I traveled to Long Island this past weekend to visit some family and not celebrate Easter :-). Of course, in my haste to get home, I forgot to pack a power supply for my laptop, so I was unable to get anything done, including writing here. I was planning on writing a few things, including a post about the next section of the Qur'an (I haven't done one for almost a month... Yikes! I'll post one soon, promise!) So I have a few posts coming up that I was planning on writing this weekend, including Juz' 5 of the Qur'an, and my experience outside of the Hitchens/Wolpe debate. But I had an experience while driving home last night that I thought I'd share while it's fresh in my mind.
So not only did I forget my power supply, but when I turned on my iPod, selected a track (the audio version of Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig, for those interested), and pressed play, it immediately froze, and was useless for the entire trip. Awesome. So I was stuck with the radio for the 3½ hour trip. I flipped through the stations for a while, and found my way to NPR. They were interviewing Krista Trippet about her new radio program Einstein's God.
What first caught my ear, and stopped me from just changing the station, was that Trippet was mostly honest about Einstein's views about gods. She made it clear that Einstein didn't believe in a personal god, and that his famous quote "God does not play dice" was a metaphorical statement, so I thought perhaps this was going to be a good explanation of Einstein's views.
Trippet presented the facts pretty accurately. Unfortunately, she decided it was necessary to shoehorn some pseudo-spiritual nonsense into the fact that Einstein had a reverence for the laws of nature. Of course Carl Sagan also had a reverence for nature and the universe, while being non-religious (adamantly so, according to what I've read by him). She also interviews religious scientists Paul Davies and Freeman Dyson, with no mention of scientists who would present an alternative view. (Admittedly I haven't heard the piece yet, I'll be listening to it later. But I can guess what Dyson and Davies are going to say, particularly given what Trippet had to say during the interview.)
But the most frustrating part of the interview was an instance of a blatant double standard. Trippet was discussing the co-existence of science and religion, trying to suggest that the two are compatible with each other. She mentioned the recent publications that attack religion and suggest that it is not compatible with scientific thinking (obviously referring to people like Dawkins, Harris, etc.), and made the common claim that they are attacking a straw man version of religion, and that mature, liberal, learned religion is compatible with science.
This would be annoying by itself, since this criticism has been answered countless times by many people (including Dawkins and Harris). But it was contrasted so starkly by what was said only a few minutes earlier during the interview. The interviewer (I can't remember his name, unfortunately) asked Trippet to explain her faith and what she believed. Her response was laughable. She hemmed and hawed for what felt like an eternity, finally answering: "This is what I tell people: If God is god, then we should not be afraid to use our intelligence and skills to learn about the universe and how it works."
(I'm paraphrasing, but this was essentially what she said. If someone has a transcript of the interview, or a more accurate quote I'll happily correct it.)
So Trippet is claiming that people like Dawkins are attacking a straw man version of her belief system, but she refuses to plainly explain her belief system. What exactly is Dawkins supposed to do? He can only examine and criticize people who are willing and able to clearly articulate what their beliefs actually are. If you aren't willing (or perhaps able) to articulate your belief system clearly, then we aren't going to bother considering it. Scientific theories requires clarity and unambiguity, so that they can make useful predictions. The fact that Trippet can't even tell us what she believes suggests its very unlikely to be compatible with a scientific worldview.
My guess is that any effort to explain what she believes would reveal how ridiculous it really is. Fuzzy language and meaningless platitudes give liberal theists an out. In reality, when they are forced to express their beliefs clearly, one of two things happens. Either their beliefs are revealed to be much more like traditional religious beliefs than they would like to admit (literal belief in miracles, a resurrection, etc.), or it turns out they don't believe in the supernatural at all, and just prefer to continue using the language for whatever reason. Either way, they come out looking more foolish than they did before explaining themselves. Either way, their beliefs are clearly not compatible with science.