Thinking Christian

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Origins and Science

Faith vs. Fact? No, Jerry Coyne’s Theology vs. Whatever

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Book Review

With all its sloppiness, error, and bias, it’s hard to know where to start in on evaluating Dr. Jerry Coyne’s latest book, Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible. Throughout the book I highlighted sentences and paragraphs where his facts were dubious or his reasoning questionable. My impression (I didn’t count) is that I averaged one of these “highlights” per page.

Maybe I’m off by a factor of two, and there was just one every other page. That’s still …


Jerry Coyne’s Confirmation Bias

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

One of Jerry Coyne’s chief complaints about religion in Faith Versus Fact is that it’s overly subject to confirmation bias. This, he says, stands in contrast to science, which has protections against bias built in to it. He might be overly optimistic about the social psychology of scientists there, but I’ll let that pass for now. What’s immediately interesting in this context is that this isn’t a science book, and therefore Coyne doesn’t have scientific methodology protecting him from his own confirmation bias in …


Assume You’re Wrong and Jerry Coyne Is Right. Now Discuss Which of You Is Right.

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

I’m reading through Jerry Coyne’s new book, Fact Versus Faith: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible. I’ve been looking for overall themes to comment on, and while it’s premature to say what those might be, I’m getting clues.

Where I’m currently reading, he’s trying to make the case that if there is a God he should be detectable on scientific terms–indeed, on naturalistic scientific terms. That is, if there is a God, we ought to be able to assume there is no God, and …


Why Don’t Scientists Call People Out for Unscientific Scientism?

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

It came up again yesterday in a Facebook discussion: “The historic progress of science assures us that eventually it’s going to be able to answer all the hard questions it hasn’t answered yet.” Those questions take myriad forms. Yesterday it was about how the human brain could explain our mental lives. “Science is progressing, science will solve it.”

This is a version of a view called scientism: that every important question is the kind of question that can be explained by science, and eventually will …

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Jerry Coyne, Neuroscience, and Research Methods 101

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

Dr. Jerry Coyne, atheistic biologist and blogger, thinks it’s surprising some people still believe in dualistic free will. To add to V.J. Torley’s excellent extended response to his post on Uncommon Descent, I want to focus on this question of Coyne’s.

“In fact, when you think about more abstract things, like God or faith, parts of the brain light up in brain scans. Why should they if such notions are immaterial?”

My answer: why shouldn’t they? What does he think we were expecting? …


Bill Nye, Deniable Guy: Promoting Science and Rationality, He Blunders On Both

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

Science Guy Bill Nye says he stands for excellence in thinking skills and scientific reasoning. Recently, however, he violated both of those values in the very act of promoting them.

HuffPost reports him as saying,

The biggest danger creationism plays… is that it is raising a generation of children who “can’t think” and who “will not be able to participate in the future in same way” as those who are taught evolution.

Later the article adds,

Speaking on MidPoint, Nye said he blames …


David Barash, Evolution, and God: Pretending Authority Far Beyond His Qualifications

Monday, September 29th, 2014

David Barash has a capital-T Talk he gives college students every year. He tells about it in a NY Times op-ed, God, Darwin and My College Biology Class:

Every year around this time, with the college year starting, I give my students The Talk. It isn’t, as you might expect, about sex, but about evolution and religion, and how they get along. More to the point, how they don’t.

Barash is a biologist, a professor at the University of Washington. I’ve looked at his …


Science and Reason Yes, Science-and-Reason No

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Science and reason belong together, right?

Yes. Obviously so, in fact. Science and reason are both means for determining truth. Science depends on reason: every valid scientific conclusion is also a valid logical conclusion, the endpoint of a rationally conceived and rationally conducted process, and usually also a midpoint in a much larger rational process. So yes, obviously they go together.

There’s a problem with that relationship, though. In some circles, reason is spoken of almost as if it depends on science. More specifically …

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Here We Go ‘Round the No-Free-Will Bush ♫

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014


SteveK [told us[( about this report, Free will could be the result of ‘background noise’ in the brain, study suggests.

I’ve seen enough bad science journalism to know that the real experiment may look very little like the one reported there. (In fact, I have real trouble believing the research is as weak as that.) Taking the report at face value, though, with that disclaimer, this appears to be what’s happening:

A cue appears on screen at random intervals. When the cue …


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