Monday, 28 November 2011

Bloggers Bullied by Burzynski

Somebody has been issuing illiterate threats on behalf of the Burzynski Clinic, against The Quackometer and 17 year old Welsh schoolboy Rhys Morgan. Orac gives a good account of this and the controversy surrounding antineoplastins here. I'm linking to these stories to raise their web rankings. Sadly, there's the possibility that blameless individuals like the Bainbridge family and comedian Peter Kay are simply working hard to obtain an expensive treatment that doesn't work. In the interests of all, after such a long time treating patients, the Burzynski Clinic need to get their treatment approved by medical science.

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Saturday, 26 November 2011

Cameron Opts for Blinkered Dogmatism

The Guardian has arranged for various prominent figures to ask Prime Minister David Cameron some searching and not so searching questions. Terry Wogan asked "What does the PM think the public think of him?". I mean, really, what sort of answer is that going to elicit? Nothing that is going to tell us anything interesting about Cameron or his views.

Richard Dawkins did ask an important question:
Why do you support faith schools for children who are too young to have chosen their faith, thereby implicitly labelling them with the faith of their parents, whereas you wouldn't dream of so labelling a "Keynesian child" or a "Conservative child"?
This is an important question in a modern, secular society. Peter Robinson has today announced his intention to appeal to the whole community in Northern Ireland, to try to create a united Northern Ireland. This is probably a fool's errand until measures are taken to reduce sectarianism in that blighted province, and it's hard to see how he could get from here to there without removing the deep divide that is caused by faith schools. Of course, I don't pretend this change would be sufficient; just a necessary one.

The situation is less serious in Great Britain, probably due in no small part, I suspect, to Catholic persecution in the centuries after the Reformation - Catholicism has simply had very little standing in the body politic, so it has been unable to influence policies and attitudes sufficiently to generate conflict within communities. But in an increasingly pluralist society, the ghettoising effect of faith schools is unlikely to decrease inter-community tensions. So, can we hope for a serious engagement with the issue from David Cameron? He replies:
Comparing John Maynard Keynes to Jesus Christ shows, in my view, why Richard Dawkins just doesn't really get it. 
Clearly that would be too much to ask!

Notice, first, that Cameron simply dismisses Dawkins's view out of hand, mockingly, as the over-arch Anglican blogger Cranmer notices. So, it's often said that Dawkins mocks believers and that he fails to take their beliefs seriously. Yet here we have the Prime Minister of this country, half voted in by the populace, responsible to us for his decisions, refusing to engage with Dawkins's question seriously and effectively mocking him.

Is it fair to say he doesn't engage? I think so. Dawkins is not comparing Keynes and Christ, although I dare say Keynes's contribution to the well-being of society may be the greater. He's comparing what it's appropriate to teach kids in our publicly funded schools. Is it appropriate to teach them that Keynes's policies are the right and only way an economy should be run? I don't think so. Is it appropriate to teach them that Christ's way is the right and only way to run one's life? Again, no, I don't think so.

Now, to be charitable I suspect that what Cameron may be hinting at, but not expressing, is that there are normative elements to teaching children about Christ that are missing from an economics lesson. But this makes his case even poorer, because, in a secular society, peculiarly normative elements of any religion, or dogma, must be excluded to ensure pluralism isn't threatened by state sanction of one particular view. This point, if that is what he is hinting at, tells against faith schools.

Cameron goes on:
I think faith schools are very often good schools. Why? Because the organisation that's backing them – the church or the mosque or the synagogue – is part of the community. 
The organisation that's backing the school is part of the community? This is almost tautological. Of course they're part of the community, as is the local council. Just being part of the local community is not sufficient qualification for running a school, else local political parties, or even hoodie gangs, would qualify.
And it brings a sense of community and the backing of an institution to a school.
Again, we have many institutions that don't run schools; being an institution is not a sufficient qualification to run a school.
The church was providing good schools long before the state got involved, and we should respect the fact that it's not just the state that can provide education but other bodies, too.
Well, churches have provided bad schools long before the state got involved too, so this point has little purchase. But, more importantly, we're talking about state-funded faith schools here, not private religious schools. Again, Cameron offers an argument that barely qualifies as one, and refuses to engage properly with the important issues that are at stake. Plainly other bodies can provide education, but the question is what sort of society do we want to build? Do we want a society populated by well rounded critical thinkers, or do we want it populated by blinkered dogmatists? If the first, then what do we need to do to provide such a population?

Faith schools are more likely to teach one dogma in preference to another, else why Cameron's initial dig at Dawkins? So my contention is that faith schools are more likely to teach a specifically Christian/Muslim/Jewish dogma in preference to all others, and Cameron seems to think this is a justification for faith schools. So they are more likely to deliver blinkered dogmatists. I suppose it's possible that Cameron would prefer a society of blinkered dogmatists, in which case I understand his answer to Dawkins's question.

UPDATE 28th November 2011: 

It's ironic that Cameron is being so cavalier with his approach to faith schools when, as I mentioned above, Peter Robinson is wrestling with their effects in Northern Ireland. Here is what he said on the Today programme this morning:
We bring children up in different schools and then we scratch our heads when there's division in society.
He called for an end to "religious apartheid" in NI schools.

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Thursday, 17 November 2011

Islamic Templeton?

Oddly enough, shortly after I write a piece pointing out that Templeton is just an organisation that promotes Christianity, not 'science and religion', they announce an initiative to encourage research into science and religion that includes other religions:
As productive as it has been, we at the John Templeton Foundation believe the science-religion dialogue has yet to investigate the full range of possibilities. In particular, it has largely been carried out from a perspective that is theistic (usually Christian), Western, methodologically focused, concerned primarily with the physical sciences, and has often been pitched at an introductory level. We believe that there is value in more work, particularly advanced research, which engages other scientific fields, more of the world’s religions, a wider spectrum of cultural foundations, and a greater breadth of specific topics.
Interesting that there is an admission that the science and religion meme they've pushed has indeed been Christian. I'm sure it had everything to do with my article! Previously there was this million dollar study on Islam and science, but I can't find any fruit for all that cash.

It will be interesting how far they will go with this, particularly with regard to Islam. I don't see that Islam is any less antithetical to science than Christianity, so there really is nothing different about its relation with science - I mean, they're similarly bad for scientific advancement because they promote ways of knowing objective truth that are inscrutable. But, any reconciliation of Islam with science would undermine the efforts that Christians regularly make to establish that Christianity is peculiar in its encouragement of science. It's good to see Ronald Numbers in a lecture for the Templeton funded Faraday Institute say:
...although Christians, as I’ve already pointed out, often contributed and made crucial contributions to the growth of science in the 16th, 17th and later centuries, I think it’s a conceit for Christians to argue that only Christianity could have produced science as we know it today.
However, Peter Harrison, in another Faraday lecture, on The Royal Society, argues for a social legitimacy for science among the religious scientists who founded it:
Whereas we often tend to think of religious influence manifesting itself unhelpfully in the content of scientific ideas, far more important for the period in question is the manner in which religion lent social legitimacy to scientific activities and institutions, provided motivations for key individuals in those institutions and, not least, informed their goals and methods. When we pose these kinds of questions, the importance of religion in the establishment of the Royal Society and in the public justification of its activities seems undeniable. 
He goes on to argue against Harry Kroto's views that "religious commitment, and certainly the clerical vocation, is necessarily inconsistent with ‘the scientific mindset’ and ‘intellectual integrity’". But while Harrison draws on much evidence for how religious people participated in the formation of The Royal Society, and how some of the ideas that sprang somewhat from their religious views informed their scientific approach, and allowed them to work at their science, he does not consider the basic religious proposition that is incompatible with science: that there is something objectively true that must be paramount to one's study of the universe. Surely everyone realises that even the most hardened dogmatist can 'do science' at some level, and most of the time this will not make the slightest difference. This still makes it incompatible in some way to free enquiry. It would be like saying that a football Premiership season is compatible with free competition if all teams competed against each other on an even footing throughout the season, but at the end Manchester United were declared the winners regardless of their standing (OK, sometimes it seems like that happens anyway). What is more likely, one can conclude, is that something mitigated the chilling effects of the religious approach, and with that in mind things look very different for science and religion.

Further, if Harrison's view are to be taken seriously, then presumably he must agree that Islam did not offer social legitimacy for science in the same way (since we're trying to figure out why science sprung up when and where it did, after all), in which case the approach that provided the encouragement for science is independent of religion. Furthermore, we can point out that secular approaches can provide social legitimacy for science too, so, all in all, these arguments for science and religion stand up to very little scrutiny. They go together like oil and water.

So a series of Templeton funded studies on how science and different religions are compatible, or not, would be a worthwhile project and may break the Christian hold on the science and religion meme. They can either hold to the idea that Christianity is pre-eminent and true, or let go and allow that any religion may be true, and Christianity therefore holds no special flame for truth. We shall see.

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Thursday, 10 November 2011

Test of Science

Massimo Pigliucci has declined funding from The Templeton Foundation, a decision I applaud, and would urge any academic to follow. The reason he cites is:
...I simply don’t like having my name associated with right wing and/or libertarian organizations like the JTF, the American Enterprise Institute or the Institute for American Values.
Fair enough, and while surely right wing organisations have every right to operate as they see fit, within the law, I think the JTF may be too right wing for comfort. Sunny Bains conducted a study of its activities and noted:
For instance, the Templeton Freedom Awards are administered by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, a group that is perhaps most notable for its opposition to taking action against climate change and for being a defender of the tobacco industry that has traditionally given them funding.
Certainly tobacco and climate change are the typical bugbears of right wingers, but from what I've seen of Templeton, Bain's conclusion is a more disturbing aspect of the JTF:
Its agenda can at best be called unclear. At worst, its agenda is pro-religion and anti-science.
Further she says:
I call on the scientific community to boycott Templeton Foundation research funding and events. If that is too much to ask, I suggest that all those accepting Foundation funding, through whatever route, investigate the Foundation and the other activities that it funds, and to put on the record what they think about that work.
Of course, if the Templeton Foundation is benign and open-minded, as their advertising claims, then this dissent should not cause anyone to lose their funding. On the other hand if, as I suspect, the Foundation is more interested in promoting pro-religious activities than doing real science, then some people may find that their grants are not renewed when the time comes.
Well done to Pigliucci for carrying out his research, but my view is that Templeton are aiming to further the meme of science and religion so as to undermine the proper conduct of science to protect Christianity from criticism. What I mean by this is that Templeton want the Christian presuppositions to be the norm when science is conducted. For science to be untainted, it needs to follow the evidence, wherever it leads. The Christian project makes that impossible, in principle, since a dogmatic belief in the truth of Christ must always trump science, for a believer.

I've written a few times about the Templeton Foundation before, noting the corrupting effect it may well have on the proper conduct of science, and indeed, perhaps, aims to have. For example, here's a 'paper' from the The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion (note the science and religion), a Templeton funded organisation. It's called Human genomics and the Image of God, by Graeme Finlay. In the summary at the very start, it says:
Our DNA tells a story that describes our biological origins during mammalian evolution, but that is not sufficient to account for our origins as persons. We are formed as persons only as we hear and assimilate stories transmitted in our families and communities. Christians believe that the story that is essential to the development of a fulfilled humanity is that which relates God’s redeeming action in Jesus Christ.
What Christians believe is wholly irrelevant to the science of DNA. Now, by all means, Finlay is welcome to  publish papers reconciling with science whatever odd beliefs he has, but to publish such a paper under the auspices of a reputable sounding organisation (with science in its title, don't forget), based at one of the leading universities in the world is calculated to undermine the scientific project. Other dubious papers, in the scientific sense, are also listed.

A recent news bulletin from Templeton pointed me to their Test of FAITH project. Its aim is to supply "accessible materials on science and Christianity for everyone who is interested in these issues". They have sections for youthworkers, schools and kids (a work in progress at time of writing). They have produced a film which "explores the relationship between science and religion, and the generally perceived idea that they are in conflict. Scientist believers discuss how they fit their faith and professional science work together." There is a sample lesson plan for teachers, with session one entitled The myth of conflict. The myth? Oh, really? Under a section discussing evil and suffering, they suggest the teacher:
Point out that science specialises in knowledge, but wisdom tends to be associated with religious traditions. They could use Einstein’s quotation, ‘Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.’
References are made to the good that science has done for us, but apparently only as an excuse to also point out the bad things it has enabled. It's plain that the subtext of the whole project is not science-friendly, but Christian-centric.

Now it may be that there are areas of reality immune to scientific investigation, but that doesn't allow us to claim a compatibility between religion and science. Every claim that religion has made that science can test has been found to be wrong. Religion has no track record of successful epistemology; in fact, since competing religions come to different conclusions, we can be confident that they are more wrong than right, and possibly completely wrong.

More to the point, Templeton isn't pursuing a way to reconcile science and religion, but a way to reconcile science and Christianity. Under the heading Schools & Youth - UK - Test of FAITH: Live!, we find:
This is an exciting new youth and schools initiative led by Chip Kendall, former lead singer of thebandwithnoname, and DJ Galactus Jack. Events include music, video, live science experiments and a short talk from a scientist. If you are interested in hosting Test of FAITH: Live! at your school or youth event, please contact us for details.
Spreading the Christian message to schools - the promo makes it very obvious this is an evangelical operation:

"It's a great way of providing a vehicle for the gospel for people to engage with". That's pretty up front. I must say it disturbs me that these people are visiting schools spreading this unscientific message under the guise of science. I have only found evidence of two school visits though, shown above, to Wick and Thurso High Schools.

This is outside of school time, but is this really an appropriate use of state schools? What about their obligations to religious diversity? These are supposed to be non-denominational schools. The distribution of lesson plans preaching a Christian message, and rock musicians and scientist believers spreading a science and Christian message is just not what I expect our schools to be used for.

Jerry Coyne has posted a quote from physicist Robert L. Park about Templeton:
Not everyone was happy about the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) selling its soul to Templeton. Why had the most important scientific organization in America, perhaps in the world, allowed the voice of antiscience to assume the guise of a dialog between science and religion?
I agree that Templeton are simply promoting science and religion to promote their antiscience voice, as Park says,and I think the evidence above shows that.

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Friday, 4 November 2011


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Misunderstood Presentations or Misrepresentations?

I've now seen the Q & A for the Coyne-Haught Symposium, and it's a relief to see that this is where the missing scientism 'argument' appears, rather than in John Haught's presentation.

In answer to a question asking if Haught would consider not pre-supposing God before looking at his own beliefs (a good question), he ignores this and says that Coyne thinks that:
There's only one explanatory slot for everything.
But this is a bizarre misunderstanding, or wicked misrepresentation, of what Coyne said, and clouds Haught's thinking throughout the Q & A. This is perhaps the explanation for Haught's remarkable decision to try to suppress the video of the event. Because Haught starts by making such a disastrously wrong assessment of what Coyne has said (and is apparently disturbed by this figment of his imagination), he quickly runs down cul-de-sacs. He obviously considers Coyne's position to be one of scientism, but that isn't it at all. He never said there could only be one layer of explanation for phenomena (there usually is), he never said that science is the only way of knowing. The question on the table is, are science and religion compatible? Haught needs to address Coyne's case that they are not, rather than pursue his imaginary demons.

Layered explanation, which Haught is proposing, is fine. All that people ask is that arguments and evidence are presented for any particular explanation offered. Even if we have a phenomena with layers of explanation that doesn't mean we simply adopt any layer that anyone proposes; we must have a reason to consider the layer a viable explanation. We can only go on argument and evidence, not wishful thinking, at least if we are being scientific. This is not scientism, but science. To describe Coyne's ideas as scientism is an abuse of the English language.

But even if Coyne were guilty of scientism, it's still an inadequate argument to place to the assembled throngs. Scientism doesn't then mean that theology tells us something real about the world. An argument has to be made to show that, and Haught doesn't offer us one. He says:
There is no contradiction between a theological way of understanding the universe and a scientific way.
Don't say it, show it! - contra Coyne. This really is a hopeless response from Haught.

Haught is then asked where he sees the evidence for a loving God. Here he distinguishes between publicly accessible, scientific evidence, and transformative evidence - the overwhelming encounter with something that is so true and so good that it carries you away. So, he's talking about subjective experience here, and I'm rather surprised that he can't see that this is fatal to his contention that science and religion are compatible. Every inch of his tall frame seems to be denying the truth that science tells us, even if we allow that his revelations carry some weight as evidence.

Oddly he also says although this is evidence too, it's not something you can get your mind around. Well, how does he then? It's this sort of doublespeak that will be the death knell for theology, I think.

In a discussion on Occam's Razor, Haught again makes the mistake of noting that different understandings can have explanatory value, and therefore his understanding has explanatory value. It's very odd to see a senior academic making such a basic error. He needs to show that his understanding has explanatory value with argument and evidence, not just by logical compatibility. Almost anything can be logically compatible with a set of phenomena, but it doesn't follow that scientific explanations and theological explanations that are logically compatible with the same phenomena are then compatible. Maybe that's another of Haught's errors.

This was a disappointing end, since Haught didn't address any of Coyne's arguments about the methodology of the two disciplines, which to my mind are the source of claims of incompatibility. His hand waving insistence that his beliefs about the world are compatible with science flew in the face of the rest of what he said. A very odd performance.

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Thursday, 3 November 2011

Coyning It

Jerry Coyne starts by pointing out the various pointers to a conflict between science and religion, such as organisations like the Templeton Foundation who search for a resolution to the problem, how scientists are more likely to be atheist, how more people in the US believe in angels than in evolution. The suggestion here is, I think, that there is an incompatibility which gives rise to these activities and beliefs.

I think this is fine as an indication of a problem, but it doesn't show that science and religion's incompatibility is true any more than people acting and believing that science and religion are compatible makes that true. If everyone in the world but me agreed that science and religion were compatible, I think I would still think they weren't (although it would make me pause!).

Coyne then moves onto a description of scientific methodology, which he characterises as 'qualified common sense'. 'The first principle is that you must not fool yourself..'. Religion on the other hand is based on 'dogma, authority and revelation'. He notes that religious ideas have changed because of scientific advances in our understanding of the world around us (such as evolution) and secular morality. And for the better - our treatment of women and gays, for example.

This is stronger ground for Coyne. To my mind there is a fundamental incompatibility between the methods of religion and the methods of science that is almost bound to result in differences. Now, it's possible that they don't; it may be that dogma, authority and revelation are different ways of finding out the same thing as scientific methodology uncovers. The problem with this view is, it never has. On every occasion that science has come up against religious 'knowledge', the scientific knowledge has won out. So, the religious might offer that dogma, authority and revelation are a way to uncover knowledge that science cannot uncover. Again, this is possible, but the evidence suggests otherwise, because we have a history of divergent beliefs about anything that cannot be shackled in some way. How do we shackle our beliefs? Well, the scientific method is the best way, and so far, the only reliable arbiter we've discovered.

Coyne says that in science, faith is considered a vice, but in religion, a virtue.

Maybe this is a little too broad brush? I understand what he means, but there's a danger of making the same mistake that Clifford made, in The Ethics of Belief (1877) when he says:
It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.
I think William James shows in The Will to Believe (1896), that this is a practical impossibility, and a moment's thought confirms this. We are a social animal, and one of the reasons for our seemingly exponential advance in recent times is our ability, well in advance of other animals, to pass knowledge on to our offspring, and to share knowledge. This process is impossible without an element of faith in the institutions that supply this knowledge. Certainly as children we aren't in a position to gather evidence; trust in our nearest and dearest seems to be built into us without any need for evidence. One might speculate that evolution has determined that a propensity to trust without evidence when we are children has been a successful evolutionary ploy. Not surprising, if that's so, that this also spills over into our adult life. We conduct our daily lives through many trivial acts that are not fully evidenced, since we have to get on and it's impractical to gather evidence for every minor thing one does. Maybe this is equivocating between faith as trust, and faith as believing without evidence, but it seems to me there are sufficient occasions when we really do not have any evidence to discount Clifford's as a general rule.

Coyne's rule is better, however, because it notes that in science, faith is considered a vice. This, it seems to me, allows us to sanction the rule, since it lets us have faith in our every day lives as a pragmatic necessity. But in matters of scientific import, it is not fit for purpose.

Coyne continues and notes that in religion there is no way of knowing you are wrong.

A key point, this. Two religious ideas have no method, in principle, of resolving which one is right.

Coyne notes that methodological naturalism has led to the view that metaphysical naturalism is true. There's no God, just material processes, and that works. He lists a number of areas about the cosmos where religion could have got reality right, but didn't, such as special creation, Adam and Eve, the Flood and so on. He wittily observes that falsified scientific claims are discarded, but falsified theological claims are made metaphorical. Religion does make existence claims, and the Nicene Creed is used as an example. He points out that the answers to the bigger questions haven't been answered by religion, because they do not agree with each other.

And as I wrote above, there is no method of reconciling different beliefs in principle.

Coyne quotes Haught as saying that "the transience and expected death of the cosmos defy our attempts to state clearly what the 'point' of it all may be."

Funnily enough, this is the point I make in my post on Haught's talk. however, it's worth noting that this quote from Haught's Deeper than Darwin ends with this sentence:
On the other hand, recognizing the possibility that the universe is still barely emerging from the cosmic dawn, we may take them as promissory symbols of the ultimate depth into which all things are being drawn. he was saying this as a set-up to this assertion. But like his talk, he seems to have nothing but wishful thinking to back up the notion. Perhaps he's left his arguments in the book.

Coyne runs through some unscientific behaviour typical of religion, such as denying that the Bible says what it appears to say, that it doesn't involve an honest search for truth, but a rationalisation of what is already believed to be true...

I'm guessing that Haught found such accusations beyond the Pale, since I'm sure he would disagree that this is what he does. I think it's certainly clear that William Lane Craig's arguments are rationalisations, since he admits he doesn't believe in god because of the arguments he puts forward. Coyne hilariously includes a quote from Haught that certainly suggests he puts wishful thinking above scientific endeavour. To say that all religion, or all theology, is guilty of this may be unsustainable, however.

...that they make stuff up, they rationalise every new scientific observation as part of God's plan, that they understand the nature and intention of God.

Coyne quotes Haught again as 'making stuff up'. Again, I'm sure Haught denies this, but it's hard to see how what he says is anything but made up. Without some method of knowing, with verification, how does Haught know? It's not clear, I should say, that the quote that Coyne uses of Haught's is referring to the hiddenness of God exactly. It's certainly true that Haught's quote on the problem of evil doesn't come close to addressing the issue.

Coyne gives a good example of fitting science around the God idea when discussing Haught on evolution, where Haught says it is a tribute to God that the world is 'an inherently active and self-creative process'. 

Before science showed it true, no theologian would propose evolution as the obvious way for a god to make the world, but afterwards it becomes a 'tribute' to him. With this sort of post hoc analysis, there really is no hope for theology.

Coyne ends, I think, with an appeal to why science and religion shouldn't be compatible, because the consequences of the poor methodology of faith are the evils of religion, some of which he lists. These are allowed to persist because of dogmatic thinking.

This is fair, I think. None of these consequences of religion are solely a problem of religion - it's people in the end who enshrine these evils, and people can ignore the dogma. But, as a matter of principle, dogmatic thinking can more easily lead to such abuses. This is the power of Coyne's presentation. I don't see that these attacks are ad hominem, since Coyne is making an argument about the incompatible methods adopted by science and religion, the abuses of method by religion, and he illustrates these using Haught's own words. Haught could, I think, complain about the quotes if they have been quote-mined, so I would encourage him to explain that in an article as soon as possible, if that's the case.

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Wednesday, 2 November 2011


I here summarise and briefly analyse John Haught's presentation at the symposium he conducted with Jerry Coyne at the University of Kentucky (video above).
Is there anything of lasting value working itself out in this vast universe that science has given us recently?
Haught starts his talk with this question; he doesn't question its pertinence, but assumes we all think it important. There is an assumption that lasting value is the only value that matters or, at least, that it matters more than temporal value. But he offers no argument or evidence for this view.

He wonders if science rules out any cosmic purpose, and thus any divine presence. As one would expect, he clearly understands the traditional mind-first view of the cosmos, which has come down to us from Aristotle, featuring concentric circles from the heavens above down to Earthly matter below. And this coincides with a theological and moral order too; so higher morality is in the heavens above us, and baser morality below us. 

We aspire, like Faust, to the heavens above; but all too often, like Faust, we are pulled down to hell below.

He says that if there is an ultimate purpose, it would, by definition (by the above definition, of course!), be beyond human comprehension, because of the hierarchy. But traditional theology suggests we can be 'grasped' by the higher levels, to have an awareness of them - and this awareness we call faith. The 'only evidence' for it is the awareness of being carried away by 'something very large, very important, of ultimate value'. The language of symbol, metaphor and analogy is all that can be used to describe it. But that's a sign of the eminence of the thing we're describing. And it must be personal or it would be less than us.

He presents no evidence for his views here, other than personal revelation; there is no argument. It's simply a re-statement of the views of traditional theology. We have no reason to believe it, in fact, since we have no mechanism for distinguishing personal revelation from every day brain activity, other than science, and science gives no support to religious revelation. Further, it's clear that he understands that science threatens the theological hierarchy. As Daniel Dennett points out in Darwin's Dangerous Idea, evolution by natural selection has the effect of 'universal acid' on these ancient ideas:
Did you ever hear of universal acid? This fantasy used to amuse me and some of my schoolboy friends ... Universal acid is a liquid so corrosive that it will eat through anything ! The problem is: what do you keep it in? It dissolves glass bottles and stainless-steel canisters as readily as paper bags. What would happen if you somehow came upon or created a dollop of universal acid? Would the whole planet eventually be destroyed? What would it leave in its wake? After everything had been transformed by its encounter with universal acid, what would the world look like? Little did I realize that in a few years I would encounter an idea – Darwin’s idea – bearing an unmistakable likeness to universal acid: it eats through just about every traditional concept, and leaves in its wake a revolutionized world-view, with most of the old landmarks still recognizable, but transformed in fundamental ways.
Haught summarises briefly the cosmos according to science and it's clear he sees the disjunct between these two stories, since he asks "Can we map the hierarchical view to this new view that science has brought to our attention? Does the idea of God make sense any more?"

He urges us to be transformed by reading the New Testament. Christians believe there is an 'unspeakable, incomprehensible, infinite mystery that we call God'. It gives itself away in 'unreserved, self-emptying, self-giving love to the finite world'. This is the meaning of the Christ event. The process of self-transcendence is evolution - there is absolutely no contradiction between the two.

Again, he still hasn't presented any form of argument to reconcile science and religion, the subject of the symposium; in fact, he's made it clear that prima facie they are incompatible, and he concedes that by asking the question how we should reconcile the two views.

So how to map one to t'other? Finally Haught brings us his revelation: think of God not pushing evolution from behind, but pulling it from the future. And think of the hierarchy as an evolving story, as matter emerges, and later life, and then faith and morality. Faith is the way that the universe, now it has become conscious of itself, opens up a new future. So faith is the way we can guarantee the evolution of the cosmos into the indefinite future. 

The important thing is, that evolution is compatible with the hierarchy if we knock it onto its side, and see what is above us as what is in the future. He topples the hierarchy onto its side. And, somehow, it is faith that is required for the evolving future, and so science is compatible with religion.

Obviously, that doesn't follow, and, again, he offers no evidence or argument for his view. He doesn't address the whole point of why science threatens the hierarchy - because it shows no need for anything pushing evolution or pulling it from the future. It's what matter does when it's not being guided. Now, I can imagine arguments being posed to show that evolution is guided in some way, but Haught doesn't present any. He simply asserts his view. There is no evidence or argument presented of how faith guarantees evolution. And what he says assumes that evolution is progressive to some mysterious transcendent future, but offers no argument for that. Science suggests the cosmos will end in heat death; is that compatible with this 'hierarchy on the side' vision? I don't see how. It is, finally, an argument free talk.

This is very disappointing because in his open letter allowing the release of the above video, Haught says, addressing Jerry:
Rather than answering my point that scientism is logically incoherent–which is really the main issue–and instead of addressing my argument that the encounter with religious truth requires personal transformation...
But he doesn't make any argument that I can discern that the encounter with religious truth requires personal transformation, and he doesn't even make any argument that there is such a thing as religious truth! He just asserts it, perhaps based on the discredited mind-first view of the cosmos. To be fair, personal transformation is logically consistent with this view of the cosmos, but that's the notion that science is destroying, and he doesn't argue against that, but suggests a reconciliation that is, frankly, pure hand-waving. He doesn't explain why the 'universal acid' isn't eating its way through his theological ideas as we speak. And I see no hint of an argument that scientism is incoherent (which it may well be, but that doesn't then mean that religion is compatible with science); perhaps I missed it (was it on a slide?).

All in all, it's a poor talk, if it's supposed to be presenting some forceful arguments for the compatibility of science and religion, because surely anyone would come away more convinced that they weren't compatible!

UPDATE: Link to the slides here.

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