses that to judge the age of the Earth. And, of course, the differences in genes between parents, children, species, etc. means that evolution is a very emprical science. New study today – 5 specific gene mutations means a much higher chance of cancer. Over and over and over, evolution is obviously empirical science.
From Webster, “that which is obvious.” To quote Tim Hardin, a “reason to believe.” Evidence can, of course be something other than scientific. In court, for example, much evidence is simply the testimony of someone’s direct experience. The same would be true for historical evidence, which is often based on documents reflecting someone’s experience.
Empirical science (which is typically what people mean when they say simply “science”) limits itself to observable phenomena which can be duplicated and studied.
“For that matter, so do I. That is not news, either, but feel free to laugh.”
So define for me one more time – what does the word “evidence” really mean?
I thought you were referring to its upload to the Panda’s Thumb and the comments there. And I’m always nice, if sometimes a bit strident.
There are some commenters who frequent Pharyngula who irritate me to no end, chief among those is Caledonian; the guy who refers to scientists who hold religious beliefs, even those who don’t try to conflate religion and science, as “techichians” because they don’t think purely rationally. Ugh, how patronizing.
PZ doesn’t censor his commenters, except to occasionally disemvowel trolls, or ban trollers who repeatedly ignore his warnings. So, as I tell people, the commenters on his site are not him.
p.s. you were a lot nicer to me here than I expected…
First, I didn’t see (or didn’t notice) a comment from you on PZ’s blog, so I wasn’t referring to you. I think you’re often wrong ;-), but you don’t tend to drop into that “dumb” category. (I’m sure there are plenty of dumb comments on Christian sites as well, but I tend not to frequent sites that attract that kind of commenter… it’s too frustrating).
You’re referring to PZ here? Again, applying principles which are adamantly held to be limited to a material universe to something which everyone agrees are non-material beings is … well, I’ll let you fill in the adjective.
And, your summary of Dembski’s position is not accurate. I have never seen him argue that “he is wrong just because he should believe in non-material causes and not because of any real evidence.” Believing or not believing in a non-material world is a philosophical issue, although it (as I’ve argued) does impact the conclusions people draw from scientific data. Both Dembski and Myers are open to comment on philosophy… in fact, that might be kind of nice.
And, re your final comment, I have never accused you of being a sycophant. Yet, anyway… 😉
And my defense of PZ certainly is not affected by what he wrote about me here but it certainly speaks to his brilliance:
Dembski no longer teaches at Baylor. He is now at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. Baylor recently asked him to stop implying that the Bionformatics Lab is sanctioned by the university, in response to which he faked a letter from the president of Baylor. He later said it was a satire, but it was removed from the UncommonDescent.org site when he was originally sniffed out.
This is where the whole thing started. One of my other blog-friends, Vjack, posted the story of one of his own friends whose parents tried to exorcise him. It’s a pretty sad story. Ode to Tony and that was followed by the blurb that PZ quoted from the Dembski introduction to Williams’ book.
He is applying the same logic to studying angels and demons as he is to studying biology, and this is an area in which PZ is more than just a pretty smart guy, he is brilliant, and he has actually been doing the hard work needed to understand how evolution works.
When someone like Dembski intrudes on an area that PZ knows so well, and tells him he is wrong just because he should believe in non-material causes and not because of any real evidence, I think Dembski is poisoning his own well. And it is not a stretch by any means for PZ to point it out.
So, was my response in the Panda’s Thumb one of the “dumb” or “dumber?”