One of the tried and true tactics of creationists of all stripes has long been to equate evolution with atheism, and thus those who accept evolution become atheists. In a society where surveys show that atheists are, for some bizarre reason, among the most distrusted people, this is good political strategy; it’s also false. It is simply a scare tactic, designed (intelligently, perhaps, but also unethically) to exploit the public’s fear and distrust of atheists. Such fears are utterly irrational, of course, but that is precisely why they can be exploited so effectively by demagogues. Those people exploit the fact that the vast majority of people who deny evolution do so not because of the science (which they are almost uniformly ignorant of) but because they have a perception that evolution leads to atheism which, of course, leads to mass chaos and rampant immorality.
Jack Krebs decided to stand up to this demonization at a meeting of the Kansas State Board of Education on Tuesday. Pat Hayes writes about it at Red State Rabble and includes the text of Krebs’ speech, which I will reprint here below the fold. The local paper also had a brief report about it as well. Here is the full text of Jack’s remarks:
Last month, the day after I spoke here, I was told that Kathy Martin handed out an article entitled “The Truth of Science and of Revelation” from the Catholic magazine “Columbia.”
I would like to thank Mrs. Martin for distributing this article, because it supports a major point that we at Kansas Citizens for Science believe: that there is not a conflict between accepting the theory of evolution and believing in God.
Here is what the article says about Catholic doctrine:
“Believing that God designed the world doesn’t mean you have to reject Darwinism or any other scientific explanation… The Church has always taught that natural processes and the laws that govern them are themselves part of God’s design. … It is quite acceptable to say that evolution by natural selection is the way God did it.”
However, the Intelligent Design advocates claim that one cannot accept both evolution and God. Currently, John Calvert is distributing a pamphlet entitled “Character Assassination and Denigration of Theism.” In it, he says that Kansas Citizens for Science has been a “tool” used to “promote a materialist world view that seeks to demean the idea of creation, … effectively promoting non-theistic religions and world views over traditional theistic views.”
This is categorically false. Kansas Citizens for Science does not promote any particular religious view. We do not promote materialism, nor do we promote non-theistic over theistic religions.
Board members of KCFS include an evangelical Christian, a Presbyterian minister, mainstream Protestants and Catholics, Unitarians, agnostics and atheists. Science can and does accommodate all those religious beliefs, and more. We believe that science is a limited form of knowledge, and that many essential matters of morals, values and spiritual belief fall outside the realm of science.
Calling us materialists and atheists just because we support mainstream evolutionary theory is a blatant falsehood, and we object to being characterized as such.
John Calvert has been instrumental in developing and promoting your science standards. Therefore, I want to go on public record here, in front of you, in asking that Calvert quit making these false accusations that those of us who accept modern science and evolutionary theory can’t also accept God. Many tens of thousands of religious Kansans are being painted as “tools of atheism” by these accusations, and they have a right to be insulted.
Kansas Citizens for Science firmly believes that science, as the “activity of seeking natural explanations about what we observe in the world around us,” is both the best way of learning about the physical world and is fully compatible with a wide diversity of religious beliefs, including traditional Christian beliefs about God.
A note to my readers: please do not get sidetracked from the issue here and start commenting on whether evolution really is or isn’t compatible with religious belief in general or any particular religious belief. I’m frankly tired of that argument and it only distracts from the real issue here. One can certainly argue over the question of whether they truly are compatible, but that doesn’t change the truth of what is going on here. Even if you believe that religious people hold dissonant beliefs in accepting both evolution and their religious views (I, of course, do not believe that), that does not transform them into atheists or materialists or whatever other scare term the other side wants to use. It is absurd enough that we have this irrational fear of atheism so common in this culture; it is doubly absurd to smear people who aren’t atheists with that term, whether you think they should be atheists or not.