Pharyngula

Working together against the creationists…

Red State Rabble declares that we must stand united against the common enemy, creationism and such anti-scientific forces of unreason that threaten our secular institutions. That’s a nice, fuzzy statement, which I personally suspect is unrealistic and unworkable, but let’s give it a try.

Our first test: the Pope has made an interesting statement.

Pope Benedict XVI on Monday issued his strongest criticism yet of evolutionary theory, calling it “unreasonable”.

Speaking to a 300,000-strong crowd in this German city, the former theological watchdog said that, according to such theories derived from Charles Darwin’s work, the universe is “the random result of evolution and therefore, at bottom, something unreasonable”.

He has also just spoken out against secular societies—it seems that secularism is a greater problem than radical Islam.

But the section on Islam made up just three paragraphs of the speech, and he devoted the rest to a long examination of how Western science and philosophy had divorced themselves from faith — leading to the secularization of European society that is at the heart of Benedict’s worries.

I presume we all going to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in agreement that the Pope is wrong, he has completely misrepresented evolutionary theory, and that he should not be concerned about secular society—it is every person’s privilege to refuse to participate in any religion? We should all deplore his fallacious intrusion into a scientific matter, and all of us who are together on the side of science should unambiguously repudiate his opinion.

In the spirit of our shared community, I’ll step aside and refrain from chewing out the Pope, and defer that privilege to my colleague, Ken Miller, who is always willing to draft letters criticizing those who harm the cause of getting the public to recognize the validity of science. Perhaps he can draft a rollicking good letter telling the Pope where he can get off? I think it should definitely mention that Pope Benedict’s clerical status gives him absolutely, positively no credibility or status in assessing biological issues, and perhaps points out that we all stand as one against efforts to undermine science, whether they’re made by a creationist pope or some uppity god-hating atheist.

It should be something we can all agree on.

To unity!

Comments

  1. #1 Great White Wonder
    September 13, 2006

    Just out of curiosity, have any atheists here been smited by an invisible sky daddy?

    I don’t want to get too deep into worshipping Dawkins if there are risks involved.

  2. #2 G. Tingey
    September 14, 2006

    Great white wonder hit it spot-on when he(?) said:””Only this God saves us from being afraid of the world and from anxiety before the emptiness of life.”

    Sounds eerily similar to the cry of a drug addict.”

    EXACTLY!

    Religion is a self-inflicted drug.
    This is where Dawkins’ idea of a meme is useful ….

  3. #3 frank schmidt
    September 14, 2006

    One of the great sources of sophistry in this debate is the word “random.” Random means two things: Meaning (1): conforming with the laws of probability. Examples: life insurance, gambling and evolution. Meaning (2): Without direction, purposeless. Creationists, as part of their propaganda campaign, and unfortunately, many on this site, conflate the two. We do so at our peril.

    While (2) implies (1), the difference between Miller, the Pope, etc. vs. PZ, Dawkins and others, is whether (1) implies (2). Miller and the Pope would say no; PZ and Dawkins say yes.

    That is a metaphysical question, and ultimately isn’t subject to test. So in the effort to defend science, which is what this is all about, it would be useful to bracket the metaphysical question and get on with the real struggle, which is political.

  4. #4 Susan Brassfield Cogan
    September 14, 2006

    “No one is asking anyone else to shoot their parents. ‘k?”

    it’s a metaphor. It’s why people cling to the idea of even an abusive God. Emotionally they view atheists as orphans. The reason atheists are viewed as bad people is because they have no “parental” supervision.

    I don’t think you are demanding that Miller or the pope deconvert. I think you are demanding that Miller at least, not find any relationship between science and his religion. That’s impossible for him because they exist in the same universe.

    “Ed, Ken has done good for us. That does not mean he gets excused from criticism”

    Who says he does? But I know why Miller criticises Dawkins (and by extension, you). Dawkins pokes sticks at religionists from the safety of England knowing nobody is going to throw a rock through his window. He leaves the rest of us over here to clean up the mess.

    If evolution ever has broad acceptance in the US it will be because people manage to harmonize it with their belief in God and incorporate it into their Christianity. It’s not scientific, but we aren’t talking about science, are we? If evolution is ever accepted here it will be because of the efforts of people like Ken Miller and Glenn Morton. Not Dawkins’ methods and not yours. Sorry, but there’s nothing I or anyone can do about that.

    Wait!

    “Not Dawkins’ methods and not yours.”

    I take that back. You and Dawkins are vital because you teach. Teaching is extremely important to counteract 40 years of lies about evolution. Almost 20 years ago when I started debating creationists it was almost impossible to get someone with a PhD in biology to even acknowledge there was a debate. That left us foot soldiers fighting bazookas with sticks and rocks. A lot of what you and Dawkins do is preaching to the choir, but the choir needs to learn the stuff you “preach.” It gives us the ammo we need to push back against all the misinformation ordinary, nonfundamentalist, noncreationist people have about evolution. Miller teaches too. He gives us the language we need to fight back all the religious nonsense around evolution. Don’t get me wrong, I adore you all.

  5. #5 Steve LaBonne
    September 14, 2006

    Dawkins pokes sticks at religionists from the safety of England knowing nobody is going to throw a rock through his window.

    Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why it’s safer to do that in Britain, and whether continued appeasement of religious presumption and belligerency is relly a good way to bring the US closer that desirable state of affairs? Or, whether, given the Blair government’s consistent appeasement of religious intolerance of all stripes, the worry Dawkins has expressed, that this happy state may be on the way to being lost in Britain itself, might indeed have some justification? For my part I strongly agree with the sentiments that Larry Moran expressed on a related thread.

  6. #6 AndyS
    September 14, 2006

    Susan,

    I appreciate your clearly written, ever so pragmatic, comments.

    If evolution is ever accepted here [in the USA] it will be because of the efforts of people like Ken Miller and Glenn Morton. Not Dawkins’ methods and not yours. Sorry, but there’s nothing I or anyone can do about that.

    Sadly, there is nothing that you or anyone can do that might change the way PZ and those like him approach religion. They see it as something akin to a holy war or maybe see themselves as the shining knights of science out to slay the terrible dragons of religion.

    Ed Brayton has a couple of interesting posts on the subject:

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/09/drawing_religious_battle_lines.php

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/09/pz_gets_it_wrong.php

    PZ,

    Do you understand that we atheists think there is a random component to the universe, but that that does not mean we consider our lives meaningless?

    What’s with this “we atheists” line? Many atheists have and do think life is meaningless. Apparently the only thing “we atheists” agree on is the one proposition that defines us: there is no god or, to the pragmatically minded, the concept of god is not a useful one.

  7. #7 PZ Myers
    September 14, 2006

    Absurdism, and one bit of truth:

    I think it is to deflect attention from the growing awareness that Darwin’s theory–properly understood in its implications, as, say Richard Dawkins or P.Z. Myers fully do–does challenge serious theism.

    …whatever they think it means.

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