Friday, March 20, 2009

Criticism of Richard Dawkins and the new atheist movement

As evolutionary biologists, we should know the struggle of biologist Richard Dawkins and philosopher Daniel Dennett in defense of evolutionary theory against creationists and religious fanatics. Dawkins and Dennett have also recently been joined by non-biologists, like former leftist writer and critic Cristopher Hitchens, in a struggle not only against creationism per se, but in a broader struggle against religion in general.

All these authors have published books recently which are very critical of organized religion, the most well-known being Dawkins bestseller "The God Delusion". These strong personalities have built up something of a movement which is sometimes called "The New Atheism", with provocative advertisements on buses in England with the message: "God does probably not exist".

What to think about this new movement? From my perspective, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I am an atheist myself, who would like to see a world will less power for organized religion. On the other side, I dislike the preaching style of both Dawkins, Dennett and Hitchens and think that they might be doing more bad than good in their self-contentious and aggressive atheistic preaching crusade. Their campaign might thus backfire, and push moderate religious groups into allies with religious fanatics. That would be very unfortunate, which is one reason why I am not very enthusiastic about Dawkins recent book and his ongoing atheist campaign.

My mixed feelings are shared by Julian Baggini in this interesting opinion piece, where he argues that the new atheism is destructive. I am also a bit frustrated that a legitimate defence of evolutionary theory (necessary in my opinion), might be "drowned" and confused in campaign for atheism, which is not a scientific movement.


  1. keeping it short, i think the real problem here, at least concerning Dawkins, is that as we will probably all agree, they very often debate against extremists, and therefore use nasty tricks and extreme tools, a bit like Michael Moore, and unfortunately often with a bit of dishonesty... Fair enough, we might say.. we need more people like Moore, who push things to their limits and are openly biased... But the main issue here is that Dawkins is a well respected scientist, and he is not serving the scientific community acting the way he does... As scientists, we might have to realize that sometimes we have a duty not to break our own rules in normal life if we want to be able to continue using our knowledge and experience as a tool to debate or inform people... Otherwise we lose our advantage, i might add...
    So like you Erik, i do have mixed feelings about these guys...

  2. So how do you guys want to treat the increasingly aggressive religious debaters and power-brokers? I agree that Dawkins is no expert in gentleness, but why should he? His opponents (and our opponents as well) is not in it for the sake of discussion – they want to turn the clock back at least 150 years… Of course not all religious people are as crazy as those willing to debate with Dawkins (I guess you have to have a lot of faith in your God to dare to go into clinch with him), but how much hocus-pocus should be allowed just for the sake of not being seen as an aggressive debater. In his book, Dawkins makes a pretty strong case, arguing for why all scientific evidence points against the presence of one or several divine creators. Should we not investigate this question then for the sake of not upsetting the religious people (and why do we allow the believers to have this exceptional position in our society)? I just saw a TV-program where he (Dawkins) inspected the world of astrology, and showed how different sooth-sayers or people claiming to master dowser rods trick people into paying them money for nothing. Do you think we should go easy on those cheats as well?

    (Perhaps I am out on a limb here, but someone needs to disagree just for the sake of discussion!)


  3. When has Dawkins used nasty tricks and extreme tools? When ever I have seen him interviewed he has just argued his side. He is a little preachy in his message, but I don't think he uses the same strategy as Moore.

  4. Yeah, what magne said. Also, we need more people who are willing to debate these issues to a wider audience. We are quite insulated in our science and need more public spokesmen. I am off camping now, maybe I'll post some pics later of any of gods wonderful creations that I am fortunate enough to see, god willing.

  5. I do think we should fight religious extremists and atheists for sure, and definitely defend science whenever needed. But I think that atheist campaigns (which I agree with the message, by the way) should be kept separately (as long as possible) as campaigns against creationism and "Intelligent Design" (ID). Why?

    Because in campaigns against ID/creationism you have to "win over" the religious moderates and even the agnostics for your case. If you do not do that, you might loose the whole battle, which would be disastrous. Even if evol. theory is difficult to reconcile with religion (I can't...), I do not really see the point of emphasizing that position always. Religious people have to find out by themselselves.

    I think of it largely as a strategy issue: Dawkins might have harmed his own case and his legitimate fight against creationism by his rather aggressive atheism in "The God Delusion".

    An entirely different strategy from Dawkins is used by the sociobiology "father" E. O. Wilson, who in his latest book suggest that biologists should form strategic "alliances" with religious people and groups on environmental issues. I am not sure I agree entirely with that either, but it at least indicates that there IS another possible strategy.

  6. How do I disentangle between dangerous believers and those I want to cooperate with? Where do I draw the line? Is it OK to "green-wash" someone that think that creationism should not be taught as science but at the same time wants to forbid abortion, will not allow homosexuals or do not want to distribute condoms in order to stop AIDS?

    Does the end always justify the means?

    BTW, How come we only get to choose between funny, interesting and cool at the bottom of the blog-post? Smells like socialism...



    1. I suppose you would disentangle dangerous believers from those you want to cooperate with the same way you would disentangle any other kinds of people: on an individual basis, rather than throwing them all into categories and assigning guilt or merit by association.
      Can you tell me what percentage of religious believers want to forbid abortion, homosexuality and birth control? I can tell you it's less than 100%, which means that "religious" is too much of a generalization for someone who wants to hold up reason and science as his weapons.
      I agree with Erik. It's great that people can and do publicly present atheism as valid and harmless, but when you take that extra step into accusing religion of being the cause of things that have in fact been occurring for billions of years, the burden of proof swings 180 degrees... this is the land of assertions that need to be backed up with proof, which is unfamiliar territory for an atheist. You mentioned "The observational data showing a strong positive correlation between well-fare and secularity..." Inglehart and Norris, in:
      put forward the hypothesis that religion and secularity are strongly dependent on material security- NOT the other way around. So demonizing and attempting to remove religion without addressing the painfully obvious material factors that strengthen or weaken it is like treating a child's fever while ignoring the infection that causes it. Which is nothing new, of course. Dawkins has stated very explicitly, on numerous occasions, that religion is the cause of any number of bad things, and to be completely honest, the man has no qualifications whatsoever in sociology. There is an entire field devoted to studying this stuff, and he is not a part of it. He's just a celebrity presenting his opinion as authoritative.

  7. It can't be socialism - I was allowed to click all three!


  8. I still think that other people could debate on the existence of god than scientists... Magne, in the god dellusion or anywhere else, for that matter, do i see any scientific evidence that there is no god... nor is there any scientific evidence that there is one... i am a strong atheist myself and despite the church for many things, including the condom thing which happened recently with the pope... but the existence of god is not to debate scientifically, at least in my opinion... there is probably no god, i am sure of it, but the truth is i cannot really prove it... however, i can definifely argue for evoluiton and against intelligent design, as erik is saying, because there, scientist have definitely a role to play....

  9. The God hypothesis is actually at least in some means, perfectly testable, and most (all?) evidence so far points to that it is false. Several studies have, for example, tested whether prayers work, and for example show that of three hospital patients test groups (one control, one that are prayed for without knowing it, and one group with patients that know that people are praying for them), only one group showed a significantly different rehabilitation result. Interestingly, the odd one out was the last group, the one with patients knowing that people prayed for them, for which the rehabilitation results were significantly worse than for the other two groups. The observational data showing a strong positive correlation between well-fare and secularity is another way of testing the God hypothesis as well as the more straight-forward experiment for believers to cut of an optional limb and then see if it grows back if they only pray hard enough…

    Anyway, for any real scientist the God hypothesis is not interesting, simply due to the lack of positive evidence, and if you’re criticism to Dawkins simply is that he spend to much time debating whether there is a God or not instead of discussing the creationism-evolution issue, I could partially agree (but its not like he does not attack that issue as well…). But, I repeat my question above; how much hocus-pocus should we be willing to put up with (no to abortion, no to homosexuals, no to condoms), in order to form a (un)holy alliance with “good” believers?



  10. to answer your question, i think that the whole church conservatism, and its consequences on abortion, gay people, AIDS, stem cell research, and then of course womens rgihts in islam or judaism, and many other issues is a real problem that any respectable citizen should fight, and not necessarily as scientists... simply as sensible human beings...

  11. Hello everybody,
    Very interesting debate. Seems that I have a bit of catching up to do, so here are my thoughts on it.

    Is the god hypothesis a testable hypothesis?
    There have been some people that have put forward the idea of NOMA, that is an acronym for the phrase ‘non-overlapping magisteria’. Gould and scientists such as McPeek are defenders of this view, which goes like this (to cite Gould) ‘…science gets the ages of rocks, and religion the rock of ages; science studies how the heavens go, religion how to go to heaven’. According to Gould and followers of the NOMA view, science and religion are non-overlapping-so one can never use one to investigate the other.
    I disagree with this view that there are non-overlapping magistera and agree with Magne that there are many aspects of the God hypothesis that are actually testable. The presence or absence of a creative super intelligence is unequivocally a scientific question, and so is the falsehood or truth of every miracle that religion relies upon to impress the faithful. Did Jesus raise Lazarus from the death? Did he come alive again, three days after being crucified? Did he have a human father and so on.

    Is Dawkins on an ‘atheistic preaching crusade (Erik)’ and is the new atheism destructive?
    All politicians must get used to disrespectful cartoons of their faces and nobody riots in their defense. So, why do we have this mystified and disproportionate privileging of religion? I think that there is a widespread assumption that religion is particularly vulnerable to offence and should thus be protected by a wall of respect. Why is it that you can be a prizewinning doctoral philosopher expounding the evils of war, and then you will still be given a hard time by a draft board evaluating your claim to be a conscientious objector? Yet, you can say that if one of your parents is a priest etc. (add equivalent for whatever religion you can think of) that you sail through it like a breeze, no matter how inarticulate or illiterate you are. I think that the time has come to treat religion like we would do treat any other belief or opinion (political opinion, taste in music etc.). Only then is it possible to really address the issue. Dawkins, Hitchens and the like do exactly that. They have thrown away the gentle gloves of respect and openly discuss the issues. I think sometimes people are shocked about their views (i.e. views of Dawkins and the like), because we got used to the idea that religion needs to be respected and treated with care. I think that this careful treatment has not been useful in the past, and I am glad that in our present time people can finally state their views and opinions (having said that, I should probably also point out that this has not always been as easy as I make it sound. Let’s just think of the 1 million bounty that was placed on the head of the Danish cartoonist by a Pakistani imam, the stabbing of Theo Van Gogh in Amsterdam, and also what happened after Salman Rushdie published the Satanic Verses in 1988).

    So, to sum this up, I do not think that Dawkins is on a preaching crusade and I do not think that he is harming the cause. As Fabrice already pointed out, it is sometimes even good and helpful to be controversial and very direct when it comes to new issues and ideas, and Dawkins etc. (i.e. the Four horsemen: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens) do exactly that. Plus, there are many more moderate but outspoken atheists out there that also have a huge following, think of Michael Shermer for example.

    Cheers, Maren

  12. Good that this discussion takes off!

    I should first say that I completely agree with Maren in that the NOMA/Gould/McPeek-view is intellectually not satistifactory: there could not, and should not, be any "exclusive sphere" where science is not allowed to enter, and where religion should have complete monopoly. I also agree that specific religious statements, such as the one about if Jesus made Lazarus emerge from the dead, are scientifically testable and probably wrong.

    What I do also think, however, is that some of the atheists above HAVE made some damage, and that is not surprising: atheism is not morally superior (or inferior) than any other religion (christianity or islam, judaism etc.) and atheists have probably throughout history killed as many people as have religous people (think of Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao, for instance, and there are many others). Atheism can also develop into "fundamentalist" movements, like any other ideology (or religion).

    A case in point is one of the "Four Horsemen": Christopher Hitchens. Once upon a time, he was an iconic figure on the Left, because he revealed Henry Kissingers and US:s illegal bombings over Kambodja in the early 70'ties. He was then a revolutionary socialist of "Trotskyist" bent.

    Today, Hitchens is despised among many of his former admirers, mainly because his strong atheism led him to some very controversial positions. Hithchens has for many years now battled religious fundamentalism, both in the US against Christian fundamentalists and against islamic fundamentalists. In much of that I agree with him, but after 11/9 2001, his atheism led to become a strong supporter of the "War on Terror". Hitchens strongly defended Bush and Blair before the Iraq war in 2003, and has refused to admit that it might have been a mistake, considering the scientific fact that the number of terrorist attacks have INCREASED after 2003 (which even CIA admits these days!).

    Now, if THAT is not an example of atheist fundamentalism gone wrong, I do not know any better one. A similar position has been the one of Hirsch Ali, former dutch politician of somali origin, who know preaches atheism and works for neoconservative "think-thanks" in the US. Hitchens and Ali's dislke of islam and islamic fundamentalism made them so blind so that they joined forces with some of the most destructive politicians surrounding the Bush-administration. Atheism could thus lead to quite wrong conclusions, in my opinion, and I do not agree that it might not harm the overall cause: to get less power for religion. Religious fanatism in the world is on the rise, largely due to the destructive Bush-administrations "War on Terror".

    As for myself, I had no problems in 2003 in being on the same side as some deeply religious leaders in 2003; the Pope, Desmond Tutu in South Africa and Dalai Lama. Although I disagree with them with respect to religion, I prefer to be part of a "strategic alliance" against Blair & Bush and I would have been much more uncomfortable being in the same company as warmongrels Hitchens and Ali, and some other atheists. This means that in a complex world of today, religion is only ONE line of division, and not always the most important one. Other areas could be environmental issues, where E.O. Wilson have argued that to make progress we need to collaborate even with some religious groups.

    Excerpts of interesting debate between British MP and war-opponent George Galloway and Christopher Hitchens can be seen here:

    Needless to say, although I do not agree with Galloway in every respect, I enjoyed seeing him smashing Hitchens in this debate.

  13. A quick look at the article about Cristopher Hithchens at Wikipedia, show some more less flattering aspects of his previous statements, that I did actually did not know about:

    Apparently, Hitchens first denied the cruelties and torture in Abu Ghraib (!) as well as the US massacre on civilians in Iraqi town Haditha (!) and he even initially defended the controversial interrogating technique "water boarding" and claimed it was not torture (!). In Hitchens defence, though, he changed his mind about waterboarding not being torture, after trying it out himself...

  14. Good afternoon,

    Erik wrote that ‘atheists have probably throughout history killed as many people as have religious people (think of Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao, for instance, and there are many others)’. In my opinion, throwing the deaths caused by people such as Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao in the same basket as deaths caused by the Crusades, the Inquisition, the witch trials, and then missionaries, of course, such as Mother Teresa, is a terrible mistake. It is true that Stalin and Mao were atheists, however, they did not perpetrate their atrocities because of their atheism. Atheism is the absence of a belief in a supernatural creator, not an ideology (although this is what some people make it to be). Contrast this with the Inquisition, for example, the atrocities perpetrated were because of a doctrine held by the church, and the thoughts/actions of those deemed to be heretical. Christianity can be blamed in this instance, while in the examples above atheism cannot. What I am trying to say Erik is that I doubt that you would be able to name an atheist who has committed a mass murder or started a war because of his atheist’s beliefs. On the other hand, I do not think that we need to go far if we want to think of religious people that have fought wars etc. BECAUSE of their religious beliefs. I think that is an important difference.

    To Hitchens. OK, he is an easy target. It is not hard to dig a little bit to come up with reasons of why we might disagree with his views, he is very controversial and has said quite a few (in my opinion) stupid and dangerous things. Of course, I agree with Erik in that Hitchen’s support of the Iraq war has been a huge disappointment, and his (and Ayaan Hirsi Ali as well) coalition with the Bush administration has been a disaster. However, discrediting Hitchens based on these things and then using him as an example for atheists in general -is not fair.

    I also do not quite buy that Hitchens only allied with Bush and other neoconservatives because of his atheists’ beliefs --that must clearly be a simplification. Hitchens has always had strong dislikes for totalitarianism (right from the start of his ‘career’ in the late 60’s) and the obviously thinks (he has states that himself too) that the US power can and should be used to oppose totalitarianism in the world. Anyway, this is more of an add-in, because I think that although Erik’s criticisms on Hitchens are founded, that they are maybe a little bit one sided (i.e. explaining everything because of his atheist beliefs).

    Cheers, Maren

  15. I agree with Maren.



  16. For every days that goes by I find myself distancing more and more from religion(s). Too bad it isn't bringing me any closer to evolutionary theory.

  17. Wow, I'm exhausted just reading all this!

    It seems to me that Magnus and others are not trying to understand E.O. Wilson's point of view. Yes, we can sneer at the opposition (which Dawkins does do as a matter of style, even in debates with evolutionists about the details of evolutionary theory). But will we ever rid of the world of religion, or even come close? And where do we stop? Ought we to poke fun at Tibetan monks, or at the earth-centric religious values of Native Americans?

    And is it really so easy as religion bad, atheism good? Or vice versa? In the U.S. (and many other places) it is very complicated, because for all the frustrating beliefs of some religious groups, there are also good things - no one does more for the homeless and the very poor, for example (and one could find many such examples). Many churches also function as big, generous charities (and they are very, very different from what the high profile, anti-religious documentaries would suggest - I have never seen what they show, despite my 37 years of residence in the U.S.).

    But I digress.... E. O. Wilson's point was that there is much to gain by working together where you can. For example, the duck hunting groups and the conservation groups have come together in the U.S. (at least) to protect wetlands, and to great effect. Not only have wetlands been saved, and protected, but just as importantly, groups that thought they hated each other found they didn't hate each other. More than a few duck hunters proudly call themselves environmentalists now. There are other examples of such mutual benefit. They point is that you work together where you can (such as for conservation of the planet, by far the most important issue of all).

    I have yet to meet an openly religious, highly faith-oriented person in Sweden, actually. They seem rather uncommon. But I have many very religious friends in the U.S. They are wonderful, intelligent, loving people. I don't back down from my views around them, of course (and they know what I think). I definitely don't believe that science ought to back down against religious groups in the public, either!!!! Further, I believe we ought to work hard to free people from religious persecution of all sorts (and there are no shortage of terrible examples). But I do think that trying to beat down religion around the world will be about as successful as trying to win the war on terrorism, or the war on drugs, with military action. A gentler approach would be more effective, in my view.

    Anyway, just my 0.02. The mostly gentle approach of the Dalai Lama has not freed Tibet, so I may be wrong.

  18. Shawn,
    I have (of course) understood what Wilson proposed, and it is obviously so that everybody has to be open for cooperation in certain issues although the different co-operators do not share the same values in other areas. Since we are all democrats that is not even necessary to discuss, and that is not what this discussion is about. (I did of course also demonstrate against the Iraq-war together with lots of people, which values I do not share).

    The discussion here is regarding whether certain criticisms against religion should not be spoken out loud in order to be able to cooperate better with more moderate believers in other disagreements between science/human rights/disease and religion. Here I acknowledge that this could prove useful in this certain issue (e.g crationism vs. evolution), but I do not think that it is right that believers should have this benefit of being religious. In politics, for example, it is commonplace to cooperate in some issues while being bitter opponents in other. I am definitely willing to cooperate with all believers that agrees with me that creationism should not be taught as an alternative to science, but I will not do so if I at the same time have to "go easy on them" and not debate other difficulties with their believe system. And therefore I am asking: why are believers so special that we have to be extra gentle towards them than towards any other special interest group in the society?


    Magne (not Magnus!)

  19. Wow! What a great discussion! More than I ever hoped for!

    A few more thoughts:

    I might have been a bit "one-sided" to cite Maren when I allocated all deaths of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot to "atheism", and surely Hitchens is more than an atheist. That said, however, I would not be as quick to dismiss the fact that he lined up with Bush/Cheney as TOTALLY separated from his atheist agenda. It is still the same person we are talking about...

    I completely agree that christians and muslims have killed a lot of people throughout history: think of the Crusaders and Jihad, for example. However, the fact is that MOST people in human's history that died in wars DID NOT die because their redaders were religious, rather, most people have died under rather secular leaders and for reasons having very little to do with religion:

    By far most people have died during the 1900: First World War, Second World War, Korea War, Vietnam War...None of these wars were fought over religion, but they were rather for imperial powers (First World War), Nazi expansion (Second World War) or part of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the US (Korea, Vietnam). It is simply a historical fact: religion has not killed particularlmany people compared to say nationalism or "democracy" (right, the US defended "democracy" in Vietnam!).

    It is also questionable if the many that were killed during the colonial era in (say) Africa should be blamed on religion/Christianity: I would rather blame these deaths on the economic system in Europe (=capitalism).

  20. Hi! And first of all thank you Erik for two very interesting blogs! I think the question asked in this blog post is highly relevant - whether there can come something bad from the way in which atheism has been largely discussed in media by the “four horsemen” – and would like to reply to some of the opinions uttered here.

    I for one have so far been very happy about the awakened interest in the atheism/religion debate. While strong voices speaking for religion is heard every day in families, congregations and media all over the world, atheists are generally not outspoken about their views, at least not in fora where it might have an effect on the general public. I think it is encouraging that “The God Delusion” is a bestseller in Sweden, and that the video clips of the “four horsemen” are so popular on YouTube. I think they might have encouraged people to think about the negative aspects of religion, and strengthened their resolve to stand up against religious beliefs with dangerous consequences wherever they are encountered in society. Especially important, I think, is the emphasis Dawkins puts on that science is not just an alternative belief system, i.e. you could chose to believe in science or in religion. I think this might have taken the concept of scientific theory, and the discussion of “what is and how can we know the truth?”, to a much broader audience. Many people have strong feelings either for or against religion, this might motivate them to think about these things to a larger extent than a more boring topic would.

    However, the facts about Christopher Hitchens (of which I was not aware at all) are disturbing. I am much more happy seeing atheism just as the scientific reflection of religion – based on the premise that you should not assume something you have no good (scientific) reasons for assuming, and not as an ideology where people (for example in the middle east in the case of Hitchens) will be asked to pay a price for the “cause” of atheism. But as always you have to separate the science from the man, there are no scientists, just people trying to do scientific work, sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail. Watson is a racist, that doesn’t take away the fact that he was right about the structure of DNA. All four “horsemen” will be bound to have flaws in their persons, but that does not necessarily mean that the increased interest in debating the good and bad aspects of religion is something bad, I think the benefits of this goes way beyond the famous spokespersons.

    One argument against “the new atheism” is the fear that moderate religious people will become more fundamental as a result of being presented with arguments against their beliefs. I think this is based on a strange premise; should you not present people you think are wrong with rational arguments because of a fear this will push them to believing something that is even more wrong? In what other aspects of society do you apply this line of reasoning? I guess this is politics though, and not science, and it would be unfortunate if this would actually be the effect, although I’m not sure that this effect is not a natural first step in any development away from a society where religion is very broadly accepted.

    Finally I don’t think Dawkins deserves being called an aggressive preacher, but that is for another post :)

  21. Magnus:

    Thanks for your thoughts! Nice to have someone from outside, and not only the "inner circle" from the lab commenting in our discussions.

    I agree with very much what you say about atheists should have the right to criticize religion and that religion should not be left alone.

    What I do think, however, is that many atheists are politically rather naive (and not only Cristopher Hitchens, but also Richard Dawkins). Atheists are correct in their rational and scientific view of the world: there is (probably) no God and if he exists he is certainly not great. But many atheists, seem to think that religion is the main "cause" of bad things in the world, such as wars.

    It is not, in my opinion. But this might reflect that I am not only an atheist, but also a marxist. Religion is only a superficial explanation in most cases for wars, such as the conflict between israelis and palestinians. Only an extremely politically naive atheist like Dawkins could seriously believe that that conflict would be resolved if we got rid of religion and made both israelis and palestinians atheists. The conflict would still be there and people would still be kiled, because it is not a RELIGIOUS conflict, primarily, but it is conflict between colonialism (the creation of Israel) and the victims of colonialism (the palestinians). Essentially, there is a conflict over the rights of two people and over land and the right to exist. Religion comes in too, but only as an EXCUSE for the two different sides.

    Therefore, while I agree with Dawkins that religion is superstition (or to cite Karl Marx: "An opium for the people") I reject his naive view of the world where he dreams about a world without religion in "The God Delusion" and seems to claim that such a world would be free of violence and wars. That convinced me that I should not spend my valuable time reading a book that was so obviously politically naive so I would only get irritated. Dawkins is an excellent popular scientist and biologist - but he would need some basic courses in history, economics and political science. He does not convince me at all in his arguments about how religion is the main cause of so much bad things in the world.

  22. to answer a bit late to maren,i agree with the thing about stalin... as dawkins said in a bill o reilly interview, hitler and stalin were atheists, but also had a mustach, so are mustaches evil? religion has in my opinion occasioned far more daths than any other philosophical movement... but it is pointless to count anyway...
    however about mcpeek s point of view and your thoughts i slightly disagree...
    of course miracles are kind of trestable scientifically... so in a sense religion could be scientifically tested...
    but the existence of a deistic entity is at least right now completely untestable, if you have any ideas about how to test that please be my guest, but to me that is where science has to stop now, although maybe not in the future...
    of course it goes without saying that the absence of god cannot be refuted by religious people through scientific methods either...
    but to me this is still a dead end...

  23. i missed your comment erik and now that i think of it of course you are right in that many modern wars were not directly linked to religions, but you cannot avoid the fact that religions still played a part in that, although indirectly in many instances, and to me it is because many religions hae one common denomintor: intolerance and incomprehension...

  24. I am not one who would support the religious ideologies, but I do criticize those who promote an atheist ideology. Atheistic materialism is outdated; it is based on Newtonian physics and considers phenomena that cannot be explained by Newtonian "common sense" as "supernatural" and thereby non-existant. Newtonian physicists resisted relativism, until it was definitely proven to work. For about eighty years, quantum mechanics has been baffling the minds of those who are fixated in the Newtonian understanding, though it has far more exactness in predicting subatomic events. For the last decade, researchers in cellular biology have known that it is not genes that determine an animal's design, but the "switches" that activate or deactivate them. The "switches" that operate them are flipped by information the cell receives from the whole organism, especially the nervous system, and the central nervous system (brain) which responds to information from the environment outside the body. Quantum effects (information, energetic vibrations) affect the world inside and outside the body, and brain waveshave been measured by quantum imaging machines at a distance from the body. The bottom line is that mind beliefs trigger changes in how cells utilize genetic maps, and research shows that fetus cells "dowmload" mind sets from the parents. Although not yet proven, the implications from this new biology are that there is a natural basis for such "supernatural" phenomena as ESP, OOBE, "spiritual healing", etc. and that all forms of matter are entangled in a matrix of energy vibrations.

    Now biologists who have bonded to Darwinian natural selection as Truth are closed to a wider perception of evolution. I think it is much too soon (and unscientific)for scientists to dismiss the possibility of other evolutionary factors besides natural selection at play, such as intelligence (information processing) by organisms and communities of organisms.

  25. P.S. The cutting-edge biology is called Epigenetics- "above the genes". Much info about it can be had by googling for "epigenetics".