Stranger Fruit

Setting the record straight

Larry Moran seems to think that I belong to the “Neville Chamberlain ‘apeasement’ [sic] school” of evolutionists. So what does one need to believe to be part of this school? Moran, having spent long hours talking with me on these issues, and knowing me so well, can enlighten us. In short, one must believe the following:

These are scientists who are willing to compromise science in order to form an alliance with some religious groups who oppose Christian fundamentalism. Do you believe in miracles? That’s okay, it’s part of science. Do you believe that God guides evolution in order to produce beings who worship him? That’s fine too; it’s all part of the Neville Chamberlain version of intelligent design. Souls, moral law, life after death, a fine-tuned universe, angels, the efficacy of prayer, transubstantiation … all these things are part of the new age science according to the apeasement [sic] school. There’s no conflict with real science.

Guess what Larry? I don’t believe in any of those things and certainly don’t believe that they are “part of science.” I’m not willing to compromise science, and if someone tried to teach these ideas in science classrooms I would oppose it as much as I do YEC and ID. More importantly, Ken Miller (apparently the uber-Chamberlain) is not trying to have any of this stuff taught. So quit making stuff up, ok? It just makes you look like an idiot. I’m sure you enjoy the attention and the shock-value but you know what, it gets annoying after a while. Try some of that rationality you value.

And to set the record straight, I am not a Theistic Evolutionist and never have been. I am an agnostic … due to intellectual humility as much as anything else. I was an atheist for a good period, and earned my stripes baiting the believers, but eventually realized that the pose being adopted by many (but definitely not all) atheists was, frankly, intellectually childish.

My agnosticism comes from thinking about the issues over the years, not from being a “wimp,” as you seem to imagine all that disagree with you are. My agnosticism allows me to work with whomever is willing (believers and atheists) to ensure that only science is taught in science class. Your form of atheism alienates people who share the same goals regarding science education. All for what? A sense of intellectual superiority? A persecution complex? That rebel streak? Sheer bloody-minded indifference to the fact that people don’t all think the same way as you?

I don’t think either atheists or, for that matter, theists are inherently immoral: I don’t classify people as readily as you seem to do. It is very easy for people to imagine the world is a simple black and white place, a world of rationalism versus superstition, us versus them, atheists versus believers (with the “wimps” appeasing the enemy). Doctrinaire certitude in ones own correctness is comforting: it is also a form of intellectual fundamentalism, a mindset that exactly mirrors that of Gish, Ham and fellow travelers. Some definition of “rationality”.

Comments

  1. #1 DragonScholar
    November 24, 2006

    Sometimes I feel like the “pro-science” people are going to end up battling among themselves among, ironically, sectarian divisions over the right kind of atheism, atheism vs. agnosticism, etc.

    Meanwhile, the forces opposed to science like ID and apparently many politicians, will walk right past the battling pro-science crowds and keep working to dilute our textbooks, censor our scientists, and deny important discoveries.

  2. #2 ben
    November 24, 2006

    “I’m not willing to compromise science, and if someone tried to teach these ideas in science classrooms I would oppose it”

    That’s what “appeasement” is. You think you can defend science classrooms while every other classroom is dominated by fundamentalists, abstinence-preachers, faith healers and snake-handlers. If something seems wrong based on the evidence observed in a scientific context, why are you scared about the suggestion that it might be just flat wrong? Do you think that there are magic oogy-boogy mysteries that scientific rigour should cede control and yield to? Because the purveyors of oogy and boogy wouldn’t return the favour.

    “I was an atheist for a good period, and earned my stripes baiting the believers”

    Usually, people who say “I was an atheist but now I’ve seen the light” are just flat liars. “I used to be an atheist, but in my second year here at Liberty, my study of scripture taught me …” Or, in your case:

    “… but eventually realized that the pose being adopted by many (but definitely not all) atheists was, frankly, intellectually childish”

    So, the “pose being adopted” by other people is what causes you to draw your conclusions? You’re not a scientist who values an evidence-based methodology. You are saying that the “pose being adopted” by certain people caused you to re-evaluate the likelihood of the Judeo-Christian deity’s existence. Or did you re-evaluate the probabilities for all gods ever? Did you include Tolkien’s?

    If you think that there are areas that science should fear to tread, that it’s intellectually honest to teach a scientific, evidence-based approach in one room but talk seriously about the existence of angels and reincarnation in another, than you are “the forces opposed to science” as much as anyone. It is raw hypocrisy to teach the full majesty of the billions of years of biological evolution in one room and then gibber Bronze Age myths in another. Ultimately, there’s only one room. One of the approaches is right.

  3. #3 Matt
    November 24, 2006

    Ben
    I don’t think he is advocating teaching ‘oogy boogy mysteries’ anywhere he is just saying that if people want to believe that stuff in private it doesn’t help to confuse them with those who want to force belief on the rest of us. Also why is it that the ‘wimps’ are the ones holding to their position in the face of attacks from all sides?

    By the way Tolkein’s God was Christian.

  4. #4 JohnnieCanuck
    November 24, 2006

    Matt

    As far as I can see it all begins with the ‘wimps’ telling the ‘aggressive’ atheists to stop criticizing theists, in the hope of finding common cause with evolutionary theists. They place their highest priority on defeating creationists in the public schools and object to any hinderance. Some ‘wimps’ identify as atheists, others as agnostic.

    The ‘aggressive’ types variously object to being censored and the wisdom of winning a battle at the expense of losing the war. They can now be heard attacking the seekers of a compromise that would have been at their expense. It could have been predicted.

    Perhaps those noble warriors now embattled on all sides (as I infer from your phrasing) wouldn’t be in this position if they could have accepted their non-theist compatriots for what they are; outspoken and honest in their criticism of theists. Is it so admirable that the ‘wimps’ hold their position while asking or demanding that others abandon theirs?

    To achieve the goal of defending evolution they determined that the biggest bloc of sympathizers and voters would be more easily wooed if the noise makers could be silenced. Seems one can’t play politics without getting dirty and losing friends.

  5. #5 John Lynch
    November 24, 2006

    > I don’t think he is advocating teaching ‘oogy boogy mysteries’ anywhere

    Thank you, Matt. I’m getting a little sick of people like Ben *imagining* what I am saying regarding public education. I no more support “fundamentalists, abstinence-preachers, faith healers and snake-handlers” in the class room that I do creationists, but claiming expertise in only a narrow area, do what I can in that area.

  6. #6 PZ Myers
    November 24, 2006

    Oh, no. I’ve heard that argument before. To paraphrase, ‘atheists are childish, and their views on religion are not as sophisticated as my own. They just like to call others names and feel superior.” It’s teasingly self-referential, you know.

    So please, give me a leg up here. When I grow up and am as wise and mature as you are, what will I learn that will make belief in a great cosmic supernatural intelligence look less bugshit insane than it does to me now, in my callow naivete? I don’t need evidence that such a being exists, just evidence that belief in such a thing isn’t merely a product of primitive tradition and widespread cultural indoctrination. Agnostics like to tell me that their views are much cleverer than mine (as atheists and theists feel likewise about their own views), but dang, they never come through with the goods and tell me why it is so much smarter to grant a tiny measure of credence to creaky old superstitions.

  7. #7 John Lynch
    November 24, 2006

    Paul,

    I said:

    … the pose being adopted by many (but definitely not all) atheists

    There are plenty of village idiot atheists out there on the Internet. frankly, they give atheism a bad name as an intellectual position.

    belief in such a thing isn’t merely a product of primitive tradition and widespread cultural indoctrination.

    And how do you know I don’t agree with this?

  8. #8 Larry Moran
    November 24, 2006

    John Lynch says,

    Guess what Larry? I don’t believe in any of those things and certainly don’t believe that they are “part of science.”

    I’m not surprised. I never doubted it for a minute. I was referring to people like Ken Miller, Francis Collins, and Simon Conway Morris. Have you read their books?

    I’m not willing to compromise science, and if someone tried to teach these ideas in science classrooms I would oppose it as much as I do YEC and ID. More importantly, Ken Miller (apparently the uber-Chamberlain) is not trying to have any of this stuff taught. So quit making stuff up, ok? It just makes you look like an idiot. I’m sure you enjoy the attention and the shock-value but you know what, it gets annoying after a while. Try some of that rationality you value.

    Speaking of rationality, lets try and keep a few things straight. This discussion is getting rapidly out of hand ’cause people are making things up that just aren’t true. :-)

    First, Ken Miller isn’t the appeaser, he’s the person who’s being appeased. The Neville Chamberlain school says we’re supposed to play nicely with the Millers of this world no matter what kinds of silly things they say in their books. Apparently the war on creationism will be lost if some of us mention that silliness.

    This is such a big deal that the appeasers have been giving lectures for years where it’s mandatory to attack Richard Dawkins. They have to tell the public that atheists don’t speak for science. Then they trot out Miller, Ted Peters, Francis Collins, and other who are “legitimate” scientists. It’s okay for religious scientists to speak out–and don’t think for one minute that their religion isn’t mentioned when they give speeches. Do you think this is fair?

    I’ve heard Miller speak. He’s not very complimentary about atheists in general and Dawkins in particular. Referring to him as an “appeaser” is doubly wrong.

    Second, I’m not doing this for the shock value. The fact that it seems “shocking” to point out rational objections to the new-age religious science is part of the problem. Did you raise any objections when “Finding Darwin’s God” was published? Why not? To me it seems a bit hypocritical that you would give Miller a pass but dump on atheists.

  9. #9 John Lynch
    November 24, 2006

    Larry,

    I said:

    I don’t believe in any of those things and certainly don’t believe that they are “part of science.”

    You said:

    I’m not surprised. I never doubted it for a minute. I was referring to people like Ken Miller, Francis Collins, and Simon Conway Morris.

    Problem is, your original post, read:

    Ed Brayton has declared himself one of the leading members of the Neville Chamberlain School. And now, John Lynch and Pat Hayes have joined the Ed Brayton team.

    Therefore you were clearly putting me in the Neville Chamberlain School and thus holder of the beliefs you list (and I reproduce above). So, yes, “people are making things up that just aren’t true.”

  10. #10 Tyler DiPietro
    November 24, 2006

    Therefore you were clearly putting me in the Neville Chamberlain School and thus holder of the beliefs you list (and I reproduce above). So, yes, “people are making things up that just aren’t true.”

    I may be reading Larry wrong here, but since Chamberlain was the appeaser, and he says that Miller is the one being “appeased”, it would seem that you are not one who necessarily believes these things but is willing to tolerate them because you see Miller and/or the legitimization of faith-based beliefs as tactically useful.

    The ironic part is that that last bit above is probably the only thing that anybody in this debate, save possibly Ed, disagrees on.

  11. #11 John Lynch
    November 24, 2006

    Tyler,

    I afraid your defense of Moran does not help him.

    Neither the appeasers (the so-called “Neville Chamberlain School”, i.e. Ed, I and others, according to Moran) nor the appeased (Miller, Collins etc) are claiming that the beliefs outlined above should be taught in science classes, or for that matter, in any public school class in the US. If Moran knows this to be true then he needs to provide evidence for his claim.

    Certainly, I (and I assume Ed) would condemn any attempt to inject religious ideas into the public education system. We are however willing to allow individuals to hold on to these religious ideas as matters of private belief. In that sense, we are “willing to tolerate then.” If Moran and others don’t feel that individuals have the right to private belief then there is even less common ground within the pro-science group than I imagined.

     

  12. #12 Tyler DiPietro
    November 24, 2006

    If Moran and others don’t feel that individuals have the right to private belief then there is even less common ground within the pro-science group than I imagined.

    I’ve never seen Moran even imply anything of the sort, nor PZ or any others that I read regularly. Private belief is something that should never, ever be coerced, and to suggest that it should be is Orwellian in the extreme. If I understand Myers and Moran correctly, the thing that is ultimately advocated is conversation.

    Moran certainly has a point in that regard. The conversation among pro-science individuals has a very visible, almost compulsive tendency to accomodate theistic viewpoints that make little more sense than ID itself (e.g., Francis Collins latest book). Whether this makes tactical sense or not, it certainly makes little sense to come forward with overt condemnations of Dawkins’ for advocating the opposite viewpoint, as the science education lobby stateside seems wont to do.

    The conversation in America is plagued with the sort of nonsense like creationism for a reason. It’s not just in religion where the apocalypse is eagerly awaited by almost half the population and firm majorities literally believe in religious miracles and angels, but also among the relatively secular, where UFO’s and psychics populate mainstream public discourse (watch the History Channel) and empirically informed medicine is derided with acronyms (EBM, so evil!) and association with parts of the globe (“Western”).

    You probably know my suspicions of why that is the case, but I’m wondering what, exactly, your’s are, if you don’t think the societal bending over backwards to legitimize faith is the reason.

  13. #13 Tyler DiPietro
    November 24, 2006

    Clarification: by “coercion”, I mean instituting direct legal consequences for the adherence to any private belief. Marginalization through conversation doesn’t count.

  14. #14 Robert O'Brien
    November 25, 2006

    You’re not a scientist who values an evidence-based methodology.

    And yet John Lynch, the “appeasing” agnostic, continues to publish whereas some strident atheists do not.

    …Bronze Age myths…

    Even the oldest parts of the Bible (i.e., those written by the “Yahwist”) date to the Iron Age, lunkhead.

  15. #15 Dave S.
    November 25, 2006

    Robert O’Brien says:

    Even the oldest parts of the Bible (i.e., those written by the “Yahwist”) date to the Iron Age, lunkhead.

    According to Wikipedia, the Bronze Age in the Near East (dates are different for different civilizations) dates from 3500 – 1200 B.C. According to the International Bible Society the earliest parts of the written Bible go back nearly 3500 years, so there is arguably an overlap there. And in addition, the Bible speaks of events and cultures that pre-date the age of the written accounts (e.g. the Bronze Age Hittites). The myths may have lasted into the Iron Age (and Information Age for some), but they originated in the Bronze.

  16. #16 The Atheist Spy
    November 26, 2006

    Sometimes I feel like the “pro-science” people are going to end up battling among themselves among, ironically, sectarian divisions over the right kind of atheism, atheism vs. agnosticism, etc.

    You mean like in that South Park episode with Richard Dawkins?

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=WSqsNDvsshE
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=sV6Lh_gtD8o

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_God_Go
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_God_Go_XII

    ;]

  17. #17 ChrisB
    November 29, 2006

    John said:
    “Certainly, I (and I assume Ed) would condemn any attempt to inject religious ideas into the public education system. We are however willing to allow individuals to hold on to these religious ideas as matters of private belief. In that sense, we are “willing to tolerate then.” If Moran and others don’t feel that individuals have the right to private belief then there is even less common ground within the pro-science group than I imagined.”

    Is the suggestion that Miller’s position shouldn’t be criticized because it is a matter of private belief? If so, then I think I’d like to point out that he wrote down these matters of private belief in a book, and then published it. You may argue that he did not do so with the sole intention of introducing those ideas into science classrooms, but he has introduced those ideas into the public arena as valid thoughts about science (and in this case, the interaction of science and religion). Therefore they are open to scrutiny.

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