Podcast episode

Episode Twenty-Seven – On The Separation Between Scientific Truth And Belief – Interview With Dr Pamela Gay

Download the mp3 of this episode here!

Dear listeners – firstly apologies for getting out two episodes out so soon after one another. Next week I’ll be traveling, so it is unlikely that I’ll get out an episode next week, so I hope you don’t mind that there’s a little space between this and episode twenty-eight. I’ll be attending a Philosophy and Education conference in Sydney, on the other side of Australia, and will include the content from that in the next show.

This episode is called ‘On Separation Between Scientific Truth and Belief’. This is a very current ‘news’ item online, involving a blog-post written by Dr Pamela  Gay and the response it has got from a variety of people, including Dr PZ ‘Pharyngula’ Myers. It is called Separation Between Scientific Truth and Belief, on her Starstryder blog.

Dr Gay is an astronomer, writer, and podcaster, who focuses on using new media to engage people in science and technology. On her website ‘About‘ page, she writes that she is often asked about her belief system and created a page to answer that question here.

What this episode features is the second half of an interview – the first half with Dr Gay will feature on the Skeptic Zone podcast later this week, and I urge people who are not familiar or have not kept in touch with the work that Dr Gay does for astronomy and education, to download that too.

This show is available on Zune, mp3 via Libsyn or iTunes. Speaking of iTunes, you can find and rate all of the shows there, or you can visit www.tokenskeptic.org – I’d love to hear your feedback at tokenskeptic@gmail.com and do send in reviews for iTunes!

Theme songs are ‘P&P’ by Derek K Miller of www.penmachine.com and ‘365’ by Milton Mermikides, at www.miltonmermikides.com.

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9 Comments

  1. NH Baritone
    July 1, 2010 at 10:01 am

    I find it puzzling that Dr. Gay implores us aim our criticism directly at Young Earth Creationist Christians rather than Christians as a whole, yet she has omitted labeling her own belief system. Christianity is admittedly diverse, but beliefs among the many of the faithful are abhorrent. Does she include herself in this number?

    For example, many (perhaps most) Christians vociferously oppose gay marriage, women’s reproductive choice, and school-based secular sex education while simultaneously endorsing censorship, erosion of the separation of church and state, and efforts to convert every non-Christian to Christianity.

    Christian faith has been used to bolster & justify each one of these stances, but this does not mean that every Christian automatically adheres to them. Until Dr. Gay clarifies the impact her Christian faith has on her approaches to such ethical matters, we will not know enough to understand what her reprimand of skepticism implies.

  2. July 1, 2010 at 10:15 am

    NH – there’s a link in the show notes to her ‘About’ page and you can read her blogpost, which I specifically mention at the start of the show and I directly quote from at the start of the interview. You can find it that easily! :)

  3. robert wilson
    July 5, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    In my opinion Dr Pamela, has set up a bit of a false dichotomy, its not that some people are finding a problem with being scientific whilst also being a Christian (its self evident that such people exist, and of other religion as well).

    Her real problem is in classifying herself as a skeptic, and not divulging the evidence that convinces her to have a religious conviction, and what scepticism she employed to rationalise a belief in the Christian God. I have been reading all I could on ‘starstryder’ and could only find some rather weak analogies, that skirted around any evidence.

    Much as I love Dr Gay (and astronomy cast), I think she is a bit naive to think that that if you are going to publically say (paraphrased) “I feel justified in believing in X, and wish to be excused for presenting a rational reason” (may be she has but I could not find it) then you can say you are being 100% sceptical because you have employed special pleading.

    The PZ Myres article was harsh, very harsh, but brutally honest. Dr gay is a public figure, she has to deal with the criticism and not hide.

  4. robert wilson
    July 5, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    In my opinion Dr Pamela, has set up a bit of a false dichotomy, its not that some people are finding a problem with being scientific whilst also being a Christian (its self evident that such people exist, and of other religion as well).

    Her real problem is in classifying herself as a skeptic, and not divulging the evidence that convinces her to have a religious conviction, and what scepticism she employed to rationalise a belief in the Christian God. I have been reading all I could on ‘starstryder’ and could only find some rather weak analogies, that skirted around any evidence.

    Much as I love Dr Gay (and astronomy cast), I think she is a bit naive to think that that if you are going to publically say (paraphrased) “I feel justified in believing in X, and wish to be excused for presenting a rational reason” (may be she has but I could not find it) then you cant say you are being 100% sceptical because you have employed special pleading.

    The PZ Myres article was harsh, very harsh, but brutally honest, Dr gay is a public figure, she has to deal with the criticism and not hide.
    (typo in my first post – ‘can’ should be ‘cant’)

  5. July 6, 2010 at 4:56 am

    If you want to read more of Dr Gay’s beliefs, she was interviewed by DJ Grothe here: http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/1023-pz-myers-pamela-gay-and-atheistic-skeptic-organizations.html

    Where on earth can you see evidence of Dr Pamela Gay ‘hiding’? I see no proof for that claim, considering the ‘about’ page and the fact that she talks about this openly.

    I think you mean ‘cant’ should be ‘can’t’, btw.

  6. robert wilson
    July 6, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Hi Thanks for linking to the additional interview it was a good read, and highlighted the point I was attempting to make, from the link:

    D.J. Grothe – “As an equal opportunity skeptic, I personally try to apply my skepticism to every sort of claim — to the Holy Ghost, and to ghosts in general. I think that if you consistently apply skepticism to all areas of your life, you will necessarily abandon many of the basic beliefs of the majority of people around you. Theism is just one belief you may abandon. But I don’t think abandoning theism is a necessary result of skepticism, if only because I don’t think every skeptic is always going to be completely consistent in her scepticism”.

    Note the last sentence, “if only because I don’t think every skeptic is always going to be completely consistent in her scepticism”. This is how I see Dr Pamela Gay, i.e. not being completely ‘sceptically honest’ with herself, to explain.

    In the linked interview Dr Gay states: “A belief in God is a belief in something frustratingly untestable. I can make no testable predictions using religion, but instead find myself faced with having to make an opinion-based judgement. I have made the choice to believe”.

    Choices are fine, but what are they based upon? If Dr Gay chooses to explain how she comes to believe in God (she doesn’t, and I could not find anything on her blog either), and who knows, it may be a perfectly reasoned and sceptically sound methodology. But, if it’s just a choice based on a lack of evidence, she is not being 100% sceptical, and is falling for the “If not X, then Y” fallacy. Indeed the entire gist of Dr. Gay’s interview (pertaining to her belief) hinges upon “I believe because it is un-testable or because doubt exists” (paraphrased). The correct position to take when there is doubt, or insufficient evidence, is to not commit to a position, but to put any conclusions on hold until more or better evidence becomes available. There is nothing wrong in the scientific discipline to say “unknown” and the same holds true to scepticism.

    Re – “hiding”. I used that word in reference to her making a claim then not explaining how she came to that conclusion. Like I said, I have looked at Dr. Gay’s blog, and the linked interview, but could find nothing that explains why she believes, other than her “un-testable” comment. I find that ‘skepticaly’ a little dishonest. If you are going to put your personal life on the internet, and make issues of those points, then your going to have to evolve a thick skin, or

  7. July 6, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    If there are comments meant for Dr Gay, please send them to her official site, where she can respond to them. It is unlikely she will respond here to comments?

    After a recent tragedy at a conference I’m attending, and being on the road, I’m not available for moderation on this site for a while. Thank you for your understanding.

  8. July 14, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    What ever happened to “everyone has their golden calf”? A year ago you couldn’t turn around without people repeating that phrase, often proudly. Now we have half the people running around demanding every single self-labelled skeptic be the “one true skeptic”, that everyone either follows evidence, science and facts in all aspects of their life or they stop self-labelling themselves a skeptic.

    I’ve always been under the impression that as long as someone takes a skeptical bent to most aspects of their lives they are more than welcomed in to the community and to be self-labelled skeptics. They can have belief in woo of various sorts from alt-med to climate change, aliens, and religious belief, as long as for the most part they are skeptical in their way of thinking and approaching life.

    I may be imagining things, but this all seemed to start when Bill Maher was given the RDF award last year at the AAI conference. The award was for their work in atheism which Maher does quite well, but many staunch atheists jumped on the fact he’s a believer in alt med and a denier of science based medicine. This was irrelivant to the award and can be argued to be his golden calf as well. Ever since then I’ve seen the tolerance levels lowering for golden calves, especially when it comes to theism in skeptic circles.

    Would it be a good time to remind the atheists in the skeptical community, especially those who may or may not have discovered the skeptical community in the last 12 months, of the “one true scottsman” fallacy and that nobody is or can be expected to be perfect?

    All it takes is a little tolerance. It’s just one area. Discuss it with them as a mature adult should the topic come up, but don’t attack and demand. You’re being anything but productive.

  9. […] a Darwinist. The content is very good, but the tone was too aggressive. I recently listened to an interview with Dr Pamela Gay — a scientist, astronomer, writer and Christian — on Token Skeptic on the […]