Larry Moran has responded to my post suggesting that we are fighting different battles. Unfortunately, his response only confirms my fears; we are indeed fighting an entirely different battle. Let me first note that he now says that his suggestion that freshmen students who don’t accept evolution should be expelled was a joke. Kind of.
Ed Brayton’s opening attack on me refers to my tongue in check suggestion that students who reject evolution should be flunked, or not admitted to university in the first place. Anyone with a brain can recognize the humor and sarcasm in such a remark.
Well, that might be true except for two inconvenient facts. The first one is that, obviously, I do have a brain, as do many other people to whom I showed his statement including people he considers friends and colleagues, and not one person thought it was a joke. There is absolutely nothing in the text that even hints at it being humorous and the closest that anyone who saw it from my blog came to suggesting such a thing was to say that he hoped it was a joke.
Secondly, one might believe that it was a joke if Moran didn’t go ahead in the very next paragraph after claiming it was a joke and reiterate that he meant it:
However, behind the humor is a serious point. If students entering university have already made up their minds that evolution should be rejected, then that’s a serious problem. It’s not a question of ignorance. Those students have made an active decision to choose superstition over science.
This, of course, is nonsense. The average 18 year old, even ones who have gone through advanced biology in high school, know virtually nothing about evolution. There is no active choice going on with these students. In most cases, there is little more than a vague notion that evolution means no god and therefore must be wrong. That is the primary reason why most people reject evolution, it has nothing at all to do with weighing two sides on the basis of the evidence and choosing one. And unfortunately, people like Larry, rather than trying to remove the primary reason why these people reject evolution, only go out of their way to reinforce it.
Given a choice of students to admit into university science programs, I would choose the ones who show some understanding of science over those who reject one the fundamental facts of biology. Wouldn’t Ed?
Absolutely not. Universities don’t have that choice. On what college application does it have a questionaire that includes the question, “Do you believe in evolution?” None, of course. Nor should there be any such questions. Admission to college is based upon a number of measures of achievement, not a set of ideological litmus tests that they must pass. The only possible way to even determine who does and doesn’t believe in evolution would be enormously dangerous.
Do you really want to give the power of deciding who does and doesn’t get into college, or who gets to teach at college, based upon what beliefs they will attest to? With the influence of the religious right and constant pressure the right likes to bring on college professors and students with liberal beliefs, do we really want that? Not on your life. And I sure as hell wouldn’t want that decision made on the basis of the things I believed when I was 17 or 18 years old. What Moran is supporting is the same sort of ideological authoritarianism that we both condemn harshly when it’s displayed by the right; we do ourselves no favors by replicating them.
From that point on, Moran goes into the argument that anyone who believes in both evolution and in God is undermining science:
I’m mostly in the first group but I also have an interest in elminating the worst parts of religion; namely, those parts that conflict with reason.
Except that he makes clear that even the most basic tenet of any religion, the notion of a transcendant, non-physical reality, is in conflict with reason. So there is no “those parts” that he wants eliminated, it is religion itself. What he calls the “worst parts” is nothing more than the one core thing that all religions have.
The fight against Intelligent Design Creationism and Young Earth Creationism is only part of the battle–there’s a lot more involved in trying to improve science education. Some of it requires us to take a long hard look at the way science education is being eroded by well-meaning theists who don’t belong in one of the obvious hard-core Creationist camps. Let’s call them Theistic Evolutionists for want of a better term.
Well, that’s your battle, it’s not mine. There are theistic evolutionists who have done more to improve science education than virtually anyone else in the nation, and those are the very people you are now declaring enemies.
People like Ed Brayton think it’s okay for Theistic Evolutionists to nibble at science and undermine its principles in subtle ways. He probably thinks it’s okay because at least they aren’t taking big bites. Well, Ed, I’m here to tell you that it’s not all right. The little nibbles are just as bad, perhaps worse, and if you defend even a little bit of sloppy science then you are still defending sloppy science and you should be ashamed.
No, I reject the notion that belief in God, in and of itself, takes anything away from science education. Ken Miller is a theistic evolutionist. His scientific work is impeccable, as are his efforts in science education. Can Moran point to anything at all in Miller’s scientific work that is “sloppy”? I doubt it. Can he point to anything at all in his work on science education, the multiple textbooks that he has authored on evolutionary biology, that is affected in any way whatsoever by his Christian faith? Again, I doubt it.
So what he’s really arguing here is that despite Miller’s successful work in the laboratory explaining molecular evolution and his astonishingly tireless work on behalf of sound science education all over the country, the mere fact that he believes in God somehow undermines the principles of science. Further, that I should be ashamed for not declaring Miller my enemy as he has. And if your bullshit detector isn’t in overdrive right now, it must be broken.
All of this just reinforces my suspicions that we simply are not on the same team and are not working the same goal. My goal is to protect science education. Moran’s goal is to protect his atheism against any and all religious impulse, even if held by people who are excellent scientists and defenders of science education. And as his team pursues their goal they seek nothing less than a purge of the most valuable members of my team as we work to achieve ours.
There are people on my team working to protect science education that do not meet his ideological litmus tests. They believe in God, and therefore no matter how tirelessly they work on behalf of science education, they must be declared the enemy. But as I told Larry a few weeks ago, if you think that Ken Miller, Keith Miller, Howard Van Till, Glenn Morton, Wes Elsberry, Rob Pennock and many others are the enemy, then you simply are not on my team. You’re playing a whole different game and it’s one I have no interest in playing. I’ll stick with my team.