Re: [asa] Re: (Santa?) [christians_in_science] Brilliant article by Dawkins

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Thu Aug 27 2009 - 17:23:20 EDT

Hi David,

Not knowing better, I had assumed the "dress up in monkey suits" comment was facetious!

Being in Australia, the way these issues are addressed is quite different although we have pretty much the same constitutional protections - Section 116 of the Australian Constitution states;

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

In practice, however, things work a bit differently there than in the US (or so it appears to me).

For example: I was told by one high school principal (too small a sample set, I know!) that there would be no problem discussing creationism in a Victorian (state) science class. His opinion is that the Victorian education system values fostering inter-disciplinary dialogue - so nothing is really out-of-bounds.

And if a parent was to object to such an approach on religious grounds, they would be told to live with it - there being no precedent for opposing such a practice through the courts.

What has to be realized, though, is that Australia is an enormously secular country and I suppose the reason such "liberties" are allowed is because nobody feels threatened by them. Were it a case of religionists or secularists using science classes to push their own particular ideological barrow, then things might become decidedly more testy.

I think the fact that curricula are set by the education departments of the respective states rather than local school boards also helps as it tends to have a filtering effect - i.e. smaller special interest groups such as those who precipitated the Dover Trial, or the Kansas monkey suit guys, would tend to be marginalized.

Unfortunately, there are those in Australian who think "separation of Church and State" actually means the government is obliged to have a religious test for office - so you often hear the same sort of silly arguments as occurred in the case of Francis Collins: "You can't appoint him, he's RELIGIOUS!" Little do they realize that Section 116 actually makes such discrimination unconstitutional - I imagine that although the US Constitution doesn't specifically exclude a religious test for office such a test would be excluded as contrary to the free exercise of religion, right?

The upshot: whilst the issues and their resolution seem to take on a unique flavour, I think we can agree that the Establishment Clause (US) and Section 116 (Aus) are the best protection we have against those who want preferential treatment for their own particular religious, or non-religious, outlook.


David Clounch wrote:
> Murray,
> I don't disagree with you. I was thinking of the "citizens for
> science" loonies in Kansas who really did literally dress up in monkey
> suits for the state science standards hearings.
> Obviously not every group who endorses Dawkins is endorsed by Dawkins.
> We cannot blame him because lunatics latch onto him.
> Keep in mind the ASA is itself as much a target of these folks as are
> YECers. What they are against is theism in any form. That "divine foot
> in the door" - that is what their issue is. They will not be appeased.
> They consider theists to be insane, and they will oppress theism and
> theists will full force at all turns. They will not allow theists
> freedom of conscience. There is only one defense against them: The [no]
> Establishment Clause.
> -Dave C
> On Wed, Aug 26, 2009 at 10:04 PM, Murray Hogg <
> <>> wrote:
> David Clounch wrote:
> Murray,
> You said>My point was that Dawkins makes much about the need for
> EVIDENCE to rule people's beliefs -
> So when the DI people start talking about "following the trail
> of evidence" what happens is the followers of Dawkins hoot and
> haw and put on monkey suits and do cartwheels. So his own
> followers aren't listening to him. Apparently they only echo
> him because he is against what they are against - not because
> they actually believe him.
> More subtle than that, I think.
> It seems obvious to me that "following the trail of evidence" is a
> nice general rule, but FIRST you have to ask whether the trail of
> evidence is worth following or not.
> Some people think THAT is a simple question to address. I think it's
> not. Actually, scratch that and replace with "I KNOW it's not"
> because part of the art of conducting good science is knowing
> whether or not, and if so, how, to take account of particular data.
> And the way you hone that art is by first acquiring a large enough
> background familiarity with the data and theorems of a particular
> science such that you have a context in which to assess new material
> and, second, by practising science in concert with people who
> already have the knack of making sound judgement calls. It is,
> ultimately, all about informed but subjective judgements - hence one
> of my little maxims: "science is an art, not a science"
> I could evidence plenty of instances from my own experience when
> seemingly valid experimental results railed against the validity of
> a theory and my response was simply to throw out the results and
> start again. Being able to make that judgement correctly is, in my
> opinion, a very large part of what scientific competence is about.
> But in the case of "no religious person can be a competent
> scientist" I would have thought that the contrary data was so
> overwhelming that it's beyond the realms of a reasonable judgement
> call to dismiss it. Or, what is the same thing, it evidences a lack
> of awareness with the data and theorems of the social study of
> religious belief. No person, in my view, who is reasonably informed
> about the interaction of science and religion would ever object to
> Collins' appointment on the basis that his belief in God is on par
> with belief in the Easter Bunny or Santa. It's a very tendentious
> claim.
> That's why I liked Schwarzwald's mention of Grant's drinking. When
> you're as successful as Grant was, to argue that he CAN'T be a good
> general because of X would seem to me evidentially self-refuting.
> So "following the trail of evidence" is something you do when you
> think it merited. Otherwise you quite rightly dismiss the evidenced
> as irrelevant. And if you want to know when which course of action
> is appropriate, you have to do so by earning your stripes as an insider.
> All of which is simply to say that I think Dawkins really does
> believe in following the evidence where it leads - but he simply
> kids himself in respects of his competence to make a sound judgement
> call in this instance. Ditto for his supporters.
> Blessings,
> Murray
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Received on Thu Aug 27 17:24:10 2009

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