Theological catfight!

I love the sound of a catfight in the morning, especially when it involves two Christians hissing and spitting over whose theology is better.  Over at The Christian Post, Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, religious macher, and flat-out evolution denier, takes on Karl Giberson’s accommodationist theology in “Science trumps the Bible?” Mohler is clearly cheesed off by Giberson’s (and his organization BioLogos‘s) assertion that theology like Mohler’s, which sees the Bible as the literal word of god, is primitive and unsophisticated.

Coyne argues that religious ideas are ancient and resistant to correction, and he identifies science as the only qualified correction. Giberson rejects Coyne’s argument that religious beliefs are a fossilized set of ideas that reluctantly give way to scientific advance. Giberson retorts that religious beliefs change from within religious communities and that scientific advances often refute previously held scientific opinion.

At this point, Giberson’s argument gets really interesting—and really dangerous. “I am happy to concede that science does indeed trump religious truth about the natural world,” Giberson writes. “Galileo and Darwin showed this only too clearly, even if it is completely lost on Ken Ham and Al Mohler.”

Well count me in as being lost to the assertion that science trumps the Bible “about the natural world” or about anything else. In his original response to Jerry Coyne, Giberson made the argument in more striking words: “Empirical science does indeed trump revealed truth about the world as Galileo and Darwin showed only too clearly.” That statement, with its reference to “revealed truth,” is even more shocking than the first.

In the economy of a few words, Giberson throws the Bible under the scientific bus. We should be thankful that his argument is so clear, for it puts the case for theistic evolution in its proper light—as a direct attack upon biblical authority.

Now it’s not all beer and skittles getting praised by a fundamentalist evolution-denier.  Accommodationists like to use this stuff to show that atheists, in their dogmatism, resemble religious fundamentalists. We’re both so strident and inflexible, don’t you know, that clearly the right strategy must be somewhere in the Mooneyian middle. But such a claim misses the huge difference between Mohler and those atheists who embrace science.

Mohler argues that science and faith are compatible using a circular sleight of hand: he takes real science to be that which is compatible with the Bible.  If what we know about evolution contradicts a literal reading of Genesis, then into the dustbin with it.  Science is simply overlooking, or missing, the evidence for an instantaneous creation, Adam and Eve, and the great flood.  In contrast,  I and others argue that science and faith are incompatible because of their disparate methods of studying reality, and that religion is at bottom incapable of giving us a handle on reality.  Evolution is clearly true, and Mohler and his minions are blinded by their faith.

But so is Giberson.  Where Mohler and I agree is this: Giberson isn’t all that convincing when he claims that his own liberal and theistic faith is theologically purer than Mohler’s Baptism.  Yes, people like Giberson are more likely to be our allies in getting creationism out of the public-school science classes, and that’s good. But in their worship of a god for which there’s no evidence, their insistence on miracles like the Resurrection, and their endless and amusing attempts to comport science with the Bible (as in their wrangles about the meaning of Adam and Eve), Giberson and Mohler are much of a muchness. As P.Z. Myers said, “Note to BioLogos: squatting in between those on the side of reason and evidence and those worshipping superstition and myth is not a better place. It just means you’re halfway to crazy town.”

And don’t you just love stuff like this?:

In Giberson’s view, anyone who holds to the truthfulness and historical character of these biblical texts is simply intellectually backwards and unsophisticated. I can only wonder if the parents who send their offspring to Eastern Nazarene College have any understanding of what is taught there—and with such boldness and audacity.

In the last article in his series, Giberson makes the argument that the Christian faith “is rooted in unique historical events that were recorded by the early church as they tried to make sense of their encounters with the risen Christ.” Is that the sum and substance of Professor Giberson’s view of biblical inspiration—that the Bible is the record of the early church’s attempt to “make sense” of Christ and “unique historical events”?

We do know this: Professor Giberson asserts that to believe in the truthfulness and historicity of the entire Bible is to paddle in an “intellectual backwater.” Christians committed to biblical authority should ponder that statement deeply, even as they keep paddling.

The hardest task for acccommodationists isn’t to reconcile the atheists and the liberally religious.  It’s their crazy and futile attempt to accommodate a faith that embraces science with the faith of people like Mohler.  All the respectful and humble dialogue in the world won’t move them an inch, for they’re not nearly as clueless as Giberson thinks.

p.s. If you need more evidence for the futility of BioLogos’s  “dialogue” with fundamentalists, check out the report at The Panda’s Thumb about how Darrel Falk, BioLogos president, had agreed to participate in a “Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science” conference with the fundies, hoping to achieve some sort of rapprochement about science. I warned him about this, but Falk argued back that science would surely win when put side by side with Biblical literalism.  And he got pwned, of course. The whole thing was a set-up designed to discredit science. (To Falk’s credit, he didn’t participate in what would have been a catfight.)  See also Steve Matheson’s post for more on BioLogos and the myth of Christian unity.

116 Comments

  1. Uncle Bob
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    you know, the accommodationists are always telling atheists to shut up, and normally I would find such demands insulting, but seeing what happens in the vacuum of our silence…..maybe we SHOULD shut up…and cook up some popcorn.

  2. John D Stackpole
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    “Lets you and him fight” is a splendid tactic.

  3. Posted October 30, 2010 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    “There’s a reason why there’s four of you and one of me — none of you can get along with each other.” – A.C. Grayling

  4. Rob
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    OK, so if “Real Science” is what doesn’t contradict the Bible, I gotta wonder what Mohler thinks of Voyager, which hasn’t hit the metal dome yet.

    • Posted October 30, 2010 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      Probably that it is all a hoax perpetrated by evilutionist scientists. Conspiracy theories: the last resort of failed ideas.

    • jdhuey
      Posted October 30, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Obviously, it WILL hit the dome eventually – probably just before the Rapture.

  5. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Does Albert Mohler believe that insects have four legs, the way Teh Bible says?

    • Rob
      Posted October 30, 2010 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      Do you have a chapter / verse on that one? I’d love to trot it out when needed.

      HTH do you screw up something that easily observable?

      • Posted October 30, 2010 at 9:06 am | Permalink

        Leviticus 11:20 All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.

        21 Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth;

        22 Even these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind.

        23 But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Neil
          Posted October 30, 2010 at 9:39 am | Permalink

          I would interpret these sentences more as “Don’t go eating any four-legged bugs that you find.”

          I am happy to comply.

        • Rob
          Posted October 30, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

          Not unambiguous enough for me, given that it’s a list of exceptions; it’s not as blatant as I was hoping. There’s also the metaphorical meaning of “all four” meaning “not standing” that makes it too shaky in my book.

          • Badger3k
            Posted October 30, 2010 at 10:35 am | Permalink

            The question is, is that a metaphor in Hebrew, or an English metaphor that is in modern usage? If the term was used in such a way back in the time period when it was written, then there might be a case for that usage. If not, that’s a modern interpolation and cannot be used. I have no idea what the original Hebrew was – I’ve never looked it up.

            • Posted October 30, 2010 at 10:59 am | Permalink

              If it’s discrepancies between the Bible and reality you’re looking for, four-legged insects is hardly the place to start.

              Personally, I would’t even start with the firmament or the pillars of the Earth, as those have so long since passed into the realm of poetry. Even π = 3 won’t cut it; to one significant figure, that’s correct — and plenty accurate enough for gardening, to boot.

              No, I’d start by observing that the book opens with a story about a magic garden with talking animals and an angry giant. A bit later, a talking plant (on fire, no less!) gives magic wand lessons to the reluctant hero. And it ends with an utterly bizarre zombie apocalypse fantasy, complete with the reanimation of putrid corpses; a zombie horde descending upon Jerusalem; and the zombie king himself urging his thralls to stick their fingers in his gaping chest wound so they can fondle his intestines. Along the way, there’re more talking animals, more angry giants, magic spells galore, sea monsters, dragons, a stairway to Heaven…all sorts of nonsense that even young children know better than to take seriously.

              Cheers,

              b&

            • Rob
              Posted October 30, 2010 at 11:45 am | Permalink

              @Ben:

              Still, considering there were many more significant digits centuries earlier, I think the Pi thing is a valid point.

        • llewelly
          Posted October 31, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

          All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.

          That has nothing to do with insects. It’s about pterosaurs. The bit about locusts is a later addition by a confused translator.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted October 30, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        don’t forget you can get stripey offspring if you let your animals breed in front of stripey sticks!

        Genesis 30:

        37Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white stripes in them, exposing the white which was in the rods.

        38He set the rods which he had peeled in front of the flocks in the gutters, even in the watering troughs, where the flocks came to drink; and they mated when they came to drink.

        39So the flocks mated by the rods, and the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted.

        • Neil
          Posted October 30, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

          Wow. Genesis had it wrong, but it did recognize the possibility of descent with modification. They were smarter than our modern creationists even 2000+ years ago.

  6. Posted October 30, 2010 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    The hardest task for acccommodationists isn’t to reconcile atheists and the liberally religious.  It’s their crazy and futile attempt to accommodate a faith that embraces science with the faith of people like Mohler.

    And yet they make it their priority to go after atheists. Go figure.

    Maybe it’s because atheists are a more popular target? Or going after atheists is less likely to cause rifts in their own religious community?

    • Badger3k
      Posted October 30, 2010 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      You can’t suck up to the religious if you attack them. You can suck up royally if you go after a hated foe – that “enemy of my enemy” thing.

  7. Tim Harris
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Surely Mohler deserves more respect than Uncle Karl, in an odd, back-handed sort of way. But Mohler needs to be challenged on the point he assumes and never examines: that he is in a position to judge science and its findings. That attack needs to be pressed home (however nice the popcorn tastes).

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted October 30, 2010 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      Surely Mohler deserves more respect than Uncle Karl, in an odd, back-handed sort of way.

      Nah. Giberson struggles to preserve his faith in the face of reality. It’s a pathetic sight, but an honest struggle. Mohler asserts that the way to preserve faith is just to lie repeatedly. He makes that very clear.

    • Filippo
      Posted October 30, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      From my own personal, direct and substantial experience, the conservative Southern Baptist’s confidence in his theological convictions and opinions is nonpareil.

      I would like to witness a debate between Hitchens and Mohler.

  8. daveau
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    I recommend a no-holds-barred cage match. That ought to settle it. I also totally laughed at the term macher. I love the smell of yiddish in the morning.

  9. ennui
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    What I would love to see is an all-out cage match with OEC’s, YEC’s, ID’ers, TE’s, and apophatic mumblers. Mooney could play the role of the referee who gets knocked out early on, and the winner takes on science, so we can stop playing WAM.

    “Vibrant Dance” indeed.

    • ennui
      Posted October 30, 2010 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      We should also probably throw in the postmodern theologian who penned this:

      In particular, conceiving of theology as a minor literature is a tactical implementation of multiple strategies of acoluthetic reason, erring, deconstructive and hermeneutical tropologies, bricolage, radical criticism, parabolic and paradoxical narratives in the context of a dominant discourse of commodification.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted October 30, 2010 at 9:54 am | Permalink

        Can I have some dressing on the side with that word salad? That is worse than Karl Gibberish’s confusions.

      • articulett
        Posted October 30, 2010 at 11:19 am | Permalink

        commodification?– it means flushing down the commode, right?

  10. YourName's NotBruce?
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    There are those who prefer their bullshit straight up, pure and unadulterated. Or so they think. Mohler has given up biblical “authority” on any number of things if he is a law abiding member of a civilized society. He is going to be as guilty of “interpreting” the bible as any liberal theologian if he is not out stoning adulterers and apostates or those who work on the sabbath. Does he eat shellfish? Does he wear clothing with mixed fabric? If he does then he has already abandoned biblical “authority” and is just another cafeteria Christian. If he had the guts to live a life in accord with a truly literal reading of his holy book he would already be in prison for who knows how many acts of barbarism committed in the name of his god. We should all be thankful that he has not done so.

    • Ken Browning
      Posted October 30, 2010 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      I was born into Christianity as a preacher’s kid so I’ve seen ten’s of thousands of them close up and not one lived according to the radical teachings of Jesus. No gouged out eyeballs, no cut off hands, they all still had their warm clothing, habitual concern for material comfort, very little humility….

      Perhaps we should pound a little harder on the wild theology of the New Testament.

      • Posted October 30, 2010 at 10:48 am | Permalink

        In case anybody doesn’t get Ken’s reference, it’s all but a couple dozen lines into the Sermon on the Mount. Plain as day, in clear, unambiguous language: “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

        The next couple lines are, if anything, even worse: “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

        Again, this isn’t some obscure corner of the Old Testament, it’s the Sermon on the Mount, immediately following the Beatitudes.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Filippo
          Posted October 30, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

          I forget where in the Bible (some letter by Paul?) that “Fornicators (does that include the Widow Thumb and her Four Daughters?) shall not enter the kingdom of Heaven.”

          But I gather murderers, abusers of women and children, slaveholders, genital mutilato(e?)rs and (fill in the blank) shall?

  11. stvs
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Mohler: Science Trumps the Bible?

    Mohler himself has used science to trump the Bible and undermine the basis of his own faith.

    Mohler’s preferred Bible translation is the ESV, which omits the Johannine comma, the clause fraudulently added to a Latin translation of 1 John 5:7-8 to provide Gospel support for the notion that God’s nature is defined by the Trinity. Without this adultering clause there is simply no support for Mohler’s Trinitarian theology in the New Testament. The invention of the Trinity was a major cause of the numerous, often violent conflicts over various heresies in the early church.

    In this case, Mohler is happy to use science to throw the Trinitarian Bible under the scientific bus.

    But without the Comma, Mohler is theologically right back at the early centuries of Christianity with no scriptural basis for his faith in the Trinity.

    As I have been saying, fortunately we know God’s disposition about Mohler and Giberson from the Holy Qur’an, Sura 5:72–73: for espousing the Trinity Trinity God will consign both Mohler and Giberson to the fires of hell, and there shall be no helpers for the unjust.

    • articulett
      Posted October 30, 2010 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      bummer.

  12. Ken Pidcock
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    The way Giberson wrote those pieces directed against Coyne, it was clear that he wants to taunt Mohler, as he has before. He wants people to see that Mohler concedes nothing to science, and that to express loyalty to Mohler and his Biblically inerrant allies is to promote scientific illiteracy. That is more the mission of BioLogos than anything to do with atheism.

  13. Posted October 30, 2010 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    I still think the best way to settle the theological debate between literalists like Mohler and liberalists like Gibberson is with a simple question:

    Has Jesus read the Bible?

    Not, of course, “Did Jesus read the Bible during his tenure on Earth,” because it was still a work in progress at that point.

    No, I mean, “Has the Jesus who is sitting at the right hand of The Father and who will judge the living and the dead, has that Jesus read the Bible?”

    If he has, he either knows that the obvious thing to do is to interpret it literally or he’s a passive-aggressive asshole who expects people to magically divine which parts are real and which parts are metaphor.

    And, if Jesus hasn’t read the Bible, why the fuck should we?

    The follow-up question for the literalists, of course, is, “Who was Joseph’s father?”

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Badger3k
      Posted October 30, 2010 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      See – since Jesus is God and God knows everything, then Jesus knew what was in the Bible before it was even written. Indeed, he could act in no other way since it was already determined (since if he could act in a way that surprised him, he would not be omniscient), so He not only read the Bible, he has to have had approved it (since he is supposedly all-powerful too, which means he can change what he already knows has to happen…which can’t be changed…but he can change…Danger Will Robinson, Danger!

      • Posted October 30, 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        Never mind the fact that omnipotence and omniscience are incompatible — or, for that matter, that each is a logical absurdity in and of itself.

        If Jesus has read the Bible, either he really does expect people to follow the instruction of Luke 19:27 and make human sacrifices of all non-Christians, or he’s doing some sort of a mindfuck where he’s created an impossible puzzle for you to be doomed to fail to solve.

        (Any Christians reading this, the correct answer is: “C: Jesus is a fictional character and the Bible is pure fiction.”)

        Cheers,

        b&

        • stvs
          Posted October 30, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

          According to Sainted Archbishop John Chrysostom, Jesus commands Christians in Luke 19:27 to kill all the Jews:

          The Jewish people were driven by their drunkenness and plumpness to the ultimate evil; they kicked about, they failed to accept the yoke of Christ, nor did they pull the plow of his teaching. Another prophet hinted at this when he said: “Israel is as obstinate as a stubborn heifer.” … Although such beasts are unfit for work, they are fit for killing. And this is what happened to the Jews: while they were making themselves unfit for work, they grew fit for slaughter. This is why Christ said: “But as for these my enemies, who did not want me to be king over them, bring them here and slay them.” (Luke 19:27)
          —John Chrysostom (349–ca. 407), Eight Homilies Against the Jews, Homily 1

  14. Gary Radice
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Mohler is channeling Bishop Wilberforce:
    “Few things have more deeply injured the cause of religion than the busy fussy energy with which men, narrow and feeble alike in faith and in science, have bustled forth to reconcile all new discoveries in physics with the word of inspiration. For it continually happens that some larger collection of facts, or some wider view of the phenomena of nature, alter the whole philosophic scheme; whilst revelation has been committed to declare an absolute agreement with what turns out after all to have been a misconception or an error. We cannot, therefore, consent to test the truth of natural science by the word of revelation. But this does not make it the less important to point out on scientific grounds scientific errors, when those errors tend to limit God’s glory in creation, or to gainsay the revealed relations of that creation to Himself. To both these classes of error, though, we doubt not, quite unintentionally on his part, we think that Mr. Darwin’s speculations directly tend.” (1860)

  15. Posted October 30, 2010 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    “Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science”

    Capoeira.

    • stvs
      Posted October 30, 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Capoeira

      No. Todtentanz.

      • Eric MacDonald
        Posted October 30, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

        Totentanz…

  16. Nick Matzke
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    I’m one of those accomodationists, but I actually kind of like this post of Jerry’s, for once. Coyne says he thinks both liberal religion and fundamentalist religion are wrong, and says why for each, but he doesn’t conflate them and scapegoat the liberal stuff as being equivalent to the fundamentalist stuff.

    The one point I would make is that I agree that accomodationist viewpoints will not bring someone like Mohler around — nothing will, Mohler has built a self-consistent conspiracy theory-like worldview for himself, which basically boils down to (1) the Bible is always right; (2) if science (or whatever) contradicts the Bible, refer to rule #1.

    However, I think it is a different matter with students, and other members of the general public who were raised fundamentalist. They have heard many times in church about the evils of evolution and how it contradicts the Bible. But since no one has Mohler’s Rules as an innate position, evidence can still have an impact on them, and they are especially likely to give the evidence a chance if they hear that not everyone who is Christian agrees with the Mohlers of the world. This is the typical, well-known route to conversion from a creationist to an evolutionist. Some people, sure, can do it on their own by just generally rebelling against their whole faith, or becoming atheist first, or whatever. But a great many do it in a more gentle way, often at evangelical colleges when they are taught by the likes of the BioLogos people.

    So I guess my major beef with non-accodomationists is when they pretty deliberately try to make this process harder than it has to be, and when they villify those who are doing good work supporting what is basically an underground railroad from fundamentalism to a substantially more rational view of the world. Jerry didn’t engage in that in this post (while still expressing his disagreement with liberal religion, which is his right to do, and part of his duty to express his view of the truth), thus its OK by me.

    • Posted October 30, 2010 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      Nick, the point, which has been repeatedly made — including in Jerry’s post — is not to “convert” people to “believing” in “Evolutionism”

      The point is to be honest — to state the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

      That will make many people very uncomfortable, yes. It will greatly increase the discomfort due to cognitive dissonance. Some will resolve the dissonance by retreating further into fantasy; some will resolve it by embracing reality. That’s all well and good.

      While we, of course, hope that people will embrace reality, that’s just a side issue.

      We’re not going to sacrifice our raison d’être by lying to people in order to make them feel happier about their own delusions.

      If it were a game where coup is counted by the number of people rallying ’round your flag, sure. We’d say anything to get people to believe us.

      But that’s not what this is about.

      We are to our own selves being true. First and foremost, now and always.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted October 30, 2010 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        Well said, Ben.

      • Nick Matzke
        Posted October 30, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

        “We’re not going to sacrifice our raison d’être by lying to people in order to make them feel happier about their own delusions.”

        On this logic, if an evolution instructor is Marxist, every discussion of evolution should have the instructor declaring that all the students should be, say, Marxist (which the instructor happens to believe is the political truth), because after all, all truth is science, even political truth, and all truth should be presented all the time without apology or any regard for other factors, such as middling details such as whether or not the students will successfully learn the science topic they are studying.

        • Ichthyic
          Posted October 30, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

          “We’re not going to sacrifice our raison d’être by lying to people in order to make them feel happier about their own delusions.”

          On this logic, if an evolution instructor is Marxist, every discussion of evolution should have the instructor declaring that all the students should be, say, Marxist (which the instructor happens to believe is the political truth), because after all, all truth is science

          as usual, Nick, this is a strawman of the argument made.

          Ben is not saying the instructor should share his political ideology in science class, he’s saying the exact opposite, in fact.

          the instructor, if a science instructor, should state the science full up, and not kibble with trying to make someone who is a Marxist, a Fascist, or a religionist comfortable with SCIENTIFIC knowledge.

          you’re such a dishonest hack.

          I would love to be on your orals committee.

          • Nick Matzke
            Posted October 30, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

            “the instructor, if a science instructor, should state the science full up, and not kibble with trying to make someone who is a Marxist, a Fascist, or a religionist comfortable with SCIENTIFIC knowledge.”

            Regarding religionists — sure they should. I’m not going to doom my religious students to continuing ignorance about whatever scientific topic they are learning about, by (a) ignoring the discomfort this is causing, (b) ignoring whatever mental blocks they have due to fears deriving from their culture/religion etc., or (c) even worse, antagonizing them for the sin of merely having been raised in a conservative religious background.

            Emotional, rude, hostility to religion or to those who even dare to take viewpoints tolerant of religion — i.e., your attitude — does not serve any purpose in science education as far as I can see. It’s about some personal war you are waging against the culture, or something.

            “I would love to be on your orals committee.”

            I would enjoy the opportunity for the discourse, off-topic though it would be. It’s not like I have never before encountered someone who is obsessed-with-hating-religion-at-all-costs and subordinates all other topics to that one. Most professors have higher priorities, but perhaps not all.

            Plus, then you’d have to have the courage to put your real name next to your comments, which so far I have yet to see you have the courage to do, neither here nor at Pharyngula.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted October 30, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

              Emotional, rude, hostility to religion or to those who even dare to take viewpoints tolerant of religion — i.e., your attitude — does not serve any purpose in science education as far as I can see

              you CAN’T see Nick, that’s the problem.

              lying to students does them no favors either, and that is what the accomadationists, like yourself, would have us do, and smile while you sell the very essence of what science is down the river.

              win the battle, lose the war.

              but you seem to have so little concept of how historically poor appeasement has worked, again, I can see little point in arguing it with you again, for the hundredth time.

              they were wrong then, you are wrong now.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted October 30, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

              Plus, then you’d have to have the courage to put your real name

              ROFLMAO.

              so that’s YOUR view of being intellectually dishonest? using a nym?

              I’ll dig up Samuel Clemens and tell him of your disapproval.

            • Nick Matzke
              Posted October 30, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

              “so that’s YOUR view of being intellectually dishonest? using a nym?”

              I didn’t say intellectually dishonest, I said it lacks courage. It’s definitely easier to denigrate your opponents with juvenile insults when you don’t have to stand by them in professional settings, etc.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted October 30, 2010 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

              I said it lacks courage

              *yawn*

              like I said, I’ll alert Sam Clemens.

              and I’d STILL be calling you an idiot, if, like you do on these blogs, you kept repeating the same, exact, strawmen at a conference, or a presentation, or an eco lunch.

              Nick, the FIRST time you argue for the accomodationist position on these blogs, you got a polite response, and many attempts to gently correct your erroneous strawman of what the position of the new atheists actually is.

              after a hundred times, it becomes almost prudent to just call you an idiot and have done with it.

            • Nick Matzke
              Posted October 30, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

              “Nick, the FIRST time you argue for the accomodationist position on these blogs, you got a polite response, and many attempts to gently correct your erroneous strawman of what the position of the new atheists actually is.”

              Yeah, that’s ridiculous. My consistent experience over the last few years is that I raise a dissenting voice on a Gnu Atheist blog, a bunch of people yell “idiot!” or worse, and then if I persist for awhile I eventually get some somewhat coherent replies, but they are replies that usually imagine that all the invective that came before didn’t happen. Eventually the positions end up being barely distinguishable from the accomodationist position in all practical respects, and so the major difference just seems to be a strong desire to express hostility to religion at every chance.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted October 30, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

              My consistent experience over the last few years is that I raise a dissenting voice on a Gnu Atheist blog

              you tend to ignore any rational response to your nonsense, and focus only on those posts that indeed directly attack you.

              that’s been MY experience, and I’d be happy to link you back to the MANY times this has happened to support it.

              I will say, though, that your IMPRESSION is not unexpected, given that your impression of the arguments presented appears to be so far off as well.

              seriously, it’s not like there isn’t an entire thread devoted to the history of this issue, or anything.

              http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/06/12/the-big-accommodatinism-debate-all-relevant-posts/

              oh, btw, remind me the next time you start whinging about tone, so I won’t forget to order you a extra set of pearls for you to clutch.

              I’ll assume you already are possessed of a very sturdy fainting couch.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted October 31, 2010 at 9:29 am | Permalink

              This isn’t about science education.

        • Posted October 31, 2010 at 10:10 am | Permalink

          Icthyic has already ripped you a new one, but let me just confirm.

          We’re not going to sacrifice our raison d’être by lying to people in order to make them feel happier about their own delusions.

          On this logic, if an evolution instructor is Marxist, every discussion of evolution should have the instructor declaring that all the students should be, say, Marxist (which the instructor happens to believe is the political truth), because after all, all truth is science, even political truth, and all truth should be presented all the time without apology or any regard for other factors, such as middling details such as whether or not the students will successfully learn the science topic they are studying.

          I thought I made it clear that evangelization was the polar opposite of my goals and what I perceive to be the goals of the rest of the Gnus.

          I fail to see the relevance of a particular economic theory to any other science. Injecting Marxism into, say, an introductory biology class would be every bit as inappropriate as injecting aleatoricism into the class.

          However, neglecting a treatment of human evolution in the class because it would upset some people who hold dear a myth that says that humans were created from mud about 6,000 years ago…that would be very worng. I don’t give a flying fuck that some Christian students will interpret such words as equivalent to saying they’re not going to Heaven; that’s their problem.

          I’ve never taught biology and it’s been almost a decade since I taught anything at the college (or any other) level, but any student who disrupted class by making noises about not having monkeys for grandparents would get an invitation to discuss the topic outside of class, preferably over a meal / cup of coffee / beer / whatever. If a student insisted, I’d say something to the effect of, “Whether you choose to accept the evidence I’m presenting or not is up to you. I’ll be grading you on how well you can demonstrate an understanding of the subject.” If really necessary, I’d punt the matter to the administration — that’s what they get paid for, after all.

          Cheers,

          b&

    • Tulse
      Posted October 30, 2010 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      they villify those who are doing good work supporting what is basically an underground railroad from fundamentalism to a substantially more rational view of the world

      You’ve pointed out the difference well: the accommodationists want to run the Underground Railroad to save a few, while the Gnus are actively fighting the war to wipe out the slavery of religion.

      • Nick Matzke
        Posted October 30, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

        Interesting turn on the analogy. But in this cultural war, unlike the Civil War, you can’t just shoot everyone who disagrees with you. And the fundamentalists *thrive* and *feed off* of the cultural war. That’s why they attack the moderates like the theistic evolutionists. (And the Gnu Atheists feed on the culture war on the other side, too, and thus attack even nonreligious people who think that maybe science education shouldn’t be enlisted in the quest to spread atheism.)

        I doubt the warfare model can ever work, either for spreading science or for spreading atheism. The primary cause of secularization in Northwestern Europe was not atheist activism, rather, it derived from things like the hundreds of years of state-establishment of religion leading to moderation and apathy, the existence of a strong social safety net, and the television and the soccer leagues.

        • Andy
          Posted October 30, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

          And the Gnu Atheists feed on the culture war on the other side, too, and thus attack even nonreligious people who think that maybe science education shouldn’t be enlisted in the quest to spread atheism.

          Careful you don’t light a match around all that straw.

          Honest-to-goodness, can you direct me toward even the most obscure new atheist who has said, or even intimated, that science education should be “enlisted in the quest to spread atheism.” From what I can detect, most of us gnus are in agreement that science education should be about science. Full stop. (I don’t even think Chris-freakin’-Mooney would agree that that’s what new atheists want.)

          • Ichthyic
            Posted October 30, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

            Careful you don’t light a match around all that straw.

            that’s Nick.

            I’d be embarrassed to be so dishonest, frankly.

            • Nick Matzke
              Posted October 30, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

              “Honest-to-goodness, can you direct me toward even the most obscure new atheist who has said, or even intimated, that science education should be “enlisted in the quest to spread atheism.””

              Gee, wherever could I have gotten that impression? Could it be from blogs like WEIT, which is allegedly about evolution and why it’s true, but instead spends a majority of time on atheism and why it’s true, and on why those who are even moderate and religious, or are insufficiently hostile to religion, are wrong/dumb/etc.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted October 30, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

              Gee, wherever could I have gotten that impression?

              that’s the point, Nick.

              your impression is a horrible strawman.

              we keep telling you this, but you just put your damn fingers in your ears.

              you’re like the Vancome lady from the old MadTV show…

            • Posted November 2, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

              “Gee, wherever could I have gotten that impression? Could it be from blogs like WEIT, which is allegedly about evolution and why it’s true, but instead spends a majority of time on atheism and why it’s true, and on why those who are even moderate and religious, or are insufficiently hostile to religion, are wrong/dumb/etc.”

              That’s a very roundabout way of saying “no”.

        • Tulse
          Posted October 30, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

          in this cultural war, unlike the Civil War, you can’t just shoot everyone who disagrees with you.

          Of course not, but you can ridicule them.

          And the fundamentalists *thrive* and *feed off* of the cultural war.

          Of course they do, but those who are unconvinced might very well not want join a group that is ridiculed in public. You continue to see this fight on their terms. The Gnu atheists see the fundies as generally a lost cause, immune to reason — we’re working to convince those who are watching from the sidelines that the fundies are anti-science wackaloons.

          • Nick Matzke
            Posted October 30, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

            That’s fine, but then many Gnus go on to bash the moderates with the same invective and spite that they direct at the fundamentalists, despite the fact that the moderates see the fundamentalists as anti-science wackaloons just like the Gnus do.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted October 30, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

              That’s fine, but then many Gnus go on to bash the moderates

              NO, damnit!

              we go on to bash their ARGUMENTS and their IDEAS, which, like the concept of NOMA, are logically indefensible.

              the PEOPLE we bash, like YOU, we do so because you are either to dense to accept this, or willfully painting strawmen.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted October 31, 2010 at 9:32 am | Permalink

              “moderates see the fundamentalists as anti-science wackaloons just like the Gnus do.

              But they try to simultaneously claim this while also claiming that the beliefs at the heart of this lunacy are perfectly reasonable. This position is untenable, which is why we attack it.

    • articulett
      Posted October 30, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Getting kids to question faith, itself, opens a lot more doors than just understanding evolution.

      Fundamentalists are afraid they’ll go to hell for questioning their indoctrination– somebody needs to clue these folks into the fact that they’ve been manipulated by the people they trust the most. Somebody needs to get these students to question the idea that “faith” is a means of knowledge. It isn’t. And humans have been manipulating other humans for eons with appeals to faith with disastrous consequences.

      Once scientist understood that their were no witches, the moral thing to do was to spread that knowledge. The same is true of gods, souls, heaven, hell, and so forth. Some of us can’t keep pretending that these are ideas worth taking seriously or respecting. We should be able to treat these notions like the mistaken notions of myths past.

      When you show deference to faith based thinking,you give people the notion that faith is worthy of respect. I want people to question whether that is so. I don’t doubt that there are many methods for achieving this goal, but accommodationism seems the wrong approach, because it caters to the damaging idea that faith is something to be respected. “You can have your faith AND accept evolution” it seems to say. But suppose they only want their faith because they’ve heard horrible things will happen if they lose it?

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted October 30, 2010 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      …and when they villify those who are doing good work…My dictionary defines vilify as speak or write about in an abusively disparaging manner. Seems to me I’ve heard that song before.

      • articulett
        Posted October 30, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        From my perspective it’s the accommodationists who are doing the vilification of gnu atheists. It’s not the gnu atheists trying to get others to “tone it down” nor do they further prejudice against non-believers by calling a vague bunch of them “dicks” or claiming (without evidence) that they are “hurting the cause”.

        I’d like Nick to point out where accommodationists were “vilified” without having done any vilification of those who are supposedly “vilifying” them.

        It seems the accommodationists are big on dishing out the criticisms but become all petulant when the criticism comes back. (I suspect we’ll see a similar situation between Giberson and Mohler. Giberson has basically said, “we’re not all crazy like Mohler” and Mohler has responded with “Giberson doesn’t take his faith seriously and says that those who do are ‘crazy'”)

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 30, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      Coyne says he thinks both liberal religion and fundamentalist religion are wrong, and says why for each, but he doesn’t conflate them and scapegoat the liberal stuff as being equivalent to the fundamentalist stuff.

      That is to deliberately misunderstand or strawman differentiation and grouping.

      Empiricists differentiate among religions, which is a major reason why atheists know the whole area are wrong, they can’t all be right so no one is. And that is the issue of todays post where baptists and accommodationists battle their religious differences out.

      And we group religions when we consider their ill effects on science and society. There is no scapegoating going on when Coyne declare from observation that most religious practice’s ideas are rejected by evidence except for varieties that are rarefied way beyond most “liberal stuff”. For myself I conclude that all of it is rejected based on observation, a claim that at the same time allows no scapegoating and no doubt will make you if possible even more miserable.

      they villify [sic] those who are doing good work supporting what is basically an underground railroad from fundamentalism to a substantially more rational view of the world.

      I have no trouble with people having differing opinion, nor will I ask them to shut up about it. I will however ask them the same question that I ask religious people similarly in vain:

      – Where is your evidence?

      Where is the evidence for people moving on “an underground railroad from fundamentalism” by way of accommodationism? If that is the case there must be solid statistics. Yet none is ever presented.

      Meanwhile atheists can AFAIU point to well founded statistics, from educators as well as the Pew institute, that education moves religious to become agnostics, and agnostics to become atheists.

      Therefore it is vital to rouse people to take an interest and understanding in education and science, as well as supporting education and science itself.

      The way to go about that is supported by the process itself historically and in practice. Namely by clearly separating between religion and science, and to further clarify and not confuse why superstition fails in principle and in factual points.

      In other words, accommodationism isn’t “doing good work”, it isn’t helping.

      I don’t want you shut up, but clearly I would want you out of education and harms way of children.

      • Nick Matzke
        Posted October 30, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        “In other words, accommodationism isn’t “doing good work”, it isn’t helping.”

        Evidence please. That very educational system, which you cite favorably and which you think is doing good work, is largely accomodationist.

        Teachers mostly don’t go around inserting atheism into their biology lessons (or any other science) — yet this seems to be exactly what you are arguing for, Constitution-be-damned apparently.

        • Josh Slocum
          Posted October 30, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

          And it’s been so effective. Acceptance of evolution hasn’t budged in decades, despite the fact that all manner of accommodationism (within schools and without) has been the only thing available until recently.

          Don’t you NCSE types ever think about that?

          • Filippo
            Posted October 30, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

            Specifically what would you have science teachers – laboring as they do in the educational vineyards, running the school administrator, superintendent, school board gauntlet – do, teachers likely married with children and a mortgage? Everybody rides the bucking horse better than the gal/guy riding it.

        • Tulse
          Posted October 30, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

          That very educational system, which you cite favorably and which you think is doing good work, is largely accomodationist

          Seriously? The public system lets teachers say that evolution is compatible with various forms of religious belief? That’s constitutional?

          Teachers mostly don’t go around inserting atheism into their biology lessons (or any other science) — yet this seems to be exactly what you are arguing for, Constitution-be-damned apparently.

          Nonsense. The educational system, when it adheres to the law, actually does exactly what Gnu Atheists want — teach the science and completely ignore the potential religious conflicts that science raises.

        • Ichthyic
          Posted October 30, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

          Evidence please. That very educational system, which you cite favorably and which you think is doing good work, is largely accomodationist.

          *looks at the gallup poll data showing that the percentage of americans who think evolution is teh bunk hasn’t changed in 30 years*

          yeah, that accommodation approach has really worked wonders, Nick.

          you’re a deluded idiot.

          • Nick Matzke
            Posted October 30, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

            “you’re a deluded idiot.”

            I always find it entertaining when Self-Proclaimed Defenders of Rationality resort to juvenile insults.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted October 30, 2010 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

              as I always find your inevitable dishonesty and strawmen amusing, Nick.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted October 31, 2010 at 9:34 am | Permalink

              What does one have to do with the other? Or are you one of those people who confuses reason with politeness?

              There’s nothing irrational about insulting someone.

          • whyevolutionistrue
            Posted October 30, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

            okay, we can have disagreements, but can we leave out the name-calling, please? It adds nothing, really.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted October 30, 2010 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

              it’s frustrating, Jerry, when someone like Nick, who is supposed to represent the side of good science education, constantly attacks strawmen of the positions of critiques of the accomodationist position, wherever he goes.

              he starts off every time, as if nothing we have ever said to correct him has ever been said.

              much like Mooney and Nisbet.

              in that sense, yes, my frustration with him is going to boil over into rhetoric.

              I’ll try to curtail it, but I won’t apologize for it, much like I wouldn’t apologize to Ray Comfort for calling HIM and idiot.

        • tomh
          Posted October 30, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

          Nick Matzke wrote:
          Teachers mostly don’t go around inserting atheism into their biology lessons (or any other science) — yet this seems to be exactly what you are arguing for, Constitution-be-damned apparently.

          You keep saying things like this, but it seems to spring from your imagination. What is it in the post you responded to that makes you think the writer wants to insert atheism into biology classes? Is it because he wants people to support education and science, which statistics show lessens the hold of religion on people – do you really interpret that to mean there should be atheism taught in science classes? That must sound silly, even to you.

          Where is a single quote from those you disparage, such as Coyne, that says anyone wants to insert atheism into biology clases? I have yet to see you produce one, yet you keep repeating this mantra.

        • Michael Fugate
          Posted October 30, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

          I asked Josh Rosenau if any one was considering assessing the efficacy of the clergy letter project and he said he knew of no studies even in the works to determine if it was helping NCSE’s goal of increasing acceptance of evolution. How can an organization with science and education in its name not develop learning outcomes and assessment criteria for its programs? If they need some help, I know some people involved with the National Academies’ Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education at UW Madison.

          • Ichthyic
            Posted October 30, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

            How can an organization with science and education in its name not develop learning outcomes and assessment criteria for its programs?

            good question.

            seems like it would be an excellent opportunity to fund a master’s thesis, at least.

            • Nick Matzke
              Posted October 30, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

              I have noticed that many people have an overly grand idea of what NCSE is — in reality, NCSE is run on a shoestring budget, surviving year-to-year on grants from foundations and private individuals to support one office and ~10 employees. It’s never had the kind of money to serve as a granting agency funding research or anything else.

              That said, there is empirical research on communicating science that indicates that being tolerant of religious differences is a better context for communicating science than trying to convert everyone wholesale to a ambitious metaphysical position like atheism:

              http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2010/10/scientific_answers_to_silly_qu.php

              Citing:

              Dan Kahan, Hank Jenkins-Smith, and Donald Braman (2010) “Cultural Cognition of scientific consensus,” Journal of Risk Research doi: 10.1080/13669877.2010.511246

              Not that you really need studies to say this kind of thing. It’s common sense.

              Plus, I’ve personally observed/interacted with many cases of (a) people who are against evolution, solely because they’ve heard it’s against their religion and morality, and not because they know anything about the science, and (b) cases of people who used to think (a), but don’t now, because they met/learned about people who accepted evolution and science without surrendering everything they hold dear in the world in terms of meaning of life, family and church relationships, moral system, etc. Once that *fear* of evolution is taken away, *then* the major mental block they have towards learning about it has been removed.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted October 30, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

              lus, I’ve personally observed/interacted with many cases of (a) people who are against evolution, solely because they’ve heard it’s against their religion and morality,

              fuck me but you are so dense it’s scary, Nick.

              for the umpteenth time, the debate here is NOT about how the religious reconcile their own inane beliefs, that’s the job of themselves and their religious peers.

              it IS NOT the place of science to reconcile these things for them.

              this is exactly what Jerry, and PZ, and ALL the critics of the public statements attempting to do so by the AAAS and NCSE have ALWAYS been.

              you keep making a strawman of these points to argue against, and in the process, have only been making yourself look more ridiculous, just like Mooney, for quite a while now.

              I know nobody can ever punch it through that thick skull of yours, but I at least hope to point out your mischaracterizations for those unfamiliar with your intellectual dishonesty.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted October 31, 2010 at 9:38 am | Permalink

              “Not that you really need studies to say this kind of thing. It’s common sense.”

              Now THERE’S a view that’s not compatible with science.

          • Michael Fugate
            Posted October 30, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

            Since when is common sense a replacement for science? Common sense says the earth does not move.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted November 1, 2010 at 9:47 am | Permalink

          “Trick or treat?”

          I took a long time to decide if I should reply to the comment, since it is so arrogant in disregarding a request for evidence yet asking for same, and so vilifying in its new strawmen.

          Let me first note that on the question of scapegoating I find it an unfortunate and unsubstantiated claim that can be rejected for the reasons I mentioned. It would also have been interesting to discuss the total absence of such in the case one reject all dualism. Alas, the strawman is raised because accommodationists are unable to accept the evidence.

          Further, in the spirit of evidence, not intended as sophistry, I note that I take the ever continued non-reply as tacit confirmation that there is no “underground railroad” observed nor have there ever been one. This is a pure faith position that we add to the many others of accommodationism, such as the theological claim that science and religion is compatible no matter what.
          Besides statistics we have research evidence that the gnu position is the sensible one to take when you need to put forward a strong message (i.e. well supported but disturbing) to others: present your case first, then why you do it later. The accommodationist position is the one to take for weak messages (i.e. no or little actual support). And making messages (brands) visible and ubiquitous is how you market them.

          Accommodationists should know that this is how social communication respectively social marketing works, alas “YOU’RE LOOKING AT THE WRONG SCIENCE!” as Jason Rosenhause elaborates in smaller letters.

          Evidence please. That very educational system, which you cite favorably and which you think is doing good work, is largely accomodationist.

          As other have noted forcefully, this isn’t the case or it would make problem with separating state and religion. Note that I’m not US citizen, so that constitution can be damned as you suggest, I’m discussing secular societies.

          Nor did I suggest that religious claims of accommodationists are inserted in education. I was concerned with the work of accommodationists to hinder interested parties to ensure that religion and science is separated, and to clarify and not confuse why superstition in general (not religion specifically) fails.

          That has nothing to do with atheism specifically. That is, as also already noted, an idea that sprung from your own imagination.

          Now, _if_ I am correct as discussed elsewhere and materialism is a fact of nature, and this theory eventually would be embraced by science, that should be taught as well of course. It would be a fact tested beyond reasonable doubt before accepted, so it is besides the point, but: a simple empirical fact would not, could not, fail the separation between religion and state. Nor do I believe there is a US constitutional problem of teaching science as science.

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted November 1, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

            “a simple empirical fact would not, could not, fail the separation between religion and state”.

            Ah, thank you for the impetus! I have noted the implication for empiricism when supporting atheism before. Of course the case empiricism when supporting religion would need to be supported, and specifically here how it would affect secular state-religion separation.

            Now I realize that if any one religion would be factually supported in its entirety (or enough so) beyond reasonable doubt, there would be no more “religion”. Sure, there would be strife among remaining religions, but in essence what was monism vs superstition would need to be replaced with a (specific) dualism.

            So there is no case where the above claim would be rejected.

            Undoubtedly this will anger some people. I think I like that in this case. :-D

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted November 1, 2010 at 10:20 am | Permalink

            “I was concerned with the work of accommodationists to hinder interested parties to ensure that religion and science is separated, and to clarify and not confuse why superstition in general (not religion specifically) fails.”

            I should also point out that this was stated _in the very sentence above the one you quoted_.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted October 31, 2010 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      The likes of Biologos people aren’t allowed to teach at evangelical colleges. Gibberson’s public writings would get him fired from such a college in no time flat.

  17. Bernard J. Ortcutt
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    If science trumps the Bible about the natural world, then how could someone accept the Resurrection? After three days of anoxia, there is no possibility of revival. I think that Mohler is very right to be worried about Giberson’s statement, because believing in science really does pose critical questions about the “revealed truths” which are supposedly central to Christianity.

    • articulett
      Posted October 30, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      Yes, this is the whole problem with supporting “faith” as a means of knowledge. How do you determine which things are true and which things you are “supposed to believe”? Which magical notions is it okay to “defer” to and which ones are “unscientific”? There is no clear line. And the bottom line is, faith hurts scientific progress.

      Why should scientists be tiptoeing around what people have been indoctrinated to believe? Doesn’t it make more sense to say, “Hey, you don’t REALLY believe that do you?” or “You realize there’s no more scientific support of divine Jesus than there is for Evil Xenu, right?”

      If people want to believe, it’s fine. But they should keep it private and not expect scientists or others to applaud them for the magical things they claim to believe and the moral superiority they imagine they get from their beliefs.

      Besides, the truth is the truth no matter whether anyone “believes” it or not. It doesn’t need to be “believed in” to be true and you don’t need faith when there’s evidence.

      To me, accommodationism is akin to saying, “yes there really may be some magical robes that only the chosen can see even if lots of people are clearly deluded about having seen such things (like Mohler).” It is the equivalent of the courtier’s reply. (And I notice such a reply is seldom given without making a slam at the gnu atheists for their more honest (strident?) approach.)

      Yes, Nick, we know there are levels of craziness in various magical beliefs… we just don’t want to be a party in enabling any of those beliefs. It’s the magical thinking that we think is more harmful than the symptom of not accepting evolution.

  18. Rick T
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    “This is the typical, well-known route to conversion from a creationist to an evolutionist.”

    Evidence not assertion please.

  19. Posted October 30, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Where Mohler and I agree is this: Giberson isn’t all that convincing when he claims that his own liberal and theistic faith is theologically purer than Mohler’s Baptism.

    This is something that is so often missed. When we as gnu atheists go after the fundamentalists, we’re accused of arguing a straw-man. When we as gnu atheists go after liberal religion then it’s the complaint that we’re putting off our otherwise allies in the greater fight against fundamentalism.

    The hardest task for acccommodationists isn’t to reconcile the atheists and the liberally religious. It’s their crazy and futile attempt to accommodate a faith that embraces science with the faith of people like Mohler.

    Exactly! There was a BBC documentary done last year called “Did Darwin Kill God?” and the case for religious moderation was a contradiction in genesis, the claim that fundamentalism is a modern phenomenon, and that fundamentalists don’t practice Christianity in any form the theologian presenter recognised as being. Hardly a satisfying rebuttal to the fundamentalists. As someone watching who wanted to see a good response to the fundamentalists that didn’t do away with what is meant to be important about belief it was very disappointing. The liberal case is ultimately unsatisfying and its no wonder that the liberal religions are being marginalised. The substance just isn’t there, or if it is they aren’t making a good case of it.

    • Bernard J. Ortcutt
      Posted October 30, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      I feel the need to note that that BBC Documentary “Did Darwin Kill God?” was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever watched. The host, Conor Cunningham. clearly wanted to make two points (1) “Real” Christianity doesn’t conflict with Evolution and (2) “Ultra-Darwinism” (hahaha) is a disturbing perversion of real biology. The whole thing was one half-truth after one misrepresentation after another question-begging argument. It was a joke.

      • Posted October 30, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

        It seemed his middle ground was that a) fundamentalist Christianity doesn’t interpret The Bible correctly, and b) Darwinism needs God for the possibility of knowledge. Not really a satisfying account.

        Though to be fair he only had 60 minutes to make his case. It might have worked better as a 3 part documentary where he could explore his moderate position better, give a more comprehensive critique of fundamentalism, and then have made a more substantive exploration of evolution without God.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted October 31, 2010 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      Besides being dissatisfying, it’s also dishonest. Fundamentalism is far closer to traditional Christianity than “liberal” Christianity, most of which is less than 100 years old.

  20. 386sx
    Posted October 31, 2010 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    We do know this: Professor Giberson asserts that to believe in the truthfulness and historicity of the entire Bible is to paddle in an “intellectual backwater.”

    Yeah, and so what.

    Christians committed to biblical authority should ponder that statement deeply, even as they keep paddling.

    So says the biblical guy in authority over a whole bunch of biblical authority stuff. Usually when people ponder things they stop paddling for a moment. But mister biblical authority dude will have none of that.

  21. Posted October 31, 2010 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Jerry, as you know there are at least a few of us who are accommodationists of a very different sort. We preach and teach that religion must accommodate to science if it wants to avoid extinction or irrelevance.

    I recently had public exchange with Albert Mohler myself, where I argued that the only form of Christianity that will survive into the future is one that fully embraces an evidential worldview and reinterprets all it’s doctrines and theology in a this-world, naturalistic way. (I also applaud the work of the Gnu Atheists.)

    More, this is not a marginal position. My book, Thank God for Evolution (Plume: 2009), which argues along these lines, was endorsed by 6 Nobel laureates and other science luminaries, including noted skeptics and atheists, and by religious leaders across the spectrum.

    Here’s the link to my exchange with Mohler:

    BIBLICAL CHRISTIANITY IS BANKRUPT

    http://thankgodforevolution.com/node/2070

    • truthspeaker
      Posted October 31, 2010 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      The problem is, any form of Christianity that embraces an evidential worldview wouldn’t be Christianity anymore.

      • Saikat Biswas
        Posted October 31, 2010 at 9:15 am | Permalink

        Exactly. Christianity sustains itself by emphasizing a supranatural, transcendental world placed under the divinity of the Christian god. Any naturalistic ‘of-this-world’ interpretation of its doctrines is thus anathema to its core foundation. Christianity has always sold itself on the idea of resurrection and the promise of eternal life in a strictly non-metaphorical way.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted October 31, 2010 at 9:36 am | Permalink

          Not to mention the existence of a conscious, benevolent God.

      • Posted October 31, 2010 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

        @truthspeaker

        That of course depends how you define “Christianity”. If your definition includes the virgin birth, miracles, biblical inerrancy, substitutionary atonement and/or resurrection, then yes, they’re not christian any more, but many good christians are now atheists in all but name; their God is an abstraction, their Jesus a very good human, they put those together, sing the songs and, Vaa-MOH! they’re Christians. Of course they have no trouble with the Big Bang, Old Earth and evolution, and they don’t worry too much about making those beliefs fit together. I suspect that in the developed world outside the US, a majority of christians are of this stripe.

        • What a maroon
          Posted November 1, 2010 at 8:51 am | Permalink

          In other words, they’ve taken the Christ out of Christianity, and what they’re left with is a vague philosophy that may or may not be religious in nature but that basically says, “Jesus was a cool guy with some good ideas and overall we’d be better if we adapted them (except for the bits about gouging out our eyes, or killing Jews, etc.).”

          Which is fine, and much better than any religious form of Christianity, but why call it Christianity then? Why not call it “Jesusism” or something?

    • Posted October 31, 2010 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      Michael,

      I think most here would share my confusion: how could you possibly embrace an “evidential worldview” and yet still conclude that the god who created the universe manifested himself in an ancient Jewish miracle-working preacher who wandered around Jerusalem for a month and a half with a gaping chest wound and holes in his hands and feet? After all, even a cursory examination of the contemporary record (the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Roman satirists, and many more) shows no trace of Jesus — let alone any mention of the incredible things the Gospels record him as having done to prove his identity.

      It’s not for at least a generation that Paul, who prided himself on the fact he never physically met Jesus, made the first mention of him in the historical record. And it wasn’t for at least yet another generation still that anybody else mentioned him — at which time, we start to get dozens of competing and radically-irreconcilable anonymously-authored fantastical biographies (four of which remain in widespread circulation today).

      If you value evidence so much, where’s your evidence that Jesus is more than a myth?

      And, if Jesus is entirely mythical (as you seem to consider the rest of the Bible), why even carry along the baggage of pretending to be a Christian? I mean, sure, Jesus had a couple nice utterances, but he also commanded human sacrifices be made of all those who refused his rule, he came not to bring peace but a sword, he commanded self-mutilation in the Sermon on the Mount…really, there’s an awful lot of nasty stuff in there.

      It would seem far saner to simply let go of such childish nonsense, accept that our ancestors had some really messed-up ideas about the world, and get on with the business of creating Heaven here on Earth.

      Cheers,

      b&

    • Karmakin
      Posted October 31, 2010 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      I read the linked article.

      You’re an atheist. Congrats, I guess.

      The system is not “God”. “God” is a word, a trope that means specific things. It does mean an intellectual-type deity who does have some sort of power to intervene and create un-natural events.

      The system of the cosmos, the system of naturalism, is not “God”. It’s for sure more majestic and magnificent than any deity we could think of. But that doesn’t make it “God”. It’s just…nature. The system.

      The reality is when you use the word “God” it comes with a lot of baggage. It means what I said above, and people assume that’s what you’re talking about even if you’re not. That’s the problem I have with liberal/progressive Christianity. By using the same terms and tropes they are carrying the water for the fundamentalists.

      If said L/P Christianity is going to be an increased force for good in the world, it has to be aware of this. It has to jettison the metaphors, imagery and terms that are used which bring forth emotional responses that can often result in human reactions that are not what you want.

      And the first thing that HAS to go, is the term “God”. I am arguing for a sort of atheistic Christianity. I really don’t think there’s ANY value in theism. At all. But I do think there’s value in the religious experience itself, if that makes any sense. You can have your community, your sense of connection, without it being divinely ordained.

      • Doc Bill
        Posted October 31, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

        Finally, we’re getting somewhere while the professional theologians gaze at their navels.

        Bishop John Spong has called for a redefinition of Christianity and, of course, he’s called a heretic by the Mohler-styled Bible thumpers, well, and others, too. But, Spong is right, IMHO, in discarding all the mythology. Spong stops short of discarding God, too, but it’s a very, very thin line he needs to cross.

        If so he would join the Dalai Lama who in his book, Ethics for the New Millennium wrote of personal responsibility. Responsibility for one’s life begins with the person and that responsibility can extend to the family, the community, the nation and the world; same thing, moving outwards.

        Thus, the teachings from the Bible, that is, lessons about human failings could serve as examples, along with the demonstrations of human foibles from Greek, Roman and other mythologies. They all have stories to tell.

        Perhaps if we all knew that this life was all we had, there was no afterlife and no forgiveness for our transgressions we’d be nicer to each other.

        Or maybe it’s just the gin talking!

        • Karmakin
          Posted October 31, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

          Well, why Spong doesn’t cross that line is simply a matter of definitions. Along the same lines, I consider him an atheist as well, as well as many other religious folks I have talked to.

          I do strongly believe that this is, like you said, “getting somewhere”, or at least this is where the discussion should be going. Liberal/progressive religion without theism, I strongly believe would be able to do a much better job of doing what they claim that they can do..that is to be a positive moral force in society as well as provide strong community structures.

          Theism detracts, not adds, to those goals.

          • Doc Bill
            Posted October 31, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

            Exactly. Gibberson talks the talk, but doesn’t do the walk. None of the “theologians” do. Bunch of morons if you ask me.

      • Morgan
        Posted November 3, 2010 at 10:37 am | Permalink

        My feelings precisely.

        And for what it’s worth it makes perfect sense and tallies very closely with a lot of discussions I’ve had/heard within the [young, liberal, British] Quaker community about where we should be heading as a religious group. I think our usual phrasing is “it’s a philosophy, not a theology”.

    • Posted October 31, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      From the article:

      “”God” is a mythic name for Reality in all its sublime fullness.”

      Ok, and if “God” is just a name for reality, then the conflict disappears – but so does “God” as theists want to understand it.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted October 31, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        Hey, if you define “vegetarian” as “someone who eats lots of bacon”, then I’m a vegetarian. Who are you to tell me I’m wrong?

  22. Ken M
    Posted November 1, 2010 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    The conversation does not seem to have developed much since H G Wells wrote “Mr Belloc Objects to the Outline of History” available at http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks07/0701251h.html

    “What is going on in this dispute is not that I am beating and putting over my ideas upon Mr. Belloc or that he is beating and putting over his ideas upon me, but that the immense increase of light and knowledge during the past century is imposing a new realisation of the quality and depth and import of life upon us both, and that I am acquiescent and he is recalcitrant. I judge his faith by the new history, and he judges the new history by his faith.”

  23. chupa
    Posted November 3, 2010 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    The part I don’t understand is how defenders of science and reason have become so adept at avoiding a key feature of its success: EVIDENCE.

    I see a lot of ‘gnu-atheist’ bashing and rhetoric about how atheists should keep quiet about their beliefs because it hurts the cause, even as I see a deafening lack of evidence that supports this position.

    Accommodationists love to give their opinion, or their impression, or their feelings, but do not seem inclined to want to verify if what they hold as an absolute is even reality. This is a key point mentioned over and over, but never addressed.

    Fatheists, are you not embarrassed by that? I would be.

    Nick, I have always held both you and the NCSE in high regard, especially your contributions to the Dover trial. But I can’t understand this new accommodationist course that the NCSE has veered into over the last few years. I can’t help but wonder what would the Dover trial have been like with today’s NCSE instead.

    Can you really not see how untenable your position is when viewed without observation bias? Are you not at least inclined to question it when you consistently attack straw men or ignore the prominent arguments and focus elsewhere? Do your tactics not remind you of any other interest groups that you may have had to debate in the past? Do you even realize that is what you are doing and who you are mimicking?

    Or, can you at least see now why the ‘Vibrant Dance of faith and Science’ was so obviously a setup to gnu-atheists even as accomodationists like you defended it? What is your explanation for this disparity? Which default position was better able to observe the evidence and predict the outcome? Why?


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