..that even when you try diligently to separate the politics of religion vs. creationism and to say again and again that religion can go along its merry way as long as it stays out of the science classroom, people like Casey Luskin will still find the words in your rhetoric to accuse you of attacking religion.

A while back, Genie Scott appeared with me and Lynn Fellman on Atheist Talk Radio, where we discussed science education. Genie is the director of the National Center for Science Education.

Subsequently, in a posting on the Discovery Institute web site, Casey Luskin makes the contrast between the National Center for Science Education’s stance, and thus of Genie Scott’s philosophy (in that she is the director) on one hand vs. what she said in this radio interview.

Luskin specifically contrasts Genie’s statement that the NCSE’s goals are “not to promote disbelief” but rather to “help people understand evolution and hopefully accept it.” Hey, folks, that is is indeed what Genie pushes, and what the NCSE promotes, and it is classic middle-ground nice-guy, don’t be a dick science education. This is as good as it gets from the point of view of “appeasement” because it says let the religion go its own way, as long at it does not go into the classroom (see this: Accommodationists and New Atheists Sail in the Same Boat)

Luskin then contrasts that position with this quote from the same interview:

“Evolution is the scientific explanation that has the most repercussions, shall we say, for people’s worldview and religious perspective. Evolution tells you that humans share kinship with all other creatures. For some, that’s a very liberating and exciting idea, and it makes them feel one with nature and it’s empowering and so forth. For others, it’s threatening. If your view is a human exceptionalism kind of view, that humans are separate from nature and special — especially if they are special to God as in some Christian traditions, then evolution is going to be threatening to you.”

This quote was Genie’s answer to Lynn Fellman‘s question: “[A caller has asked] Why is it always evolution that seems to be under siege?”

Genie’s answer is correctly quoted above but with the last part of the quote bolded to emphasize the “threat” language, and Luskin further emphasizes the part about evolution being threatening:

Did you catch that? She just stated that evolution is “threatening to you” if you believe that humans “are special to God as in some Christian traditions.”

And, I should mention, the title of Luskin’s essay is: Eugenie Scott Claims Evolution Is Threatening to Certain Christian Traditions

OK folks, listen. There is no significant national organization involved in the evolution-creation debate that bends over backwards more to be “nice” to religion than the National Center for Science Education. But here, in Luskin’s critique, we see two important things:

1) It is not good enough. In order for Genie’s philosophy or the position of the NCSE to be considered “ok” by the Discovery Institute, the contrast that Genie talks about in her quote would have to go away. Human exceptionalism would have to be incorporated into the science or the science teaching. Evolution would have to be taught along side creationism in the classroom.

2) Luskin practices out of context interpretation and quote mining here. Strangely, he is providing the fuller context and the quote mined in the same place, so we see Genie’s de facto statement of the relationship between religion and science being converted before our very eyes as “Religious people, Evolution is threatening to you!!!”

It is hard to say that one can win under these circumstances. It is hard to support a be nice to the creationists philosophy under these circumstances. Genie Scott must be some kind of saint.

(A repost)

Comments

  1. #1 sailor
    September 10, 2010

    “Human exceptionalism would have to be incorporated into the science or the science teaching.”
    It probably should be. By that I don’t mean that humans did not evolve and are not very closely related to other primates, but there is a kind of exceptional leap in technology between humans and all other species, and as far as I know we are the only ones to use symbolic language as the main method of communication. It is probably this, more than anything, that gives the religious the grounds for which they think they are superior. So a good scientific explanation would be a help.

  2. #2 bo moore
    September 10, 2010

    The ugly little secret that scientists don’t want to admit to is that science and supernatural belief CANNOT BE RECONCILED: these two approaches to explaining the phenomena that we call the universe simply cannot both be true! The supernatural realm is a product of the human brain (magical thinking) and exists nowhere else. It is a delusion projected onto physical reality. Science is about natural, observable matter and energy, which exist with or without a human prescence. Take away humans, and the physical universe exists: take away humans, and the supernatural realm vanishes.

    Why don’t scientists want to admit this? Because as humans, we/they too “believe” in this non-existent dimension! It’s a product of the human brain, and as such, inescapable. We are not as “intelligent” as we think!

  3. #3 Skasowitz
    September 10, 2010

    A good scientific explanation for the technological span between humans and other species? All that technological mastery comes from building an understanding of the universe, through a process called science. The scientific explanation for our technology is science.

    Are you looking for an explanation for why humans have been able to leverage science where other species have not? I think you’ll find that these sorts of studies, and investigations in communication in other species, are both very active areas.

  4. #4 J-Dog
    September 10, 2010

    Luskin = Loser. Period, end of story.

  5. #5 Stacy
    September 10, 2010

    In order for Genie’s philosophy or the position of the NCSE to be considered “ok” by the Discovery Institute, the contrast that Genie talks about in her quote would have to go away.

    Is there some reason we should care about what the Discotute thinks?

    It’s a “no win” situation. I say ignore them.

  6. #6 Rob
    September 10, 2010

    The ugly little secret that scientists don’t want to admit to is that science and supernatural belief CANNOT BE RECONCILED:

    yeah, PZ, Orac, Hawkings, Dawkin, not scientists, nope.

  7. #7 Winston
    September 10, 2010

    Orac?

  8. #8 J. J. Ramsey
    September 10, 2010

    Stacy: “Is there some reason we should care about what the Discotute thinks?”

    More to the point, the NCSE isn’t trying to woo the Discotute people. It has never advocated that there are no religious views that conflict with science, only that accepting evolution need not require embracing atheism. If believers refuse to accommodate their beliefs to accommodate the science, then they can expect the NCSE to be very unaccommodating to them. That’s how the NCSE’s always been.

  9. #9 itzac
    September 10, 2010

    Change out evolution in Genie’s statement for bears. I want bears to eat Casey Luskin. RROOOAAARR!!!

  10. #10 theshortearedowl
    September 10, 2010

    Yup. The thing about the don’t-be-a-dick crowd is that they’re never concerned for their own sensitivities – it’s always for some other hypothetical person who somehow would have been convinced by the argument if they hadn’t been so rude.

    I find it particularly amusing (and sad) when they use it in reference to Richard Dawkins, who is one of the most politely spoken persons you can come across.

  11. #11 Stephanie Z
    September 10, 2010

    Actually, as part of the “don’t-be-a-dick crowd,” my problem with people being a dick is that people frequently are dicks instead of doing the work.

  12. #12 Charles
    September 10, 2010

    Reply to 3:
    | A good scientific explanation for the technological
    | span between humans and other species? All that
    | technological mastery comes from building an
    | understanding of the universe, through a process called
    | science. The scientific explanation for our technology is
    | science. …

    Sorry, science is a late-comer. By the time science showed up people were already the extremely dominant species. I think that the two answers are technology and language. (It’s hard to say just when language showed up it *might* have been first, but I don’t think that’s the way to bet.)

    FWIW, the spear and the club were enough to make humans (including Neanderthals) the dominant species. Bow and arrow (or spear-chucker, depending on the culture) pretty much finished the job. I’m leaving out lots of refinements, like flint knapping, baskets, etc. I’m not sure they were necessary for this limited goal. I also left out fire, which was very important, but I’m not sure in which ways, beyond expanding the ecological niche the people could live in. But note these were all technological, not science. Science didn’t show up until Francis Bacon. Even the Romans didn’t have it. (The Greeks came quite close, and may even have had it in a restricted form. Hard to tell with so many records lost.)

  13. #13 Paul Murray
    September 10, 2010
    The ugly little secret that scientists don’t want to admit to is that science and supernatural belief CANNOT BE RECONCILED:

    yeah, PZ, Orac, Hawkings, Dawkin, not scientists, nope.

    A bit of a leap that. People are a trifle more complex than all scientist all the time. If that’s what you meant.

  14. #14 bo moore
    September 11, 2010

    Did anyone witness the supreme and terrifying arrogance of DEpak Chopra on Larry King last night?? The creationists are downright sane compared to this guy!

  15. #15 Marion Delgado
    September 12, 2010

    My take is identical to JJ Ramsey’s. Also, their magazine is truly great.

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