Pat Hayes at Red State Rabble put up a post agreeing with me on the whole “two teams” controversy, which brought a response from PZ Myers, which Pat then put up top on his blog in its own post and answered. That brought an additional response from Myers that points up the need for a couple of clarifications on my position. First, Myers seems to be particularly bothered by my statement that he and others set out not only to protect science education but to “attack and destroy religion by any means necessary”, which he calls an “outrageous distortion” of his position.
Let me say that I did choose my words badly and the little rhetorical flourish of “by any means necessary” was a poor choice on my part. I certainly don’t believe that he or anyone else of the same mindset is in favor of killing religious people or rounding them up into reeducation camps or anything like that. But clearly they do favor more authoritarian tactics than I am comfortable with. Myers is on record as supporting the denial of tenure to anyone advocating ID, while Moran is on record in favor of applying ideological litmus tests of orthodox belief prior to allowing someone into college.
Those are tactics that I absolutely do not support. Moreover, they are tactics that speak to exactly the sort of split that has become very clear to me over the last few months. I will fight, as I have for well over a decade now, to keep the anti-evolution movement, in whatever form it takes at any given time, from infecting and weakening science education in this country; I will not, however, support these sorts of authoritarian measures that only serve to undermine our ability to persuade on the basis of reason.
Secondly, Myers accuses Hayes and me of hypocrisy because we are dividing our side up while accusing the others of dividing our side up:
I am surprised that you’re unable to detect the hypocrisy and the irony in that comment. You have just declared that those who divide the movement to defend science education are handing the creationists a victory…in posts in which you and Ed divide the movement. And you don’t just divide it — you guys declare us evil atheists (to distinguish my “team” from your “team” of the saintly atheists) disturbing, dangerous, appalling, and vile, and that we are leading you to certain defeat (a point on which I strongly disagree, obviously — I think your strategy has a demonstrated history of failure). Along the way you completely mischaracterize the goals of people like Moran and Dawkins and me, in order to further your goal of propagandizing against a subgroup you don’t like.
My position is not that this other group’s tactics are bad because they “divide the movement”, and that is not an argument I have ever made. My position is that there are two entirely different movements here and my pointing that out is not what causes such a divide, the two entirely different sets of goals is what causes that divide. I am not making the argument that the other side is “dividing the movement”, I’m making the argument that there are two distinct movements.
The point of my post is that there are two entirely different disputes here being fought by two entirely different groups. The first dispute is evolution vs creationism; the second dispute is theism v atheism. Moran, Myers, Dawkins and others are engaged in the second dispute; I am engaged in the first one. My further point is that their pursuit of their goal of fighting against theism not only in its anti-science form but in any form actually damages our ability to fight the first, far more important, dispute.
And that is especially true when they advocate the kind of authoritarian tactics I noted above. All it does is feed into the perception that everyone on our side is out to punish, censor or destroy the careers of those who disagree with us. And I’m trying to make clear that that is not the case, that the only people who advocate such tactics are, in fact, people fighting an entirely different battle than the one we’re fighting, and with tactics that we disapprove of. And I want to make the distinction clear between the two groups.
There is no “movement” being divided here, there are two entirely different groups fighting two entirely different battles. Our interests may be temporarily and theoretically in line at times, but the fact is that your fight is significantly undermining our fight by reinforcing their worst stereotypes (and confusing you with us), by alienating an enormous base that would otherwise support us, and by declaring our most valuable spokesman to be enemies of the cause.
Well Ken Miller may be an enemy to your cause, but not to our cause. And that is exactly my point: we aren’t fighting for the same goals. And pointing that out does not divide a movement, it recognizes two distinct movements with two distinct goals. And I frankly want to distance myself from your goals as much as possible.