Weekly Buzz: 9/22/14

Photo credit, minus the text: Flickr/Amy Watts

(Photo: Flickr/Amy Watts)

This week’s buzz features what creationists can teach evolutionary biologists and how bad definitions of science can ruin everything.

“What can evolutionary biology learn from creationists?”

At Scientia Salon, evolutionary biologist Joanna Masel asked this question last week. In her essay explaining the answer, she identifies three lessons to learn from creationists:

First, there is plenty to learn about human psychology from the rejection of evolution. Why do so many people not accept scientific conclusions that seem to an expert like me to be irrefutably supported by the evidence? Dismissing the cause of their rejection as religious ideology only shifts the question. Why do so many ideologies take that particular form? . . .

A synthesis of biochemistry with evolutionary thought is much-needed and overdue [7]. The second lesson I draw from creationism is the urgency of this task. . . .

This is the third lesson I draw from creationists. Some evolutionary biologists are afraid to even discuss topics highlighted by creationists, fearing that this could be seen as an unnecessary concession of weakness of the powerfully supported theory of evolution by natural selection. I disagree with this reasoning.

What do you think of her points?

“Why Take a Stance on God?”

In The New York Times last week, Notre Dame philosopher Gary Gutting interviewed Yale philosopher Keith DeRose. It’s worth checking out, as DeRose makes interesting claims about our ability to know whether God exists:

To know that God does (or doesn’t) exist, you have to show that there are no arguments for atheism (or for theism) that a reasonable person could find plausible. But to support that claim you would have to have better critiques of all those arguments than I’ve ever seen. In my view, it’s more likely those who claim to know whether God exists — whether theists or atheists — are just blowing smoke.

The whole interview is pretty interesting.

“Categories of creationists … and their views on science”

Over at The Conversation, Chris Mulherin showed that “creationism” is not monolithic. He explores different kinds of creationism and concludes with words from Galileo:

So while there are various views around, and while the so-called conflict between science and religion is grist for the media mill, the mainstream view among thoughtful religious people was summed up long ago by Galileo who said the Bible “teaches how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go”.

“How our botched understanding of ‘science’ ruins everything”

In a brilliant and withering piece for The Week

Here’s one certain sign that something is very wrong with our collective mind: Everybody uses a word, but no one is clear on what the word actually means.

One of those words is “science.”

Gobry’s piece is fascinating. (He has some harsh words for Neil deGrasse Tyson, by the way.) He concludes his piece with a call for epistemic humility:

Modern science is one of the most important inventions of human civilization. But the reason it took us so long to invent it and the reason we still haven’t quite understood what it is 500 years later is it is very hard to be scientific. Not because science is “expensive” but because it requires a fundamental epistemic humility, and humility is the hardest thing to wring out of the bombastic animals we are.

But until we take science for what it really is, which is both more and less than magic, we will still have one foot in the barbaric dark.

I’m interviewing Peter Enns at 3PM EDT today!

Biblical scholar Peter Enns published a new book about the Bible this month. He did a great Reddit AMA about it last week. (You can buy his book here.)

Today at 3PM, I’m going to do a Google Hangout On Air with him. Check it out! 

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