In my entire tenure at ScienceBlogs, I’ve never called out other ScienceBloglings, even if I have posted responses to them. But ScienceBloglings Chris Mooney and Matt Nisbet are slowly morphing into unwitting concern trolls regarding the creationist controversy.
With regards to Richard Dawkins, as I’ve said before, I think he’s a wash. On the one hand, he seems utterly ignorant of the U.S. political landscape (or worse, he just doesn’t care) when fighting what is a political battle (the creationist controversy). On the other hand, he makes people like me who are not Christian and who do not possess conventional views on God seem utterly respectable.
Where Nisbet goes wrong is that the religious opposition to evolution is Dawkins-specific (or PZ Myers-specific). It is not. The creationist critique that evolutionary biology is atheist well predates either Dawkins’ or Myers’ arrival on the scene. If they weren’t around, the creationists would have to invent them–and I hear Ward Churchill is looking for work…
But this error pales in comparison to the far more serious strategic error that Nisbet makes, which is to argue that evolution does not conflict with religion. First, if you are a biblical literalist (as inconsistent as that ‘literalism’ actually is), evolutionary biology is problematic for certain religions that feature prominently on the creationist side. That makes us seem like liars.
Second, and more importantly, the strategy of shoving a bunch of religious scientists in front of the podium means that we are still fighting creationists on ground of their choosing. At best, we can reach a stalemate. One would think an expert on framing would understand this.
We need to fundamentally shift the terms of the debate from ‘science versus religion’ to ‘creationism versus progress.’ I attempted to do this in the form of a retort to creationist William Buckingham:
Last night, I concluded my talk with a quote from Dover, PA creationist school board member William Buckingham, who declared, “Two thousand years ago someone died on a cross. Can’t someone take a stand for him?”
My response was, “In the last two minutes, someone died from a bacterial infection. We take a stand for him.”
I’ll admit I’m not the best wordsmith, but I already have a day job doing science. I’ll echo ScienceBlogling John Lynch: http://scienceblogs.com/strangerfruit/2008/03/my_thoughts_on_nisbet.php“>help us make this argument.
Not only is factually true that the methods, tools, and theory of evolutionary biology are integral to biomedical research and genomics, but this frame also puts the creationists on the defensive. They have to argue that their theological convenience is more important than healthy people. And if they try to argue the science, we have clear cut examples that show the creationists to be ignorant fools.
Making this case will not always be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. That’s where it would be really helpful if an accomplished author were to write about how the DNA revolution–and all of the evolutionary tools that are used to comprehend all of this DNA sequence–is used to improve people’s lives.
Seriously, many of the biologists around here do a lot more than just our specific research. We’re overcommitted in terms of time. And we’re not professional writers or communications experts either. So stop ‘meta-trolling’, step up, and communicate this.