Sunday, February 8, 2015

An exercise in confirmation bias

A recent study by Timothy O'Brien and Shiri Noy purports to have found a thrid way in the longstanding Science v. Religion debate. Their claim very quickly falls apart. The group they end up labeling, foolishly, "post-seculars" are not a new group at all. The only differences I can see with this batch of ignorant asses and previous ones is that they are willing to publicly acknowledge, at least to some degree, that there are bits and pieces of modern science and medicine they actually like.

Religious News Service had a decent summary of their "findings" that can be read if you do not wish to wade through the 20+ pages of bullshit that constitute O'brien-Noys study published in the American Sociological Review. I recommend reading the actual study first and then the RNS review. It makes an otherwise tedious and irritating read somewhat entertaining since Cathy Grossman's ("Science vs. religion? There’s actually more of a three-way split") take on it is unintentionally humorous in its own lack of insight and critical thinking.

An excellent example is:
"Post-Seculars pick and choose among science and religion views to create their own “personally compelling way of understanding the world,” said O’Brien, assistant professor at the University of Evansville in Indiana"
It never occurs to her that the pick and choose part of science isn't actually science at all. Whether a scientific theory fits your personal views has absolutely no connection to its validity. Cherry-picking which conclusions work for your preconceived notions and personal preferences is actually the opposite of respecting and accepting science. Both the original report and the summary make clear that that is precisely what is happening among these "post seculars."

"But when it comes to three main areas where science and Christian-centric religious views conflict — on human evolution, the Big Bang origin of the universe and the age of the Earth — Post-Seculars break away from the pack with significantly different views from Traditionals and Moderns." Did you catch that? Again, this is not new. The object to those theories on religious grounds alone. There is no scientific legitimacy to their opposing views. How is this a third way rather than just more of the same old conservative religious bullshit? Even the label the two use is biased. Why not "post-scriptural" since the views they do accept from science don't bother them on religious grounds?

In the end there is no third group in this debate. It only emerges from there study because they choose to interpret it that way. They fail to notice that there has not been any religious objections, except among a tiny fringe, to such modern developments as cars, computers, and antibiotics. The majority of conservative theists have always accept large portions of science and medicine. Like then, they only object when it interferes with the unfounded superstitious non-sense they wish to cling to.

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