To conclude "science and religion week" here (and I promise no more of this next week)--
Seen. The movie Contact is just great. How often does a movie intelligently explore science vs. faith, and have great scenes of the cosmos, and great acting (why isn't Jodie Foster in any movies these days)? A must see.
I thought I'd left the "science and religion" theme behind last night when I watched Jimmy Carter, Man from Plains, the Jonathan Demme documentary. But I kid you not, the movie begins with a scene of Jimmy Carter preaching in a little church about the compatibility of religion and science. Take away lesson: reasonable people really will disagree about these things. He's nothing if not reasonable (but note, "reasonable" does not mean "right").
Heard. OK, I love Jimmy Carter. So what was all that choking about in the post about Francis Collins yesterday--considering that he probably believes roughly the same things as Carter? Interesting question. Fortunately, he did a Point of Inquiry interview, so it's possible to hear him, and not just read him. Lesson learned: people who argue for things I disagree with are more appealing to me the less they are adamant. Collins is much more adamant than Carter. This is a lesson for us all. I think Dawkins & Co. may give theists hives precisely because he's so adamant.
Read. Jerry Coyne's review of Unscientific America in Science is here. He makes some good points, but pulls a trick that Collins decries in that podcast. Distort what someone says, just so you can demolish them more spectacularly. Take for example this paragraph--
But Unscientific America prescribes just the opposite: science illiteracy would diminish if vocal atheists like Richard Dawkins would just keep quiet about religion, a sanction that the authors don't impose on publicly religious scientists such as Francis Collins. Unfortunately, Mooney and Kirshenbaum provide no evidence that this prescription would work. Do they really think that if Dawkins had not written The God Delusion (2), Americans would wholeheartedly embrace evolution and vaccination and finally recognize the threat of global warming?Notice how his account of their view shifts from the beginning of the paragraph to the end. Beginning: they think science illiteracy would diminish if vocal atheists piped down. End: the question makes them out to believe Dawkins' book is the main barrier standing in the way of Americans "wholeheartedly embracing" evolution, vaccination, and global warming. Do they really think...all that? Of course not, and Coyne knows they don't, as the beginning of the paragraph makes clear.
So why say it? Why waste everyone's time? Coyne writes this in his review, and then someone reads it, and then people demand a response at Mooney and Kirshenbaum's blog, and then they have to waste their time explaining that Coyne misrepresented them, or get accused of being unresponsive...
Well, it's a big waste of time. It just wasted a half an hour of my time, and now I've wasted 5 minutes of yours. Very sorry. I promise, this is the end of the subject.