One common fallacious apologist argument is the appeal to authority. In this fallacy, one brings up experts in particular fields or people of otherwise high repute, pointing to them and saying in essence, “Well they say this is true and they know more than us, so it must be true!”
One of the most common apologist uses of the appeal to authority is to point to scientists who believe in God. Sometimes, as with Isaac Newton, they are correct about a scientist’s beliefs, although this doesn’t remedy the fallacy. (Newton believed in all kinds of crazy crap, and what, in the first place, qualifies a scientist – or anyone for that matter – as an “expert” on whether gods exist?). Unfortunately, however, the deliberately dishonest misrepresentation of clearly atheist/agnostic scientists as believers happens all too often, as apologists engage in out-of-context quote mining to distort the original words for their own agenda, Albert Einstein being victim number one.
In his story reblogged above, Jerry Coyne breaks down a recent Huffington Post slideshow which features some classis examples of such quote mining.
The HuffPo Science section can’t seem to keep its mitts off religion. Why on earth do they keep dragging God into that section?
The latest theistic incursion is a “slide show” called “Science and religion quotes: what the world’s greatest scientists say about God.” There are 21 quotes, each accompanied by a photo of the scientist, and, to be fair, there’s a mixture of atheist and pro-religion statements. A few of them, however, seem unfair to me, since the scientists at issue were clearly atheistic or agnostic in other, unquoted statements.
“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual…The notion…
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