This is the direct sequel to:
Once again, P Z Myers and Jerry Coyne have decided to push for the elimination of all mentioning of religion in scientific organizations, including the NCSE (National Center for Science Education, the American organization defending evolution) and the BCSE (British Centre for Science Education, the version of the NCSE in the United Kingdom).
Open letter to the NCSE and BCSE
Although we may diverge in our philosophies and actions toward religion, we share a common goal: the promulgation of good science education in Britain and America—indeed, throughout the world. Many of us, like myself and Richard Dawkins, spend a lot of time teaching evolution to the general public. There’s little doubt, in fact, that Dawkins is the preeminent teacher of evolution in the world. He has not only turned many people on to modern evolutionary biology, but has converted many evolution-deniers (most of them religious) to evolution-accepters.
Nevertheless, your employees, present and former, have chosen to spend much of their time battling not creationists, but evolutionists who happen to be atheists. This apparently comes from your idea that if evolutionists also espouse atheism, it will hurt the cause of science education and turn people away from evolution. I think this is misguided for several reasons, including a complete lack of evidence that your idea is true, but also your apparent failure to recognize that creationism is a symptom of religion (and not just fundamentalist religion), and will be with us until faith disappears. That is one reason—and, given the pernicious effect of religion, a minor one—for the fact that we choose to fight on both fronts.
The official policy of your organizations—certainly of the NCSE—is apparently to cozy up to religion. You have “faith projects,” you constantly tell us to shut up about religion, and you even espouse a kind of theology which claims that faith and science are compatible. Clearly you are going to continue with these activities, for you’ve done nothing to change them in the face of criticism. And your employees, past and present, will continue to heap invective on New Atheists and tar people like Richard Dawkins with undeserved opprobrium.
We will continue to answer the misguided attacks by people like Josh Rosenau, Roger Stanyard, and Nick Matzke so long as they keep mounting those attacks. I don’t expect them to abate, but I’d like your organizations to recognize this: you have lost many allies, including some prominent ones, in your attacks on atheism. And I doubt that those attacks have converted many Christians or Muslims to the cause of evolution. This is a shame, because we all recognize that the NCSE has done some great things in the past and, I hope, will—like the new BCSE—continue do great things in the future.
There is a double irony in this situation. First, your repeated and strong accusations that, by criticizing religion, atheists are alienating our pro-evolution allies (liberal Christians), has precisely the same alienating effect on your allies: scientists who are atheists. Second, your assertion that only you have the requisite communication skills to promote evolution is belied by the observation that you have, by your own ham-handed communications, alienated many people who are on the side of good science and evolution. You have lost your natural allies. And this is not just speculation, for those allies were us, and we’re telling you so.
Let’s look at some excerpts from this open letter:
There’s little doubt, in fact, that Dawkins is the preeminent teacher of evolution in the world. He has not only turned many people on to modern evolutionary biology, but has converted many evolution-deniers (most of them religious) to evolution-accepters.
Note that Coyne does not specify that Dawkins has converted all these former evolution-deniers into atheists.
Nevertheless, your employees, present and former, have chosen to spend much of their time battling not creationists, but evolutionists who happen to be atheists.
How so? By not openly supporting atheism?
you have lost many allies, including some prominent ones, in your attacks on atheism.
HA HA HA HA HA HA! So not affirming atheism is the same as attacking it? REALLY?! Show me ONE official statement by the NCSE or the BCSE that attacks or denies atheism. Just one!
your repeated and strong accusations that, by criticizing religion, atheists are alienating our pro-evolution allies (liberal Christians), has precisely the same alienating effect on your allies: scientists who are atheists.
Coyne, you are alienated only because you are so convinced that only atheism is true. But that has nothing to do with teaching science. The fact remains that many children from Christian backgrounds will be learning evolution in schools and if they see a conflict between evolution and the Bible, they will remain Creationists rather than give up their faith and accept evolution. The efforts at accommodation by the NCSE and the BCSE are intended to show that you can choose to be religious and deal with science as it is also. It is YOU that is being intolerant, Coyne! It is YOU that choose to be alienated. You can still advocate atheism on your blog while promoting evolution too. No one in the NCSE or the BCSE is saying you cannot. So what is the problem?
Then P Z says on his blog:
How often do we have to repeat ourselves? There is no goal of turning the NCSE or the BCSE into an atheist organization; we think having an organization that is honestly neutral on the religious issue is extremely useful in advancing the cause of good science education for all. We want the NCSE/BCSE to support neither atheism nor religion.
You know what? The atheists in this argument have a crystal-clear understanding of the difference between atheism and secularism, and are saying that the science education organizations should be secular. It’s these sloppy accommodationists who have allowed liberal christianity to become their default position who have violated the distinction.
First, no one is asking Myers and other atheists to repeat themselves, so that is just rhetorical crap. Second, the NCSE has made clear its own religious neutrality.
What is NCSE’s religious position?
None. The National Center for Science Education is not affiliated with any religious organization or belief. We and our members enthusiastically support the right of every individual to hold, practice, and advocate their beliefs, religious or non-religious. Our members range from devout practitioners of several religions to atheists, with many shades of belief in between. What unites them is a conviction that science and the scientific method, and not any particular religious belief, should determine science curriculum. (Emphasis mine)
Sorry, but until atheists become the vast majority of American and British people, the screaming about accommodation by atheists is pointless. I just don’t accept it. If the atheists wish to have all science organizations never mention religions or treat any religious people with respect again, they can push for that. And once they get their way, the political support for scientific organizations will most likely dry up. And the only ones who gain from that would be Creationists. The atheist fanatics are giving them exactly the talking points they need to fight longer and harder the public relations war over science education!
Please support both the NCSE and the BCSE. Here are their websites:
- The BCSE blows up (scienceblogs.com)
- Please Read Jerry Coyne’s Open Letter (evolutionguide.blogspot.com)
- About that letter [Thoughts from Kansas] (scienceblogs.com)
Hi Dale. I just surfed onto your blog and I’ve enjoyed reading your posts quite a bit. I agree with you on some things and disagree with you on others. (You can read my blog if you want to know which ones.) But regardless of whether I agree or not, I find your posts to be lucid, logical, and well-written. So many people don’t put the effort into actually writing well these days, so it’s refereshing to find somebody who does. Your post about carbon dioxide and water and how they create variability in global temperatures was particularly good.
On the particular issue that you address in this post, I couldn’t agree more. The letter that you quoted is a perfect example of how people like Coyne and Myers have wrapped up their identity in claims of victimization.
Did you see some of the responses made by atheist fanatics to the first comment I made at P Z Myers’ blog (under the name circleh, my WordPress designation)? You would have thought I was being denounced by an Atheist Inquisition as a heretic or by an Atheist Party Congress as an Enemy of the People! Damn them!
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Great post, Dale.
Apparently like several Creationists, the “New Atheists” see accepting evolution and atheism should have to go hand in hand. These “New Atheists” do just as much harm to their cause as Creationists do to their own.
Sure, the claim that there is a God is unscientific, but so is the claim that there is no God as well. The NCSE is taking the the bests stance here by neither affirming nor denying God. — Science is neither about confirming or denying him.
I could be wrong, but I suspect that at least one of the members of the NCSE is a Theist…I think it is Nick Matzke. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.. But if this is true, then if the organization were to openly advocate atheism, then it would also end up alienating one of it’s own members.
(Dale Husband: I fixed your typo so only one comment need be approved. I will reply directly to it in a few minutes.)
Unlike the atheists that so often attack him, Nick Matzke never makes an issue of his own religion (or lack thereof). Indeed, I cannot yet find any explicit reference to his religious convictions. But note that I am a non-theist who rejects the New Atheist attitude, and so Matzke may be the same. Does it matter?
I always remember this proverb I learned in my youth: “Beware that in fighting a monster you do not become a monster yourself.” When I look at the atheists like Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, and P Z Myers, I see a monster coming out. There is nothing about being a Theist that makes one irrational, reject evolution, or deny reality in any way. Theists merely choose to believe in a God of some kind; that God may be an outside presence that we cannot detect (because if we could detect him, he’d be part of this material universe and could not have created it) or he may be the collective wisdom of humanity over thousands of years that was merely personified by myth makers. The latter seems more likely to me. The problem with atheists is that they take the picture of God in the myths as literal and reject it, just as the fundamentalist idiots take that image as absolute truth. Both paths represent a denial or ignorance of an excluded middle way which I favor much more.
Dale Husband, the Honorable Skeptic
Exactly. That is the problem with certain “New Atheists” asking for empirical evidence for God. I imagine what they mean is they want a miracle to happen in front of their eyes.
Another thing. God–If he exists– is thought to be the overall creator, so if that is true, then we ourselves would be the empirical evidence. However, such an argument only presupposes God, and is therefore circular. But from the theist perspective, it would be true.
I am for a middle way as well. Personally, I find myself agreeing a lot of time with arguments made by skeptics and sometimes a few by apologists. Though I do my best not to accept them at face value. For example, I will agree with skeptics that the Bible is not infallible; there are contradictions in the Bible such as the nativity stories in Matthew and Luke. I will also agree with skeptics that the “conquest of Canaan” as told in the Book of Joshua probably never happened. Though I do not agree with every criticism made on the Bible. It has several contradictions that cannot be harmonized, though there are some other areas where I would say that some of them can be. — I guess you could say neither the “New Atheists” or the “Religious Right” would be very fond of me.
I’m on the committee for the BCSE. Thanks for your support. A couple of statements of fact:
The BCSE has no employees and no Faith projects.
We have had the amazing spectacle of New Atheists on our forum criticising the fact we have a piece by Peter Hess on show which covers the NOMA position and saying that this is theological propaganda whilst it was previously described as atheistic propaganda by creationists.
We have also seen some of the commenters of Jerry’s blog linking to a smear site against us set up by a young earth creationist.
Psi / Mark
In other words, Coyne LIED by implication to everyone in his open letter! He lumped the BCSE together with the NCSE in a form of guilt by association. Anyone who does that without checking out the actual facts is idiotic!
There are no sacred cows when it comes to this blog. I slam religious bigots and idiots and the atheists applaud me for that. But I also slam them for THEIR idiocy and bigotry and they treat me like dirt. For me, it was never about promoting atheism, but a consistent standard of honor. And to be consistently honorable, you have to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and not just in a court of law either!
I guess this goes to show that many of the New Atheists and the Creationists are nothing more than two sides of the same coin.
Sometimes I wonder if the New Atheists are getting a lot of their talking points from reading Creationist literature since I have run across some from both camps that use the same arguments on those who prefer a middle road.
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