You might learn something

Gosh, that was a lively discussion. It was sometimes rather…cryptic, though. When Dan L asked Michael, “where’s the dividing line? Where does philosophy stop and science start?” Michael said it was a tough question, and rather than answer it himself, pasted in a long excerpt from a post by Massimo Pigliucci at Rationally Speaking last November. It wasn’t the most helpful excerpt from that post that he could have chosen – there’s a more relevant one later on, for instance:

So when some commentators for instance defend the Dawkins- and Coyne-style (scientistic) take on atheism, i.e., that science can mount an attack on all religious beliefs, they are granting too much to science and too little to philosophy. Yes, science can empirically test specific religious claims (intercessory prayer, age of the earth, etc.), but the best objections against the concept of, say, an omnibenevolent and onmnipowerful god, are philosophical in nature (e.g., the argument from evil). Why, then, not admit that by far the most effective way to reject religious nonsense is by combining science and philosophy, rather than trying to arrogate to either more epistemological power than each separate discipline actually possesses?

Do Dawkins and Coyne say anything so crude and stupid as “science can mount an attack on all religious beliefs”? No. They both know perfectly well, and say, that there are religious beliefs that are nebulous and internal enough to be immune from criticism, and they also don’t talk about “mounting attacks” as if they were Vikings. And is there some place where either of them refuses to admit that the most effective way to reject religious nonsense is by combining science and philosophy? Not that I know of, and I thought both of them did just that.

Massimo is very angry with Dawkins and Coyne, for some reason, and he says hostile and exaggerated things about them as a result. He said rude things to Coyne on the earlier thread. I wish he would stop doing that, and be reasonable, instead.

Update: I did a post on that post of Massimo’s at the time – last November. Another round of useful comments.

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