Pharyngula

Mixed feelings

Creationists are liars, and the current Intelligent Design campaign in Kansas shows that there seem to be few exceptions. Their latest effort down there is to claim all supporters of evolution are atheists, which is obviously false, and is simply a ploy to generate knee-jerk opposition to good science. Jack Krebs has been fighting the lies, which is good. Unfortunately, he’s also perpetuating the problem.

John Calvert has been instrumental in developing and promoting your science standards. Therefore, I want to go on public record here, in front of you, in asking that Calvert quit making these false accusations that those of us who accept modern science and evolutionary theory can’t also accept God. Many tens of thousands of religious Kansans are being painted as “tools of atheism” by these accusations, and they have a right to be insulted.

John Calvert is a sleazy, dishonest scumbag who will make up any lie that he thinks will advance the cause of state-sponsored ignorance, and please do point out that he’s misrepresenting the facts. But why should anyone be insulted at being called an atheist? If Calvert had declared that everyone at Kansas Citizens for Science was an Episcopalian, it would be just as ludicrous a lie, but would they then go on to deplore the terrible, horrible, insulting thing he had just called them?

Comments

  1. #1 Shygetz
    July 12, 2006

    I would be insulted to be called a “tool of Episcopalians”. Hell, I’m an agnostic, and I’d be offended to be called a “tool of agnosticism”. Did Calvert use the phrase “tool of atheism”, or is that a Krebs-ism?

  2. #2 Evil Bender
    July 12, 2006

    I agree that it is silly for religious people to be angered at being called atheists, but I wonder if what’s really got Kreb’s upset is the word “tools” and, by implication, the idea that religious people are unwittingly supporting a belief system to which they do not ascribe.

    If you were called a “tool of religion” for rightly noting that you don’t have to be atheist to accept evolution, wouldn’t you find that offensive?

  3. #3 Alex
    July 12, 2006

    It’s their mode of thinking. You’re a Jew if you follow the Jewish doctrine, Christian if you follow the Christian doctrine, Muslim, etc.. So then they want to extend thay to “you’re an atheist if you follow evolution”. But what it should really be is “you’re an evolutionist if you follow evolution”. It’s a bit of intellectual dishonesty. What they really want to achieve is to put their irrational belief system (not objective) on par with science (objective). This is not possible and has caused believers frustration ever since science started producing real results.

  4. #4 Big C
    July 12, 2006

    I would be insulted to be called a “tool of Episcopalians”. Hell, I’m an agnostic, and I’d be offended to be called a “tool of agnosticism”.

    I agree with Shygetz. The impression I get from my reading of Krebs’ statement is not that the insult comes from being “called an athiest” as PZ put it, but rather from Calvert implying that Kansans who support good science are “tools,” i.e., mindless sheep who are merely a means to a political end.

    To illustrate the point, I support gay marriage because I think its’ a clear case of unfair discrimination of a minority group of people. If someone were to call me a “tool of homosexuality” I would be just as offended as Mr. Krebs is. The offense isn’t because they assumed I’m gay, it’s because they assumed I didn’t think for myself in supporting this position.

  5. #5 PaulC
    July 12, 2006

    PZ:

    But why should anyone be insulted at being called an atheist?

    People have every right to insist on not being mischaracterized. If someone is religious, it follows that they probably consider that preferable to being an atheist (one can imagine exceptional instances, but this is a reasonable assumption). So even if you consider it a correct characterization to be called an atheist and thus anything from a neutral statement to a compliment, it is not reasonable to project that point of view on those who claim to be religious. It is a perfectly reasonable inference that they would take this as an insult.

  6. #6 Archetuethis Ferox
    July 12, 2006

    If you read the linked article, it is clear that Krebs is insulted at being called an atheist, not just being called a “tool of atheists”. Still, this does not have to be a disparragement of atheism. If I claimed to be a Democrat and someone else said “No you’re not, you are a Republican” I would be insulted (not just because R=evil), but because they are calling me a liar, a lunatic, or a idiot for not having a grasp of the difference. Calvert insults Krebs by denying Krebs’own personal understanding and knowledge of Christianity.

    I have this same argument with my entire family. These are people who cannot separate biblical literalism and Christianity. Their world is black/white – the Bible is true or it isn’t. Period.

    -berek

  7. #7 rlrr
    July 12, 2006

    I suppose these people and this guy are athiests…

  8. #8 PZ Myers
    July 12, 2006

    If somebody called me a Catholic, for instance, I would be quick to tell them that they had mischaracterized me, and would call into question their judgment and their sources of information, which are clearly way, way off. It would be a very useful handle for whacking the fool about the head. I would not, however, indignantly declare that I was insulted. I wouldn’t be.

    My gripe is that this is a strategic error. There are a whole lot of atheists, even in Kansas, who are on the side of KCFS. He’s let Calvert declare them anathema, without making a squeak about that aspect of the smear.

  9. #9 Alex
    July 12, 2006

    They want to disparage both evolution and atheism. They try to color evolution as unscientific and flawed and color atheism as satanic and evil. The reason for the ferver of course is that both of these concepts present the greatest threat to their ideology(ies) and are backed by real evidence, rational thought, and logic.

  10. #10 PaulC
    July 12, 2006

    I think that a mischaracterization is potentially insulting even in a neutral case. Suppose someone said to me “I can see you’re a big fan of college football. That’s why you went to Penn State.” At first I would probably correct them. In fact, I went to Penn State (years ago) but I never went to a single football game. If the same person then continued to call me a football fan, and asked me how the “Lions” are doing or what I think of Joe Paterno, I would eventually become aggravated at the situation. If this person showed a pattern of refusing to listen to my corrections and adapt their beliefs, the situation would eventually rise to the level of an insult.

    The insult is not that there is anything bad about liking football (no, I don’t get the whole thing about following sports teams, but it’s a legitimate hobby and seems to appeal to many people). The insult is that this person has shown absolutely no indication that they have listened to me or want to understand who I am as opposed to who they started out thinking I am.

    If someone is obviously not an atheist and I insist that they are an atheist, that is an insult even if some objective observer would consider it better to be an atheist. The insult is one of not giving any consideration to the person’s actual identity.

  11. #11 Brian
    July 12, 2006

    I don’t know that Calvert would be all that inaccurate in claiming that religious people who support teaching evolution are ‘tools of atheism.’ For many atheists (me included), the logical incompatibility between evolutionary theory (especially as it applies to humans) and the Judeo-Christian God was a big part of our turning away from religion. And the teaching of evolution does help the ‘atheist agenda,’ insofar as we want to open people’s eyes to how ludicrous religion is.

    But again, all of this is irrelevant, because evolution is our best understanding of how life in its current form came to be, our best understanding of the truth. And nobody has yet made a convincing case as to why people should not be taught the truth. Nobody, for example, is making the case that students should not be taught about how the US supported slavery, or the Indian wars, or My Lai, etc, etc, because that would make the students more a-patriotic. Instead of saying ‘evolution is fully compatible with religion,’ we should simply be saying ‘evolution is our best understanding of the truth. Do you want to teach students the truth or a lie, irregardless of how that affects their worldview?’

    This would also apply to ‘abstinence-only’ education and a multitude of other irritating things that the fundamental Christianists are doing.

  12. #12 gordonsowner
    July 12, 2006

    I have to agree with the majority of posters here… I think it is the “tool of…” construct that elicits the reaction of “i’m insulted by your insinutation…”. There seems to be 2 issues here: being called a tool, and being called an atheist. I think he needs to react to the first. He doesn’t necessarily need to come to the defense of athesists in this case. I think he is actually tactically correct to push the “You don’t have to be an atheist to support good science” meme, rather than get pulled in a tangential direction of defending atheism when the topic is supporting good science.

  13. #13 Shygetz
    July 12, 2006

    There are a whole lot of atheists, even in Kansas, who are on the side of KCFS. He’s let Calvert declare them anathema, without making a squeak about that aspect of the smear.

    Bah. The faithless have been declared anathema long before Calvert opened his pie-hole. If Krebs had insulted atheists, then I’d agree whole-heartedly. As it stands, he insisted that not all pro-science people are atheists, and that it is a blatant political lie to say so. He seems to be insisting that being pro-science is completely independent of faith.

    Look at it this way: if two Scotsmen get into one of those “no true Scotsman” arguments, do you cry because neither of them bothered to point out that it’s ok to not be Scottish?

  14. #14 PaulC
    July 12, 2006

    PZ:

    I would not, however, indignantly declare that I was insulted. I wouldn’t be.

    I’ll take you at your word on this. However, you’re confusing your notion of how someone “should” react with what a reasonable person might assume about how many people will actually react. I don’t have data, but it certainly strikes me as plausible that there are many (a) religious people who (b) accept evolution as the best explanation for the diversity of life on earth and (c) would in fact be insulted to called an atheist. Whether I’m right could be determined empirically through survey techniques. Whether people “should” be this way is entirely irrelevant. People should be lots of thing but sadly they’re not.

  15. #15 Steve Watson
    July 12, 2006

    ISTM that it is in itself insulting to deliberately mischaracterize someone as being something they’re not, whatever the intrinsic moral status of the “something” is (of course, it helps if the “something” chosen is a group of questionable public status). It’s also particularly invidious, as it puts the target in the awkward position of having to deny the charge without at the same time seeming to denigrate the “something”. Some years back a certain notorious t.o Creationist said that Jim Lippard was gay. Jim’s (typically measured and dignified) reply was (from memory): “I do not consider being called gay is an insult, but it was clearly meant as one, and it happens to be untrue”.

  16. #16 PZ Myers
    July 12, 2006

    it certainly strikes me as plausible that there are many (a) religious people who (b) accept evolution as the best explanation for the diversity of life on earth and (c) would in fact be insulted to called an atheist.

    Yes, exactly. Calvert is counting on that. I am saying that the approach should be a) we aren’t all atheists, and b) it’s simple bigotry to be insulted by an accusation of atheism. Krebs did (a), but failed to do (b).

  17. #17 Steve LaBonne
    July 12, 2006

    Or to be blunter than PZ, this sort of thing- which is rampant- feels very much like a stab in the back from our “allies” among moderate to liberal religionists.

  18. #18 Glen Davidson
    July 12, 2006

    I’ve been called a female on some boards. When I reacted, the persons did just what any bully would do, asked why I have something against women, considering that I apparently was insulted by being called one.

    We know the game. First the deliberate mischaracterization, then faulting the person who was deliberately mischaracterized for reacting against the deliberate mischaracterization. Nothing wrong with being a woman, but there is something wrong with calling a man a “woman” in an attempt to belittle him. Likewise, there is something wrong with calling theists “atheists” in order to support your own lies, and to attempt to take away the legitimacy of their own theological statements, even though there is nothing wrong with being “atheist”.

    IDists/creationists label evolutionary theists “atheists” in order to avoid dealing with the fact that Xianity and the other monotheisms are flexible enough to accommodate evolution (if Xianity is flexible enough to accommodate as many theological disagreements as it does, surely science can be fitted into at least some of its theologies). They’re trying to claim “the true faith” against more theologically liberal sorts, and are thus as much a threat to theological liberals as they are to the rest of us in their attempts to control the public square.

    They don’t want to admit that their own “truth” is questionable even within the parameters of Xianity, thus their labeling is meant to punish heresy among Xians, as well as to punish apostasy among the rest of us. In order to keep the discussion honest, we godless ones ought to be nearly as displeased with such falsifications as are those who are essentially being labeled as heretics by their “fellow Xians”.

    IOW, PZ would do more good if he’d focus on the dishonesty of the IDiots, rather than the fact that theologically liberal Xians don’t like being mischaracterized.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  19. #19 Halo Thane
    July 12, 2006

    Brian said
    “Instead of saying ‘evolution is fully compatible with religion,’ we should simply be saying ‘evolution is our best understanding of the truth. Do you want to teach students the truth or a lie, irregardless of how that affects their worldview?’”

    When you put it in those terms, I know how many, many people are going to answer this question -and that’s what’s so sad.

    Anyway, scientists keep saying how all theories are provisional- and this is our little boy’s eternal soul we are risking.

  20. #20 Alex
    July 12, 2006

    It’s a pity how these threads always deteriorate into debates about things not seen. Your assumptions about “eternal souls” is unsupported by any means. Period. I doubt you could carry a conversation that doesn’t refer to the mysterious and empirically unsubstantiated. That kind of talk belongs to children, not adults. Let’s keep pretend-land for the kids.

  21. #21 False Prophet
    July 12, 2006

    When I read the whole article, I think Krebs and the KCFS are pretty clear they have a “big tent” operation in place, representing members of many different faiths as well as agnostics and atheists. The KCFS advocates good science; it is not a religious advocacy group. Thus, I think Krebs is countering Calvert’s claim that the KCFS has a religious (or in this case, anti-religious) agenda, which is clearly not the case. Evolution is not a religious issue–it’s only a handful of loudly vocal idiots who’ve made it one.

    P.S. Just a little nitpick: “irregardless” is not a word–the intent can be fulfilled by using “regardless” without the need of any prefix.

  22. #22 Halo Thane
    July 12, 2006

    To Alex
    I fear I may not have been clear in my last post. My point is -there definitely are people who would suppress an accepted scientific fact from being taught in school – and for no other reason that it might make children think “undesirable” thoughts. My last statement was an example of how someone could “justify” doing so, using a quote I made up right here.

    Evolution was not SCIENTIFICALLY disputed for much of the time it was a forbidden topic in school. Again, creationism was kicked out of science classes NOT because of a massive uprising by parents for good science education, but because it was proven to be against the law.

    On this blog, we are used to logical arguments meeting logical arguments, but the world outside has people who go to the homeopath when they get sick. The mysterious and empirically unsubstantiated plays a major role in the world.

    That world is real. Sadly again my friend, THIS world is pretend.

    Coming back to the topic of this post, I meant to add – my lack of belief in homeopathy should not be taken as an insult to anybody’s worldview. Really.

  23. #23 Doozer
    July 12, 2006

    But why should anyone be insulted at being called an atheist?

    Here I gotta disagree with you, PZ. A devout (insert religion here) who accepts good science and is called an Atheist for hir troubles does indeed have a right to feel insulted. You seem to be identifying with the “-ism” in Atheism, rather than the “Athe-” bit.

    I’ve always thought tacking an “ism” on the end has been the ruin of many a good thing. Sex, capital, race, communes (hey, there aint a damn thing wrong with a commune, come on now…) and others I’m too lazy to come up with.

    OK, <flameporoof jammies ON>…

  24. #24 Kristine
    July 12, 2006

    “Evolution is our best understanding of how life in its current form came to be.” Yes, that’s the best way of putting it, not whether or not “evoluton is compatible with religion.” I don’t care if it is or not; I doubted Christianity long before I ever heard of evolution.

    Coulter claims that, barring evolutionary theory, atheists have no creation myth whereas Christians would always have a fallback position, but what she and her minions do not understand is that, even if evolution fell into disrepute tomorrow (and by the way, want a bet? I’m just going to keep saying that!) I would not curl up and weep with fear, but just say, “Well, back to the drawing-board.” I don’t need a creation myth; life is filled with uncertainty. It’s this studied unwillingness to negotiate uncertainty that is driving the creationism movement, and the right wing in general.

    Perhaps, to counter this obvious strategy of pitting the Christians and others of faith who accept evolution against the atheists, we could stress this open-ended outlook of not needing some hard and fast myth to cling to. Let’s take back the whole “open-minded” concept which is being so abused by creationists.

  25. #25 Michael Koppelman
    July 12, 2006

    People consider atheism an extreme view. This is funny, of course, but true. God-fearing people are scared of atheists because we’ve looked non-being in the face and decided we can handle it. We have no souls and are black, empty nihilists. God-fearing folk ARE offended if they are in any way lumped in with atheists. It is one of the biggest obstacles we have in the continued quest for a truly secular government — secularist = atheist = scary. It is a tactic of the theocrats.

    Secularist != atheist and atheist != scary. But most people seem to disagree with this.

  26. #26 Alex
    July 12, 2006

    Halo,

    Got it. I thought we were about to be rationalizing spirits, souls, and pixie dust. I agree with your sentiment. The fact of “The mysterious and empirically unsubstantiated plays a major role in the world” is what is truely sad.

  27. #27 julia
    July 12, 2006

    I try to respond more to people’s intentions than to exactly what they say. If someone appeared to me to be curious in saying, “you must be an atheist,” I’d just reply politely that I am not, and I wouldn’t feel insulted. But if someone yelled “Atheist!” at me with an apparent intent to hurt, I’d still correct him, but I would also note that he was insulting me. In this case, it sounds as though Calvert intended “atheist” as an insult.

    Nonetheless, it would have been better if Krebs had either left out the reference to “insult” or else made clear that the primary insult is in the accusation of being an unthinking “tool” of someone else’s agenda. Also, Krebs goes much too far, I think, when he says “they are trying to tar us and other people who accept the committee’s standards as atheists.” That “tar us” bit certainly leaves open the interpretation that Krebs himself in insulting atheists.

  28. #28 Great White Wonder
    July 12, 2006

    What Krebs fails to mention clearly is that smearing people by playing the atheist card is disgusting for two reasons.

    First, it’s false (as Krebs did note).

    Second, wake the FUCK UP and recognize that atheists are American citizens and parents and they live in Kansas and in every other state of the country and, in their roles as doctors, scientists, lawyers, mailmen and waste disposal workers, they contribute to a better society and are no less moral than religious people, especially lying religious scumbags like fucking Calvert.

    The Kansas Supreme Court has recently held, in fact, that promoting religious dogma is not a legitimate factor to take into consideration when evaluating the rationality of legislation. So Calvert is not only telling disgusting lies, he is telling irrelevant disgusting lies.

    Calvert is pure fucking scum. It can’t be said enough, though it should be noted he is hardly alone among the DI illuminati in his sick lying ways.

  29. #29 ebohlman
    July 12, 2006

    I’m with Steve Watson and Doozer on this one; deliberate mischaracterization is inherently insulting, regardless of the presence/absence of stigma with respect to what one’s being mischaracterized as. For example, deliberately misspelling someone’s name, even when it doesn’t turn the name into an insult, is insulting.

    Additionally, if someone professes a non-atheist belief system, characterizing him as an atheist directly implies that he’s not sincere in his professed beliefs, and that’s inherently insulting. Of course, the same would be true if the tables were turned; insisting that someone who professes atheism is actually a closeted believer would also be an insult.

    Finally, telling people that they have to be atheists in order to accept evolution is telling most people that they have to radically redefine their identities and give up some of their most cherished beliefs in order not to be at war with science. Simple psychology tells us that faced with such a (false) dilemma, most people will stick to their beliefs and many of them will decide that evolution is not for them, even though in reality they could accept it without any real sacrifice. The “best” you can get from that assumption is a “strong multiculturalist” scenario where evolution (and by extension all science that either directly depends on it or would be contradicted by the falsity of evolution) becomes a Diverse Way of Knowing that’s true only for atheists (who, in our Ideal World, are totally accepted and not stigmatized). In that scenario, science carries all the moral, intellectual and philosophical weight of an ice-cream flavor, and explanations of the natural world become minor matters of personal taste.

  30. #30 Steve Watson
    July 12, 2006

    Having read the linked article over, I’m inclined to agree that the “…and what’s so bad about atheism anyways?” part of the response is conspicuous by its absence. Could just be due to editing for brevity, but there’s a smell of that assumption not being challenged. He could at least have said “Besides, some of my best friends are atheists” ;-)

  31. #31 Jason
    July 12, 2006

    Creationists are liars, and the current Intelligent Design campaign in Kansas shows that there seem to be few exceptions. Their latest effort down there is to claim all supporters of evolution are atheists, which is obviously false, and is simply a ploy to generate knee-jerk opposition to good science.

    Yeah, but it’s not a lie when you portray ID as Creationism (the two are very dissimilar) and everyone who endorses ID as right-wing “fundy” Christian Creationist theocrats. Nope. Not one bit a lie.

  32. Yeah, but it’s not a lie when you portray ID as Creationism (the two are very dissimilar)

    You might want to talk to those “Of Pandas and People” folks about that:

    Barbara Forrest, a historian of the intelligent-design movement, testified at the trial that the first “Of Pandas and People” manuscripts contained the word “creationism” precisely where the words “intelligent design” appear now.

    (See http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2005/PA/793_new_yorker_on_kitzmiller_case_12_12_2005.asp )

  33. #33 Alex
    July 12, 2006

    Are you saying you agree with ID for other reasons than it fits in with your religous views? What are those reasons?

  34. #34 Great White Wonder
    July 12, 2006

    Glen

    I’ve been called a female on some boards.

    And a gasbag.

  35. #35 Glen Davidson
    July 12, 2006

    I’ve been called a female on some boards.

    And a gasbag.

    That’s true. You are a disgusting liar, and will say anything, especially once anyone discusses something beyond your extremely limited amount of knowledge.

    I had guessed that “Registered User” on PT was you, since both of you are exceedingly stupid and exceedingly dishonest. I thought you’d be more than willing to flout PT’s banishment of you and your vile ways, showing once again that you lack even a modicum of decency.

    And now I am done with this thread (not a promise, but an intention), since one who wrestles with a pig in the mud is at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the pig.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  36. #36 Fizz
    July 12, 2006

    How is ‘[A]ll supporters of evolution are atheists’ any worse than saying ‘creationists are liars?

    Moreover, the post stated:

    John Calvert is a sleazy, dishonest scumbag who will make up any lie that he thinks will advance the cause of state-sponsored ignorance, and please do point out that he’s misrepresenting the facts.

    Is it the case that Calvert stated explicitly that ‘all supporters of evolution are atheists’ or was he speaking in (even if hasty) generalizations? Were can this exact quotation be fund?

    Secondly, how many atheists deny evolution? Is it the case that one can say, at least with some confidence, that all atheist are evolutionists (perhaps in contemporary thought)?

    ~Fizz

  37. #37 Steve Watson
    July 12, 2006

    Yeah, but it’s not a lie when you portray ID as Creationism
    Why no, as a matter of fact, it’s not. Good on you for noticing.
    (the two are very dissimilar)
    I used to think there was a meaningful difference — namely that classic creationism said a lot of BS, while ID said nothing. Then the IDists gradually adopted more and more of the classic creationist BS about the fossil record and what-not, and most of the public advocates turned out to be YECs or OECs when you scratched hard enough (or caught them in an oxycontin moment), and it became obvious that ID was just a thin attempt to fly Creationism into American schools under the Constitutional radar.

    So, what was the difference again?

  38. #38 Great White Wonder
    July 12, 2006

    Glen

    That’s true. You are a disgusting liar,

    Yeah, that was the claim you made on PT which you were unable to back up. Buh-bye, blowhard.

  39. #39 Great White Wonder
    July 12, 2006

    How is ‘[A]ll supporters of evolution are atheists’ any worse than saying ‘creationists are liars?

    The first statement is simply false by a long shot. The second statement is almost entirely true. There may be a self-identifying creationist somewhere that isn’t reciting lies or is not willfully ignorant of the scientific facts relating to biology but I have yet to meet one of these people.

  40. #40 Coragyps
    July 12, 2006

    “Nobody, for example, is making the case that students should not be taught about how the US supported slavery, or the Indian wars, or My Lai, etc, etc, because that would make the students more a-patriotic.”

    Oh, if that were only true. We have that precise battle here in Texas every time history or social studies textbooks are up for review by the State Board of Education. And books have been rejected in the past for “not being patriotic enough.” Or mentioning global warming, or pollution, or condoms.

  41. #41 Great White Wonder
    July 12, 2006

    Glen

    I had guessed that “Registered User” on PT was you

    Keep guessing, my child.

  42. #42 Jonathan Badger
    July 12, 2006

    This is funny, of course, but true. God-fearing people are scared of atheists because we’ve looked non-being in the face and decided we can handle it. We have no souls and are black, empty nihilists.

    I think this is *exactly* why religious people find being called “atheist” insulting. Sure, many religious people also think that atheists are amoral villians, but this isn’t the primary cause of fear. Rather, they find the idea that there’s no afterlife so horribly bleak and are horrified that some people can live happy lives without a belief in this “safety net”.

    Even if the public finally learns that atheists generally don’t torture small animals for fun the fear of “non-being” will still be there and I don’t see any way of getting past that. Even many people who are intellectually atheists hate the concept of non-being emotionally — hence the fantasies of uploading their minds into computers that many transhumanists have. Fear of atheists isn’t mere bigotry that can be countered with examples of kind and altruistic atheists.

  43. #43 Jason
    July 12, 2006

    Alex:

    Are you saying you agree with ID for other reasons than it fits in with your religous views? What are those reasons?

    No, actually, I don’t agree with ID because ID is not Creationism. Not by a long shot. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

  44. #44 Great White Wonder
    July 12, 2006

    No, actually, I don’t agree with ID because ID is not Creationism. Not by a long shot. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

    ))Cue the sound of heads exploding((

  45. #45 Tom Curtis
    July 12, 2006

    Several points:

    First, Krebs said that theists have a right to be insulted for being called “tools of atheists”, not for being called atheists. There is a difference because, in US political parlance, a “tool of X” is invariably also a dupe of X.

    Second, even had he said that they have a right to be insulted by being called atheists, he would have been right (sort of). This follows because Christianity (and Hinduism etc) ought to be a core belief to how people understand themselves. If genuine, the first fact a Christian ought to indicate if ranking their beliefs in order of how they contribute to their personal understanding of who they are ought to be the fact that they are a Christian. This is not true (or ought not to be true for atheists). For atheists, the truth of their atheism merely shows that various religious bases of self identity are ungrounded.

    This means that calling a Christian an atheist is offensive, not because it implies their is any vice in athesim, but because it consitutes a refusal to engage with them as the people they are.

    The equivalent for PZ would be (I think) to call him a vitalist. Because of the shere improbability and incredibility of the claim, he would laugh of the insult. If 80% of the scientific community were likely to accept the claim, and if it were repeatedly made by many people, he would find it no laughing matter, but instead, extremely offensive.

    Finally, I do not see any evidence that religious people find a charge of atheism insulting out of fear.

  46. #46 Alex
    July 12, 2006

    Interesting claim. Why did they just do a simple substitution in the “Pandas” book. Is ID trying to hijack the legitimate science of creationism?

  47. #47 Steve Watson
    July 12, 2006

    Jason-the-Troll writes:No, actually, I don’t agree with ID because ID is not Creationism. Not by a long shot. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.
    And the difference would be what, exactly?

  48. #48 Jack Krebs
    July 12, 2006

    I am glad this has sparked so much discussion. I haven’t had the time to read every comment here, so I may be repeating what others have said, but let me add a few perhaps clarifying comments. I’ll start with more minor issues.

    1. Calvert’s exact statement was that “during the science hearings in May 2005, KCFS was the primary tool of the opposition and has been used and supported by national organizations to promote a materialist world view that seeks to demean the idea of creation.” I shortened this to “tool of atheists,” which I think is a fair paraphrase.

    2. I did not say that Calvert insulted me personally. I am pretty scrupulous about not bringing my own religious beliefs into any of these discussions.

    3. The big question is how atheism and atheists are treated here. We at KCFS had some interested conversation among ourselves about this issue as I worked on my speech. Here is the way I see it.

    There are three aspects to the situation.

    a. It is a political fact that among a large subset of the American population, atheism is considered a negative thing, and among the conservatives fundamentalists whom we are fighting, secular humanism and atheism are in fact the basic enemy. To these people, calling anyone an atheist is an insult, a irrespective of how the person being called an atheist feels about it. We had a good Board member defeated in 2002 when the opposition blanketed the district with postcards associating her with atheists for supporting good science.

    b. In the middle ground are people who are religious but support good science. For them, being called atheists or tools of atheism is an insult even if they have no negative feelings about atheism. People have a right to have their metaphysical beliefs correctly acknowledged, and so one who is not an atheist has a right to be offended when they are called such. For instance, Johnson has said the Christians who support evolution are in fact “worse than atheists because their hide their naturalism behind a veneer of religion.” Statements like this are insulting to religious people.

    c. As I said in my speech, KCFS includes everything from evangelical Christians to atheists, and science can accommodate all of those. I personally consider myself a advocate for tolerance and respect for religious diversity, which certainly includes a respect for materialism and atheism. In my opinion, atheists have a right to be offended about the way many religious people perceive them.

    I think I was careful in the way I worded things: I wrote

    “Calling us materialists and atheists just because we support mainstream evolutionary theory is a blatant falsehood, and those of us with other religious beliefs object to being characterized as such.”

    The first clause, in which “us” refers to both KCFS and supporters of science is a fact: it is a blatant falsehood to call someone an atheist just because they support good science. The second half of the first sentence says “those of us with other religious beliefs … ” – the intent being to make it clear that is was not atheism itself that was being objected to, but rather being labeled as a member of one group rather than incorrectly being labeled as member of another group. Now of course the fact that the insulters here – Calvert et al do consider it an insult to call someone an atheist is relevant here, but it’s not the main point in this sentence.

    I also wrote,

    “Many tens of thousands of religious Kansans would be offended, I am certain, to find themselves being called “tools of atheism” because of their support of science.”

    Here also I was clear to say “religious Kansans” and I also said “tools of atheism.” Just as with the Johnson quote above, when pressed about these religious people who accept evolution, Calvert et al will call them “confused” and “illogical,” reluctantly acknowledging that even though the people themselves think that they are indeed Christians, they aren’t really (they sometimes say that bluntly). Surely such Christians deserve to be offended by this.

  49. #49 G. Tingey
    July 13, 2006

    I think the following is important, because some people seem to have missed something …..
    { Begin Quote }
    “How is ‘All supporters of evolution are atheists’ any worse than saying ‘creationists are liars?

    The first statement is simply false by a long shot.
    { Interrupt }
    Agreed, but …
    {Reusme quote }
    “The second statement is almost entirely true. There may be a self-identifying creationist somewhere that isn’t reciting lies or is not willfully ignorant of the scientific facts relating to biology but I have yet to meet one of these people.”

    Very unfortunately, I have.
    In fact most of the churchgoers at fundie churches are not liars.
    They are gullible fools.

    Their leaders are liars, and usually blackmailers, as well, in terms of extracting money from their sheeple (even though all religion is blackmail)

    There is an American-controlled “church” here in my part of London, which does just this.
    Their “pastor” is a really nasty piece of work.
    But the fundamentalists who flock to his rantings are fools.

    How one splits the leader (or should I say “guide?”) from his followers is another matter.

    Perhaps PZ should put this one up for future discussion?

  50. #50 Jason
    July 13, 2006

    Interesting claim. Why did they just do a simple substitution in the “Pandas” book. Is ID trying to hijack the legitimate science of creationism?

    Could be. Or it could be that these people who did this one incident are, like you, either ignorant about the differences or are lying about them. There are people on both sides who think ID is or want to portray ID as “Creationism repackaged.” It’s not.

  51. #51 Jason
    July 13, 2006

    Jason-the-Troll writes:No, actually, I don’t agree with ID because ID is not Creationism. Not by a long shot. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.
    And the difference would be what, exactly?

    Well, let’s see…

    ID doesn’t state exactly who or what did the designing. ID leaves room for evolution. ID does not fit into the Christian doctrine of salvation. That’s a start right there.

  52. #52 Chris
    July 13, 2006

    For instance, Johnson has said the Christians who support evolution are in fact “worse than atheists because their hide their naturalism behind a veneer of religion.” Statements like this are insulting to religious people.

    Well, that’s a clear accusation of hypocrisy. Anyone has a right to be insulted by *that*.

    If someone is a Christian, I think they have a right to be insulted at being called a fake Christian; their Christianity isn’t any faker than anyone else’s (take that how you will).

    I think PZ may have been a little touchy this time. I can understand why, but it appears that you didn’t intend to accept or reinforce the “atheism is EEEvil!” concept.

  53. #53 Steve Watson
    July 13, 2006

    ID doesn’t state exactly who or what did the designing.
    Ah, so you’re speaking of the “says nothing” formulation of ID. Fair enough; I acknowledge in my first comment that this form exists (in an idealistic, theoretical sort of way). However, that doesn’t seem to be the version defended by the Dover school board in Kitzmiller, nor does it seem to be the version advocated by the authors of Of Pandas & People (as demonstrated by the bungled search-and-sub job). Judge Jones, having heard and weighed much testimony on the subject, determined that ID was Creationism, just with the G-word strategically omitted. Do you consider him “a liar”?

    ID leaves room for evolution.
    ID (the say-nothing version) seems to “leave room” for damn near everything. And yet, we find prominent ID advocates trotting out the classic anti-evo chestnuts about transitional fossils, etc. So, does ID accept evolution or not, or to what extent? Will the real ID please stand up?

    Is there, in fact, anyone actively promoting “say-nothing” ID? (Possible candidate: the DI’s token agnostic, Berlinski, but I haven’t read enough of him to know). Even if there is, which form is dominant in the public discourse?

    ID does not fit into the Christian doctrine of salvation. That’s a start right there.
    By “not fit into” do you mean “is incompatible with” or “is compatible with, but does not specifically advocate”, or what? I’d also like to understand where you’re coming from: are you an IDist trying to distinguish it from Creationism (for the usual strategic reasons), or a Creationist who rejects ID as distastefully wishy-washy, or what?

  54. #54 Steve Watson
    July 13, 2006

    Correction to last post: I forgot the part in Jason’s previous where he made clear his position as being anti-ID. Jason: apologies, and consider my last paragraph as “already answered”.

  55. #55 Julia
    July 13, 2006

    Jack Krebs,

    I appreciate your post with its additional clarifications.

    There was one comment quoted in PZ’s second link that I still feel uneasy about: “they are trying to tar us and other people who accept the committee’s standards as atheists.” That phrase “tar us” certainly seems to be saying something unpleasant about atheists.

    Do you think that maybe you went too far with that phrase?

  56. #56 Jack Krebs
    July 13, 2006

    Yes, I think “tar” is excessive. Wordsmithing around all these touchy issues is hard. I worked on those other two sentences quite a bit, and didn’t catch that one.

  57. #57 Steve Watson
    July 14, 2006

    Dr. Krebs: thank you for the clarification. It is, as I said way back, and invidious form of propaganda, as it can be difficult to find the language to say, in essence: “What if I am, but I’m not anyway?”

  58. #58 Larry Moran
    July 14, 2006

    Posted by Steve LaBonne

    Or to be blunter than PZ, this sort of thing- which is rampant- feels very much like a stab in the back from our “allies” among moderate to liberal religionists.

    Exactly. There’s a movement among our “allies” to distance themselves from atheists at all costs. This means abandoning 90% of scientists in order to appeal to some ill-defined group who might accept evolution as long as they were kept ignorant of its consequences.

    The religious moderates are happy to enlist the support of scientists when we are attacking religious fundamantalists but we are quickly abandoned when we apply the exact same reasoning to the rest of religion.

    Our “allies” made a tactical decision. They may not have anticipated that scientists would react in the way they have. They may have thought that we would sit on our hands while Dawkins was being maligned for speaking the truth. They were wrong.

    Theistic Evolution is just another version of Intelligent Design Creationism masquerading as science.

    Theistic Evolution: The Fallacy of the Middle Ground

  59. #59 PZ Myers
    July 14, 2006

    I just put up a link to that a few minutes ago, Larry — you really need a blog, because now all the furious shrieks against the godless are going to be made right here. I’ll be getting all the fun!

  60. #60 Steve_C
    July 14, 2006

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qANMjwLmo6Y&search=Monty%20Python

    “YES! WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT!!!”

    “I’m not”

    “shh”

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.