Saturday, November 08, 2008

New Scientist hit piece an "unusually atrocious" article?

Merlijn De Smit, a linguist (17th century Finnish) notes in his blog, "Not Even Modern", that he found the hit piece in New Scientist against the non-materialist neuroscientists "unusually atrocious."

May I assume that he is not an enthusiastic reader of the British pop science press? Referring to two of the hit piece targets, J.P. Moreland and Henry Stapp, he notes,
I have a nasty feeling that at least some of the thinkers mentioned in the article as Creationist enemies have a viewpoint on some of the issues I mentioned above quite a bit more subtle than reflected in the writer's myopic focus on neuroscience. I haven't read J.P. Moreland, but glancing from the contents of his book, I would hazard a guess his place is within fairly mainstream philosophy of mind, rather than within some ID fifth column of neuroscience. And of Henry Stapp I know that he is working on a Whiteheadian process-philosophical interpretation of quantum mechanics, which has again everything to do with philosophical and metascientific frameworks and absolutely zilch with ID or Creationism.
In general, Merlijn, Gefter's article should have begun "Once upon a time, far, far away ..." That said, everyone mentioned in the article has a viewpoint "quite a bit more subtle" than you would ever guess from reading New Scientist. While we are here, you might like some of the more serious ID books. I recommend you try Mike Behe's Edge of Evolution for a biochemist's statement of the evidence against natural selection as the key engine of evolution.

De Smit concludes,
Popular science journalists ... should try their hand at reporting science. Not pseudo-science. Not politics or the intellectually barren perspective of left-liberal culture warriors. Not distort genuine, and interesting controversies through the lens of anti-religious hysteria.
And he is quite right. A thoughtful article could have been written about non-materialist neuroscience. For example, here's one by David Biello in Scientific American.

Also, here's an excerpt from Henry Stapp's talk at a recent non-materialist neuroscience conference at the UN. And here's J.P. Moreland.

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New Scientist: From the "Just connect the dots, and ... " files

EPS Blog, the blog of the Evangelical Philosophical Society (and its journal, Philosophia Christi), has offered some comments (October 23, 2008), on the hit piece in New Scientist against the non-materialist neuroscientists (to which I responded here). They note, for example,

Angus Menuge, Concordia University's (Wisconsin) Professor of Philosophy and Computer Science and Chair of Philosophy, is cited by Gefter for receiving funds from the Discovery Institute for his Agents Under Fire: Materialism and the Rationality of Science book and for testifying "in favour of teaching ID in state-funded high-schools."

But as Menuge notes in an e-mail to us, "I did not testify 'in favour of teaching ID in state-funded high-schools,' as the media would have discovered if they had actually reported the testimony given in Kansas instead of recycling a standardized science/religion story-line; we simply maintained that students should learn about the evidence for and against the neo-Darwinian view and insisted that Intelligent Design was not yet sufficiently developed as a theory to be taught in classrooms."

Moreover, Menuge notes, "Amanda Gefter also has her chronology wrong: though I did receive support from the Discovery Institute to research Agents Under Fire, this was not part of a program to develop 'non-materialist neuroscience' (an area in which I have since become very interested) but my attempt to show in detail that scientific materialism is untenable because materialism undermines the rationality of science."

Facts are such clunky things ... Read the rest here.

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Lighter Moment: Why Richard Dawkins's anti-God bus ad campaign would tank in Australia

In "Atheists Pick on God" (Sydney Morning Herald, November 2, 2008), Simon Webster explains:
LONDON buses will carry the slogan "There's probably no God" next year, in a campaign paid for by an atheist organisation. Transport chiefs say it would never work in Sydney, where commuters wait at bus stops for so long that they eventually die and go to heaven, where God tells them: "There's probably no bus."

The British Humanist Association and prominent atheist Professor Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, are paying for the ads. They believe God is nothing but a figment of the human imagination, much like the T-Card and the North West Rail Link.

The news comes at a time when record numbers of Sydneysiders say they have lost their faith: despite all the promises of a second coming, there never will be an extension to the light rail network.

Premier Nathan Rees has called on them to find it again quickly: if Sydney Ferries is privatised it may be necessary for commuters on the less popular routes to learn to walk on water ...
The rest is here. The campaign would never work in Toronto either. Here, once you give up waiting for the bus and call a taxi, the bus pulls up just behind the taxi - which proves that the atheist's explanation of the universe cannot be quite right.