On Accommodationism

Chris Mooney has an explanation of the “accommodationist” position that deserves better than to be buried in a Links Dump:

I don’t see a need to pry into how each individual is dealing with these complicated and personal matters of constructing a coherent worldview. Rather, from a political and public perspective, I want them all to integrate modern science into that worldview. And, from a civil libertarian perspective, I don’t want their religion telling me what to do. (Especially interfering with my access to alcohol on Sundays!)

Insofar as I’m an accommodationist, then, it’s not because I don’t see the incongruity between relying on faith, and looking for evidence, as bases for knowing. Rather, it’s because I know that many very intelligent people are struggling all the time to make their peace with this incongruity in their own way-a peace that works for them. And so long as they’re not messing with what our kids learn-or, again, trying to ram their views down our throats-then good on ’em.

We need to encourage people to make a peace between religion and science that meets their personal needs without turning them into enemies of science or, essentially, theocrats.

(Emphasis in original.)

I really don’t have anything to add to that. Josh Rosenau does, though, and his refresher on the history of the Scopes Monkey Trial is also worth a read.


  1. #1 Dave W.
    June 26, 2009

    If that’s Mooney’s view on accomodationism, then he needs to be criticizing the NCSE, too. From a civil liberties perspective, they are trying to thrust a particular religious view onto every theist. Which is what got Coyne started in the first place.

    Regardless the “New Atheists'” views on religion, the question that began it all is “should organizations like the NCSE be involved in promoting particular theologies?”

  2. #2 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    June 26, 2009

    As a “screechy monkey,” I see no reason that scientists need to apologize for science in trying to accommodate the religious beliefs of others. Auto mechanics do their thing without having to say “But you can still learn about engines without having to give up your faith! No, seriously!”

  3. #3 Pierce R. Butler
    June 26, 2009

    … -a peace that works for them.

    In the same way that homeopathy works for some people and orgone energy works for others.

    It’s all good, right?

  4. #4 Sam C
    June 26, 2009

    Religion is total tripe, but sometimes I think it’s important to set aside the questions of right and wrong, truth v. beauty, scientific method v. religious faithy tales etc. and remember two important issues:
    (1) this is a small world, and we have to live together on it somehow
    (2) you don’t win converts to your cause by relentlessly shouting abuse at them

    Perhaps that laid-back view is mildly accommodationist, but I think it’s more of a “calm down, calm down” approach (apologies to Harry Enfield’s scousers!).

    It means accepting church bells ringing on a Sunday morning when one wants to sleep in, not disrupting church parades, covering one’s head in a synagogue, not walking onto the altar area in a cathedral, it does NOT mean ignoring Catholic priests buggering their flocks, Islamic “justice” in Saudi cutting off people’s hands or heads, Hindus attacking mosques, etc.

    Where that line between tolerance and outrage is to be drawn is a personal choice. But outrage at everything religious is unproductive, however self-righteously smug it makes the shouter feel.

  5. #5 rob
    June 26, 2009

    scientist: Listen, strange men living in the sky distributing psalms is no basis for a system of rational inquiry. Supreme descriptive power derives from a methodical verification of theories, not from some farcical interpretation of ancient books.

    theist: Be quiet!

    scientist: Well, but you can’t expect to discover scientific explanations of the world just interpretin’ literature some airy tart dictated at you!

    theist: Shut up!

    scientist: I mean, if I went ’round saying the universe was created in 6 days just because some arsonous bint talked to me from a burning bush, they’d put me away!

    theist: Shut up, will you. Shut up!

    scientist: Ah, now we see the intolerance inherent in the system.

    theist: Shut up!

    scientist: Oh! Come and see the intolerance inherent in the system! Help, help! I’m being repressed!

    theist: Bloody atheist!

    scientist: Oh, what a give-away. Did you hear that? Did you hear that, eh? That’s what I’m on about. Did you see him repressing me? You saw it, didn’t you?

  6. #6 Kaleberg
    June 28, 2009

    I always say that religion is about talking to God, but science is about listening to what God says. It’s easy to construct a belief system around materialism. If nothing else, one’s faith is reinforced daily by one’s encounters in the real world.

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