It seems some people are having trouble wrapping their minds around what it means to be a Neville Chamberlain atheist, while other people are just making up any definition they can to make anyone who’s not a hyper-scientistic Dawkinsian look bad. Recall that I think the Chamberlain-Churchill distinction is b.s., but since fundamentalists of any sort, including fundamentalist atheists, have a tendency to see things as “either-or,” with the eithers and the ors defined by the fundamentalists themselves, it doesn’t look like the Chamberlain label is going away anytime soon. So I thought I’d write a quick note to attempt (fruitlessly, I fear) to clear things up.
It should be clear that no one placed in the Chamberlain school, be it Razib, Scott Atran, or myself, has ever advocated letting anyone, religious or not, misuse, misrepresent, or suppress science for extra-scientific reasons. Instead, the criticism that the Chamberlain school tends to make against the Churchill school is, in fact, the very criticism that the Churchill school levels against the religious. They are misusing and misrepresenting science anytime they say, or imply, that science says anything about the veracity of metaphysical religious claims. In other words, when scientists, who pride themselves on their methodological naturalism, try to step outside of that naturalism and make metaphysical claims based on science, they’re as guilty of being unscientific as theists are when they use science to defend metaphysical claims. All the Chamberlains are saying is that there are large intellectual and practical spaces in which science and religion don’t run into each other, and in those spaces, there’s no need to trash the religious for not being Dawkinsian atheists.
Oh, and it should be noted that these are not the only reasons for not saying all religious people are irrational (or at least, irrational in their religious beliefs):
(1) Certain religious beliefs are true (or likely to be true); here’s why…
(2) Religious beliefs, while not likely to be true, are so useful that they are necessary; here’s the evidence…
(3) Many religious people are so irrational that it is simply too dangerous to criticize their beliefs. Please keep your mouth shut.
As I’ve said before, I think there are perfectly rational reasons for being a theist and for being an atheist, and noted that I haven’t arrived at my atheism for epistemological reasons (all of Moran’s possibilities involve epistemological positions on religion). I suppose it’s too much to ask to get a fundamentalist atheist to see beyond his limited rationalism, though.