Framing Science

As I wrote last month, in the Year of Darwin, the loudest voice associated with science threatens to be Richard Dawkins and other New Atheist pundits who will argue their personal belief that evolution undermines the validity of religion or even respect for the religious. Certainly, this promises to be a big part of the publicity campaign behind Dawkins’ forthcoming book on evolution.

In sharp contrast, the major science organizations such as AAAS and the National Academies are actively reaching out to religious leaders and groups. Another example is an event upcoming at the Center for American Progress, co-sponsored by their Science Progress and Faith & Public Policy Initiatives. Details are below.

I will be talking more about this tension between the public engagement efforts of the leading science organizations and the maverick views of Dawkins and other New Atheists in an April 13 presentation at the National Academies. Free and open to the public with reception to follow.

Evolution, Transcendence, and the Nature of Faith
Reassessing Darwin’s Impact on Science and Society on the Occasion of His 200th Birthday

February 11, 2009, 12:30pm – 2:00pm
About This Event

Darwin’s radical deduction that random mutation and natural selection can explain all of the diversity of life on Earth shook longstanding beliefs that humans are inherently superior creatures, uniquely capable of being moral, already fully evolved, and made in the image of a perfect creator.

Since then, waves of research in such diverse fields as molecular biology and genetics, game theory, and behavioral anthropology have expanded and strengthened Darwin’s seminal observations, prompting a century-and-a-half of reflection and reassessment about the place of humankind in the universe, the relationship between humans and a divine creator, and the nature of faith itself.

Join our distinguished panelists for a conversation about the ways in which evolutionary theory has revolutionized our understanding of the struggle between personal freedom and the common good, and to explore the role of religious thought as humankind gradually gains the capacity to direct its own evolution.

Featured Speakers:
David Sloan Wilson, Co-founder of the Evolution Institute and professor of evolutionary biology, Binghamton University
Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
Arthur Caplan, Director, Center for Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania

Introductory Remarks:
Sally Steenland, Senior Policy Advisor, Center for American Progress

Moderated by:
Rick Weiss, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

A light lunch will be served at 12:00 p.m.
RSVP

Click here to RSVP for this event
For more information, call 202.741.6246

Comments

  1. #1 Sven DiMIlo
    February 4, 2009

    Certainly, this [the belief that evolution undermines the validity of religion or even respect for the religious] promises to be a big part of the publicity campaign behind Dawkins’ forthcoming book on evolution.

    I’ll bet it’s not. The focus of the book and the publicity will be on the science. The people who will bring up the religious angle are those whose personal religious beliefs are, in fact, invalidated by that science.

  2. #2 Anne
    February 4, 2009

    Wow, this comes as sweet relief to me. I’m a science journalist just venturing into the blogosphere. I am really disheartened to see athiest intolerance on some of these sites that rivals the worst judgment I’ve seen Christians dish out, and I don’t even see the need for a fight. This attitude of mine is not popular in these parts! Yesterday I picked up my own little troll, who followed me to the next blog just to accuse me of having a “delicate constitution.” It’s true, though — the mean-spirited attacks on both sides get to me, and I’d love to see the gap bridged between religious types and scientific types, especially because I am a little of both. Unfortunately I won’t be near D.C. on the 11th or I would happily attend your talk. Let me know if you guys need any help with your efforts.

  3. #3 mousedude
    February 5, 2009

    Will this be webcast or otherwise posted to the web?

  4. #4 Jason Failes
    February 5, 2009

    Evolution does not disprove the most general concept of God, but it does disprove the particular creation myths of all major living religions, including Christianity.

    Evolution does not prove atheism, but evolution (along with all other “bottom-up” processes, such as nuclear fusion crating all heavier elements) is consistent with an atheist position and inconsistent with all but the most general and claim-less religious positions.

    Personally, I believe that religion has to be sent to our collective dustbin. This has been clear since long before the scientific revolutions of the last few hundred years.

    There is no reason why science should not be used as one of many tools to undermine and eventually eliminate superstitious and religious thought. There is even less reason to believe that Dawkins, amongst many others, will ignore such a powerful tool on the say-so of framers.

    P.S.

    “STRATEGISTS < ----> JOURNALISTS < ----> PUBLICS”

    Didn’t this once have science in it?

  5. #5 D_E_R_M_A_N
    February 5, 2009

    Since then, waves of research in such diverse fields as molecular biology and genetics, game theory, and behavioral anthropology have expanded and strengthened Darwin’s seminal observations, prompting a century-and-a-half of reflection and reassessment about the place of humankind in the universe, the relationship between humans and a divine creator, and the nature of faith itself.

    Join our distinguished panelists for a conversation about the ways in which evolutionary theory has revolutionized our understanding of the struggle between personal freedom and the common good, and to explore the role of religious thought as humankind gradually gains the capacity to direct its own evolution.

    Featured Speakers:
    David Sloan Wilson, Co-founder of the Evolution Institute and professor of evolutionary biology, Binghamton University
    Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
    Arthur Caplan, Director, Center for Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania

    Introductory Remarks:
    Sally Steenland, Senior Policy Advisor, Center for American Progress

    Moderated by:
    Rick Weiss, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

    A light lunch will be served at 12:00 p.m.
    RSVP

    Click here to RSVP for this event

  6. #6 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    February 7, 2009

    It would be fun to see if the best thinkers in religion could modernize their concepts to keep up with scientific understanding of natural phenomena. It still seems that they are still bent on insisting that we accept their mythologies as history.

    Matthew, I think you are doing this all backwards. I really think that you should be “Framing Religion” to make it more palatable to scientists; rather than constantly reassuring the religious that they can still keep their faith while learning that science is “Cool” yet ultimately meaningless if it conflicts with religion.

    I think that religious people are more interested in you than scientists are, anyways.

  7. #7 Heraclides
    February 10, 2009

    Several nitpicks. (Actually a bit bigger than nitpicks, really.)

    “maverick” is a loaded word, with the rest that comes with it.

    I’m not sure why one person taking a stronger line is something to get bothered about. After all he’s entitled to if he wants to.

    I wouldn’t call Dawkins’ presentations “loud”, etc. Forthright, perhaps, in his measured way. Loud gives exactly the wrong tone to how he conveys himself, in my opinion.

    I think this phrase is a little generous: “[…] prompting a century-and-a-half of reflection and reassessment about the place of humankind in the universe, the relationship between humans and a divine creator, and the nature of faith itself.

    My understanding is that fundamentalist Christianity, where most of the (mislabelled) “reflection” is from, is a relatively recent thing that has arisen in response to a number of things (not just evolution) that “threatened” the beliefs of this small group. These people don’t “reflect”; they don’t consider both sides. A good number go further and set up straw-man versions of atheists to attack, including via labels such as “Darwinists”, “Evolutionists”, etc.

    Finally, try take a larger perspective on this if you can. While creationists are a small group worldwide, they appear to be a larger and more vocal group within the USA. That is, you might wish to remember that this is an issue your country faces much more than most of the “Western” world. Extraordinary things like organisations trying to push through bills to enable creationism to be taught in science classes and running teachers out of schools because they are thought to be too atheist/liberal is very much “rural USA”, not the rest of the Western world.

  8. #8 Notagod
    February 11, 2009

    Please keep your god-idea out.

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