I’ve been having a bit of an exchange with Rusty in the comments on his blog. Because those comments only allow 1000 words, I’m posting this here. You can see the beginning of the exchange in this post and the comments that follow it. The argument concerns two things. First, Rusty quotes this passage from the Understanding Evolution website:
Misconception: “Evolution and religion are incompatible.”
Response: Religion and science (evolution) are very different things. In science (as in science class), only natural causes are used to explain natural phenomena, while religion deals with beliefs that are beyond the natural world.
The misconception that one has to choose between science and religion is divisive. Most Christian and Jewish religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings. In fact, many religious people, including theologians, feel that a deeper understanding of nature actually enriches their faith. Moreover, in the scientific community there are thousands of scientists who are devoutly religious and also accept evolution.
And he responds with this question:
You’ve gotta wonder if the evidence for evolution is so truly convincing (as most evolutionists will claim), then why bother with getting religious endorsement?
I had responded to that with this:
Your original question has nothing whatsoever to do with the website you’re pulling it from, and I’m surprised that you could characterize what you’ve quoted so inaccurately. The site is for teachers and the section in question advises teachers on how to handle situations. They aren’t making the argument that some religious groups accept evolution and therefore evolution is true. They aren’t even implying that. They are simply saying that there is no reason to presume that evolution is incompatible with religious belief.
To which Rusty replied this morning:
Ed, I quoted nothing inaccurately (last time I checked, whatever was between the ” ” marks or indented was what was on the website I pulled it from). Nowhere have I stated that the NCSE is making the argument that because some religious groups accept evo then it must be true. I have stated that it’s odd that the NCSE attempts to grab support and justification from religious groups.
But of course this is exactly what he was implying. This was the reply I tried to leave, but was too long:
It’s not that you’ve quoted the text inaccurately, it’s that what you quoted does not support your contention. You said, “You’ve gotta wonder if the evidence for evolution is so truly convincing (as most evolutionists will claim), then why bother with getting religious endorsement?” This is obviously implying that the NCSE is getting religious endorsement in order to shore up the “evidence for evolution”, or lack thereof in your formulation. But what you quoted was the statement that evolution is not necessarily incompatible with religious views. That has nothing whatsoever to do with the evidence for evolution, it has to do with what that section of the website had to do with, which was helping teachers answer questions they are likely to get. In particular, answering the misconception that evolution and religion must be in conflict. You further say:
BTW, it is not “patently false” to claim that if you believe in the Christian God then you can’t accept evolution. There are plenty of Christians, myself included, who believe in the Christian God and do not accept evolution. Why don’t the NCSE or “Understanding Evo” websites address that aspect?
But they DID address that aspect. They addressed it by pointing out that while some Christians obviously do believe that, many others, including all of the mainline denominational authorities, do not consider them to be incompatible. They addressed it by saying, “It’s not necessarily true”. Do you really think that because the NCSE doesn’t agree with the limitations you place on the beliefs of others (claiming that you can’t be a Christian and accept evolution without being either a coward or an unwitting dupe of the atheists who laugh behind their backs), that they are therefore acting unconstitutionally? As I said, this is simply a trivial and silly argument. For more thrashing of this ridiculous establishment clause argument, see Tim Sandefur’s post on The Panda’s Thumb. Jason Rosenhouse also hammers it, with responses from Frank Beckwith here.
I had also said this in a previous comment:
You’ve been claiming for weeks that evolution is incompatible with supernaturalism as well, indeed that those who think they are compatible are “cowardly”.
And Rusty responded:
Note that in a previous post I quoted Dembski who, in a later post, clarified that he was referring to adherents of AN that view TEs as cowardly.
Sorry, but this is utter nonsense. Here is the full quote from Dembski:
Not to put too fine a point on it, the Darwinian establishment views theistic evolution as a weak-kneed sycophant that desperately wants the respectability that comes with being a full-blooded Darwinist but refuses to follow the logic of Darwinism through to the end. It takes courage to give up the comforting belief that life on earth has a purpose. It takes courage to live without the consolation of afterlife. Theistic evolutionists lack the stomach to face the ultimate meaninglessness of life, and it is this failure of courage that makes them contemptible in the eyes of full-blooded Darwinists.
Clearly Dembski is arguing that Theistic Evolutionists (TEs) are too cowardly to “face the ultimate meaninglessness of life”, and it is that cowardice that allegedly leads “full-blooded Darwinists” to hold them in hypothetical contempt. And here is the quote from you, Rusty, implying that TEs are really unwitting dupes of those big bad atheists who pretend to be their friends but cackle behind their back:
Yet, one wonders what thoughts the likes of Eugenie Scott, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, et. al., are having as they smirk behind Miller’s back.
The problem with both claims, yours and Dembski’s, is that you have absolutely no factual basis for making them. You don’t know Ken Miller or Genie Scott; I do. And you’re wrong. It’s really that simple. Genie Scott does not laugh or smirk behind Ken’s back because he’s a Christian. She truly believes that evolution is compatible with a wide range of religious and non-religious worldviews because, like all scientific theories, it is not a worldview itself, it is an explanation for a discrete set of phenomena. And Ken Miller does not remain a Christian because he’s “too cowardly” to “face the ultimate meaninglessness of life” that evolution allegedly leads to. Ken Miller believes passionately that his work as a scientist feeds and informs his faith as a Christian. And he’s hardly alone in this belief, it is shared by a brilliant group of people represented by the likes of Howard Van Till, Glenn Morton, Keith Miller, Wes Elsberry and many others. I am priveleged to be able to work with many of these people and to have them as friends.
I do not, as a non-Christian, smirk behind their backs and I do not consider them the least bit cowardly. I consider them brilliant and engaging and, on the whole, delightful and profound people that have enriched my life and informed my own beliefs on this and many other subjects. Ironically, and predictably, the only ones smirking at them are their fellow Christians, in this case you and Bill Dembski, as you flippantly proclaim them to be cowards and dupes whose friends laugh behind their backs. I believe psychologists would call this projection. I also think it’s a case of bearing false witness. At the very least, bearing witness that you have no basis for believing is true other than your own desire that it be true. I think that false witness becomes doubly obvious when you pretend that Dembski was really talking about atheists thinking that they are cowards when his own words prove otherwise.