The normally sensible mt has a post The Elephant in the Room that I’ve been meaning to rip to shreds for ages (oh, by the way, if anyone feels tempted to say “how unfair ripping mt to shreds when he is on the Good side, why not shred Plimer or someone” the answer is: mt is interesting, Plimer is dull). Most of it is just gobbledegook as far as I can tell, but I may just be too materialist (a nice word, perhaps hijacked for alternative meanings, but in many ways better than “atheist” which otherwise defines me in terms of something I’m not. Yes, I’m a materialist) to have fully understood.
It looks like mt retreats in the comments a little, saying “The point I am making is that plenty of intelligent people don’t dismiss religion. These are the people who should be talking to fundamentalists, not people who dismiss the whole business as nonsense”. Or later, “The point is that creating an atmosphere of direct challenge to religious belief acts against the interests of science”. If that was the point of the post, I wouldn’t complain (I wouldn’t necessarily agree either; I’m just not terribly interested in arguing religion; there is nothing new to say). mt is rather more interested in communicating science, and furthermore appears to live in a rather more wacko-filled environment than Cambridge, so all credit with him for trying to engage with the religious folk on climate change. But if that was the point then he has very unhelpfully mixed up two very different ideas.
Anyway, what does mt say?
* There is a view in which science and religion address orthogonal questions, and in a sense I’m an advocate of that view. A fair start. I’m prepared to let religion have that much. “In a sense” is troubling though, and leads on to…
* The separation can’t be said to be perfect. Certainly, here in Texas as we are besieged by people who are convinced who “don’t believe in” evolution… This is just confusion. The beliefs of the wackos in Texas has nothing at all to do with the orthogonality of science and religion (depending of course by what you mean by religion. If you mean “a set of beliefs of varying kinds amongst varying tribes subject to sociological analysis” then yes, science and religion interact, but only in the sense of religion being subject to science).
* the inherent value of the experience of Unity… in turn draws attention to the phenomenon of experience, and how very feeble and hollow efforts to reduce the phenomenon of experience (formerly, the “soul”) to a basis in a physical theory must be. I think this is nonsense. We clearly haven’t reduced conciousness down to a physical explanation, nor do we have a path towards doing that. But we haven’t reconciled QM and GR either. mt doesn’t event attempt to provide a reason to believe that this is in principle impossible (Paul said that too. If mt found an answer, I didn’t see it). Off in the comments mt expands it is impossible to come up with a physical origin for the metaphysical property of consciousness – this is merely an unsupported assertion (assuming by “impossible” he means “ever”; if he means “today” then it is just obvious but uninteresting).
* As theologian Paul Tillich (apparently; I’ve seen this attributed to others) said to atheists: “Tell me the God you don’t believe in, and I probably don’t believe in that God either”. – this is a cute quote, but the point is a little obscure. Later on, he says I wasn’t raised in the Christian tradition, and I find the Christian approach to religion confusing. so this may be a way of trying to say that he believes in some kind of “religion” but not one of the mainstream ones. I can’t tell.
* shallow materialism – again, I don’t really know what this means. It looks like a cheap shot. Is the idea that a philosophy must have some incomprehensible non-physical component in order to be respectable?
By the end, after skimming the comments, I’ve become very unclear what he was trying to say. The post is nominally about “God” but god doesn’t really get a look in to the discussion – it is all about “spirituality” and explaining conciousness, which apparently physics can’t do. Welllll… suppose that is correct. In fact, it wouldn’t even be especially surprising. Suppose we either get bored trying, or through some Godel-like theorem we deduce that conciousness can’t be explained by physics. So what? That still doesn’t get you a god; it still doesn’t prove (or even suggest) that conciousness is anything other than a direct result of the unaided operation of the physical world.