Stranger Fruit

In which I agree with Ed

Ed Brayton writes something that I have suspected for some time now:

To be honest, I’m rapidly becoming convinced that there are two very different groups involved in fighting against the ID public relations campaign to distort science education. The distinction between the two groups is that one is fighting to prevent ID creationism from weakening science education while the other is fighting, at least in their minds, to eliminate all religious belief of any kind, even those perspectives that have no quarrel with evolution specifically or science in general, from society.

I am firmly a member of the first group, as are the vast majority of those I work with on this issue. Genie Scott, Rob Pennock, Wes Elsberry, Nick Matzke, Jack Krebs and nearly everyone I consider colleagues in this regard recognize that the dispute is over evolution and creationism, not over theism and atheism. But some, like Larry Moran, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, Gary Hurd and others, are involved in an entirely different battle. For them, it’s not enough to protect science education from the attacks of some religious people; religion itself, in any form, is to be attacked and destroyed by any means necessary.

I too am firmly in the first group. What worries me here is that infighting among people who share a common cause (good science education) will prevent the effective championing of that cause. Hard to know what can be done.

Update 11/23: Readers sent here from other blogs may want to read this and this.

Comments

  1. #1 Rob Knop
    November 20, 2006

    Me too!

    I’m also in the first group.

    I would note that many people in the first group are avowed atheists. There are atheists willing to get along with those of different religious persuations. (Just like there are those among the religious willing to get along with atheists.)

    -Rob

  2. #2 Friend Fruit
    November 20, 2006

    For them, it’s not enough to protect science education from the attacks of some religious people; religion itself, in any form, is to be attacked and destroyed by any means necessary.

    I don’t know where you’re going with this. Has any of those people you mentined, Dawkins, Myers, et. al. advocated the elimination of religion and religious believers by stoning, disembowlment, burning at the stake, or other forms of auto de fe?

  3. #3 Friend Fruit
    November 20, 2006

    Public atheists like Dawkins and Myers get labeled “evangelical atheists” just for speaking their minds. Have a look at some real evangelican atheists. As I’m sure you’ll recognize, it’s a joke, and it’s a joke precisely because it never actually happens.

  4. #4 HP
    November 20, 2006

    The second group is a straw man, a fantasy. You know that, and Ed knows it, and to deny that is fundamentally dishonest.

    What do you hope to gain by lying?
    depp=true
    notiz=[Accusing me of intentionally lying is a nice way to get noticed. Bye, bye. -jml]

  5. #5 J-Dog
    November 20, 2006

    John – Put me in the 2nd group please, but
    “IxNay on the roupgay” discussion – I can hear Casey Luskin et al laughing at us…and I don’t like it when Casey Luskin laughs.

    My goals, my dreams and my entire life actually revolve around making Casey Luskin and his friends cry as a matter of fact, so let’s all us pro-science types just be friends, okay?

    Seriously, is this really that big a deal?

    So what if I think all religious people are all effing crazy? They think I am going to rot in hell – so what? What is important is to keep the YEC’s, biblical literalists and ID creationists like Casey and the DI out of our schools, and kept in their churches where they belong.

    I read Ed’s articles too- he makes a lot of sense about most things, but evidently this is a “hot button issue” with him. Sorry Ed, but you’ll not change my mind by preaching. ALL religious believers ARE idiots to me – ABOUT THIS SUBJECT – but maybe not about everything. I can compartmentalize, I suspect most atheists can, although I would not presume to speak for PZ and Dawkins, who can both take care of themselves quite well, thank you!

    I just want to throw my $.02 into the discussion, with the hope that at least some of us Type 1′s and Type 2′s can present a common front against our common enemy and continue to develop the “Big Tent” of consensus.

  6. #6 John Lynch
    November 20, 2006

    I just want to throw my $.02 into the discussion, with the hope that at least some of us Type 1′s and Type 2′s can present a common front against our common enemy and continue to develop the “Big Tent” of consensus.

    And I agree. Hence, the worry I expressed in the original post.

  7. #7 Andrea Bottaro
    November 20, 2006

    “… religion itself, in any form, is to be attacked and destroyed by any means necessary.”
    I agree with Friend Fruit that Ed badly missed on this one. Dawkins etc do not advocate to “destroy” religion, but they do advocate persuading religionists by argumentation that religion is utter nonsense and a societal net evil, using tones that sometimes are aggressive, and sometimes just sound so because of the insulation from challenge religion usually enjoys in our society.

    I think it is perfectly OK to argue whether this is a good strategy in the context of the evolution/Creationism debate, and it is clear that PZ and Dawkins have much larger socio-political goals than simply defending the integrity of school curricula. Still, demonizing them plays in the hands of Creationists just as much some of their most intemperate remarks do.

    As far as I am concerned, I am perfectly happy to have Ed and PZ, Dawkins and Miller all on the good side of the fight, and I am happy they all feel entitled to express their opinions and argue with each other. I think ultimately this shows that subscribing to good science does not cage anyone in any particular metaphysical position, just like it doesn’t restrict anyone to a particular political side. Tha can only be good.

  8. #8 PZ Myers
    November 20, 2006

    religion itself, in any form, is to be attacked and destroyed by any means necessary.

    Have you considered the possibility that the problem really lies in the dishonest mischaracterizations by certain members of this first group? No, thanks, I’d rather not be associated with that kind of bullshit.

  9. #9 John Lynch
    November 20, 2006

    I am perfectly happy to have Ed and PZ, Dawkins and Miller all on the good side of the fight, and I am happy they all feel entitled to express their opinions and argue with each other. I think ultimately this shows that subscribing to good science does not cage anyone in any particular metaphysical position, just like it doesn’t restrict anyone to a particular political side. Tha[t] can only be good.

    And, once again, I agree. However, is it really productive to have people like Larry Moran referring to those who don’t agree with his position (and are still on the side of the angels) as “wimps”?

  10. #10 PZ Myers
    November 20, 2006

    By comparison with us avenging angels of destruction, they are wimps.

  11. #11 John Lynch
    November 20, 2006

    PZ made me laugh. Bad PZ.

  12. #12 coturnix
    November 20, 2006

    People who focus narrowly on preventing IDC form entering schools do not see the big picture, i.e., that Creationism Is Just One Symptom Of Conservative Pathology. Thus, people like Dawkins, Myers (or me) are fighting against the bad politics of the church. While Lennonnesque Imaginings of a world without religion are cute fantasies, we are a little bit more realistic. We know that religion and even organized religion can be and has been harnessed for change for good (as in Civil Rights movement) and religion is here to stay no matter what we do. So, we want to fight against the political aggressiveness of churches in all spheres – creationism being just one of the prongs of their multi-prong strategy to roll back Enlightement. While evoluitonary biologists and philosophers of science are best suited to counteract creationism and reproductive and developmental biologists to counteract abstinence-only education, opposition to abortion, stem-cell research and cloning, and psychologists and others should use their knowledge to counteract other prongs of their strategy, we need to all be aware that there is a big picture and that we need to work on it all together. Part of the battle is to force the mealy-mouthed “moderates” to choose sides. Different targets will responds to different tactics. Dawkins/Harris/Dennett tactic WILL work as one part of the strategy, targeting particular groups, and moreover changing the environment in which the debate is fought (a little bit of niche-construction). Ken Miller and those folks have their roles and can move over other types of people to choose sides.

  13. #13 Rob Knop
    November 20, 2006

    So what if I think all religious people are all effing crazy? They think I am going to rot in hell – so what?

    One big part of the problem, as demonstrated by this quote, is that you do not know what “all” religious people believe. You describe a caricature belief that is held by some, and then ascribe it to all.

    And, yet, somehow you claim to be holding the only thoughtful position. Really, it’s just another case of jingoism, hating the enemy that you’ve come to convince yourself is out there than the one that really is.

    Have you considered the possibility that the problem really lies in the dishonest mischaracterizations by certain members of this first group? No, thanks, I’d rather not be associated with that kind of bullshit.

    PZ, you shoud, sometime, somehow, try reading your blog and the virulent commenters you get as a person who is not an atheist, and yet is all in favor of good science education and fighting against the creationists.

    I know that’s not possible, even as a thought experiment, but try it.

    I’ve tried it, and I come away with the view that PZ Myers is a strident bigot with whom an attempt at rational discourse is not worth the effort.

    And, yeah, you may well gonna come back and say that that’s me not understanding what you’re saying and being too sensitive or something– or even me being deulsional because I’m not an atheist and unable to really evaluate those parts of my thought, and therefore unreliable in giving a reaction to your posts. Which would be pretty ironic, if you think about it. But the fact is that you’re in group 2, and you are coming across to many as fitting the description of group 2 that Ed gives, and while you’d love to blame them for mischaracterizing you, it might, just prehaps might, be worth stepping back from your arrogance for a moment or two to see if perhaps there’s anything in your own behavior that justifies Ed’s characterization.

    -Rob

  14. #14 Rob Knop
    November 20, 2006

    Ak… I edited that poorly and failed to delete words, and it came out a bit of a mess. Oh well, I think what I’m trying to say gets through.

    Many have made a similar complaint about Richard Stallman in the Free Software movement. Many value him as an ideological anchor… but when he talks and expresses himself, it is very clear that he disdains those who do not share his ideological purity; simply because they don’t have the ideological purity, Stallman considers them sellouts and wishy-washy passive propogators of the problem.

    -Rob

  15. #15 PZ Myers
    November 21, 2006

    PZ, you shoud, sometime, somehow, try reading your blog and the virulent commenters you get as a person who is not an atheist

    How? By clubbing myself over the head until I’m woozy and confused?

    Maybe you ought to step back for a moment or two to see if perhaps your advocacy of universal lobotomies for atheists might justify a characterization of your behavior as irrational and evil.

  16. #16 Rob Knop
    November 21, 2006

    Maybe you ought to step back for a moment or two to see if perhaps your advocacy of universal lobotomies for atheists might justify a characterization of your behavior as irrational and evil.

    Do you intentionally parody here? At times I can’t tell if you’re being ironically extreme in the name of humor, or if you honestly meant to say what you’ve said in earnest.

    Just in case it’s the latter: your post makes the point of Ed and others quite clear.

    -Rob

  17. #17 John Lynch
    November 21, 2006

    >mealy-mouthed “moderates”

    By whom you mean?

  18. #18 JohnnieCanuck
    November 21, 2006

    So here I am thinking that god belief is just wishful thinking supported by a lot of rationalization and self deception. I also accept evolution as a good explanation of life as we find it. The believers’ concern is that evolution makes their deception harder to perpetrate.

    Thus, ID/creationism is attacking me on two fronts, lying about evolution and doing so in order to convert people to religion. Ref. Kitzmiller.

    To stand arm in arm with theistic evolutionists who also oppose ID, you say I shouldn’t complain about the religion that motivates it all. There are also those creationists who oppose ID because it is bad (not their) religion. By your logic should I be adjusting my stance to include these people as well?

    So you found an octopus tentacle trying to make a seafood snack out of evolution. Not once, but several times. Each time it was blocked, it has come back, always trying to discover a better strategy. Why do you think it is a good idea to ignore the whole octopus just because you only care about opposing what one of its tentacles is doing?

    No, I don’t think cephalopods are bad. I just have them on my mind, thanks to PZ.

    I could wonder if people are trying to avoid the perception that atheists are “gettin’ uppity” and don’t “know their place”. We are yet another annoying minority demanding respect and consideration at some cost to the privileges of the majority.

  19. #19 coturnix
    November 21, 2006

    ‘mealy-mouthed’ moderates are, for instance, “liberal Christians” who believe in evolution and are generally on right side of issues but do not raise any voices against their fundie brethren and, when push comes to shove, side with them (as they are all Christians) against us.

  20. #20 PZ Myers
    November 21, 2006

    Rob: Whoooosh.

  21. #21 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    November 21, 2006

    1) Outspoken atheist supporters of science are willing to stand beside you in the fight against ID and other forms of Creationism, which constitute religion sticking its nose in wrong places.

    2) You tell the outspoken atheists to shut up, sit down and enjoy their seats in the back of the bus; they are not welcome because their views on religion cause fear and loathing in

    3) Vast hordes of religionists who have irrational terror of atheism due to poor education and brain-washing by preachers who defame atheists and atheism on a regular basis, suggesting such absurd things as the impossibility of atheists being moral.

    Do you really think you are correctly pointing your finger at the real root of the problem? (Hint: I think it’s point #3)

  22. #22 AndyS
    November 21, 2006

    Part of the battle is to force the mealy-mouthed “moderates” to choose sides.

    I’ll buy that. However, to that end the Myers/Moran approach simply pushes them to the wrong side. (IMO Dawkins is a moderate relative to M&M.) Is there any better way to push someone away than calling them an idiot and using language that makes your side sound like a collection of arrogant bigots? In particular, the M&M style is to condemn ALL religion as if every religious belief is similar to the insanity of the rightwing evangelicals.

    Have you considered the possibility that the problem really lies in the dishonest mischaracterizations by certain members of this first group? No, thanks, I’d rather not be associated with that kind of bullshit.

    “dishonest mischaracterizations” is an example of M&M hubris that tries to fly under the flag of blunt speech. For these guys it is not enough to paint ALL religion as insane, they also claim that even pro-science atheists who demonstrate an awareness of the diversity of religious belief lack intellectual honesty. I have not heard Dawkins talk like that.

    As to Mustafa’s three points: no one claims #2. I just want them to recognize they are acting like bigots and change their ways. I have no idea how to do that anymore. Any attempt to engage in a constructive discussion of this issues is met with insult and ridicule (as demonstrated by PZ’s remark above) — just like trying to talk to a religious fanatic. Irony abounds.

  23. #23 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    November 21, 2006

    As to Mustafa’s three points: no one claims #2

    I claim #2, and this thread is evidence of it.

    Now, just to fulfill your expectations:
    You’re ugly. Get over it.

  24. #24 coturnix
    November 21, 2006

    The M&M approach is only going to push the fundies away and they are already as far away as can be. The moderates – those who are culturally religious but on the right side on most scientific, moral and social issues – are unlikley to be pushed away by M&M rhetoric, and may even get a validation from it and get pushed in the opposite direction.

  25. #25 PZ Myers
    November 21, 2006

    as demonstrated by PZ’s remark above

    Do I need to carefully explain the irony in Rob’s complaint to you, too?

  26. #26 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    November 21, 2006

    I am firmly a member of the first group, as are the vast majority of those I work with on this issue. Genie Scott, Rob Pennock, Wes Elsberry, Nick Matzke, Jack Krebs and nearly everyone I consider colleagues in this regard recognize that the dispute is over evolution and creationism, not over theism and atheism. But some, like Larry Moran, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, Gary Hurd and others, are involved in an entirely different battle. For them, it’s not enough to protect science education from the attacks of some religious people; religion itself, in any form, is to be attacked and destroyed by any means necessary.

    As discussed on Larry Moran’s blog Sandwalk, there is an article in the Times(London):

    Godless Dawkins challenges schools
    Steven Swinford

    RICHARD DAWKINS, the Oxford University professor and campaigning atheist, is planning to take his fight against God into the classroom by flooding schools with anti-religious literature.

    Richard Dawkins fighting against God? My money is on Dawkins, as God is likely to be a no-show. But anyway, what form does this “fight against God” take?

    He is setting up a charity that will subsidise books, pamphlets and DVDs attacking the “educational scandal” of theories such as creationism while promoting rational and scientific thought.

    There you have it. An educational campaign against creationism is characterized as a “fight against God.”

    Now, Lynch’s response to this sort of wildly irrational characterization by the creos is to blame Dawkins.

  27. #27 John Lynch
    November 21, 2006

    Now, Lynch’s response to this sort of wildly irrational characterization by the creos is to blame Dawkins.

    What the hell are you smoking? My response “is to blame Dawkins”? I have made no such response.

  28. #28 Rob Knop
    November 21, 2006

    Rob: Whoooosh

    Woooosh yourself.

    You are so amazingly irritating that it’s difficult to tell when you’re being straight and when you’re being deliberatly extreme. I know you don’t get this.

    -Rob

  29. #29 DuWayne
    November 21, 2006

    I could care less how anyone feels about my spiritual beliefs. They are mine, I am happy to discuss them if someone asks. They do not affect my stance on any social/political issues, except that it might contribute to my belief that the state and religion need to be kept entirely apart. Too, it likely influences my belief in the sanctity of human life – which is heavily reflected in my belief that a woman’s body is her own, an expansive welfare state, etc.

    My point is that I am not keen on being judged for my spiritual beliefs. I would much prefer to be judged by my actions and interface with society. I am not asking for immunity from religious criticism, for myself or anyone else. I am not asking that people consider the religious nature of anyones beliefs, a reason not to question them or even mock them. I just don’t think it makes sense to consider me the enemy, if I have the same values that you do.

    It is troubling to realise that my values probably match those of nearly everyone here. From what little of PZ Myers I have read, our values are nearly identical. The only point on which we would digress, is that I have spiritual beliefs. Yet that is enough to make me the enemy. That is sad and shallow.

  30. #30 PZ Myers
    November 22, 2006

    Ummm, DuWayne? I know you get this idea that I’m planning to herd you and your fellow church-goers into a concentration camp from people like Rob and Ed, but, well…

    …they’re making shit up.

    And Rob? I thought my intent would be clear from the fact that you should know that you yourself are not planning to lobotomize any atheists, and that the parallel with Ed’s ridiculous claim that I plan to attack and destroy religion “by any means necessary” would be obvious. You know, I thought that you would then see that imputing false motives to me is as incorrect as assigning such a palpably absurd plan to you.

    Unless, of course, you are planning to lobotomize us, so that the idea that atheists are hoping to lock all the Christians away becomes conceivable by comparison.

    You bastard! Your nefarious scheme has been exposed now.

  31. #31 DuWayne
    November 22, 2006

    Ok, PZ, my apologies if you do not consider me your enemy. I am not sure where you got the impression I thought you wanted to send me to a concentration camp. I should hope you wouldn’t.

    I have just been given the impression that you have no interest in associating with anyone who has religious beliefs. Which would be sad as we both support many of the same social issues – including the seperation of church and state and keeping science in, religion out, of science classes. And how sad for the children of LGBT couples, and the couples themselves, if you would rather people like me didn’t associate with you in the fight for their security and legal protections through marriage or civil unions.

    I can see just from my statement how silly this is. Of course someone as rational and intelligent as yourself, wouldn’t be such a fool as to let my religious inclinations overshadow my support for critical social issues that are destroying lives.

  32. #32 GH
    November 23, 2006

    I’ve tried it, and I come away with the view that PZ Myers is a strident bigot with whom an attempt at rational discourse is not worth the effort.

    Rob,

    I come from much the same place you do and frankly I think you have some strange personal axe to grind here. I do not see any bigotry in PZ at ALL, and I mean at ALL. He speaks his mind and typically seems to only offend those with silly beliefs.

    The only point on which we would digress, is that I have spiritual beliefs. Yet that is enough to make me the enemy. That is sad and shallow.

    He never said that there fella. You need to read him rather than what others say about him.

    But I see you corrected that in the next post, my apologies…

  33. #33 Gary Hurd
    November 24, 2006

    My My My.

    I tend to some other interests for a few days and all Hell breaks lose. Ed Brayton, as usual, is throwing accusations around trying to seem important. One of his more absurd
    statements is;

    But some, like Larry Moran, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, Gary Hurd and others, are involved in an entirely different battle. For them, it’s not enough to protect science education from the attacks of some religious people; religion itself, in any form, is to be attacked and destroyed by any means necessary.

    First, I am flattered to be mentioned together with Moran, Myers and Dawkins, but it is totally inappropriate. I have at best a tiny fraction of the scientific accomplishments of these men, or their public influence. Brayton has never contributed to science or education and has comparatively little influence, so this is clearly a “division by zero” problem.

    Nor have I ever considered it necessary to eliminate religion, regardless of means. I don’t think that science can do this in any event. The only certain path to atheism I know of is to study theology.

    Let me propose a simple analogy; the pro-science education effort is like a dog. There is the wagging tail at one end, and the bark and even teeth at the other. PZ, Dawkins and
    others are at the front. Pat, Nick and others are the friendly, inclusive wagging tail and Ed Brayton is the little part just below the wag. I’m the little flea whispering that if you don’t want to divide forces, then ignore divisive people like Ed who demand that you
    have to be on “his” side and don’t step in the mess he leaves on the floor.

  34. #34 John Lynch
    November 24, 2006

    Brayton has never contributed to science or education and has comparatively little influence

    But has been doing sterling work in Michigan to sustain strong science standards as a concerned citizen. Of course, that doesn’t count.

    I’m the little flea whispering that if you don’t want to divide forces, then ignore divisive people like Ed who demand that you have to be on “his” side and don’t step in the mess he leaves on the floor.

    This is bloody ironic considering it was you with your paranoid fantasies regarding Paul Mirecki (sp?) that was the divisive force at Panda’s Thumb. Oh, I forget, to your mindset (to borrow PZ’s words), PT is probably best seen as “a hotbed of simpering theistic evilutionists and an arm of the Neville Chamberlain school of appeasement.”

  35. #35 Gary Hurd
    November 24, 2006

    And John, the Mireckic case played out exactly like I called it.

    Get back to me when you have a few years of forensic experience, but only after you have been certified as an expert for both prosecution and defense.

  36. #36 John Lynch
    November 24, 2006

    > the Mireckic case played out exactly like I called it.

    I seem to remember that you claimed that Mirecki was followed and beaten up by two professionals. I also don’t remember anyone being caught or prosecuted (thus vindicating your claim to have called it exactly as it was). Maybe I’m wrong.

    And let’s remember your last words on the Thumb, shall we?

    > This is my last post to Panda’s Thumb. There are contributors to PT whose personal politics are far closer to the rightist mob revealed above than to people with whom I will remain associated.

    This sort of crap (and your comments above) only further a bad impression of your attitude.

  37. #37 Robert O'Brien
    November 25, 2006

    Dr. Hurd:

    Please apply your forensic expertise to the case of Myers and Dawkins’ missing research.

  38. #38 Gary Hurd
    November 25, 2006

    There is little I could do to improve your impression of me. I don’t expect to.

    I called that there would be a most pro forma investigation. Ed was carping about fake injuries, and load of other nonsense. And Ed Brayton’s politics are far right, and I stopped being associated.

    Your earlier notion that a Cato Institute supporter is a friend of education seems to me to be strange. The Cato “solution” to problems in public education is to eliminate public education. Some friends.

  39. #39 Robert O'Brien
    November 25, 2006

    And Ed Brayton’s politics are far right, and I stopped being associated.

    That is an absurd statement. Ed Brayton is a left-tilting, classical liberal.

  40. #40 John Lynch
    November 25, 2006

    (Ignoring your ludicrous claim that Ed Brayton is “far right”. You don’t like Ed, we get that.)

     You said:

    > I called that there would be a most pro forma investigation.

    And this took “a few years of forensic experience” and certification “as an expert for both prosecution and defense” to call (even if it is true). Wow. All those hard years of study have worked out well for you.

  41. #41 John Lynch
    November 25, 2006

    Since this has devolved into Gary Hurd attacking Ed Brayton, I’m closing the comments down.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!