Stiff resistance

This is just terribly sad – Jerry Coyne gave a lecture on evolution at a public school and a lot of the students were simply “offended” in their religious beliefs.

I am dispirited. I’ve just returned from a two-hour lecture and Q&A session at the Woodlawn Charter School, a public school run by the University of Chicago on the South Side of the city.  Some of the high-school biology students are reading Why Evolution is True, and I gave a presentation on the evidence for evolution—with a tiny bit about why religion prevents Americans from accepting evolution, for I was asked to mention that topic—followed by an hour of questions. [Read more...]

Thinking about thinking about thinking

More discussion of facts and belief, of Ward and Coyne, of science and philosophy, of evidence and reasons to believe. Jean Kazez did a post a couple of days ago, which I didn’t see until today, and Russell Blackford did one at Talking Philosophy.

I find Jean’s post very interesting because it talks about the same things I talked about in Ward’s brief Comment is Free piece replying to Julian Baggini. Ward’s piece might seem too slight to bear all this examination, but it’s about the place where some fundamental and important disagreements are born, so it’s worth all the close peering. [Read more...]

Facts and belief

Keith Ward wrote a short piece for Comment is Free, a couple of weeks ago, saying something about religion and science and claims and facts. (I put it loosely that way because Ward oscillates between terms a lot, so it’s not easy to specify exactly what he’s claiming. The title of the piece is “Religion answers the factual questions science neglects,” which is an ok summary, but it’s not necessarily written by Ward.) Ward’s piece was in response to Julian Baggini’s piece on whether science and religion are compatible.

Jerry Coyne wrote a piece responding to Ward’s. Jim Houston wrote a piece at Talking Philosophy responding to Coyne’s, with a response directly from Ward.

All straight? Shoes buckled? Knives put away in the basket? Off we go. [Read more...]

All of empirical inference

There’s another entry for the What to call it problem. It comes from a comment by Richard Wein on Dan’s post replying to Dr Coyne.

Much of the confusion over “science” and “scientism” arises from the tendency of some New Atheists (including Coyne) to stretch the word “science” to mean all of empirical inference. I think this stretching is based on a correct realisation that all of empirical inference lies on a continuum, with no clear lines of demarcation between formal science, philosophy, history, everyday inference, etc.

That’s exactly what I was talking about.

We need a better word for “good, secular thinking” that includes science but is not limited to it. We need a word that encompasses law, history, forensics and detective work, critical thinking, using what one knows and understands to navigate relationships and work and the world.

It’s all of empirical inference, that’s what.