Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fire David Barash

David Barash has written about "The Talk" that he gives students in his animal behavior class at the University of Washington. The central points of his "talk" is framed as coming down to three claims, but in reality Barash presents a mishmash of nonsense, and does so in the sort of unwarranted smug, lecturing tone that academia is so reliable at producing.

Some examples:

He claims that Paley's Watchmaker argument required the existence of a 'supernatural' creator. Common claim, but apparently untrue - one search through Paley's book shows a single use of the term 'supernatural', and in another context. This is no small point.

He talks about how 'no literally supernatural trait' has ever been found in Homo sapiens, as if there exists some supernatural-detecting device that has failed to go off. The idea that science is capable of detecting 'the supernatural' is itself absurd - doubly so since even defining 'natural' (and thus supernatural) is notoriously problematic, as one look at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy will illustrate.

He talks about 'the illusion of centrality', rendering humans as nothing special - again, as if science is capable of detecting 'centrality', and has not detected it where it should have been found.

He implies that science shows that the pain and suffering in the natural world undermines the existence of God - and worse, he makes it sound as if the existence of such was some strange new idea that was brought onto the scene with evolutionary theory, rather than plainly obvious to humanity since humanity could write.

Of course, on top of all of this he talks about his 'respect for their religious beliefs' while at the same time saying they'll need to engage in all manner of mental gymnastics to retain them, and implies it's time for biologists like him to start telling religious people what they can and cannot rationally believe about God.

I could take all this apart, piece by piece, and fire back at Barash's reasoning. Instead, I'm taking a different tack.

My understanding is that David Barash works at a public university. Splendid.

Then David Barash should be fired.

More than that: David Barash's firing should be demanded by anyone who insists that religion and religious claims must be kept out of the (public) classroom and out of science. He can believe whatever he wants about religion, God, science, theodicy, philosophy, metaphysics and more. What he cannot do is take on the role of a teacher on the public dole, inserting his religious beliefs into a science class.

Or if someone insists that David Barash should not be fired, that it's okay for a public teacher to lecture as he did about what 'science shows' relating to God and religion, there's only one other reasonable alternative: upend the Dover decision, and declare that if a teacher in a public school wishes to take the opposing view - that evolution is not in fact capable of giving a total explanation of biology in the relevant sense, that science has uncovered or suggested 'supernatural' findings in man and elsewhere, that what we know of the world gives evidence for the existence of a supernatural, even benevolent creator - they may do so. Intelligent Design and even creationists will suddenly win after all.

Me? I'm calling for consistency, and a reasonable, continued separation of Church and State. And that means calling for David Barash to be fired for his "Talk".

And I demand the same of anyone else who claims to want church and state separated. Be consistent, or be gone.


Jayman said...

I could take all this apart, piece by piece, and fire back at Barash's reasoning. Instead, I'm taking a different tack.

I was already working on it when I saw your post was published. Anyway, I worked your comments in.

Cale B.T. said...

Crude, have you read Paul Nelson's classic article on this topic?

BenYachov said...

Ah Gnus..............

They are the gift that keeps on giving.

Graham Esposito said...

I'm starting to develop a hair-trigger impatience with the current strain of atheists invoking the problem of evil. When theists talk about the beauty of creation, suddenly reality is this big horrible, violent mess that couldn't be the product of a loving mind.

Two breaths later, when the utterly hopeless implications of that version of reality are brought up by the theists, suddenly the universe is just WONDERFUL, full of amazing beings hardwired with inevitable-utopia-realization capabilities.

(I'm in a protracted conversation with someone over at Thinking Christian about the meaning of life, and I'm looking to blow off steam basically all over the internet.)

Jakeithus said...

The "Friendly" Atheist probably spends a good 50% of his blog posts pointing out when Christian's violate the separation of church and state, so of course it was completely unsurprising to see him come out on the side of Prof. Barash on this issue. The level of hypocrisy has no limits it seems.

Antitheist scientists sprouting off bad philosophy and theology as if it were scientific, gospel truth is old hat however. I mean, what good is science if they can't use it to push their religious ideas.