There is a flamefest going on at the moment regarding atheism, agnosticism and creationism and it strikes me that many of us are missing the wood for the trees. I hope most of us can agree on the following:
- It has been claimed that there are two broad groups within the pro-science movement: those that see the issue in terms of science versus anti-science within the classroom and those that see that issue as being part of a larger cultural battle between science (identified with “rationalism”) and religion (identified with “superstition”). Clearly, this broad-stroke characterization is a little simplistic, but it has received support from both groups. Talk of the “Neville Chamberlain ‘apeasement’ [sic] school” of evolutionists only strengthens the apparent divide.
- Both sides are committed to scientific thinking as a way of knowing about the natural world. Individuals may differ in their commitment to the existence of anything outside the natural world, or for that matter, their interest in such a question.
- While some in the first pro-science group are theists (e.g. Ken Miller), none are advocating teaching non-scientific ideas in science classrooms or, for that matter, any injection of religion into public school classrooms. They remain strong supporters of the separation of church and state and thus broadly support the second group in the cultural battle with respect to attempts to inject (private) religious beliefs into the public sphere. They may however differ with the second group in the possible value (positive or negative) of these private beliefs.
- Members of the second pro-science group tend to be atheists, and despite rhetorical flourishes adopted from Dawkins’ ‘muscular atheism’, none are advocating “stoning, disembowlment [sic], burning at the stake, or other forms of auto de fe” (source) of theists, or for that matter rounding them up and putting them into camps.
- Both sides have, on occasion, indulged in excessive sniping, mischaracterizing of the others, and perhaps excessive certainty of their own correctness.
I’ll just repeat what I said on November 20th:
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.
Note what I’m saying – I’m not worried whether PZ or Moran being vocal atheists is preventing the effective championing of the cause. I am worried that infighting within the community is making us perhaps less effective.
I may, of course, have this totally wrong.