Okay, I’m back. Did I miss anything?
Other than the giant kerfuffle between Larry Moran and P.Z. Myers on the one hand and Ed Brayton and Pat Hayes et al, on the other, that is.
Things started with this post, from Moran, on the subject of a recent lecture by philosopher Robert Pennock at UCSD. Some pro-ID sites were claiming that all students were required to attend. Moran sarcastically suggested that rather than require students to attend an anti-
ID lecture by Robert Pennock, the better approach would have been not to admit pro-ID students in the first place.
Ed Brayton was not amused. Moran is fighting a different battle than he, Brayton harrumphed:
To be honest, I’m rapidly becoming convinced that there are two very different groups involved in fighting against the ID public relations campaign to distort science education. The distinction between the two groups is that one is fighting to prevent ID creationism from weakening science education while the other is fighting, at least in their minds, to eliminate all religious belief of any kind, even those perspectives that have no quarrel with evolution specifically or science in general, from society.
Moran subsequently replied. He pointed out that his main interest is in protecting science education, but that theistic evolutionists deserve heavy criticism for mixing science and religion.
Pat Hayes then weighed in with this post, praising Brayton and criticizing Moran. P.Z. Myers left a comment to Hayes’ post, which Hayes reproduced and replied to here. In his comment Myers made the entirely correct point that it is people like Hayes and Brayton who are being divisive, and not Moran and Dawkins:
I’m also not interested in being on any “team” that treats criticisms of its members as intolerable dissent, and who react to disagreement by announcing that they’re going to treat the critics as schismatics. I know which side is hypocritically demanding conformity and purity of the movement, and it ain’t us evil atheists.
Brayton replied here. He is not being divisive, you see, since he thinks there are two separate fights going on:
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.
Gosh. That’s really stupid.
There have been various other blog entries chiming in on this dispute, but I really think we should pause here to yell at Ed.
Two entirely different disputes? Moran, Myers and Dawkins (MMD) are busy with theism vs. atheism, unlike Brayton who cares about science education? Please. Protecting science education from creationist pseudoscience is something we all care about and fight for. It is, indeed, a separate fight from theism vs. atheism, but it is not as if you can’ t be involved in both fights simultaneously.
I will speak only for myself here, but I suspect I am representing the views of MMD as well. My view is that ID should not be given any sort of respectful treatment in high school science classes, and that the basic facts of evolution should be presented carefully and without apology. I am perfectly happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone who shares that view, regardless of their views on other subjects. Ken Miller, in particular, is an honored soldier in this fight. It is hard to imagine anyone who has done more than Miller to keep creationism out of science classes. I am perfectly content to say that he is right about the science and wrong about the religion.
But I don’t see a similar courtesy coming the other way. When people like Miller or Francis Collins tell people there is no conflict between evolution and religion they are applauded and welcomed. But when a Dawkins or a Myers comes along and points out that people making that case are kidding themselves, they are admonished to keep their mouths shut lest they scare off potential allies. Miller and Collins wrote books specifically aimed at defending theism against people like Dawkins. But Ed does not throw them out of the movement to protect science education, on the grounds that they are actually involved in the fight for theism against atheism. But when MMD argue that Miller and Collins are making bad arguments, they get treated like this:
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.
Nope. Nothing divisive there.
The situation is perfectly clear. Everyone cares about good science education and Ed can go climb a tree for suggesting otherwise. But some of us also believe that it does no good to pander and condescend to people’s religious beliefs by telling them that there is no conflict between science and religion. There is a conflict, it is a big one, and most people find that obvious. Clever people like Miller and Collins can find imaginative ways of reconciling the two, but few people are buying it.
Ed has no evidence at all to support the idea that MMD really do scare people away from the cause of good science education. The idea is almost certainly false, as I have argued before. To accept this view you must believe that theists are so delicate, that though they would like to support quality education they are driven to apathy or to the other side because they are so put off by MMD’s rhetoric. A more likely scenario is that they are not impressed by known atheists or agnostics like Eugenie Scott and Michael Ruse who there, there them, saying they can have their little religious superstitions even though they themsleves want nothing to do with them.
Any atheist who refused to defend science education for being put off by the theistic rhetoric of Collins and Miller would be regarded as a fool and a bigot. If those delicate religious people Ed is afraid of offending actually exist they should be regarded the same way.