John Pieret reads Jerry Coyne so you don’t have to, and catches Jerry Coyne rewriting history. Pieret notes in particular that Coyne is insisting that “faitheist” was never meant as a pejorative, when it clearly was, and has always and exclusively been used as such. For Coyne to try to rewrite history and claim otherwise is shameful, especially from someone who insists he is the great defender of the principle that “the truth matters.”
Speaking of which, Pieret closes by noting: “As an aside, Coyne accuses [Center for Inquiry VP John] Shook of ‘redefining’ “accommodationism.” Where, exactly, has accommodationism been definitively defined?” (I’d add this link to the mix and this one, as I always do in discussing this much-confused term.)
In any event, I was curious how Coyne defined “accomodationism,” and got this:
for me–and I think nearly all of us–“accommodationism” has always been the view that science and faith are compatible
If that’s true, then Coyne has been persistently misleading his readers (“all of us”) in referring to me and to Chris Mooney and to NCSE and other science societies as “accommodationist.” None of those people or groups, indeed none of the people commonly identified as “accommodationist” (to my knowledge) adopt that absurd position. As Chris Mooney told Coyne two Junes ago:
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.
In one of my earliest blog posts taking Coyne on directly (two Septembers ago), here’s how I described my position, in response to his attack on me with the pejorative “faitheist” (among other puerile smears):
For instance, am I a “faitheist”? No. Coyne defines the term as: an “atheist who [is] nonetheless soft on faith.” First, I’m not an atheist and have never claimed to be one. I am an apathist agnostic (Cf.), and have said so on many occasions. Had Coyne invested the modest effort to either ask my religious views, or checked my archives (as I’ve done to find how he defines this term), he would know better. [N.B.: He continues to refer to me as an atheist two years later.] Second, I don’t know what he means by “soft on faith.” If he means that I don’t think faith is ipso facto bad, then yeah. By that standard I’m also soft on dance but not on mushrooms (yech). If it means that I think faith is inherently good, or worth promoting, then no, that’s not my position at all.
Note that his definition of “faitheist” explicitly states that it is a synonym for “atheist accommodationist,” which is why it wasn’t necessary for me to specifically comment on the notion of compatibility: he didn’t define the issue in those terms then. I’ve never held that science is compatible with all religions. Some religions are incompatible with science. Others, as Mooney notes, seem to be capable of coexistence, which is the sense of “compatibility” I’ve always found most useful.
Coyne has had two years to realize that the definition he uses for the term “accommodationist” doesn’t match the views of the people he applies the label to. The simple, decent, and honest thing to do would be to stop using a clearly flawed definition and figure out what “accommodationists” actually think. His is a vincible ignorance.