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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Bioethics in a godless world

I'll leave abortion at the door today, and look at the second-biggest bioethical issue: embryonic stem cell research.

Recently, Michael J. Fox appeared on Oprah and was presented with a new line of bio-research that promises to be even more promising than embryonic stem cell research; the technique involves using adult skin tissue to culture cells that can repair the damage of Parkinson's Disease.

This predictably has Christian's and other religions preoccupied with this issue jumping for joy, believing this somehow closes the debate. Except it doesn't.

What particularly bothers me about the bio-ethical questions surrounding stem cell research as it pertains to it's religious opponents, is they're completely dishonest in regular discourse about what they're really trying to say.

What they're really trying to say is: stem cell research is wrong, because god says it's wrong.

Even if you really believe this, I have to tell you that it's not terribly convincing reasoning for someone who doesn't believe in god. Would you be terribly impressed if I told you that eating spaghetti was immoral because the flying spaghetti monster says it isn't? Of course not.

Most religious people just give up on the god justification, and go after arguments of efficacy, claiming that embryonic stem cell research has no benefits over adult stem cell research--which are patently bad reasoning, considering only research on embryonic stem cells will reveal whether or not they have benefits or not.

The truth of the matter is, the vast majority of scientists are not religious. A famous US Academy of Sciences survey of it's members found that nearly 90% of scientists within the life sciences are atheists, about 5% agnostic, and only about 5% professing to having a belief in a god. So it's safe to say, that the scientists engaging in embryonic stem cell research have no religious reservations about the practice.

This all leads up to a question: what--if any role--would the state play in determining these bioethical questions in a libertarian framework? Clearly, an atheist libertarian like myself or the 95% of scientists that are not religious do not believe we are acting immorally by engaging in such research. Would some libertarians be willing to accept any such limits--in the name of a specific God--and if so, why?

H/T Celestial Junk

Posted by Mike Brock on May 6, 2009 in Libertarianism | Permalink

Comments

"The truth of the matter is, the vast majority of scientists are not religious."

Please define scientist and religious. I would also appreciate further citing of sources for this and other claims.

I've seen numbers going just as far the other ways. Especially considering the vast vast majority of the world's population believe in some sort of a higher power, I find it hard to believe that greater than 50% of the world's scientists are not at least spiritual in some way, much less religious.

Not to mention that in my line of work I've come across a lot of very religious (Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish) scientists, including molecular biologists, geneticists, physicists and geologists.

My experience is you should be skeptical about any statistics which show anything about people en mass to be more than 80% of anything, and that you should be incredibly skeptical about religious statistics because virtually always the sample is bias, the questions are bias and the interpretation of the data is bias.

Posted by: Pete | 2009-05-06 12:17:25 PM


Pete,

I can't find the more recent study. But here the 1997 study showed that 85% of scientists in the life sciences were atheists or agnostics: http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.html -- "Biological scientists had the lowest rate of belief (5.5% in God, 7.1% in immortality)" ... 94.5% of biologists in 1997 professed to have no belief in God.

Published in the Journal of Nature. Recent trends have shown this to have continued to firm up--against religious belief in the halls of science.

Mensa, the high IQ organization, also found in a study that the vast majority of it's members professed to be atheists as well.

The Royal Society in the UK has done similar studies, revealing that the vast majority of it's members now profess to be atheists. Even in the 1960's the studies showed that 40% of Royal Society members were atheists, when only a tiny fraction of the mainstream populace professed to be.

It doesn't take much Googling to see for yourself, that scientists are by-and-large, today, mostly atheists.

Why is it, that every time some scientist from some university comes out and professes belief, the religious community holds them up on a pedestal? Why? Because they're a rare breed, and religion doesn't have many of them on their side.

Also, arguing that because most people believe it follows that God must exist is argumentum ad antiquitatem.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 12:27:56 PM


I can't find the more recent study. But here the 1997 study showed that 85% of scientists in the life sciences were atheists or agnostics:
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 12:27:56 PM

Funny though the magazine Nature published results in 1997 which showed 40 percent of biologists, physicists and mathematicians believed in God, which the survey put as "a God to whom one may pray "in expectation of receiving an answer."

Brock likes to think of himself as a "Bright", when in fact he's pretty dim.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/23/national/23believers.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-05-06 1:32:01 PM


I'll leave abortion at the door today, and look at the second-biggest bioethical issue: embryonic stem cell research.
Posted by Mike Brock on May 6, 2009

Wrong again. The largest bio-ethical issue is human cloning.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-05-06 1:37:51 PM


"Funny though the magazine Nature published results in 1997 which showed 40 percent of biologists, physicists and mathematicians believed in God"

Link? The 1997 study I just posted in my comments says the opposite.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 1:42:48 PM


How about if I revealed groundbreaking research that cells harvested from the minced brains of libertarian bloggers can cure Parkinson's disease?

Posted by: anonymous | 2009-05-06 2:30:15 PM


Good grief. This string has descended to the lowest common denominator rather quickly.

I for one don't see science as being the business of the state. I don't like mixing science with politics. I also don't like mixing science with religion. Religion must accepted as a matter of faith and therefore has no place influencing science.

Posted by: Charles | 2009-05-06 2:39:32 PM


Link? The 1997 study I just posted in my comments says the opposite.
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 1:42:48 PM

The complete study is available on the Nature site. Use your skills as a software engineer to get it. What you are using are the responses of the "elite" scientists, not the whole survey.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-05-06 2:39:43 PM


Stig,

All of the articles at nature are behind a payment system. All of the articles that I have found that cite the article--one I have linked--shows data tables from the study contradicting your claim.

You're saying the study concluded something different, and you're saying it's my job to verify your counter-claim, when really, it isn't. It's your job to provide evidence of the new information you've presented; Necessitas probandi incumbit ei qui agit.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 2:44:17 PM


“In the chain of evolution, where was the first link?"
– Question posed to Charles Darwin.

“It was riveted to the throne of the Most High."
–Darwin's answer.

“The more I occupy myself with the study of nature, the more I stand in reverent amazement before the works of the Creator."
–Louis Pasteur.

“The contradictions which most of all might seem to separate me from religious knowledge, on the contrary, lead me to it."
– Pascal, a renowned mathematical genius.

“Only half-knowledge brings people to godliness. No one is able to deny the existence of God, except those for whom it is profitable to do so."
– Bacon

“The willful ignorance of some human beings knows no bounds.:
– Me

Posted by: set you free | 2009-05-06 3:31:58 PM


set you free,

Darwin died an atheist, and the proof of this is well documented in the manuscript that he left after his death. The attempt by religious people to appropriate Darwin's personal beliefs is absolutely absurd.

Darwin started off devout, and slowly lost his religion, much to his wife's horror.

Darwin neither said any of the two things you quoted. Those are fabrications, and I challenge you to provide me with evidence to the contrary. And don't ask me to disprove it, because you're the one who attributed those quotes to him, and it's your job to source them.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 3:46:41 PM


From Darwin's manuscript, written in his last days, and found after his death:

"I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine."

...

"At the present day (ca. 1872) the most usual argument for the existence of an intelligent God is drawn from the deep inward conviction and feelings which are experienced by most persons. But it cannot be doubted that Hindoos, Mahomadans and others might argue in the same manner and with equal force in favor of the existence of one God, or of many Gods, or as with the Buddists of no God...This argument would be a valid one if all men of all races had the same inward conviction of the existence of one God: but we know that this is very far from being the case. Therefore I cannot see that such inward convictions and feelings are of any weight as evidence of what really exists."

The religious people who invented the false quotes you cite are evil people.

Where did you get those quotes from? Some religious website without any sourcing of the quotes?

The source of these rumours is known as the Lady Hope Story, in which Elizabeth Hope claimed Darwin converted to Christianity before his death. Her claims have been refuted and disproved by historians, and directly refuted by Darwin's children. The fact that Christians continue to throw around this story as fact shows just how intellectually dishonest they are hellbent on being. You want to believe what you want to believe, and if that means distorting truth, fact and history then so be it.

Next you'll be telling me that "no transitional fossil has ever been discovered" which is another piece of patent bullshit promulgated by the faithful.

Or you'll be telling me that "no species has ever been observed to transform from one distinct species into another" which is a red herring and complete misunderstanding of evolution.

Even the Vatican eventually conceded to this evidence.

After ordering a study by Vatican scientists into the scientific theory of evolution, Pope Jean Paul II declared evolution factual on October 22, 1996.

Meanwhile, other Christian denominations continue their bullshit tirade of refusing to actually look at the evidence, and claiming it's just a "theory"--demonstrating complete disregard to even the basic scientific definition of the word.

Do you know what's also a theory? The computer software that runs this blog? (See: computability theory).

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 4:04:52 PM


It's your job to provide evidence of the new information you've presented;
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 2:44:17 PM

I have already told you where the information is, your refusal to get it isn't my problem.

And potes meos suaviari clunes

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-05-06 5:23:12 PM


The Stig,

If you know where the information is, it would obviously take you very little effort to present it.

I'll take the statement that I "can kiss my ass" as an admission that you cannot provide proof, as is required of you by the basic burden of proof which is commonly accepted, to support your positive claim.

You are unable to back up your claim that the report--which I provided an independent account of--is contrary to my description.

By the way: there is a 13th gospel that says that Jesus used to crap cheesecake out of his ass. It's super secret, and nobody has ever seen it... except me. Prove me wrong.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 5:35:28 PM


If you know where the information is, it would obviously take you very little effort to present it.
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 5:35:28 PM

I have no desire to expend any energy on halfwits like you. I've told you twice where the info is, are you deaf or just stupid?

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-05-06 5:48:39 PM


"I have no desire to expend any energy on halfwits like you. I've told you twice where the info is, are you deaf or just stupid?"

You haven't told me where it is. You said it's "somewhere" on Nature's website. That's not telling me where it is... it's telling me where to go look for it.

Clearly you do have the time to expend energy on me, or you wouldn't respond.

For someone like yourself who actively professes to me more intelligent than me, you seem to have a serious problem with basic reasoning skills. Nobody I know with any degree of reasoning skills expects to be able to make a positive assertion and the expect the person they are debating to have to independently verify it. Rather, it's commonly accepted that if you introduce evidence, it is incumbent upon you to back it up. You've been playing silly-buggery with me throughout this, trying to avoid just pasting a link.

Now your excuse is essentially: that you don't have energy for people like me. But how about energy for the other people who will read this thread and ask themselves why you were so bloody stubborn about pasting a simple URL to back up a positive claim you made?

I will hope they come to the same conclusion I have: that you don't have a URL to paste, because you made a baseless claim.

I am willing to source all of the claims I make upon challenge to do so. You're not. You expect the special privilege of being able to make a claim and then have someone else go "look" for the information you're relying upon. That's called bullshit in my book.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 5:54:26 PM


I will hope they come to the same conclusion I have: that you don't have a URL to paste, because you made a baseless claim.
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 5:54:26 PM

The 1997 Nature survey was principally written by then UGA Professor Edward J. Larson. 1000 randomly selected scientists were surveyed on their belief in God. This replicated a 1916 survey done by James Leuba. What you are using is the 1997 Nature survey reduced to 516 to show what "elite" scientists believed. Your survey is cherry picked. Like you its a fraud.

http://researchmagazine.uga.edu/97su/faith.html

You can always email Professor Larson and call him a liar as Mikey knows best.
[email protected]

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-05-06 7:43:56 PM


You said it was in "Nature", not "Research Magazine". With all do respect--Nature is a peer-reviewed science journal, and "Research Magazine" is not.

That being said, I am not calling Mr. Larson a liar--however the Nature article--also from 1997--was based on a survey from the National Academy of Sciences--and presented as a peer-reviewed article to the Journal of Nature.

I will be honest with you when I say that I'm biased towards believing the results of a peer-reviewed article, versus a non-peer-reviewed article.

But it's nice that you tried to back up your evidence though, and I'll try to respond in a little bit late on tonight. And that being said, I will try to find more information on the study you've cited.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 8:07:29 PM


The first thing I note is the difference in methodology which makes the study you present somewhat more suspect than the NAS study:

First, the Larson study was based on an open request to scientists to respond to the study. So there may be problems here, as there could be issues with the sample distribution.

The NAS study on the other hand, used random samples from the NAS membership database, across multiple disciplines in order to compile it's results.

So on cursory glance, the Larson methodology is somewhat suspect.

Most statisticians would reject Larson's methods as being highly problematic, since there's no way to create a sample control group and no-way to verify that the people receiving the invitation versus those who aren't aware of it, represent a proper distribution.

So we have one study, based on a random sample, in a peer-reviewed Journal. The Journal of Nature is considered the most prestigious science Journal in the world, versus a casual invitation-based study by a university professor in a University magazine... not a peer-reviewed journal.

I'm not trying to be condescending at all when I say, that there's very little reason to be compelled by Larson's study given the described methodology.

So I wouldn't call him a liar. But I would call his methods... well... unscientific.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 8:11:03 PM


You said it was in "Nature", not "Research Magazine". With all do respect--Nature is a peer-reviewed science journal, and "Research Magazine" is not.
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 8:07:29 PM

Nature is not a peer reviewed journal.

(Since the journal's launch in 1869, Nature's editors have been the only arbiters of what it publishes.) The papers that survive beyond that initial threshold of editorial interest are submitted to our traditional process of assessment, in which two or more referees chosen by the editors are asked to comment anonymously and confidentially. Editors then consider the comments and proceed with rejection, encouragement or acceptance. In the end we publish about 7% of our submissions.

http://www.nature.com/nature/peerreview/debate/nature05535.html

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-05-06 8:39:00 PM


http://www.adventistreview.org/2002-1526/story2-2.html

39.3% of scientists surveyed by E. J. Larson and L. Witham professed a belief in God.

"Scientists are Still Keeping the Faith," Nature (1997) 386, 435, 436.

Now email Professor Larson and tell him his methodology is all wrong and but Mikey's is right.
[email protected]

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-05-06 8:59:15 PM


Well, that's certainly interesting to know. I have tried to determine whether or not the study in question was peer-reviewed before submission to the Journal of Nature. Despite Nature not being a peer-reviewed journal itself, many/most of the articles submitted to nature already are peer-reviewed outside the Journal of Nature.

However, despite the initial editorial decision to accept or reject articles based on editorial interest, Nature does send all articles out for scientific validation before publishing anything. So all articles published in Nature must meet a bare-minimum degree of scientific rigor.

Even if none of that was the case, I would say that my argument about methodology still stands.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 9:04:10 PM


Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 3:46:41 PM

Where does is say anywhere in those quotes from scientist that religion and science are in conflict?

Darwin explains, and I believe him, that evolution happened AFTER creation.

I will agree that species adapt to their circumstances and that is known as evolution.

Yet, the narrow-minded focus on evolution alone has never been able to answer the question on how the process of evolution started.

To summarize, it seems you articulate a belief in an evolution without a creation, something that even Darwin admitted to.

I believe evolution followed creation.

I would humbly submit that my understanding is more satisfactory since it encompasses both how we came to be and what happened after the creation of the universe.

If I were a cruel person, I would call you a shallow moron who takes pride in his ignorance of limited understanding, but that's not the kind of guy I am.


Posted by: set you free | 2009-05-06 9:10:24 PM


http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v394/n6691/full/394313a0.html

Okay... there is the link of the article by Larson, Stig. And guess what? The websites you are using to cite the article have shamelessly RENAMED the article. In the Journal of Nature, Ed Larson's article was named "Leading scientists still reject God" not "Scientiest are Still Keeping the Faith".

I note that these are not two separate articles, as both have the same article ID.

So, as a matter of fact: I am emailing Ed Larson right now to ask for clarification since it seems like some religious websites have taking the liberty of renaming his article and changing the numbers around.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 9:11:51 PM


Nature does send all articles out for scientific validation before publishing anything.
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 9:04:10 PM

The E. J. Larson and L. Witham survey "Scientists are Still Keeping the Faith," Nature (1997) 386, 435, 436 was published in Nature. So if we believe you it must have gone out for scientific validation, right Mikey. So please do explain why their methodology is suspect yet the survey that you cite isn't. The answer I suspect is that the E. J. Larson and L. Witham survey isn't what Mikey wants to hear so it has to be suspect.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-05-06 9:22:06 PM


Okay Stig,

I just purchased the article for the Journal of Nature for $18 US... and I hate to break it to you but you're wrong, and those websites you are quoting are lying.

The 40% figure is quoted from the 1914 study. And the 1998 study shows the figures that I earlier quoted.

Wow, I actually spent $20 to have to prove to myself that fucking Christian proselytizers have outright lied about the results of a scientific study. Funny, I thought lying was a sin in Christianity.

Here's some choice quotes from the actual Larson article which I just paid for:

" members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Our survey found near universal rejection of the transcendent by NAS natural scientists. Disbelief in God and immortality among NAS biological scientists was 65.2% and 69.0%, respectively, and among NAS physical scientists it was 79.0% and 76.3%. Most of the rest were agnostics on both issues, with few believers. We found the highest percentage of belief among NAS mathematicians (14.3% in God, 15.0% in immortality). Biological scientists had the lowest rate of belief (5.5% in God, 7.1% in immortality), with physicists and astronomers slightly higher (7.5% in God, 7.5% in immortality). Overall comparison figures for the 1914, 1933 and 1998 surveys appear in Table 1."

...

Here's an idea Stig... why don't you e-mail Larson? He'll tell you that you're full of shit.

I am honestly besides myself--in awe--at the kinds of peoples who call themselves "moral people"--when they can misrepresent something like this.

I'm seriously fucking in disbelief.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 9:25:43 PM


Get that Stig? Larson found that only 14.3% of Mathematicians believed in God... the "highest" group.

Now, I'm not going to call you a liar Stig. But those websites that you quoted are fucking liars! It goes to show the lengths that religious people are willing to go to...

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 9:27:59 PM


What do you think peer review is Stig?

Posted by: MW | 2009-05-06 9:32:32 PM


Stig, if you want the actual Larson article yourself... which I PAID for, I will email it to you in PDF format if you send me your emall.

If this experience isn't a reason to never trust anything a religious website has to say about science, I don't know what is.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 9:33:36 PM


The websites you are using to cite the article have shamelessly RENAMED the article. In the Journal of Nature, Ed Larson's article was named "Leading scientists still reject God" not "Scientiest are Still Keeping the Faith".
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 9:11:51 PM

Scientists are still keeping the faith

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v386/n6624/abs/386435a0.html

Funny that I found this on the Nature website. It must have been a completely different survey written by another Larson & Witham.

Brock, you're an asshole.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-05-06 9:35:40 PM


Stig,

I see the commentary article. But if you actually read it, you would see just what a "surprising number" of scientists are in Larson's 1998 article.

According to the 1998 study by Larson: 95% of biologists are either atheists or agnostics.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 9:41:58 PM


Either way, Stig... your 40% figure comes from a study from over 80 years ago... and the religious websites have intentionally misquoted the article to their strategic advantage.

Go ahead. Email Larson. I'm staring at his study that I paid $18US for. I'm confident you'll be disappointed.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 9:43:28 PM


Brock:

I agree with Stig's sentiments, although once you understand that the only conflict between religion and science only exists in your imagination, you'll be OK.

All it would takes is to stop being narrow-minded and use the scientific method, imagine the impossible and make it happen.


Posted by: set you free | 2009-05-06 9:43:31 PM


set you free,

What sentiments? The one where he placed faith in religious websites curiously misrepresenting a study on atheism within the scientific community? This just proved that religious people are selectively honest when it suits them. So much for the religious people are more moral than atheists argument.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 9:48:22 PM


Here's an idea Stig... why don't you e-mail Larson? He'll tell you that you're full of shit.
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 9:25:43 PM

As I mentioned before but which you obviously didn't comprehend there are two Nature surveys on this subject. The numbers I showed were from the first survey and they are correct. The numbers you have are from a narrow NAS survey.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-05-06 9:49:23 PM


No Stig,

The 1997 study cites the earlier study. I have access to that article too. The 1998 study--also by Larson--firms up the study with a better control group.

You're not right.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 9:52:27 PM


Fuck Stig, even if you were right... and we accept the 1914 figures for today... even then 60% of scientists are atheists and agnostics! Don't you think that's strange?

The truth is, that 95% of American biologists are agnostic or atheist today. What do you think that means? It means something.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 9:57:34 PM


Either way, Stig... your 40% figure comes from a study from over 80 years ago..
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 9:43:28 PM

Larson's 1996 survey used James Leuba's 1916 methodology. Larson's results showed that 39% of scientists believed in God. It seems the only person disputing that number is you.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-05-06 10:00:03 PM


What are we talking about here Stig? Let's assume you're right about details you're quibbling with me about... what does that change in terms of our original debate?

Are you telling me that you place more faith in Larson's 1996 survey than you do in his 1998 study?

What are you saying?

The 1998 study suggests that over 90% of biologists are agnostics or atheists. The study was a random sample of NAS members. Random samples = Good when it comes to statistics.

Or are you just suggesting that the National Academy of Sciences is a specifically atheistic organization, and the scientists of faith are mostly outside the NAS?

Let's clear up where we are in this debate. Because, really, we're back to where we started.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 10:09:51 PM


...even then 60% of scientists are atheists and agnostics! Don't you think that's strange?
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 9:57:34 PM

So what. Because Mikey's an atheist he thinks he's part of the "elite". What a sanctimonious little prick.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-05-06 10:12:41 PM


The Stig,

That's actually not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is, why do you think it's okay to hold 95% of biologists--who do not accept the moral precepts of your faith--to your concept of the sanctity of life?

It's a valid question. I don't believe it. They don't believe it. You do, and you'd have the government ban embryonic stem cell research because of what you believe.

I think it demands an answer.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 10:21:16 PM


The National Academy of Sciences (those are the people who you believe can't be wrong)are one of the biggest supporters of man-made global warming. Do you believe in man-made global warming Mikey? If you don't then the NAS must be wrong. And if they are wrong on that issue why can't they be wrong on others? Or is your mind so closed that the only thing you see is what you want to see.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-05-06 10:38:38 PM


Another logical fallacy.

To argue that because X person believes/holds with Y theory -- does not speak to whether or not X person believes in Z theory especially if Z theory has nothing to do with Y theory.

It is possible to be wrong about somethings and still be right about others. There is no human being or person that is omniscient.

Posted by: MW | 2009-05-06 10:48:49 PM


Stig,

Oooo... syllogistic argumentation! If you want to know the truth, I am highly skeptical of anthropogenic global warming theory. And the politicization of scientific study is something that I'm well aware of, and I do not deny.

That being said: I don't believe that the NAS is corrupt... but it goes where the grant money is, and the environmental lobby has been highly effectual in skewing the area of study.

However, I do not believe this is sufficient to cast aspersions over science. Rather, it's enough to cast aspersions over it's politicization.

There is a lot of good science that's been done showing a definite warming trend in the 20th century. That warming trend is well correlated with an increase in CO2 emissions. Nobody disputes this. Not even scientific skeptics like Steve McIntyre or Anthony Watts.

The dispute is whether or not the correlation can be principally linked to CO2. And in that sense, I believe the scientific study has been curiously skewed towards making that connection.

I believe there are unexplored correlatives--specifically solar variation in the same time frame. And the climate models that have been presented so far--as McIntyre and Watts have demonstrated--leave much to be desired.

So yes. I am an AGW skeptic.

If we're talking about evolution, however, I believe the evidence is damned near irrefutable.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 10:49:53 PM


-who do not accept the moral precepts of your faith--to your concept of the sanctity of life?
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 10:21:16 PM

My faith? What faith is that Mikey? You've made a assumption based on something you don't know. I've merely defended the position that science and religion are not necessarily incompatible. I've never stated what I believe in or don't in a religious context. For someone who claims to believe in a scientific method you do jump to a lot of conclusions.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-05-06 10:51:13 PM


The Stig,

Fair enough. Mea culpa. It was wrong for me to assume that.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 10:56:24 PM


Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-06 9:48:22 PM

The sentiment I was agreeing with Stig on is that you're an asshole.

As The Stig pointed out in this last exchange, science and religion are not necessarily incompatible.

Although, I would phrase it differently to avoid the double negative. Religion and science ARE compatible in humanity's search for the answers and have been compatible since the dawn of time.

To put it in terms of competing all-or-nothing visions where one must be superior over the other seems to me rather pointless.

It seems curious to me how much energy is wasted by atheists belittling something that they claim does not exist.

What's the point of this thread, other than to establish some type of ‘dare to be stupid' superiority based on a willful ignorance of a field of human knowledge that's proven to be a benefit to humanity over thousands of years?

The approach is judgmental, it's intolerant and it's smugly arrogant.

I find it fascinating to listen to other people's viewpoints, explain to me how they came to the point they're at in life, the struggles they had to go through to get where they are, the challenges they face in the future.

A lot of those type of personal discussions have no scientific or ‘correct' solutions. Everybody's life is different, yet the study of a true religion can help a human being get through the rough times ... without having to prove mathematically how they got there.

A true religion does not have a punitive and judgemental God who must be obeyed.

Yet, there are certain rhythms and patterns to the physical world that science will still be trying to discover long after your an I have left this world.

I enjoy discovering the physical world and its scientific explanations. I enjoy the unmeasurable world also. It helps explain that which seems unproveable, but actually continues to be proven with each scientific discovery.

I totally disagree with your premise that science and religion are incompatible because I know better. My life's experience has taught me that they are one and the same.

The existence of one cannot disprove the existence of the other.

I prefer to be open-minded and my opinions can be changed as more facts are revealed.

Have a good night.


Posted by: set you free | 2009-05-06 11:33:20 PM


set you free,

I believe it's quite possible to have a belief in a higher power and have an open mind. What I'm not convinced of, is that you can say... be a devout Christian, devout Muslim, devout Jew, etc and have a completely open mind. You just can't.

An open mind implies that you're essentially constantly open to new ideas and are willing to be convinced of anything. This seems inherently incompatible with any kind of spiritual belief that is dogmatic any any way.

For example: if I were to say the there is no direct evidence that Christ existed--and that's actually the case--the first real archeological evidence of a man named Jesus of Nazareth who was a spiritual leader appears about 60-some-odd years after the presumed death of Christ.

When I say this to most Christians--and I have--they are offended by the proposition that I'm questioning the existence of Jesus Christ.

In many cases, I'm accused of having a closed mind when I do this. Of course, I'm not "closed" to the idea that Jesus existed--in fact, I think it's likely that such a man did exist. But the Christian--claiming to have an open mind--is taken aback by this question. So on the question of the actually existence of Jesus Christ, the Christian is closed minded.

This is why I am always puzzled when religious people claim atheists are more closed minded to them, because they are not "open to belief in God". Firstly, that's probably an exaggeration. I think most atheists--myself included--are open to the idea.. but are looking for irrefutable proof.

So the definition of what constitutes an "open mind" seems to be somewhat fluid from that perspective. It's saying: you're not sufficiently open enough to my perspective on things.

You made the argument earlier that by accepting both scientific explanation of the natural world, and religious explanation of the metaphysical--that you somehow had a more complete understanding of the universe--which I think is nothing more than a romantic statement.

I could have a "complete" understanding of the mythical Star Trek universe, too. And while it would most certainly contribute to my knowledge in a quantifiable way, it wouldn't necessarily represent a better understanding of the physical universe in a qualitative way.

Deism and pantheism seem to be the only two spiritualities that I would classify as "open minded". I do not know how anybody could tell me that any of the Abrahamic monotheistic religions--in particular--represent an open minded outlook on metaphysical questions. They don't. They offer a closed, codified explanation of asserted metaphysical "truths", which are not subject to revision or challenge. The only exception to that rule, is the casual re-interpretation of certain parts of scripture. For instance: it just so happens that Christians don't think that stoning your daughter to death for disobeying you or owning slaves--as the Old Testament seems to suggest is acceptable-- and some Muslims still do in varying degrees. But the basic premise is clear: there is only one god. Worshiping another god is a sin. Failure to worship the one true god will result in eternal damnation.

Accepting that metaphysical "reality" wholesale is not "open minded" because you've made up your mind. You've said: this is what is true, and therefore all lower considerations are subject to these assertions of faith.

I just don't see how anyone who follows a monotheistic or polytheistic religion could seriously argue, in any objective terms, that they're more "open minded" than an atheist. They just can't.

I don't mean to be insulting to religious people. What I mean to do is make a serious point: I do not feel that I should have to be beholden to laws and customs that religion demands. I am a secularist when it comes to the law. And I'm staking out my ground.

The embryonic stem cell research debate is almost principally a war between religious metaphysics and the secularist who reject them. So I think it's fair--as a secularist--to call out the religious people who assert those moral codes.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-07 12:18:07 AM


The below listed survey from the University of Chicago and published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine (July 2005) indicates that 70+ % of medical doctors surveyed believe in God. Any idea why such a high percentage of medical doctors believe in God Mikey? I'll bet it's because they aren't "elite" enough to get into the NAS eh Mikey. Those poor MD's, groping in the dark while the cognoscenti like you have all the answers.

http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1490160

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-05-07 9:38:11 AM


The Stig,

First of all, I note that over 20% of MDs are atheists, which is a higher proportion than the general population. Which once again proves that there is some correlation between being highly educated and propensity for disbelief.

That being said, why do you think it's fair to compare MDs to research scientists. MDs are practitioners of a learned set of knowledge, but they're not necessarily researchers. If they did go on to be researchers than they would probably end up getting counted in that NAS study in the life sciences category, in which case they'd be mostly atheists.

I'm sure that most lawyers are religious, too.

However, there have been many studies (European and American) done on the correlation between high IQ and religiosity... including a famous study by Mensa, on the connection between IQ and likelihood to be religious.

The studies are pretty conclusive. The more "average" you are in intelligence, the more likely you are to believe in a creator. There's a bit of a bell curve. Really, really, dumb people can swing either way. But very intelligent people--are by majority--atheists or agnostics. That's not to say that there are not very intelligent devout people--there are--but they are in a minority.

When we look at the other group of people who are overwhelmingly atheist or agnostic--it's philosophers. And that's been true not just for today. But true almost all the way back to the birth of philosophy.

Why? Because people who think rationally about the world cannot reconcile religions claims within the realm of reasoning--because religion doesn't really use reasoning. It uses proclamation and revelation, which makes it suspect to anybody who applies rigorous reasoning to their daily life.

The only religious question that doesn't fall flat on it's face against pure reason is the question of a god itself because there is no ability to reason the nature of the beginning of the universe (or multiverse)--which is why many like Darwin--were agnostics.

Atheists tend to be technically agnostics who think it's highly unlikely there is a god. I count myself into this category. And if there is a god, it's more likely to be a pantheistic or deistic god. Not the jealous and vengeful God of many of the world's religions. That seems the most unlikely of all the metaphysical likelihoods.

Even if there was a god, it wouldn't logically follow that there is an afterlife. So even if I were interested in the possibility of a deistic god--which I'm not terribly--I think the likelihood such a god would design a universe where we evolved into a corporeal form, then transitioned into a supernatural form to be even less likely. That arrangement is so unnecessarily complex, it really bats the parsimonious argument for a god of that nature right out of the park.

So I will admit, that the god question must be uncertain in a technical sense. What I won't admit though: is that there is any doubt about Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. They all appear, upon rational evaluation, to be baseless bullshit stories.

There are other world religions I could pick on I suppose. I know a lot of people seem to get angry that I'm singly targeting Christianity unfairly. I'm not. It just so happens that I am most familiar with Christianity as I have read the bible, live in a society where most people are denominations of Christian, etc. So I have much more insight into the Christian arguments and positions than say--the Hindu one.

So Stig, now that it seems we can actually have a somewhat-productive debate now--how about getting back on topic?

What role should the state play in determining the ethics of embryonic stem cell research? Should the state be prohibit it for religious reasons, or permit it, since the metaphysical question is contentious?

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-05-07 10:06:18 AM



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