NCSE becomes BioLogos

The mission statement of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is as follows:

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is a not-for-profit, membership organization providing information and resources for schools, parents and concerned citizens working to keep evolution in public school science education. We educate the press and public about the scientific, educational, and legal aspects of the creation and evolution controversy, and supply needed information and advice to defend good science education at local, state, and national levels.

They also say this about religion:

What is NCSE’s religious position?

None. The National Center for Science Education is not affiliated with any religious organization or belief. We and our members enthusiastically support the right of every individual to hold, practice, and advocate their beliefs, religious or non-religious. Our members range from devout practitioners of several religions to atheists, with many shades of belief in between. What unites them is a conviction that science and the scientific method, and not any particular religious belief, should determine science curriculum.

So why does the NCSE, which supports every shade between faith and atheism, have a “Faith Project” but not an “Atheism Project”? And why is the NCSE promoting this on their site?:

Webcast: Evolving Christianity

Interested in exploring the issues raised by science and faith? A free webcast series promises to assemble “thirty of today’s most inspiring Christian leaders and esteemed scientists for a groundbreaking dialogue on how an evolutionary worldview can enrich your life, deepen your faith, and bless our world.” To be broadcast throughout December 2010 and January 2011, “Evolutionary Christianity — Conversations at the Leading Edge of Faith” includes interviews with NCSE Supporter Kenneth R. Miller, discussing “Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul,” as well as Ian Barbour, John Cobb, Michael Dowd, John F. Haught, Karl W. Giberson, Owen Gingerich, Denis Lamoureux, John Polkinghorne, John Shelby Spong, Charles H. Townes, and a host of further scientists and scholars who regard their acceptance of evolution as expanding and enriching their faith. To subscribe to the webcast series and the companion e-newsletter, visit http://evolutionarychristianity.com/.

Over at the endorsed webcast site, The Advent of Evolutionary Christianity, the NCSE’s neutrality toward religion looks a bit, well, compromised:

Saying Yes! To Both Religion and Science

Are you frustrated with how the mainstream media portray the science and religion issue? It’s as if the only two games in town were science-rejecting creationism and faith-rejecting atheism. But for the millions of us in the middle who see no conflict between faith and reason, heart and head, Jesus and Darwin, we know that’s a false choice. Religious faith and practice can be positively strengthened by what God is revealing through science!

Here are some of the participants:

Darrel Falk, President, BioLogos

Karl Giberson, Vice-President, BioLogos

John Polkinghorne, theologian

John Haught, theologian

Kevin Kelly, who thinks that evolution has been set up by God to attain preordained ends

Bishop Shelby Spong

Kenneth Miller, Catholic evolutionist who suggests that “the world . . . knew we were coming

Dennis Lamoroux, author of I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution

Owen Gingerich, astronomer and member of the board of directors, Templeton Foundation

Philip Clayton, theologian

Tom Thresher, pastor

For a seminar selling “evolutionary Christianity”, evolutionists are a bit thin on the ground.  I recognized only Kenneth Miller (who’s written on evolution, though he’s more of a cell biologist).  In contrast, I recognized at least eight theologians. What gives?  Is it to much to ask them to find a few professional working evolutionary biologists to participate—even Christian ones?

Oh, and the site says this as well:

Evolutionary Christianity points to those who value evidence as divine communication. Whatever our differences, we all have deep-time eyes and a global heart—that is, we’re all committed to a just and healthy future for humanity and the larger body of life.

“Studying evolution is like following cosmic breadcrumbs home to God. Only by looking through evolutionary eyes can we see our way out of the current global integrity crisis that is destroying economies and ecosystems around the world.”

Oh dear Lord, studying evolution leads us home to God? “Religious faith and practice can be positively strengthened by what God is revealing through science?” [My italics.] Evolutionary Christians consider evidence as “divine communication”? This is hardly “studied neutrality” toward religion: it’s an explicit endorsement not only of the harmony between Christianity and evolution, but even a statement that we can find God in evolution. In other words, it’s theology, which the NCSE isn’t supposed to do or endorse.

The NCSE should stop promoting this nonsense.  Clearly, the panjandrums there have made an explicit decision that they’ll best further the teaching of evolution by cozying up to Christians, even if those Christians (like Kevin Kelly) have a completely teleological and unscientific view of what evolution is.  It seems as if they don’t care what kind of evolution is endorsed, just so long as it’s called “evolution.”  God directed it toward certain ends? That’s okay!  Evolution is “undirected” and “purposeless”? No, we can’t have that, even if it’s true: might scare the Christians!

For what is an organization profited, if it shall gain the whole world, and lose its own soul?

h/t: Cathy

150 Comments

  1. Neil
    Posted December 2, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    If the flu can put Jerry out of commission, where surgery, peregrinations, and insulting accommodationists could not, I am getting my shot tomorrow.

  2. Stefan
    Posted December 3, 2010 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    While I agree that they are compromising their integrity, their missions seems to be to make sure science education is strong, despite religion. I cringe a bit, but it’s understandable since chipping away at irrational (all) religious beliefs in this country is a slow process and taking a firm atheistic stand ain’t gonna help us fill congress and the senate with reasonable people. We need both the aggressive and “gentle” approaches…good cop, bad cop or vice versa…

  3. GregFromCos
    Posted December 3, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    To me the NCSE needs to be focused on what accomplishes the goal of keeping science in the classroom best? Certainly the more liberal Christian view is better than the more fundamentalist view.

    I know for myself (a former fundamentalist), I never could have made the leap to true reason without some softening around the edges of my fundamentalism by that liberal contingent of Christians.

    I think looking at this as black and white ends up causing more harm than good. Simply getting more people from the right into the grey, will help them eventually see the wonder of Science.

    • Posted December 3, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

      To me the NCSE needs to be focused on what accomplishes the goal of keeping science in the classroom best? Certainly the more liberal Christian view is better than the more fundamentalist view.

      In addition to having problems with this outreach to/promotion of allegedly liberal Christians, it doesn’t seem a part of their stated mission and I’m not sure I even understand the rationale for it.

      They describe what they do here:

      http://ncse.com/about/faq

      These activities sound reasonable. This doesn’t mention outreach efforts or engagement in these debates, and I don’t really get how engaging in that is supposed to contribute to the cause of promoting evolution science in and keeping creationism out of public schools, which is after all the law.

  4. Posted December 3, 2010 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Jerry and friends,

    It’s my fault that NSCE is co-sponsoring this “Advent of Evolutionary Christianity: Conversations at the Leading Edge of Faith” event. I’m the producer and host of it and Genie Scott and many others at NCSE are friends. (Connie Barlow, my atheist science writer wife, and I rafted down the Grand Canyon with 24 others from NCSE last June, just before I was diagnosed with cancer.) This series of conversations (I’m having a conversation with the 29 others) is in large part an attempt to promote an evidential, evolutionary worldview among Christians.

    I’m an accommodationist of a different sort. To my mind, every religion must accommodate to science or it will contribute to the demise of human civilization and the despoiling of the Earth. I’m a 100% naturalist, AND I fully realize that many of these Christian evolutionaries are not. I’ll be trying to move them in the direction of naturalism, of course, but I’m also a pragmatist.

    As long as people have “evidential deep-time eyes” and “a global heart and commitment”, I frankly don’t care what their theology or metaphysics may be. I can grant them whatever woo they want as long as they have deep-time values and a commitment to the health and wellbeing of the larger body of life, rather than just their own “soul’s salvation”.

    I know you and the other Gnus are fighting a very different fight, and as I think you know I’m hugely grateful for the role you all are playing. Still, I’ve got to do what I can. And I believe that this will make a difference — at least with some.

    • Aquaria
      Posted December 6, 2010 at 6:39 am | Permalink

      So when are you going to give equal time to Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and so forth?

      You’re supporting pandering and the condescension of patting people on the head and saying, “There, there, it’s okay if you have evolution (and science all wrong and don’t understand a bit of it. It’s ohhhh-kay that you’re a believer in nonsense. You’re a believer who agrees with us, and that’s all that matters!”

      That’s about as cynical and disingenuous as one can get.

      IOW: You’re not helping. You’re just being a patronizing git.

  5. Posted December 3, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    PS. I’ve already interviewed ten of the thirty and I’d must say that from my perspective, and in light of what I’m trying to do with this series, most of them are utterly kick-ass. I couldn’t be more pleased.

  6. Posted December 3, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    “NCSE advertises a wide range of resources — theistic, atheistic, and agnostic in tone — relating to the defense and promotion of teaching evolution in public schools.”

    I’m curious – did they advertise the speaking dates on Dawkins’ Greatest Show tour?

  7. Posted December 3, 2010 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    Sounds reasonable to me (for one), I appreciate your weighing-in on this, Michael Dowd, THANKS!

  8. Posted December 6, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Jerry,

    I just got off the phone with Genie Scott and I now realize that I was the cause of this unfortunate situation more than I first realized.

    NCSE agreed to let their list know about my teleseries because promoting evolution among religious people is in alignment with their mission, but they did NOT agree to “sponsor” the event precisely for the reasons that you and PZ and many of your readers have articulated.

    I’ve instructed my production team to remove the NCSE logo and mention of them from our website and emails.

    I apologize for being the source of unnecessary confusion.

    Co-evolutionarily,

    ~ Michael

  9. Posted December 6, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    @Jerry: That’s fairer even yet — I (for one) am satisfied, THANKS!

  10. oldfuzz
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    “Are you frustrated with how the mainstream media portray the science and religion issue?”

    Yes, but I’m more frustrated by the way some scientists represent religion and vice versa. When fundamentalists don’t know the difference between a rhetorical theory and a scientific theory or when scientists equate Theism with religion in general, it makes constructive discussion difficult.

    Example: Equating evolutionary Christianity with Christian fundamentalism shows an ignorance of Christianity that rivals the fundamentalist view of evolution.


4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] NCSE becomes BioLogos [...]

  2. [...] et religion » qui se déroule principalement sur les blogs Panda’s Thumb et Why Evolution is True. Je n’aborde pas souvent les disputes de blogs ou de forums mais ici l’enjeu est [...]

  3. [...] made me laugh out loud– both Coyne’s post and Egnor’s commentary. Coyne asks: why would the NCSE have a Faith Project, but not an [...]

  4. [...] first post this week comes from Michael Egnor, a charming response to a post by Jerry Coyne about the NCSE and its so-called “Faith [...]

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