Stuck in moderation at Coyne’s place

| 140 Comments

Apropos of Matt’s post just below, in a post titled “NCSE becomes BioLogos” Jerry Coyne has thrown a hissy fit over NCSE noting the upcoming Webcast on ‘Evolving Christianity’ featuring a number of theists of varying stripes speaking on how they accommodate their theism and science in general and evolution in particular.

I commented on Coyne’s site more than five hours ago but my comment is still labeled (after hard refreshes) as “Awaiting moderation” while several comments posted later than mine have appeared. So I’ll reproduce my comment below the fold, warts and all.

My comment was a reply to a comment by MadScientist that asked

What’s reasonable about promoting bullshit? Why is the NCSE even providing that link? It sounds to me like people complained and they’ve responded with a weasel excuse. Oh look - cute mustelid!

I responded

Because on the ground, where the battles are fought about what is to be taught in public schools (search on ‘Freshwater’ for an example), having the ability to say to the Christians who are the overwhelming majority “There are Christians who accept evolution” or at least accept common descent is politically critical. And I write that as one of the very few out atheists in this conservative rural community, a former administrator of Internet Infidels Discussion Board (then the largest secular discussion board on the web), and current administrator of The Secular Cafe.

NCSE’s main remit is defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools. That defense is both legal (think Kitzmiller) and political (think the Dover PA school board election after that trial but before the verdict was in). One cannot win political battles without accepting alliances with groups with whom one does not agree on all aspects of all issues. To imagine otherwise is to live in dreamland.

Further, to the extent that learning about evolution, even in watered down form, can lead to further questioning of religious teachings and to the exercise of some minimal rationality on the part of students it is actually serving Jerry Coyne’s objective of working toward a more secular society. So NCSE is working in the same direction as Coyne, only with different tactics.

Which tactics are most effective? We don’t in fact know, so let a thousand flowers bloom. There are times when I’m a gnu, times when I’m an accomodationist politician, and where on that spectrum I fall at any given time is an adaptation to the immediate circumstances. That’s not hypocritical, it’s pragmatic, and pragmatism, not dogmatism, wins political battles.

Normally for PT I’d buff and polish that some, but I wanted to reproduce it here as I submitted it to Coyne’s site. I probably could have added a snarky remark about, say, Coyne adopting the model of the Texas Department of Education when it fired Chris Comer for calling attention to a talk by Barbara Forrest, but I restrained myself.

140 Comments

RBH -

I have the utmost admiration for Jerry Coyne’s work as an evolutionary geneticist. I can’t claim similar admiration for his ongoing war against “accomodationism”. Even his ally Richard Dawkins has recognized the necessity for some “accomodationism” by visiting NCSE during his Fall 2009 book tour of his “The Greatest Show on Earth”. IMHO this is a mere tempest in the teapot which is not only quite distracting, but I fear, merely add more fuel to the fire for creos who claim that “belief” in biological evolution must mean acceptance of Atheism coupled with rejection of Christianity or any other religion.

It makes perfect sense to be allied with theists who support science. Their existence destroys the only popular argument creationists really have – that evolution = atheism. When it’s clearly demonstrated that this is false, then they have nothing left except scripture – which isn’t going to fly past the Constitution in public schools.

Anybody know if Jerry Coyne is on deck?

I dunno, but I note some concern in very recent comments there. I don’t know how he handles comment moderation and whether any of his co-bloggers (or at least one, Greg Mayer) participate in it at need.

He was in South America, he might be traveling. No reason to assume anything untoward, anyway, goodness knows I don’t keep up with the blog auto-emails from PT, and links or long posts or formatting code or a new user or whatever can shunt something to the owner-approval-required zone.

That said, Coyne’s comments are off in several ways. (1) He quotes NCSE’s long-standing policy, but apparently doesn’t get it. NCSE has always worked with people with diverse religious positions towards the common goal of promoting evolution education. Coyne’s goal is promoting atheism. That’s fine, but it’s not NCSE’s goal – which is also fine: different organizations have different goals.

(2) It just so happens that the people who currently most “need to get religion” when it comes to evolution are the religious people, particularly (in the U.S.) Christians (although New Age evolution weirdness is on the rise and in a few decades, who knows what the major problem will be). I agree that it makes raw political sense to work with people from across the religious spectrum, but even more important, in my view, is that (a) basically the main source of opposition to evolution is religious people who oppose evolution because they have the inaccurate idea that evolution = atheism, and (b) while informing people about just the science is necessary, it is not sufficient by itself, because the hugest block is emotional, fearful opposition to evolution. The science has no chance while the fear is there.

(3) All that said, Coyne’s comments are inaccurate in another way, since the evolution problem is *really* not with “Christians” in general but with evangelicals. This conference NCSE linked to is substantially another liberal-moderate/mainline Christian affair, and there the evolution battle has long been won (mostly). Such events have limited impact over where it really needs to happen, in evangelical-land (although they have some).

Ironically, BioLogos is the kind of organization that really *does* have a substantial chance of improving the situation amongst evangelicals, since it is by and for evangelicals. (Also ironically, the more BioLogos is attacked by atheists, the more cred it will have with evangelicals, so the Coynes of the world might end up helping out the accomodationists of the world in the end anyway!)

So – NCSE isn’t becoming BioLogos, and neither is the conference that was announced, but it would probably be better if the conference that was announced was *more* like a BioLogos event!

RBH: I commented on Coyne’s site more than five hours ago but my comment is still labeled (after hard refreshes) as “Awaiting moderation” while several comments posted later than mine have appeared. So I’ll reproduce my comment below the fold, warts and all.

I don’t think you’re being screened because of content. Not much has been going up over there all day and I’d guess there’s some problem – whether human, hardware or software I’ve not got a clue. Plus, last evening I and others managed to get posts through defending NCSE, which argues against the intentional filtering of contrary viewpoints. I doubt Jerry would do that anyway.

I probably could have added a snarky remark about, say, Coyne adopting the model of the Texas Department of Education when it fired Chris Comer for calling attention to a talk by Barbara Forrest, but I restrained myself.

In this case, restraint-ance was futile?

I commented on Coyne’s site more than five hours ago but my comment is still labeled (after hard refreshes) as “Awaiting moderation” while several comments posted later than mine have appeared. So I’ll reproduce my comment below the fold, warts and all.

What? Is Coyne being a coward, no better than the bigots at Uncommon Descent who use to ban people for disagreeing with their ID dogmas?

RBH, Calm down. Have you ever commented before? or are you using a different address? Coyne checks these individually before people can post. He will not let a post go through if the address doesn’t match the email address entered. He seems to be offline for the present.

And Nick is wrong - Coyne’s goal is promoting rationalism. Religion is not rational.

Michael Fugate said:

And Nick is wrong - Coyne’s goal is promoting rationalism. Religion is not rational.

If Coyne is a scientist, then he should be promoting science. Science is not rational either; it is empirical. Rationalism is the philosophy that reason alone can produce knowledge. That is the opposite of science and is closer to religion, actually. As a hard-core empiricist, I reject rationalism. And atheism is derived from rationalism. I’m agnostic, seeing no empirical evidence either to affirm God or deny him.

“We don’t in fact know, so let a thousand flowers bloom.”

So you’re against the “Don’t be a dick” crowd, then.

~

I agree with Coyne that this event violates the policy: “What is NCSE’s religious position? None.” However, this is because all religion is political, so any political moves implicitly involve religion. *Any* policy would violate the NCSE’s claimed religious position of “none”. The organization is making a theological statement and endorsing religious positions when it says that true things science discovers are god’s truth (and it is also thereby violating other religious positions).

They can either pick some religious/political viewpoints because they promote science, or they can favor religious/political viewpoints even when those views interfere with promoting science, but either way, select some they must.

Hopefully they are just being expedient. So Coyne is correct in criticizing them for violating their charter to promote science, but that part of their charter can’t be fulfilled no matter what they do, so criticism is really only deserved if it’s not the best way to promote science.

That is fine for an organization with only science as a goal, as said in the original post. But they must admit of the possibility that in the future, promoting the sort of skepticism that leads naturally to atheism will be the best religious/political viewpoint to accompany science advocacy. In such a case, they’d better not subordinate promoting science to their wishy washy accommodationist kumbaya woo. Since they’re taking a religious stand here to promote science, as Coyne points out and some deny, they’d better be willing to do likewise and promote atheism if and when the time comes that that is more effective. I suspect they aren’t.

Coyne needs to get a grip, seriously. No doubt if he had his way, all evolutionists would also be atheists. But simple belief in theism does not negate evolution, nor does acceptance of the evidences and the processes of evolution negate theism. Thus, he is promoting a false dichotomy, as much as religious fundamentalists do.

“If Coyne is a scientist, then he should be promoting science.”

What if he raises orchids as a hobby? Do tell us what his moral responsibilities would be then.

“And atheism is derived from rationalism.”

Really? No one has ever been an atheist without thinking that reason alone can produce knowledge? That’s quite precocious of…all of humanity. Tell us, when do people get such insight? At birth, or before? Perhaps you can by extention resolve for us all exactly when in fetal development abortion should be more restricted than earlier!

“I’m agnostic, seeing no empirical evidence either to affirm God or deny him.”

For every legitimate use of the English word “God”, there is an equal lack of corroborative or adverse evidence? That’s quite a dictionary you’re using or…well, I hope that’s the only issue.

I am sympathetic with Richard’s position on this. When one sees a religious denomination supporting the understanding of evolution, is this to be seen as an opportunity to point out that they are being inconsistent? Or is it an opportunity to point out that creationists are wrong when they argue that people have a forced choice between religion and science?

Another example of a wrongheaded response to this was PZ Myers’s reaction to the original Clergy Letter Project, where 10,000 clergymen agreed to mention evolution (favorably) in their sermons. To Myers they were trying to exploit evolution and ride on its coattails. To me it looked more like a welcome rebuttal to the argument that religious belief mandated that you had to be a creationist.

Dale Husband said:

I commented on Coyne’s site more than five hours ago but my comment is still labeled (after hard refreshes) as “Awaiting moderation” while several comments posted later than mine have appeared. So I’ll reproduce my comment below the fold, warts and all.

What? Is Coyne being a coward, no better than the bigots at Uncommon Descent who use to ban people for disagreeing with their ID dogmas?

No, he ~always~ requires approval for the first comment from either a given IP or email address. If you haven’t tried to comment before, you have to wait.

Hoppe is being a paranoid baby.

Dale Husband said:

Coyne needs to get a grip, seriously. No doubt if he had his way, all evolutionists would also be atheists. But simple belief in theism does not negate evolution, nor does acceptance of the evidences and the processes of evolution negate theism. Thus, he is promoting a false dichotomy, as much as religious fundamentalists do.

No, he is suggesting that the NCSE not promote woo, as they have explicitly stated that they are not in the woo business. NCSE should promote neither religion nor atheism, and if they choose to promote one then they should promote both.

I don’t see any point in attacking moderate religions that have no problem with evolution. After all, many people in these religions have their churches as an important centering focus and source of social support and tradition. They don’t have the time to think about possible inconstancies between evolution and church doctrine. They have busy lives and other important issues to grapple with.

And most of these people are good people whose company we enjoy and who have various talents (e.g., artistic, or musical) that make our society function better while contributing to the welfare of people who are less fortunate.

It seems a bit too cranky to be miffed about good people who wish no harm to anyone, who don’t have the time for science, but who do have other talents we depend on.

Everyone starts with different knowledge, progresses through life’s mileposts at different rates, and encounters various issues at different times in their lives. Then we all die without having resolved every issue. What right do we have to be upset about what other people don’t get to?

Bobo said:

Dale Husband said:

…Thus, he is promoting a false dichotomy, as much as religious fundamentalists do.

No, he is suggesting that the NCSE not promote woo, as they have explicitly stated that they are not in the woo business. NCSE should promote neither religion nor atheism, and if they choose to promote one then they should promote both.

Ironically, you are pointing out that Dale has made a false dichotomy…

That aside, I think the NCSE’s problem is that it is impossible to say things without religious content since religions determine what content they consider religious. You can say you promote all religions that promote truly scientific evolution (Coyne gives evidence that at least one speaker on the webcast does not so believe). One way or the other there has to be a reckoning when evangelicals tell you to write that learning about nature is learning about God.

Joe Felsenstein said:

When one sees a religious denomination supporting the understanding of evolution, is this to be seen as an opportunity to point out that they are being inconsistent? Or is it an opportunity to point out that creationists are wrong when they argue that people have a forced choice between religion and science?

Literally no one disbelieving evolution believes in “religion”. They believe in a religion. Evolution is incompatible with that religion, though it may be compatible with an alternative (often identically named) very similar religion they can be persuaded to change to. Liberals telling them they don’t have to choose between their religion and evolution ought to engender contempt in them. In very important ways, it’s not true.

People who believe in evolution and understand it are exceptionally unlikely to lose that belief when told it is incompatible with their religion.

Mike Elzinga said:

I don’t see any point in attacking moderate religions that have no problem with evolution.

It seems a bit too cranky to be miffed about good people who wish no harm to anyone, who don’t have the time for science, but who do have other talents we depend on.

Here we’re talking about people who have time to listen to a podcast about evolution. We’re generally talking about how to present scientific material, not whether or not to sear Richard Dawkins’ image on church lawns in acid.

RBH - even if you have commented there before, on many systems any post with two or more links (and sometimes those with any links) gets automatically diverted for moderation.

On the argument - I think people (including you, RBH) missed Coyne’s point. It’s not that they shouldn’t advertise any events that discuss compatibility among religion and science, but that this one - with one scientist and eight theologians, and a stated mission that “Religious faith and practice can be positively strengthened by what God is revealing through science!” - was so silly for a supposedly secular organization to mention. Yes, there is a distinction between the dickish “accomodationism” of Chris Mooney et al., who demand that people Coyne and PZ Myers STFU, and outreach to believers. But NCSE’s attempts to do the latter often come off as promoting religion.

Joe Felsenstein said:

I am sympathetic with Richard’s position on this. When one sees a religious denomination supporting the understanding of evolution, is this to be seen as an opportunity to point out that they are being inconsistent? Or is it an opportunity to point out that creationists are wrong when they argue that people have a forced choice between religion and science?

Another example of a wrongheaded response to this was PZ Myers’s reaction to the original Clergy Letter Project, where 10,000 clergymen agreed to mention evolution (favorably) in their sermons. To Myers they were trying to exploit evolution and ride on its coattails. To me it looked more like a welcome rebuttal to the argument that religious belief mandated that you had to be a creationist.

I agree. Unfortunately Myers and Coyne are implicitly endorsing the advancement of science education as another front of the culture war. Clearly, for the creationists this is part and parcel of the culture war. However we are not served when we take a page out their play book. Too many folks here get sucked into Biblical debates with FL for example. Ignore his bibolatry.. that is a side show. Continue to point out he has no algorithm for computing CSI.

For us the goal should be about advancing science, not the culture war.

I’m agnostic, seeing no empirical evidence either to affirm God or deny him

But apparently you do see empirical evidence that, if a god exists, it’s a “him”, and there’s just one of him. It sounds like, at a minimum, your accomodationism favors some religious traditions–a monothestic, male deity is apparently assumed–over others, despite the supposed lack of evidence for any religious proposition. Why is that?

John Kwok said:

RBH -

I have the utmost admiration for Jerry Coyne’s work as an evolutionary geneticist. I can’t claim similar admiration for his ongoing war against “accomodationism”. Even his ally Richard Dawkins has recognized the necessity for some “accomodationism” by visiting NCSE during his Fall 2009 book tour of his “The Greatest Show on Earth”. IMHO this is a mere tempest in the teapot which is not only quite distracting, but I fear, merely add more fuel to the fire for creos who claim that “belief” in biological evolution must mean acceptance of Atheism coupled with rejection of Christianity or any other religion.

It was sad when I attended the “Darwin Day” celebration in Philadelphia. Coyne and Ken Miller, whom I have respected for years, especially for how they exposed Behe’s pseudoscientific tricks, both gave excellent talks. But they sat far apart in the audience and hardly talked to each other. I might not have noticed, but just days before I had read their online debate.

As for my own theology, I fall somewhere between Coyne’s and Miller’s. I think that Miller’s approach is better for the audience we need to reach (nonscientists who are not hopelessly in denial of evolution). But I hope that those like me most interested in the “science vs. pseudoscience” aspect of “evolution vs. creationism/ID” can tune out all their personal speculation about “ultimate causes” and see both as excellent resouces in combating pseudoscience peddlers who would mislead students to further their radical political agenda.

Hi, RBH.

Jerry had surgery last week and seems to be off-line at the moment Be patient on the moderation bit.

I guess my views on this are similar to Jerry’s. It disgusts me to see NCSE endorsing religious events like this. One has to look closely to see that it’s not actually their event – for example, they put out a Facebook update with this as an upcoming event, which is where I first saw it.

Am in complete agreement on this. Thanks for chiming in Joe:

Joe Felsenstein said:

I am sympathetic with Richard’s position on this. When one sees a religious denomination supporting the understanding of evolution, is this to be seen as an opportunity to point out that they are being inconsistent? Or is it an opportunity to point out that creationists are wrong when they argue that people have a forced choice between religion and science?

Another example of a wrongheaded response to this was PZ Myers’s reaction to the original Clergy Letter Project, where 10,000 clergymen agreed to mention evolution (favorably) in their sermons. To Myers they were trying to exploit evolution and ride on its coattails. To me it looked more like a welcome rebuttal to the argument that religious belief mandated that you had to be a creationist.

Frank J said:

John Kwok said:

RBH -

I have the utmost admiration for Jerry Coyne’s work as an evolutionary geneticist. I can’t claim similar admiration for his ongoing war against “accomodationism”. Even his ally Richard Dawkins has recognized the necessity for some “accomodationism” by visiting NCSE during his Fall 2009 book tour of his “The Greatest Show on Earth”. IMHO this is a mere tempest in the teapot which is not only quite distracting, but I fear, merely add more fuel to the fire for creos who claim that “belief” in biological evolution must mean acceptance of Atheism coupled with rejection of Christianity or any other religion.

It was sad when I attended the “Darwin Day” celebration in Philadelphia. Coyne and Ken Miller, whom I have respected for years, especially for how they exposed Behe’s pseudoscientific tricks, both gave excellent talks. But they sat far apart in the audience and hardly talked to each other. I might not have noticed, but just days before I had read their online debate.

As for my own theology, I fall somewhere between Coyne’s and Miller’s. I think that Miller’s approach is better for the audience we need to reach (nonscientists who are not hopelessly in denial of evolution). But I hope that those like me most interested in the “science vs. pseudoscience” aspect of “evolution vs. creationism/ID” can tune out all their personal speculation about “ultimate causes” and see both as excellent resouces in combating pseudoscience peddlers who would mislead students to further their radical political agenda.

I find myself more in agreement with your view than with Ken’s, and have criticized him for embracing his weak version of the anthropic principle. However,having said this, those who still mock Ken for his religious views - and especially those who regard him as a “creationist” - are ignoring his decades-long work as a stout defender of the teaching of evolution and as a stern critic of scientific creationism, especially of Intelligent Design, of which noteworthy examples include his numerous testimonies before county and state boards of education, his mid 1990s PBS Firing Line debate against William F. Buckley, Jr. and Intelligent Design advocates (including if my memory is correct, both Michael Behe and Philip Johnson), his American Museum of Natural History debate on Intelligent Design back in the Spring of 2002, alongside philosopher Robert Pennock (as they persuasively argued the con, while both on the pro side, Michael Behe and William Dembski, were absolutely pathetic) and of course, most notably, his testimony as the lead witness on behalf of the plaintiffs at the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial (In the interest of full disclosure - for those who don’t know this already - I assisted Ken at his first debate against a scientific creationist, Henry Morrs of the Institute of Creation Research - which was held back in the Spring of 1981 at Brown University’s hockey arena.). With the notable exception of Jerry Coyne, none of Ken’s prominent detractors have been as noteworthy in their critiques of scientific creationism, and especially, of Intelligent Design (and that includes a certain PT contributor best known for his Science Blogs blog).

Michael Fugate said:

RBH, Calm down. Have you ever commented before? or are you using a different address? Coyne checks these individually before people can post. He will not let a post go through if the address doesn’t match the email address entered. He seems to be offline for the present.

And Nick is wrong - Coyne’s goal is promoting rationalism. Religion is not rational.

Read my comments that I just posted on Ken Miller, since they are relevant especially in light of Jerry Coyne’s ongoing war on “accomodationism”. As for Nick Matzke, his comments were especially well stated, and he has ample credibility simply for being one of the major unseen participants on behalf of the plaintiffs at the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial.

RBH is correct to note that this is a political issue – if it were strictly a matter of scientific evidence, creationism wouldn’t be an issue now at all and creationists would be as soundly mocked in public as believers in a flat earth. Additionally, in our current situation, Christian fundamentalism has a strong voice in the political debate. If NCSE ignores this, they might as well close up shop.

Instead, NCSE’s site notes “three pillars of creationism,” the second of which is “Evolution Equates to Atheism.” The “Evolving Christianity” (ugh!) webcast is directly relevant to this pillar of creationism. If you look at the GSS data for 2008 (variables EVOLVED and FUND), you’ll find that in 2008, evolution deniers were 44% fundamentalist, 38% theological moderates, and 18% theological liberals. While I doubt many of the fundamentalists would be influenced by the “Evolving Christianity” (ugh!) webcast, there is potential to do some good among the 56% of evolution deniers who are not fundamentalists.

If NCSE were telling fundamentalists they need to find a new church or abandon religion, I would be disturbed. As it is, they’re just saying, here’s a discussion among some people of faith that you might be interested in – this seems to me to be perfectly in-bounds and in direct support of NCSE’s stated goals.

I will also note that, at a private talk before fellow Brown University alumni here in New York City a few years ago, Ken observed that those who embrace faiths hostile to science should reject them. Clearly Ken has not been - nor has he ever tried to be - the kind of “accomodationist” which Coyne, Myers and others have contended, by falsely claiming that Ken is trying to make evolution seem better to his fellow devout Christians as if evolution was a bitter pill best swallowed sooner rather than later.

Stuart Weinstein is absolutely right that both Coyne and Myers seem more interested in using science education as a “front on the culture war” than in emphasizing its importance on its own merits, especially with regards to ensuring that we have a well educated public that is informed on science and technology and can influence successfully those involved in framing and implementing policy on science and technology, both on the local and national levels.

Bobo said:

No, he ~always~ requires approval for the first comment from either a given IP or email address. If you haven’t tried to comment before, you have to wait.

Hoppe is being a paranoid baby.

This was not my first comment on Coyne’s site by some non-trivial number. And “paranoid”? Nowhere did I speculate on why the comment was held in moderation.

Ray Moscow said:

Hi, RBH.

Jerry had surgery last week and seems to be off-line at the moment Be patient on the moderation bit.

I guess my views on this are similar to Jerry’s. It disgusts me to see NCSE endorsing religious events like this. One has to look closely to see that it’s not actually their event – for example, they put out a Facebook update with this as an upcoming event, which is where I first saw it.

You’re right, and I have had private email exchanges with NCSE concerning the close reading necessary to realize that NCSE was not endorsing the event but was pointing to it as being potentially of interest to at least some of its members.

Well Ken is a friend and I do give him some slack, but:

Frank J said: I give him some slack on the WAP because he takes pains in “Finding Darwin’s God” to note that his ideas on quantum indeterminacy (the “infinite gaps”, if you will) are only personal speculation, not testable statements like the DI claims for finding the unnamed designer in gaps that they admit are shrinking.

The “but” is I found myself in complete agreement with Massimo Pigliucci’s critique of Ken’s views after both appeared at a Darwin commemorative event at Brown University last year. Ken felt compelled to write a response, but I still felt Massimo had it right.

Frank J said: It especially annoys me when he is considered a “creationist” because it makes it easy for IDers to pull their bait-and-switch on several definitions of “creationism” to fool more or the public. As I have been complaining for years, we - and I mean defenders of any science, not just of evolution - do not have the luxury to use multiple definitions. Whatever definition we use for “creationism” we must stick to it, and expose any IDer who pulls the bait and switch. Not just retort with “ID is too creationism.” If we must use “creationism” to mean the anti-evolution movement in any form, we must frame it as a strategy to mislead, not a “belief system.” In that case, Miller is as far from “creationist” as one can get.

Ironically I found myself in a debate with an Argentine atheist over at NCSE’s Facebook page over the past few days. He still thinks Ken is a creationist and refused to pay any attention to my arguments. It REALLY PISSES ME OFF when people call Ken a “creationist” especially when that risible observation has been stated by some who have not devoted the countless hours that Ken has for nearly two decades on behalf of the teaching of evolution ONLY in science classrooms. Not even Jerry Coyne - who has been a most stern and effective critic of Intelligent Design - has devoted as much time as Ken has (Nor has another prominent detractor who is famous only because of his blog.).

raven said:

Eric, this will get you started. Google and wikipedia work, use them.

The list of scientists and science supporters fired or harassed is out of date. It also doesn’t include high school science teachers. They are frequently fired, or harassed into quiting in the south central USA but no one keeps statistics.

Thank you, raven

I will dig into it in the near future.

Have a nice weekend!

Are you prepared to do this even if it meant allowing science denialists the right to control the future of scienc education in the United States:

J.J.E. said: If the NCSE persists in siding with a faction I disagree with, I think it is eminently reasonable to withhold my support of them. If not for this disingenuous bit of pandering, I’d be an enthusiastic supporter. http://hillcountrydilettante.blogspot.com/

You may not appreciate how NCSE is waging war against science denialists, but do not lose sight of this (Regrettably, I believe you, Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, and others have done just that.).

Gary Hurd:

One of the tasks of the NCSE is to counter the arguments used to block teaching science. A prominent one is that “Darwinism” causes atheism.

What does cause atheism is toxic fundie xianity. Worked for me. Worked for millions of other exXians.

Demanding that people believe lies and attacking the basis of our civilization, science and the Enlightenment, is a long term loser strategy. The New Dark age they are selling isn’t going to be very popular either.

BTW I believe Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers are still, like yours truly, members of NCSE. If they can still be members of NCSE, then what’s your excuse?

John Kwok said: It REALLY PISSES ME OFF when people call Ken a “creationist”

However, in making a point to his audience, Ken has on occasion referred to himself as a “creationist” albeit with a twist to it’s common connotation.

harold said:

Now here is my very staightforward point again. I must request that you directly copy and paste it…

1) The theory of evolution has no religious content.

2) The theory of evolution contradicts everything that is contradicted by the theory of evolution, and nothing more. That includes but is not limited to some religious dogma.

So in general:

1) Scientific theories have no religious content.

2) They simply contradict everything that is contradicted by them, and nothing more. That includes but is not limited to some religious dogma.

I hope generalizing your point didn’t violate your desire not to have it paraphrased. Likewise, I hope reapplying it from the general to a specific case does not do so, and that I am doing so accurately:

Assume that irrefutable evidence is uncovered that Mary Magdeline was an unrepentant prostitute, Jesus’ lover and the mother of his child, and the same person as Lady Mary mother of Jesus, Pontius Pilate, and Rabbi Shammai from the Talmud. Let’s call this the theory of facepalm.

1) The theory of facepalm has no religious content.

2) The theory of facepalm contradicts everything that is contradicted by the theory of facepalm, and nothing more. That includes but is not limited to some religious dogma.

I think by saying 1) and 2) you would be an early front runner for the 2010-2011 season’s “distinction without a difference” award.

It is my impression that they are describing the fact that some religious sects don’t dispute the theory of evolution.

My impression is that they extensively describe how some religious sects reconcile religion and the theory of evolution, and how that makes more sense than other interpretations.

I also strongly support the right of anyone to choose any religion they want, as long as they don’t interfere with my rights. There is no conflict here. I respect their autonomy, even though I would personally prefer that they behave in a certain way.

I strongly support the right of NHL goaltenders to play the puck behind their goal line outside of the trapezoid without getting a delay of game penalty. No one implied otherwise, but I just thought I’d throw that out there.

Larry Boy said:

In a broad sense, asserting that a belief in God is compatible with evolution doesn’t promote a belief in God, but rather promotes more rational beliefs among those who already believe in God.

This is an important distinction to make.

So in a broader sense, asserting A is compatible with B doesn’t promote a belief in A, but rather promotes B among those who already believe A?

Gary Hurd said:

One of the tasks of the NCSE is to counter the arguments used to block teaching science. A prominent one is that “Darwinism” causes atheism.

The people that believe this are the extremists on both sides- Jonathan Sarfati and Jerry Coyne are singing in the same choir on that issue. They both insist that evolution=atheism.

Do you see any difference between the claim that evolution causes atheism and evolution=atheism?

John Kwok said:

Are you prepared to do this even if it meant allowing science denialists the right to control the future of scienc education in the United States:

You may not appreciate how NCSE is waging war against science denialists, but do not lose sight of this (Regrettably, I believe you, Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, and others have done just that.).

Meanwhile, to run interference for organizations like the NCSE when they promote religious viewpoints as a way of furthering science (in violation of their charters), accommodationists like the commenters on this thread deny that they are in fact promoting religious viewpoints.

And yes, I am well aware of that, but it’s only for that reason where it is legitimate:

Bobsie said: However, in making a point to his audience, Ken has on occasion referred to himself as a “creationist” albeit with a twist to it’s common connotation.

When others such as PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne have used that term, it has been to smear Ken and to assert - however ludicrously - that Ken’s ideas are no better than those of the creos. And that’s what DOES PISS ME OFF. Myers in particular has no right to judge since he doesn’t have anywhere remotely the track record that Ken has had (Especially since where it not for Pharyngula, I honestly doubt no one would even care who Myers is.).

Obviously you lost sight what I told H. H. It bears repeating.

Does your hostility toward NCSE’s so-called “promotion” of this particular webcast series is one you should retain if the ultimate result might mean that science denialists will have the right to determine the future course of science education in the United States? If so, then your condemnation of NCSE is ridiculous and completely unwarranted.

As I also noted to H. H., apparently both PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne are still NCSE members, and, to his credit, PZ apparently still urges people to join NCSE. What then, is your excuse?

Such a distinction is moot and frankly, I couldn’t give a damn, if you haven’t noticed already:

Argh said: Do you see any difference between the claim that evolution causes atheism and evolution=atheism?

Typo, should be this -

Especially since were it not for Pharyngula, I honestly doubt that no one would even care who Myers is.

(EDITORIAL NOTE: And that should be an observation acceptable to all, which I am noting as a cold, honest fact, not because of my own prior history with Myers. And no, no more comments about my “threat” to have PZ give me expe,nsive Leica rangefinder camera equipment please. That was meant as a sarcastic joke, which I have explained more than once, here and elsewhere, on numerous occasions. What isn’t a joke is that I made the same demand of Bill Dembski, and one that he will have to honor one day.).

John Kwok said:

And yes, I am well aware of that, but it’s only for that reason where it is legitimate:

Bobsie said: However, in making a point to his audience, Ken has on occasion referred to himself as a “creationist” albeit with a twist to it’s common connotation.

When others such as PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne have used that term, it has been to smear Ken and to assert - however ludicrously - that Ken’s ideas are no better than those of the creos. And that’s what DOES PISS ME OFF. Myers in particular has no right to judge since he doesn’t have anywhere remotely the track record that Ken has had (Especially since where it not for Pharyngula, I honestly doubt no one would even care who Myers is.).

John Kwok said:

Does your hostility toward NCSE’s so-called “promotion” of this particular webcast series is one you should retain if the ultimate result might mean that science denialists will have the right to determine the future course of science education in the United States?

I have expressed opposition to the NCSE’s lying about it, not to their doing it, so your comment mises the mark. Likewise to your (ironically) simplistic division of the world into oppositional camps; it’s remarkable that people such as you who argue that the NCSE should violate its charter to buttress moderate religion keep arguing that it isn’t in fact doing so.

Coyne points out that the NCSE is promoting religion, and he gets piled on from accommodationists who reflexively oppose what he says regarding how to handle creationism and religion. Those accommodationists refuse to concede that Coyne could be right about anything having to do with science’s interface with religious moderates. He is right: the NCSE has articles from its religious outreach director containing such gems as “The Bible reflects the specific pre-scientific world-view of the ancient Hebrew people,” and “Like color and shape, “creation” and “evolution” do not occupy competing categories, but are complementary ways of looking at the universe.”

There is also a limit to how much we can credit the neutrality of someone couching religious arguments by saying “Some biblical scholars believe X.” Were a public school to merely teach objective facts about what some religious people believe with the same relentless focus the NCSE does, it would amount to an unconstitutional endorsement of a particular religious approach. This is despite the fact that there is a place in public schools for learning facts about religion, e.g. Joseph Smith lived in the first half of the 19th century.

Coyne is right about what is happening, and the accommodationists are wrong. They need to shape up and acknowledge someone with whom they disagree can be right so we can discuss how best to handle it. I have far more appreciation for the accommodationist position than you assume-though I have more respect for the intellectual honesty of the average uncompromising new atheist than for the dishonesty of the average accommodationist.

Stanton said:

Robin said:

…since when is atheism a “religious viewpoint”? Is not actually the exact opposite - the total lack of a religious viewpoint?

Arguing that atheism is a religious viewpoint is tantamount to demanding that “bald” is a hair color, that “off” is a tv-station, or that “I have no car” is a brand of car.

That’s always been my impression too, but perhaps I’m mistaken. That’s why I posed the question to someone who is obviously EXTREMELY vested in the perspective.

Gary Hurd said:

One of the tasks of the NCSE is to counter the arguments used to block teaching science. A prominent one is that “Darwinism” causes atheism.

The people that believe this are the extremists on both sides- Jonathan Sarfati and Jerry Coyne are singing in the same choir on that issue. They both insist that evolution=atheism. As this is both untrue, and is used to oppose science education in the USA, it is entirely appropriate that NSCE counters the argument.

What the evangelical creationists, and evangelical atheists are uncomfortable with is that they are fundamentally in agreement about something. NSCE is not promoting any religion. They are refuting a false argument regarding faith and science.

IMO this is the most sensible and reasoned position on this. Otherwise, you are arguing how pure or dirty the white snow appears to be.

Assigning the designation “A” to the first quote and “B” to the second one…

Argh said:

My impression is that they extensively describe how some religious sects reconcile religion and the theory of evolution, and how that makes more sense than other interpretations.

Argh said: Meanwhile, to run interference for organizations like the NCSE when they promote religious viewpoints as a way of furthering science (in violation of their charters), accommodationists like the commenters on this thread deny that they are in fact promoting religious viewpoints.

…I still don’t understand how one can conclude that A = B. I just don’t understand the contention that referencing and describing how a group with some belief successfully approaches a given understanding of some other concept is the same thing as promoting the group’s belief. I certainly understand that such is a promotion of the successful approach to understanding some other concept, but my only response to that given the charter in question is, so what?

Robin said:

since when is atheism a “religious viewpoint”? Is not actually the exact opposite - the total lack of a religious viewpoint?

Not according to some Panda’s Thumb stalwarts, Dale Husband, for example, who, in a recent thread, wrote or approved of such statements as;

“Atheism is as much a dogma as anything in religion,” “It is a belief, held as dearly as a theist holds hers.” “You really have to Believe to be an atheist.”

When convenient, people like to argue that atheism is a religious viewpoint, until, of course, it comes to providing the thousands of legal exemptions that religion enjoys in areas such as taxes, zoning, child abuse laws, etc., etc.

Argh said:

John Kwok said:

Does your hostility toward NCSE’s so-called “promotion” of this particular webcast series is one you should retain if the ultimate result might mean that science denialists will have the right to determine the future course of science education in the United States?

I have expressed opposition to the NCSE’s lying about it, not to their doing it, so your comment mises the mark. Likewise to your (ironically) simplistic division of the world into oppositional camps; it’s remarkable that people such as you who argue that the NCSE should violate its charter to buttress moderate religion keep arguing that it isn’t in fact doing so.

Coyne points out that the NCSE is promoting religion, and he gets piled on from accommodationists who reflexively oppose what he says regarding how to handle creationism and religion. Those accommodationists refuse to concede that Coyne could be right about anything having to do with science’s interface with religious moderates. He is right: the NCSE has articles from its religious outreach director containing such gems as “The Bible reflects the specific pre-scientific world-view of the ancient Hebrew people,” and “Like color and shape, “creation” and “evolution” do not occupy competing categories, but are complementary ways of looking at the universe.”

There is also a limit to how much we can credit the neutrality of someone couching religious arguments by saying “Some biblical scholars believe X.” Were a public school to merely teach objective facts about what some religious people believe with the same relentless focus the NCSE does, it would amount to an unconstitutional endorsement of a particular religious approach. This is despite the fact that there is a place in public schools for learning facts about religion, e.g. Joseph Smith lived in the first half of the 19th century.

Coyne is right about what is happening, and the accommodationists are wrong. They need to shape up and acknowledge someone with whom they disagree can be right so we can discuss how best to handle it. I have far more appreciation for the accommodationist position than you assume-though I have more respect for the intellectual honesty of the average uncompromising new atheist than for the dishonesty of the average accommodationist.

If you haven’t guessed already, I am an “accomodationist” (though not the Chris Mooney kind, which extols Carl Sagan and Jodie Foster as role models, or rather, Foster’s portral of Sagan’s astrophysicist in “Contact”) and I have more respect for the “honesty of the average accomodationist” than the “average uncompromising new atheist” for these reasons:

1) Ours is a nation whose intellectual antecedents are the French and Scottish Enlightenments, not the Spanish Inquisition (Allow me to be blunt. I find New Atheist attacks upon NCSE to be nothing more than either a latter day Spanish Inquisition or a perverse leftwing version of McCarthyism run amok.).

2) The last time I checked, Atheists are only a small segment of the American adult population (So purely for financial and demographic reasons alone, it makes no sense for NCSE to cater to yours and other New Atheists’s whims. Nor does it make sense with respect to NCSE’s raison d’etre.).

3) As others have pointed out here, it does make sense for NCSE to build alliances with others, even those in the devoutly religious sectors of American society - especially since most Americans still consider themselves religious - who recognize the validity of biological evolution as mainstream science and seek to have that disseminated to as much of the public that is interested in listening as possible (And hopefully, even those who aren’t.).

4) Since NCSE is both a clearinghouse and science advocacy organization, then it is well in its right to advertise the “Evolving Christianity” web seminars. Advertising them is not the same as sponsoring them, and I don’t recall reading that NCSE has signed on as a sponsor. Therefore yours and other New Atheist complaints pertaining to this are not merely groundless, but frankly, quite absurd.

Sorry, but NCSE isn’t the one lying, but rather, the likes of you:

Argh said: I have expressed opposition to the NCSE’s lying about it, not to their doing it, so your comment mises the mark. Likewise to your (ironically) simplistic division of the world into oppositional camps; it’s remarkable that people such as you who argue that the NCSE should violate its charter to buttress moderate religion keep arguing that it isn’t in fact doing so.

For the record I am a Deist who functions operationally as an Atheist. I don’t see any indications where NCSE has violated its charter “to buttress moderate religion”. And if you really think so and want NCSE to include voices from the Atheist community, then why don’t you, Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, George Soros, Warren Buffett, or Bill Gates fund NCSE at a suitable financial level that would enable NCSE to do exactly what you and your fellow New Atheists are demanding from it.

Argh, it isn’t worth the effort to respond. When relatively mild criticisms of the charter of a nonprofit organization made by those that are nevertheless still members is compared to the Spanish Inquisition and to McCarthyism, you know you are dealing with someone arguing with less than full honesty. Either that or the person is a few suits short of a full deck.

Yeah, that’s way over the top. This thread seems to be degenerating, so I’ll close comments.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on December 1, 2010 7:20 PM.

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