On the left, the New Atheist movement frightens me immensely. Its supporters openly and explicitly link evolutionary thinking with non-belief, sneering at those (like me) who think that science and religion can exist harmoniously together. I don’t care what the law says, politically this is moronic. The citizens of Tennessee, the judges of the Supreme Court, are going to believe that if evolution alone is taught in schools the kids of the country will be getting atheist propaganda – no matter what actually happens – and they are going to want to counter it. I imagine that every time that Richard Dawkins opens his mouth, the Discovery Institute lights a candle of thanks, or whatever it is that evangelicals do these days.
Nothing new here, of course. This is what Ruse always says.
We have been down this road before. Truly it’s hard to imagine the legal theory under which Dawkins’s views on science and religion are relevant to the constituionality of this or any other law. Applying Ruse’s logic, it should be unconstitutional to teach about the holocaust, since some people infer from it that God does not exist. Likewise for the American Revolution, since some people believe its unlikely success proves that America is a nation uniquely blessed by God.
If some right-wing judge wants to uphold the law he won’t have to look to Dawkins or any other atheist for a reason. He will just argue that the law has the perfectly legitimate secular purpose of promoting free inquiry, and if that has the indirect effect of giving succor to creationists then so be it.
And since we’re throwing around charges of political idiocy, we might recall that it was Ruse who thought it was a great idea to edit a book, called Debating Design with ID proponent William Dembski. A book, mind you, in which the Darwinian side was very poorly represented indeed. When our side consistently argues, in court no less, that there is no serious scientific debate over ID, it hardly seems politically savvy to persuade a prestigious academic press to certify that there is.
Whatever. We’re rehashing an old argument, and if this had been the only eye-raising portion of Ruse’s post I wouldn’t have bothered to comment. The real reason for this post is to marvel over what Ruse says next:
Note, I am not saying that if you genuinely think that evolution implies atheism you should conceal this belief for political reasons. I am saying it is irresponsible to emote on these issues without doing serious study of the issues and looking carefully at those who beg to differ on the possibility of having both science and religion. And this, as five minutes with the God Delusion shows fully, the New Atheists do not do.
So it’s not arguing that evolution undermines religious faith per se that is the problem. It is only emoting about the issue, or sneering at those who disagree that is politically moronic. This is too subtle for me. Earlier Ruse was immensely frightened that citizens and judges would hear Richard Dawkins and conclude that kids need to be protected from evolution. Now it seems that Ruse’s real fear is simply that those citizens and judges will perceive that Dawkins has failed to do his homework. Presenting the very same arguments after putting in some serious library time is just fine, according to Ruse.
You would think, though, that this is completely backward. Even looking at it from Ruse’s perspective, if we must have folks arguing that science and faith are incompatible we would want them to be people who can be dismissed as ignorant crackpots. Why would he want serious, well-informed people arguing for views he regards as politically dangerous?