Kirk Cameron and Kevin Padian on the creationist Origin

Well, I hate to steer you to People magazine, but that’s where there’s a piece on Cameron and his “new edition” of The Origin (see my previous post here).  The piece is fairly ho-hum except for two things.  First, while it links to Cameron’s own promotional video, it also links to two “spoof” videos, including the one by Christina from Romania. I’d say that’s decent balance in reporting.

Second, there’s an interesting comment by Berkeley paleontologist Kevin Padian:

But academics dismiss such arguments [Cameron's equation of Darwin with Hitler] as ludicrous.

“This has been refuted many, many times. The anti-evolutionist fearmongers have to link Darwin to every perceived evil from mankind,” says Kevin Padian, professor of paleontology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Berkeley. “The two kinds people who believe that religion and evolution can not coexist are extreme atheists and extreme religious fundamentalists. Everyone else doesn’t really have a problem. [A majority] of Americans believe that a belief in god is compatible with evolution.”

Well, good for People to seek at least one dissenting voice, and Padian’s first sentence is on the mark.  But look further, as he equates “extreme atheists” (does he mean atheists who speak up?) to “extreme religious fundamentalists.”

Padian, of course, is President of the National Center for Science Education.  Did he really need to sneak in an anti-atheist crack like that?

It is now beyond doubt that the NCSE has a strategy, official or not, to marginalize and denigrate atheists, despite the fact that many of their officers (and members!) are unbelievers. Bad on them; very bad.  They have chosen to coddle believers in a way that alienates the rest of us. This is not a winning strategy, nor one that’s going to jack up the proportion of Americans who accept evolution.

103 Comments

  1. Posted September 25, 2009 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    “Bad on them; very bad. They have chosen to coddle believers in a way that alienates the rest of us. This is not a winning strategy, nor one that’s going to jack up the proportion of Americans who accept evolution.”

    Yes, it’s crap. But maybe they figure support from science-minded atheists is a given, and they are just trying to appeal to the muddle, I mean middle.

    It’s self-defeating for their efforts in the long run, like trying to recruit astrologers to help with astromomy education (only the “extreme” astromers deny that the stars could affect our lives in subtle ways).

    • Jason
      Posted September 25, 2009 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      LOL. Nice one Ray. I’m using that Astrologers/Astronomers education line if you don’t mind. It perfectly illustrates the absurdity of the Accommodationist position.

      • Posted September 25, 2009 at 10:18 am | Permalink

        Feel free to correct my spelling when quoting it. I should spell check before hitting “post”. ;^)

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted September 25, 2009 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        Use Firefox then Ray. It automatically underlines misspellings in red. It is also much faster that IE.

      • Tomer Guez
        Posted September 27, 2009 at 8:28 am | Permalink

        > Feel free to correct my
        > spelling when quoting it. I
        > should spell check before
        > hitting “post”. ;^)

        BTW, on this topic, there is a good spell check program Spell Check Anywhere (SpellCheckAnywhere.Com). It works in all programs, including blogs– and it also has optional grammar check.

    • Tyro
      Posted September 25, 2009 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      There are many Christians who support evolution, just as there are astrologers who support good astronomy education.

      The point isn’t that Christians and Astrologers are incapable of supporting science, quite the opposite. They will support you on one issue if they agree on that issue, you don’t need to suck up and pretend that you share all of their beliefs.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted September 25, 2009 at 9:45 am | Permalink

        It still does not make astrology compatible with astronomy. It also does nor require astronomers to accommodate astrology.

      • Tyro
        Posted September 25, 2009 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        I didn’t say they were compatible, just that you can get broader support while retaining intellectual honesty if you remain silent on this and confine your remarks to the science advocacy. Let others argue about compatibility or the lack thereof.

        Astrologers can support Astronomy without telling them that the zodiac affects our personality just as Christians support evolution without giving them theological pointers.

  2. Posted September 25, 2009 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    National Center for Selective Endorsement.

    We’ll show those New Literalists a thing or two!

  3. Tulse
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Why the hell does the NCSE feel the need to crap all over the atheists? I understand their mission, but why can’t they just ignore atheists, rather than explicitly antagonize them? No one is demanding that the NCSE declare atheism the One True Way of Seeing, we’re simply requesting that they not take a position on religion. Why is that so hard, and why are they pissing off their allies?

    Frankly, if I were a member of the NCSE, I’d be withdrawing.

    • tm61
      Posted September 25, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      “..why are they pissing off their allies?”

      I think that’s the point – they are trying not to piss off their allies – the people who may have some religious belief but accept the validity of evolution by natural selection.

  4. Matt Penfold
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Is an extreme atheist one who really really does not believe god exists ?

    Do you think Padian thinks a woman can not just be pregnant, but extremely pregnant ?

    • Tyro
      Posted September 25, 2009 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      Apparently, extreme atheists really believe that God doesn’t exist but if He did, are convinced that God supports the Southern Baptists.

    • Screechy Monkey
      Posted September 25, 2009 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      Not to be confused with Xtreme Atheists, who drink a lot of Mountain Dew and go bungee-jumping.

      • Geoffrey
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        Atheist…tick
        Drink Mountain Dew…tick
        Bungy Jump…tick

        Shit. I guess I’m Xtreme.

  5. NewEnglandBob
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    It appears it is time to clean house in the NCSE leadership. Their words are becoming more irrational as time goes on. Is there a way to reach the membership to discuss the issue?

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted September 25, 2009 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      Is there a way to reach the membership to discuss the issue?

      I’m reading this, and considering whether I should the NCSE a not of admonishment with a check this year, or instead of a check.

      • Michael K Gray
        Posted September 25, 2009 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

        Ask for a refund.

  6. Posted September 25, 2009 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    If the opposites (whatever an “extreme atheist” may be–a consistent thinker?) agree on something like the incompatibility of religion and science, that might be a marker that it’s the truth. Just a marker, mind you, and the case would still need to be made.

    Note, however, that Padian isn’t interested in making his case, only in appealing to the majority. This makes sense for PR, but it certainly doesn’t address the issues anyone raises.

    What also makes sense for PR is that Padian chalks the whole thing up to a perceived incompatibility of evolution and religion, rather than crediting a bunch of old lies.

    Like it or not, he’s probably doing quite a good job in both discrediting the creationists and in allaying religious anxieties over evolution. What we still don’t have from the NCSE’s opponents is any kind of strategy that could substitute for Padian’s approach. Simply being right (Padian’s careful detour around that minefield suggests that he knows they are) is no strategy.

    Glen Davidson

    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted September 25, 2009 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Sorry, but several of us HAVE suggested a strategy: that the NCSE avoid saying anything about the compatibility of evolution and faith. You may not think that it is a good strategy, but it is a strategy that could substitute for Padian’s approach.

      • Posted September 25, 2009 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        “Strategy” comes with a context, so I would mean a strategy for holding together a coalition that prefers teaching science instead of superstition, at least until some other kind of coalition could form. That is why I wrote “strategy that could substitute for Padian’s approach.” Ignoring the paramount motivation of anti-evolutionary efforts would not substitute for Padian’s approach (in context).

        I do not see how not mentioning religion is even possible, when that is clearly what concerns a large number of people. They’re going to give talks without talking about what 80% of the audience considers to be paramount? That is a strategy, a clever plan or method?

        It would better fit the definition of “recommendation,” or it might be considered your “aim.” For “strategy” does not usually mean simply not doing something, let alone ignoring the primary subject of discussion.

        And yes, again, Padian has a PR strategy. His opponents are concerned with being right. Those are not synonymous goals, and it would be just as well to note that it is difficult to accommodate the two.

        Glen Davidson

        http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

      • Michael K Gray
        Posted September 25, 2009 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

        My suggested strategy is for the NCSE to tell the truth.
        Too radical for them, it seems!

    • Robocop
      Posted September 25, 2009 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      “If the opposites (whatever an “extreme atheist” may be–a consistent thinker?) agree on something like the incompatibility of religion and science, that might be a marker that it’s the truth. Just a marker, mind you, and the case would still need to be made.”

      Where is the best case for incompatibility made in your view?

  7. Posted September 25, 2009 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    More on the Cameron remarks in the People article referenced above: apparently he said that “the Bible of the atheists is The Origin of Species”

    A little light discussion of this over here: http://secularcafe.org/showthread.php?p=72148&#post72148

    One comment: “They project their worship of the Bible onto us, and insinuate that we worship the Origin of Species.”

    Apparently they (Comfort, Cameron & co.) really are that clueless.

    • Posted September 25, 2009 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Those supposed PR experts of the DI are about that dumb as well, though. Dembski, very recently at UD:

      Since Darwin is their god, it would be interesting to submit to this [blasphemy] contest true statements about Darwin’s less than divine attributes.

      He’s just preaching to his base. This isn’t the way to convince anyone that his position is correct. As ill-advised as the atheist billboards saying “Praise Darwin” are, virtually none of us really cares about Darwin aside from historical relevance, and for getting the ball rolling.

      Dembski may just be lying through his teeth, as he’s not as unintelligent as most creationists. But he sure plays like an ignorant rube, even if just to cozen the true ignorant rubes.

      Glen Davidson

      http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  8. Tyro
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Does Padian think that the religious evolutionists are so vital that they must suck up to them at every opportunity? Does he think they’re unprincipled, uneducated buffoons who are only supporting the NCSE to rid the world of competing religious and non-religious beliefs? I haven’t noticed that Ken Miller is any less vocal in defending evolution despite knowing that many evolutionists disagree with his religious beliefs.

    I fear that by refusing to take a neutral stance on this subject, many people (both religious and atheistic) will see this as the NCSE expanding their activities into domains that their base does not support or endorse and could end up losing members and donations. While I’m not at that point yet, I find myself trying to distance myself from them.

    • KP
      Posted September 25, 2009 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      I never know how to react to these things. Isn’t Padian an atheist?

      Anyway, it’s hard for me to be too critical of him and even Ken Miller, because both of them so effectively destroyed ID/creationism at Dover and elsewhere.

  9. Posted September 25, 2009 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I do wonder whether the accomodationist wing of the NCSE realize the trap they are setting for themselves by sucking up to particular religions in this way.
    It is a mistake to think they are ‘religion friendly’ – that’s not really the case. It is more accurate to see them as friendly to some specific religions – even going so far as to wish that people convert to those chosen faiths.
    In Joshua Rosenau’s words,
    “Some religion is bad, some is good. I oppose the bad parts and wish more people would switch from bad religions to good ones.”

    http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2009/09/on_vampires_and_ways_of_knowin.php

    This is not science, this is promotion of sectarian theology.

  10. Tulse
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    It is a mistake to think they are ‘religion friendly’ – that’s not really the case. It is more accurate to see them as friendly to some specific religions – even going so far as to wish that people convert to those chosen faiths.

    Exactly — as I’ve said before, I don’t understand why a national science advocacy organization is involved in theological discussions.

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted September 25, 2009 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      It is *completely* valid to become involved where theological tenets actively promote provable dangerous anti-scientific dogmas.
      Not only valid, but mandatory, in my opinion.

      • Tulse
        Posted September 25, 2009 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

        It is *completely* valid to become involved where theological tenets actively promote provable dangerous anti-scientific dogmas.

        Like supernaturalism?

  11. Ian
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never met a Christian extremist who thought of themself as extreme.

    Although I share the viewpoint entirely, I sometimes wonder whether the cries “we’re not extremists” are protesting too much…

    Truth is that worldwide most religious people believe in evolution. Most people who believe in evolution are religious. Most atheists don’t have a problem with other people’s faith, much less that people of faith believe in evolution.

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted September 25, 2009 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

      I disagree with nearly every fiat claim you made above.
      What is your evidence for each of them?

      • Ian
        Posted September 25, 2009 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

        In the last paragraph, discussion of number 1 is below. Given that non-believers are a small minority, 2 follows if 1 holds (and even if it doesn’t, it may well still hold). Statement 3 and 4 are from my experience, and given that this comment thread has its ire ranged against this, I assume its not just me.

  12. Tulse
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    worldwide most religious people believe in evolution

    I wonder if that is in fact true. Do you have any source for that claim?

    And I wonder how the numbers would change if one included “humans” in the organisms that evolved.

    • Ian
      Posted September 25, 2009 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      I’d probably want to flip it around if I had to justify it :) And say something like “most religious people don’t disbelieve in evolution”, since obviously belief is a somewhat active thing.

      My source, therefore would be the evolution belief surveys such as the Science paper, and adherent data for major religions. The science data doesn’t cover China and India, which are a major chunk of the population, but other than some bits of Islam, none of the major religions in those countries have an anti-evolution stance.

      It isn’t conclusive, of course, but I think it is the most likely situation based on the evidence we have.

      • Michael K Gray
        Posted September 25, 2009 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

        You switch from ‘religious people’ to the official position of their churches.
        Do you not see the logical fallacy here?

      • Ian
        Posted September 25, 2009 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

        False generalization is the logical fallacy, but your logical fallacy is to assume that the use of that flip was a logical argument rather than a empirical one.

        From what I can tell most people are utterly naive about evolution one way or the other. Those people I come across who hold anti-evolution viewpoints have been sold them as part of their religion’s dogma. From that I assume that if a religion does not poison people against science, they would either be neutral or positive towards it. Most likely neutral.

        Thus I would expect to see (what in fact is the case) that belief in evolution is highly correlated with the creed of the religion adhered to.

        Thus the switch from relgious people to the official position of their churches is an reasonable empirical assumption, not a logical fallacy.

  13. Tulse
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    none of the major religions in those countries have an anti-evolution stance

    Is Hinduism necessarily all that friendly to evolution?

    And keep in mind that the claim was “most religious people believe in evolution” — my question isn’t whether some varieties of religion formally reject evolution, but instead what gets actually preached and believed on the ground.

    • Ian
      Posted September 25, 2009 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      “but instead what gets actually preached … on the ground”

      My understanding is that outside (and even largely inside) US evangelical Christianity it doesn’t.

      As for belief on the ground, we’ll have to wait for the survey to go worldwide. For now, evolution is batting over 50% though.

      • bad Jim
        Posted September 25, 2009 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

        From the international survey on acceptance of evolution which is widely cited and from Wikipedia numbers on religious belief in Europe, it appears that around 60% of non-evangelical Christians accept evolution. This is about the same as for Catholic and mainline Protestants in the U.S., according to the 2007 Pew study.

        In other words, the low acceptance of evolution in the U.S. is mainly due to the large number of evangelical protestants and the relatively small number of atheists.

  14. Steve M.
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Padian has done a great deal of good for the cause of evolution education. That said, I have always had a problem with his heavy handed, dogmatic approach to the issue of private fossil ownership and now I find Padian’s comments about “extreme” atheists similarly offensive. What defines an extreme atheist, anyway?
    Would Dawkins be considered extreme according to Padian’s criteria? Sounds like pure PR & BS rather than a measured response.

  15. madamX
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    The two kinds of people who believe that the earth revolving around the Sun and the Sun revolving around the earth can not coexist are extreme atheists and extreme religious fundamentalists. Everyone else doesn’t really have a problem.

    WTF. Please fire these people, this is NOT OK. They are confusing the general public, why is this OK?????

    • Ian
      Posted September 25, 2009 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      There is no discrepancy between believing that the earth goes around the sun and that the sun goes around the earth.

      The discrepancy arises only when you say which of the two the other planets go around…

  16. Tom Johnson
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, there you go again with extrapolating statements about vocal atheists to all atheists. You are quick to broadbrush atheism but also quick to condemn certain groups within it. Quite the contradiction…but that’s how those go when you bend your values to fit the argument of the hour.

    And don’t be upset with people trying to “marginalize” extreme atheists. You argue quite a bit about how “extreme” atheists don’t exist, but by going on your little crusade about classifying and denegrating “moderate” atheists, you help perpetuate the term. If anyone’s marginalizing anyone, it’s you marginalizing yourself. Don’t be upset, then, when someone talks about those like yourself as “extreme.”

    I really enjoyed your blogging when this site first started, because you gave play to all sides of an issue while pushing your own in a very intelligent manner. You made wodnerful arguments while being bigger, better, and more mature than the other side. Lately, however, your writing has taken on the tone of a right-wing radio talk show host. There’s hardly a book review or blog post that doesn’t dumb itself down into attacks on the personal intelligence of those you’re writing about or resort to name-calling on the level of a six year old. Everything seems to be posted more for shock value or point-keeping than substance.

    Such is the internet, I guess. I’ll be sticking to your book only from now on – it’s MUCH less petty.

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted September 25, 2009 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      There are no ‘both sides’ on this matter.
      One side is comitting outright provable fraud.

    • Posted September 25, 2009 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      Jerry, there you go again with extrapolating statements about vocal atheists to all atheists.

      Not true. Padian said “The two kinds [of]people who believe that religion and evolution can not coexist are extreme atheists and extreme religious fundamentalists” – not “vocal” atheists, “extreme” atheists. He was ruder than you said. No good – no good painting one’s own team as nicer than it is.

      And then, Jerry didn’t extrapolate a statement about extreme atheists to all atheists – he did the opposite of that – he asked what Padian meant by ‘extreme’ atheist.

      I wouldn’t have known about yet another NCSE person joining the pile-on against explicit atheists, and I want to know about these things.

      • Tom Johnson
        Posted September 25, 2009 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

        It’s quite simple, Ophelia:

        Padian (emphasis mine): “The two kinds people who believe that religion and evolution can not coexist are EXTREME atheists and extreme religious fundamentalists.”

        Jerry: “It is now beyond doubt that the NCSE has a strategy, official or not, to marginalize and denigrate atheists…”

        Funny – somewhere I missed where criticism about vocal, “extreme” atheists was equivalent to an attempt to marginalize all those who lack belief in God/gods. This is a broadbrush, a quote blown out of proportion and context, and ultimately a simpleminded attempt at character assassination on Jerry’s part. Padian’s quote even shows for itself that he wasn’t referring to the religious or the nonreligious as a silly, lumped whole.

        Both sides do this. No one (including Padian) gets a free pass, of course, but neither should misrepresentations and broad-brushing. Again, I’m disappointed tht Jerry has moved from intelligent, mature arguments to fifth-grade namecalling. If we must resort to character assassination to make a point, we’ve already lost.

      • Posted September 26, 2009 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        Tom Johnson

        Funny – somewhere I missed where criticism about vocal, “extreme” atheists was equivalent to an attempt to marginalize all those who lack belief in God/gods.

        Well I missed the part where Padian explained exactly what an “extreme” atheist is and exactly who fits the description. Of course that is part of the point: use a strong pejorative without spelling out who is covered and you can scapegoat your enemies with impunity.

        I, for one, am very very tired of being constantly scapegoated (since I’m pretty sure I’m the kind of atheist that Padian means by “extreme,” i.e. the kind that argues for atheism in public as opposed to politely keeping it a secret) by people like Padian when I am not doing anything wrong. That simple fact seems to elude a lot of people. Atheism is not a crime and it’s not even immoral or impolite or presumptuous or intrusive or illegitimate – yet there’s a massive and constantly growing discourse that frames it as all those. You’re adding your bit. You’re no more convincing than the rest of the atheist-haters.

      • Tom Johnson
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

        How predictable: the old “there’s no such thing as an extreme atheist” comeback!

        Consider this situation which is, oh I don’t know, hypothetical:

        1.) We have a spectrum of opinions on how to handle creationism, ranging from atheists on the left to the ultrareligious on the right. In the middle of this spectrum lie those – both atheists and the religous alike – that are willing to combat creationism and promote evolution.

        2.) Now imagine a group of atheists on the left decides to encircle the atheists in the middle with rehetoric, holds a contest to see who can come up with the most mocking label for them, and proceeds to piss upon them, ultimately implying they’re really not atheists but creationists all along.

        What would that be called other than separating atheists on this issues into two camps: one at the extreme? And wouldn’t it be fucking IRONIC if that group got all upset and in a tizzy when called more extreme for demonizing moderates? I personally know it would be hilarious.

        You know what it would sound a lot like? Ultraconservative/ultraliberal politics! Demonize the middle, alienate them, hurl perjoratives at them. And when you’re criticized by those who share basic values with you but aren’t a part of your group, accuse them of supporting the other side.

        How brilliant and brainless all at the same time.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

        No one cares what you think Johnson.

        You lied about leaving.

      • Ian
        Posted September 27, 2009 at 7:52 am | Permalink

        @NEBob,

        Speak for yourself. It would be a crap world if we were only interested in opinions we agreed with.

        I disagree with most things Tom posts, but I appreciate him posting.

        But then, I’m sure nobody cares what I think either…

      • Posted September 27, 2009 at 9:59 am | Permalink

        Tom Johnson –

        How predictable: the old “there’s no such thing as an extreme atheist” comeback!

        I didn’t say that. It’s extraordinary how bad the ‘let’s demonize explicit atheists’ crowd are at reading accurately. I didn’t say “there’s no such thing as an extreme atheist” – I said “I missed the part where Padian explained exactly what an “extreme” atheist is and exactly who fits the description. Of course that is part of the point: use a strong pejorative without spelling out who is covered and you can scapegoat your enemies with impunity.”

        Surely that’s clear enough. Surely that’s not ambiguous or obscure. Surely you could have replied to what I actually said rather than to your hostile aggressive gloss on it. So why didn’t you? Because you hate putative “extreme” atheists so much that you are unable to read what they say accurately? Or what?

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted September 27, 2009 at 10:28 am | Permalink

        Ian:

        I don’t agree with the way Johnson posts. He is antagonistic and malicious and says things that are outrageously false. That is why I do not care for what he says. He bounces from one wall to another.

        I, for one, do care what you say, Ian.

      • Ian
        Posted September 27, 2009 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        I’m pretty new, so I probably haven’t got to see that much yet.

    • articulett
      Posted September 25, 2009 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      I want to applaud you on your decision not to post here anymore, Tom Johnson, because this reader finds you far more petty and incoherent than Jerry et. al. and doesn’t agree with your opinion regarding Jerry’s “pettiness”.

      Stick to Jerry’s book. Allow those of us who enjoy his blog to enjoy it without having to be subject through your self aggrandizing tsk-tsking.

      Many of us are tired of being labeled as “extreme” when we are merely expressing our opinion in the same manner that people like you express yours or accommodationists express theirs–we are certainly less extreme (and more honest) than those trying to manipulate others into giving religion respect that religionists do not give competing superstitions.

      • Chayanov
        Posted September 25, 2009 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

        So “extreme” is the new “militant” then? Nice to know. Once again, we’re supposed to keep our eyes down and our mouths shut, and let our betters (like Padian, apparently) do the talking for us.

      • Tom Johnson
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

        Articulett,

        Thanks so much for proving my point and all but labeling me a theist just for criticizing you – an atheist. Marginalization at its best, I see.

        Fucking hilarious. That would be the core of this whole issue, wouldn’t it?

      • Ian
        Posted September 27, 2009 at 7:56 am | Permalink

        “I want to applaud you on your decision not to post here anymore, Tom Johnson, because this reader … doesn’t agree with your opinion.”

        Wow, just wow.

  17. SaintStephen
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    [A majority] of Americans believe that a belief in god is compatible with evolution.

    Yes, Kevin, and a majority of Americans are also completely uneducated about the facts of Evolution, and you, Sir, are not helping to educate them one bit with your accommodationist prattle.

    Sounds like Francis Collins deja vu all over again.

  18. RichardW
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    I guess an “extreme” atheist is one who thinks it’s irrational to accept fact claims without a rational basis for doing so, and who says what he thinks.

    • Ian
      Posted September 26, 2009 at 7:58 am | Permalink

      In the same way, presumably, that an ‘extreme’ Christian is one who believes that everyone is going to hell unless they personally accept Jesus Christ, and who says what she thinks.

      • Ian
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 8:01 am | Permalink

        My point being (for fear of being misconstrued), what’s wrong with being an extremist?

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 8:28 am | Permalink

        There is plenty wrong in being an extremist at anything. By definition it means that someone is taking an extreme stance. The problem here is that accommodationists are defining as “extreme” those atheists who are just standing up for their rights. They do not want dogmas forced upon them and they do not want to be told to shut up. They do not want to be told to tolerate and accept errant views. This is not extremist in any way. It is a lousy political manipulation done by dishonest people like Padian and Cameron

      • Tyro
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 8:42 am | Permalink

        “Extremist” is another smear attempt. In many political questions, the best approach doesn’t lie at the extremes but when we view scientific matters, there is one true position which, disappointingly, Padian doesn’t grasp.

        For instance: when deciding if the Holocaust happened, should we listen to the “extremists” who say that millions of Jews were killed or do we split the difference? Should we listen to the “extremists” who say that vaccines are safe and save millions of lives or do we accommodate critics and say that vaccines could give your children autism?

        Either gods either exist or not; either there’s evidence for design and purpose in evolution or not, there’s no continuum and it isn’t a political question. “Extreme atheists” in this context appear to be those who accept the evidence and have the insufferable gall to speak their mind.

      • Ian
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 11:53 am | Permalink

        Could easily be written by an evangelical:

        “do not want to be told to tolerate and accept errant views. This is not extremist in any way.”

        “but when we view [spiritual] matters, there is one true position”

        As per my point – in this regard an extremist is someone who isn’t willing to compromise what they stand for.

        The bottom line is this: if the truth is at the extreme end of a continuum (such as the ‘how much spiritual stuff is good for the world’), then why not be an extremist.

        Clearly it was intended to be pejorative. But that doesn’t make it wrong.

        @NEBob ‘just standing up for their rights’ – I think you’re way off here. They are defining as extreme those atheists who want woo out of our political and scientific culture. That’s not anybody’s rights, but I would say it is an extreme position worth fighting for.

      • Ian
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 11:57 am | Permalink

        @Tyro

        I guess I’m roughly at the modal point of beliefs in the Holocaust. So I couldn’t be considered ‘extreme’ then. If, however, most of the population believed it never happened, and a tiny minority of us were trying to point out the truth, I’d be happy to be at the extreme end of the debate.

        Truth is important, no matter where on the continuum of beliefs it lies.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        @NEBob ‘just standing up for their rights’ – I think you’re way off here. They are defining as extreme those atheists who want woo out of our political and scientific culture. That’s not anybody’s rights, but I would say it is an extreme position worth fighting for.

        Wanting woo our of our political and science culture IS our rights and it is NOT extreme in any way. You, Ian, are the one who is way off base here. It is our constitutional rights and it is main stream central.

      • Ian
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        “It is our constitutional rights and it is main stream central.”

        Clearly it isn’t only science education that’s lacking in our schools. Do you understand what a constitutional right is?

        You have a constitutional right to demand and campaign for woo out of science, but you have no constitutional right to receive it.

      • Ian
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        “and it is main stream central.”

        Sorry – I didn’t spot this bit, I didn’t realise you were being sarcastic.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

        Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any religion.

        Keeping woo out of our political, science or any other kind culture is a constitutional right under the US constitution in the first and fourteenth amendments.

      • Ian
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

        Wow, you’re *seriously* out of touch with reality if you think Kevin’s article is breaching your first or fourteenth amendment rights.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        The topic for the last dozen comments was “extremists”. Don’t go twisting it around by claiming I said Padian’s article was about breaching rights. Try to follow the thread and thought processes and stop making nonsense accusations.

      • Tom Johnson
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

        My my my, there’s certainly a lot of bitching and moaning from a group of folks who make it a goal of theirs to laugh about how certain other groups of people get all upset with criticism.

        Ironic? Oh yes, and how!

      • Ian
        Posted September 27, 2009 at 7:45 am | Permalink

        @NEBob,

        Skirting over Tom’s rather random interjection into the bob and ian show in this corner of the comments….

        You’re right bob, that was a crappy comeback of mine, I understand you didn’t suggest what I put into your mouth. It was unnecessarily facile, sorry.

        I still think you’re deluded on what your constitutional rights are in this regard, but maybe we’ll play this out in future threads rather than take this further OT.

      • Ian
        Posted September 27, 2009 at 8:06 am | Permalink

        @Tom,

        Bitching and moaning? In this section of the comments? I don’t know what you mean.

        When it comes to Jerry’s blog you’re the extremist Tom. But hey, so what? If you believe you’re right, make your point. If nobody agrees, so what?

        It ain’t bitching to have a bit of robust debate, even a bit of name-calling is fine by me if whoever is calling me names is also willing to talk substance.

        In my opinion one of the least savory things about the way this debate plays out is the implication that atheists ought to have one voice on anything.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted September 27, 2009 at 10:24 am | Permalink

        … but maybe we’ll play this out in future threads rather than take this further OT

        Fine by me. You and I see mostly eye to eye and we have no need to be antagonistic to each other.

  19. jeremy
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 4:39 am | Permalink

    It’s interesting to see Padian form this single “extreme” category, when on the one hand it seems to attach importance to moving dialogue closer to honest, supportable facts, whilst on the other it represents something quite the opposite.

    I think Jerry’s gripe here is extremely reasonable.

  20. moseszd
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I’m a bit confused about all the NCSE’s position. First, what are “extreme athiests?” Second, how is something(science of which evolution is merely a subset) that has refuted every testable supernatural claim, origin claim and many of the historical claims of Christianity somehow “compatible” with people’s beliefs?

    • articulett
      Posted September 26, 2009 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      Well, they argue that science is “compatible” with unfalsifiable beliefs, but they really only mean the “unfalsifiable god”. Science can’t disproof gremlins, demons, or the notion that people can be witches, but I suspect you won’t see the NCSE calling those beliefs “compatible”– though, if they were honest, they would have to admit that those beliefs are as “compatible” as belief in god(s).

      This is why it’s important for NCSE to avoid commenting on religion altogether, and for members to keep their prejudices about so-called “extreme atheists” to themselves.

      • Tom Johnson
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        “First, what are “extreme athiests?””

        All my silliness aside, there is no such thing as an extreme atheist when we’re talking about God/gods. You either believe or you don’t. No problem.

        When it comes with how to deal with creationism, however, there very much are “extreme” atheists, and that’s what this is all about.

        On the one end of the spectrum you have brainless creationism supporters who want to promote it. On the other end you have people like Jerry who believe the only way to destroy creationism is destroy religion. And in the middle lie atheists and believers alike who feel there is a way to combat creationism that doesn’t attacking religion at its core.

        Now when the atheists on the left openly slap a label on the moderate atheists and demonize/mock them, we officially have created a group of atheists on the extreme ends of this spectrum.

        This isn’t necessarily bad. But it IS interesting to watch those atheists get all ballistic when someone points out that they’ve marginalized themselves by demonizing the middle and accusing them of being in line with creationists.

        For the third time: this is irony at its best.

      • articulett
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

        Speaking of irony, aren’t you the Tom Johnson who just declared that he was going to stop reading Jerry’s blog and stick to his books? So, why don’t you? Or are you enjoying your hypocrisy too much?

        Does anyone other than you think you have a valid point amdist your whining and continual use of straw men?

        Jerry has not said anything about wanting to destroy religion– that is your straw man–a false accusation on your part so you can pretend he’s extreme and you are moderate. Faitheists seem to hear such things whenever anyone dares to point out that religion SHOULD be treated the same way you’d treat any pseudoscience… the same way religionists treat conflicting religions.

        You faitheists seem to be impenetrable when it comes to getting this point while insisting we “extreme atheists” are trying to destroy religion. You claim our methods are bad or wrong or hurt some cause, but you never provide any evidence– you just imagine that everything would work better if we were more like you. But you are not someone I want to be more like. I prefer the “extreme atheists” you are so critical of. To me, they sound much more honest and intelligent than you.

        So, Tom Johnson, are you trying to destroy rain dancing with your disbelief in it? If it was interfering with people learning actual means of irrigating crops would it be “extreme” to say so?? Would it be radical to suggest it wasn’t really a notion that is compatible with science? Why is prayer so different? What if praying for healing leads to someone’s death rather than just ignorance regarding evolution?

        Who is more honest–the one arguing to let people believe in their rain dances (which might occasionally result in a human sacrifice to please the gods) or the one who thinks we ought to enlighten such people to methods more likely to produce beneficial results and less likely to encourage magical thinking.

        I see Jerry as being more akin to the latter category– all the atheists you think of as “extreme” are. You are in the former category — the category of the proverbial “courtier”.

        Perhaps you’ll find better receptivity on Mooney’s blog.

      • Posted September 27, 2009 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        Tom Johnson –

        On the one end of the spectrum you have brainless creationism supporters who want to promote it. On the other end you have people like Jerry who believe the only way to destroy creationism is destroy religion.

        As articulett pointed out – that really is extraordinarily inaccurate – and of course in a vicious way. You misdescribe Jerry’s position and you don’t do it in what might be called a friendly or even impartial way, you do it in a remarkably hostile way. So…a little less sneering about other people’s partisanship might be advisable at this point.

  21. tm61
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Padian said: “The two kinds people who believe that religion and evolution can not coexist are extreme atheists and extreme religious fundamentalists.”

    Jerry Coyne said: “It is now beyond doubt that the NCSE has a strategy, official or not, to marginalize and denigrate atheists…”

    and

    “They have chosen to coddle believers …”

    It seems to me padian said the same thing about fundamentalists and atheists. Why then is it denigrating to atheists and coddling to fundamentalists?

    • articulett
      Posted September 26, 2009 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      Being an “extreme truth teller” is not being extreme at all. Being an extreme believer in an invisible immeasurable entity called “god” is as extreme as being an extreme believer in an invisible unmeasurable entity named Satan, Santa, or Xenu.

      There is one truth. Science is compatible with the truth. Science may also be “compatible” with a myriad of unfalsifiable fantastical claims, but the NCSE is only “coddling” one “brand” of such a claim.

      God belief is no more or less compatible than belief in invisible pink unicorns. But you don’t see the NCSE stating such.

      If you are confused about this issue, blame your indoctrinator and people such as Padian for not saying the truth. From a scientific perspective, god belief is no more compatible than belief in “the matrix”– or any other unfalsifiable claim. And for the same reasons.

      Was Galileo extreme in his views? As extreme as those who held opposing beliefs for religious reasons? Jerry is no more “extreme” than Galileo and the other side is no less extreme than Galileo’s critics.

      Being a believer in one creation story is on par with being a believer in any myth. Science aims to separate the myth from the truth.

      • articulett
        Posted September 26, 2009 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

        By the way, this “extreme atheist” does not argue that religion and science can’t coexist… that’s a straw man. I share Jerry’s views that religion is no more “compatible” with science than any other myth and that the NCSE should stay out of it.

        Humans are rife with cognitive dissonance, so clearly natural and supernatural beliefs can exist in the same person. But that doesn’t mean that SCIENCE is “compatible” with supernatural beiefs.

        Science is no more compatible with god belief then it is with demon possession and the infinity of other unfalsifiable possible beliefs. It is as dishonest to pretend that scientist is “compatible” with god belief but not demon belief. The two beliefs are in the SAME category from a scientific perspective, and putting down those who say so is dishonesty in the name of religion.

        There is NO scientifically valid reason for treating god belief differently than belief in pixies. Really. And those who point this out are just being more honest than the apologists, accommodationists, the brainwashed, and the liars-for-god.

  22. articulett
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    An extreme believer in Scientology is not in the same category as an extreme non-believer in Scientology. (I’m sure everyone posting here is an extreme non-believer in Scientology.)

    The same goes for god and all other supernatural claims.

    If you cannot understand the difference between an extreme believer in “magic” and one who doesn’t subscribe to such beliefs, then blame your indoctrinators for screwing with your logic.

    Most people are “extreme” in their nonbelief of the vast majority of magical entities that someone or other has “believed in”.

  23. Leigh Jackson
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    “[A majority] of Americans believe that a belief in god is compatible with evolution.”

    I wonder where this comes from? A British Council poll published in July said:

    “In all countries polled more people agreed than disagreed that it is possible to believe in a God and hold the view that life evolved on Earth by means of natural selection at the same time, with those in India most likely (85%) to be of this opinion, followed by Mexico (65%), Argentina (63%), South Africa, Great Britain (54%), USA, Russia (53%), Egypt, Spain (45%), and China (39%).

    In six out of ten countries the majority of people who had heard of Charles Darwin and know something about his theory of evolution agreed with the view that there is enough scientific evidence that exists to support the theory against an overall average of 54 percent.

    Only Russia (48%), USA (42%), South Africa (41%) and Egypt (25%) remained sceptical about the scientific evidence that exists to support Darwin’s theory.”

    This data is saying that whilst a majority of Americans believe that a belief in evolution via natural selection can be compatible with belief in God, most don’t believe that the scientific evidence supports the theory.

    If this is true it implies that scientific ignorance is holding back acceptance of evolution via natural causes amongst non-fundamenalists – not religious objections. This ignorance may to some extent arise from creationist canards to the effect that scientific opinion is divided over evolution.

    But where is the evidence that noisy atheists are holding back acceptance of evolution by natural causes? They are not in the scientific junk and canard creation business, like the creationists.

    The NCSE should stick to pushing science – not religion.

  24. Not Glen Davidson
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    > virtually none of us really cares about Darwin aside from historical relevance

    ROFL! …. ….skuze me….

  25. articulett
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Tom Johnson
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 4:36 pm |

    Such is the internet, I guess. I’ll be sticking to your book only from now on – it’s MUCH less petty.

    How many times have you posted since you’ve said “goodbye”, Tom? And do you realize that most people probably find your criticisms of others (pettiness, etc.) more fitting of your own words than of those you criticize?

    You may be fooling yourself, but I think you’ve made a poor impression on the rest of us subjected to your verbiage. I read this blog for the intelligent commentary; you’ve offered none.

  26. MadScientist
    Posted September 27, 2009 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    What does it take to be an “extreme atheist”? Haha! I have one god less than no gods! I have -1 gods! Beat that, you normal atheists!

    I also object to atheists of any sort being lumped in with LIARS FOR JEEZUS; it’s as stupid as the Darwin=Hitler lie.

    • articulett
      Posted September 27, 2009 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      I think you are considered “extreme” if you don’t show deference to faith or don’t give lip-service to the idea that faith is a good thing to have. Or maybe if you are peeved at being called militant and extreme by those who imagine themselves “holier than thou”.

      (But I believe in negative infinity gods just in case–in fact I don’t believe in any demi-gods or goddesses or any invisible thinking entities– I’m athiester than you!)

  27. articulett
    Posted September 27, 2009 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    It’s worse than that, Ophelia, his whole first post is full of vitriol, dishonesty, and criticisms that are more apropos to him than those he criticizes. Let’s review, shall we?

    <Jerry, there you go again with extrapolating statements about vocal atheists to all atheists. You are quick to broadbrush atheism but also quick to condemn certain groups within it. Quite the contradiction…but that’s how those go when you bend your values to fit the argument of the hour.

    He uses the word “vocal” instead of the actual word “extreme” as you pointed out, Ophelia to soften the derisive implications of Padian’s words and give them a different meaning. Extreme=vocal??? On what planet? Or is that only if you a vocal AND and atheist. I think terms like “extreme”, “militant”, “shrill” etc. are code words for upset faitheists who don’t like people who treat religion like the superstition it is. They have no real reason why it should be treated differently so instead they argue “tone” and straw man positions that no one actually held.

    Tom then makes several nasty lies and straw men about Jerry (in his very first paragraph on this thread) without ANY justification including that he (Jerry) “paints atheists with a broad brush” (unsupported opinion); then he accuses Jerry of being condemning and contradictory while being far more condemning and contradictory than I have EVER seen Jerry be. And what values does he imagine Jerry is “bending”. To me, it’s clear that Jerry values, honesty, but that is something Tom has trouble with. Moreover, Tom seems completely clueless as to the irony rife in his every post while (in a later post) imagining himself to be some sort of connoisseur of irony!!! Hello, Dunning-Kruger. Does he really listen to anyone other than the voices in his head?

    And don’t be upset with people trying to “marginalize” extreme atheists. You argue quite a bit about how “extreme” atheists don’t exist, but by going on your little crusade about classifying and denigrating “moderate” atheists, you help perpetuate the term. If anyone’s marginalizing anyone, it’s you marginalizing yourself. Don’t be upset, then, when someone talks about those like yourself as “extreme.”

    Ahhh– a clue to what really has Tom’s panty’s in a bunch. He wishes to imagine himself and other faitheists as “moderate” although reality doesn’t need “moderators” and magical thinking doesn’t need protection. There is no moderation needed between people who make sacrifices to rain gods and scientists who know a few things about how to better grow crops. Tom then goes on to relieve himself for his guilt at spreading this denigration of “extreme atheists” by telling us that we marginalize ourselves by not being more like him.

    I really enjoyed your blogging when this site first started, because you gave play to all sides of an issue while pushing your own in a very intelligent manner. You made wodnerful arguments while being bigger, better, and more mature than the other side. Lately, however, your writing has taken on the tone of a right-wing radio talk show host. There’s hardly a book review or blog post that doesn’t dumb itself down into attacks on the personal intelligence of those you’re writing about or resort to name-calling on the level of a six year old. Everything seems to be posted more for shock value or point-keeping than substance.

    From where I read, this appears to be a delusion that exists entirely in Tom Johnson’s head. Many more people are enjoying Jerry’s blog than in the past, and I see the caliber rising steadily with famous bloggers posting amidst lesser known biological folk.

    Such is the internet, I guess. I’ll be sticking to your book only from now on – it’s MUCH less petty.

    An excellent idea, but alas… a lie from yet another self aggrandizing fatheist. It’s a bummer too, because I was quite certain that his disappearance would make this site much less petty as we’d be rid of one of the pettier people I’ve seen posting here.

    I must learn to be more skeptical so as not to have my hopes dashed the text time some twit tells us how he’s not going to post anymore because (insert group insult), and then continues to post in the group he supposedly finds (repeat group insult.) It’s very kwokian.

    Ugh, and I hate the pretense that Jerry drew the dividing lines–he’s not the one who started with terms like “militant”, “extreme” “shrill” and the general nastiness heaped upon the word atheist. He’s not the one that started us versus them with his tsk tsking of “new atheists”. He responded… gleefully… with a contest. Talk about making lemons out of lemonade! And I’d say the term faitheist is a hell of lot nicer than the invectives that hurl from the faitheists (read all your posts, Tom Johnson, and find just one that is less divisive than the term faitheist–at least you are “new”, “militant” or “extreme” like those mean old scientists Coyne, Myers, and PZ.)

    And while you are searching for actual quotes of Jerry to support your nasty allegations about him being divisive, find one place where Jerry maligns and falsely states your position like you did to him here:

    Jerry who believe the only way to destroy creationism is destroy religion. And in the middle lie atheists and believers alike who feel there is a way to combat creationism that doesn’t attacking religion at its core.

    Jerry never said anything like that. THAT is a delusional lie that exists only in your head. There is no moderate middle ground between rain dancers and those who understand how whether really works. There is no moderate middle ground between what the Catholic Church taught and Galileo’s’ facts. There is no middle ground between belief in witches and the understanding that human mental problems are not caused by possession or witchcraft or immeasurable invisible demons. There is no middle ground between the supernatural and the natural, because there is no evidence that the supernatural even exists. You cannot coddle religious belief, without enabling the harms that come from such magical thinking.

    The is true for all faith-based delusions. Science is on the side of truth. You can kiss as much theist ass as you like and imagine yourself moderate and fabulous and helpful to some nebulous cause by doing so. You may even convince yourself of this, Tom Johnson. But to this atheist, you are another person spreading atheist prejudice in order to elevate your own opinion of yourself. You are doing what Padian did… and Jerry is right.

    If religion and faith was kept private, then no one would have to know or care what those “extreme” atheists think. You wouldn’t be able to tell them from anyone else! You woudn’t be provoking them into defense and anger with your straw man accusations and endless “courtier”-type reples. Scientists could ignore, dismiss, or test religion in the same many we treat other pseudoscience. And no one would have to know which invisible supernatural entities they believe in if any.

    If Scientologists had apologists at every turn and were trying to manipulate society into showing deference to their beliefs the way creationists do, I suspect we’d all be “extreme non-scientologists” to the Scientologists and their apologetic allies.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted September 27, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      …and I see the caliber rising steadily with famous bloggers posting amidst lesser known biological folk.

      articulett, ummm, all folks are biological, at least so far. No real life R2D2s yet. Or who knows what J. Craig Venter comes up with :)

      Good post. Great analysis.

  28. Posted September 27, 2009 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    I see the caliber rising steadily with famous bloggers posting amidst lesser known biological folk.

    Hang on! I’m not sure you want to claim that famous bloggers are higher caliber than biologists!

    :- )

    I know I don’t. Famous bloggers are all very well, but biologists (and geologists and paleontologists and similar) are nothing to sneeze at. Famous bloggers don’t find pre-Archaeopteryx feathered dino fossils.

  29. tm61
    Posted September 27, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    What do we do about the Clergy Letter people?

    The letter (signed by nearly 12000 Christian clergy) states:
    “We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children.”

    That’s good right?

    But then, they’ve still got all their religious baggage. So do we say to them: “Great! We’re glad you you’ve been able to think clearly about this stuff – to a point. We obviously can’t accept all this religious nonsense you still cling to, but thanks for helping us get the message out – Evolution is True!”

    Or, do we say: “Uh yeah, great. Give us a call when you’ve dropped all that religious nonsense, but until then, go have a seat with your Answers in Genesis and Dishonesty Institute buddies.”

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted September 27, 2009 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      No need to say anything other than “thank you” and “this is a great milestone” at most.

      Who is the letter addressed to? Is it an open letter to Americans?

      It is not a problem that they have religious baggage. They are free to worship as they wish. These 12000 are not forcing their religious views to conflict with their acknowledgment of evolution. That is what we can thank them for.

    • Tyro
      Posted September 27, 2009 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      When we’re talking about evolution, global warming, health care, or most any other issue I’m happy to make common cause with religious people but this doesn’t change the fact that I think they’re wrong about their theological beliefs.

      As to the clergy letter in particular, I suppose it’s good but it does reinforce just how bad things are in many countries that we should care what the clergy thinks on this or any other issue. It’s like a letter by 1200 celebrities endorsing evolution – who gives a shit what they think. They have no training, no particular expertise, the best that can be said is that they have listened to the experts and aren’t actively opposing them on this. Yes I know that in this world it still counts for something but doesn’t that just reinforce how much work needs to be done?

      The difference between endorsements by celebrities and the clergy seems to be that no one believes we should say the purpose of evolution is to produce Titanic and Star Wars whenever a movie star happens to say something vaguely scientifically accurate.

  30. articulett
    Posted September 27, 2009 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    The clergy HAS to accept the facts if it wants to survive. We can say “good on you” just like we’d say to the self-proclaimed psychics and astrologists who support evolution. The endorsement of the clergy isn’t particularly important to science, though the lack of it can be a thorn in the side of progress as history has shown.

    We can support peoples’ rational thinking without showing deference to their irrational or prejudicial notions–especially when those notions involve lies or denigration of those who tell the truth.

    Why the false dichotomy tm61? Is your thinking really that limited that you only see 2 options? What would you say to a astrologer while they were endorsing sound astronomy?

    What about saying nothing? If people don’t mention their superstitions, opinions, and beliefs, I will have nothing to say in response.

  31. tm61
    Posted September 28, 2009 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    >>The clergy HAS to accept the facts if it wants to survive.

    I’d say this group has – at least on this subject.

    >>We can say “good on you” just like we’d say to the self-proclaimed psychics and astrologists who support evolution. The endorsement of the clergy isn’t particularly important to science, though the lack of it can be a thorn in the side of progress as history has shown.

    I didn’t imply that the endorsement of the clergy was important to science – but I think it could be helpful to the state of our educational system. (The letter includes the statement: “We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge.”)
    I think this group can be seen as a “transitional form”. They might be helpful in getting others on the right track. If we get to a point where 30% of the people claim some religious belief, but 99% of the people agree that only science should be taught in science class (and have a clear understanding of what is and isn’t science) – I’m good with that. We could insist on an all-or-nothing situation, but that seems like a rather simple-minded GW Bush way of thinking.

    >>We can support peoples’ rational thinking without showing deference to their irrational or prejudicial notions–especially when those notions involve lies or denigration of those who tell the truth.

    Why the false dichotomy tm61? Is your thinking really that limited that you only see 2 options?

    >>Why the insult? I didn’t say there are only two choices – and you haven’t really provided any others.

    >>What would you say to a astrologer while they were endorsing sound astronomy?

    I might say “good on you” or “glad you you’ve been able to think clearly about this stuff – to a point. I obviously can’t accept all this astrology nonsense you still cling to, but thanks for helping us get the message out – Evolution is True!”

    >>What about saying nothing? If people don’t mention their superstitions, opinions, and beliefs, I will have nothing to say in response.

    My whole point in posting here is to say that I think Jerry’s wrong. The goal of the NCSE is to protect science education in schools. If they have to piss off some atheists along way to achieve that goal – well, that’s the way it is – just grow a tougher skin. I think it is a winning strategy and one that *will* jack up the numbers of Americans who accept evolution. Where are those numbers going to come from? Not from the atheist population (I would hope there’s 100% support there already). They’ll come from the moderate religious population – led by people like those who signed the clergy letter. Are offended atheists going to campaign against quality science education? Not likely. Are offended moderate religious people – that’s a lot more likely. I don’t think the NCSE has any business supporting anyone’s religious notions (and there’s nothing in the quoted statement that does that) but I think saying religion and evolution (or science in general) can coexist is a reasonable strategy for them to employ. If their name was “National Center for Science Education and the Eradication of Religion” it would be wrong for them to say anything even slightly conciliatory about religion. But that’s not their name and it’s not their mission.

    • articulett
      Posted September 29, 2009 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

      Do you think belief in demon possession and evolution can co-exist? How do you decide which supernatural notions can “co-exist” with evolution and which can’t. I can you declare that this brand of “magical thinking” can coexist fine with evolution and this other one can’t?

      Do you think religion coexists with evolution better than, say, reincarnation?

      It is only the religious who have problems with evolution, and studies show that people would give up science if it conflicted with their faith.

      That’s why I think faith should be private, and not something that should be discussed or part of science– it doesn’t belong in the realm of science more than any other superstition. And there really is no way to support some “brands” of magical thinking as “scientifically sound” without admitting that other crazy things are equally scientifically sound. God is no more likely than Satan and heaven is no more likely than hell. How can you imply that science coexists with one without foisting the other into the same “magisteria”. I am a science teacher; I think all non scientific notions should be treated similarly in science class. You and the NCSE want to coddle certain brands… that’s fine, but I hope you can understand why it feels smarmy and dishonest to the rest of us. I want no part of it.

      I want faith to be something people keep private. I’d be willing to keep my lack of faith equally private.

      • tm61
        Posted September 30, 2009 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        Belief in demon possession and evolution seem to co-exist right now…I don’t think you can use the science of evolution to rule it out. Just to be clear I don’t believe in it.

        It is only *some* religious people who have problems with evolution – and I’m sure there’s probably a few people who haven’t much thought about religion at all who have doubts too. (Again – to be clear – I’m not one of them.)

        I never said any aspect of religion is “scientifically sound”.

        I don’t want to coddle anybody. I just don’t want to alienate people who are on the right track.

  32. articulett
    Posted October 1, 2009 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Do you worry about alienating people with demon belief, or just the people with god belief? Can’t we treat both supernatural notions equally?

    Science can’t rule out any unfalsifiable claims, after all.


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