John Wilkins takes Larry Moran and PZ Myers to the woodshed.
I wrote: “As an accommodationist, I think that whether or not science and religion should be treated as compatible, in fact they are, or as compatible as any potentially competing set of beliefs may be, such as the belief that science is the only way to gain justifiable beliefs, which is not, itself, scientifically justifiable.” Larry read this thus:
I argue that if you adopt science as a valid way of gathering knowledge then most everything about religion fails the tests of science. Those who claim to be scientists and still believe that there’s a God who answers prayers are expressing two contradictory positions. You can’t claim to be thinking like a scientist while holding on to beliefs that have been refuted by science.
Only I didn’t say that religion is a way of knowing. It may be, if it is true, but I have no dog in that hunt, and I don’t need to. I said that this was about ways to gain justifiable beliefs. PZ Myers, who I also claim as a friend and will be flying to meet when he finishes the Atheism Lovefest in Melbourne (no, I’m not miffed I wasn’t invited to speak, why do you ask?), makes the same mistake – he tries, as Chris Schoen discusses, to show that his love for his wife is a scientific inference. I think there’s a clear is-ought fallacy here; trial and error may explain why Paul and his Trophy Wife[tm] found each other compatible, but the justifiable belief that he loves her is not the result of anything like a scientific inference. It’s what linguistic philosophers call a “performative”: he loves her in virtue of expressing the love. How he got there is beside the point.
A belief can be justifiable in a number of ways – in Wittgensteinian terms, a belief is justified when it satisfies the criteria for that sort of belief among a language community, who have a self-contained set of rules. Chess players have beliefs about what it is wrong to do (you can’t punch the other player, for instance) that are not in any sense scientific. Religious beliefs may be of that kind; that’s for those who care to argue. I don’t need to say they must have ways of knowing, merely that they have beliefs that satisfy some criteria, and we can then talk about those criteria.
Deep down, it isn’t theology the militants really have a problem with. It’s philosophy.