Accommodationism at Berkeley/NCSE website

The “Understanding Evolution” website, run jointly by UC Berkeley’s Museum of Paleontology and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), is a good place for the layperson to get information about evolution. In December it won a prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science for its quality as an online resource.

It’s too bad, then, that it engages in theology as well as science. If you go to the page titled  “Misconceptions about evolution and the mechanism of evolution,” you’ll see that one of the “misconceptions” is this:

Misconception:


“Evolution and religion are incompatible.”

Response:
Religion and science (evolution) are very different things. In science, only natural causes are used to explain natural phenomena, while religion deals with beliefs that are beyond the natural world.

The misconception that one always has to choose between science and religion is incorrect. Of course, some religious beliefs explicitly contradict science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days); however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings. In fact, many religious people, including theologians, feel that a deeper understanding of nature actually enriches their faith. Moreover, in the scientific community there are thousands of scientists who are devoutly religious and also accept evolution.

For concise statements from many religious organizations regarding evolution, see Voices for Evolution on the NCSE Web site.

(Note how much space is given to NOMA-ish “compatibility” as opposed to to those pesky creationists.)

Isn’t the flat assertion that faith/science incompatibility is a “misconception” really a statement not about science, but about theology and philosophy?

It’s funny: many evolutionary biologists don’t see the incompatibility between science and religion as a misconception at all.  They see it as a view that’s more consistent—and justifiable—than accommodationism. Sadly, the website doesn’t deem that view worth mentioning.

This pervasive pandering to religion on websites supposedly about science—and the deliberate distortion of the views of scientists—is starting to anger me. The NCSE doesn’t really care whether it throws us atheists under the bus, because they take our support for granted.

129 Comments

  1. Saikat Biswas
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    “Of course, some religious beliefs explicitly contradict science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days); however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings.”

    Let me get this. Some religious beliefs are false. However, some religious groups accept science and evolution. Ergo, religion and science are not incompatible. Horse manure!

  2. Tulse
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    “most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings”

    There is no religious group that isn’t in conflict with some scientific finding (it’s why they’re called “miracles”, after all).

    Isn’t the flat assertion that faith/science incompatibility is a “misconception” really a statement not about science, but about theology and philosophy?

    Yes, and that is precisely what ires me about the position of the National Center for Science Education — they are choosing sides in a theological debate.

    • Leigh Jackson
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 1:57 am | Permalink

      The AAAS and NAS are complicit.

      It’s politics pure and simple. It’s ugly, futile and shameful.

  3. Helen
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Many evolutionary biologists see incompatibility between science and religion as a misconception, as NCSE states.

    • Tulse
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      So many evolutionary biologists believe in miracles?

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 2:01 am | Permalink

      List them please.

  4. gillt
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    In fact, many religious people, including theologians, feel that a deeper understanding of nature actually enriches their faith.

    There’s that word again “deeper” as in wading deeper into bullshit.

    however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings.

    data not shown.

    In science, only natural causes are used to explain natural phenomena, while religion deals with beliefs that are beyond the natural world.

    Even as awkwardly phrased as this sentence is, it still lies by omitting the almost universal religious belief in the physical aspect of miracles.

    • MadScientist
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

      Nor has there been anything demonstrated which is “beyond the natural world”. So I would say that “beliefs that are beyond the natural world” is a euphemism for superstition or bullshit.

      • Michael Kingsford Gray
        Posted January 5, 2011 at 2:04 am | Permalink

        Consider “demons”.
        They have been demon-strated, and they are beyond the natural world, Shurely?

  5. Posted January 4, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure I’ll wind up writing this often, but I’ve become particularly enamored of the Evolution Society’s statements on the subject.

    The Society is right, and the NCSE is worng. There’s pretty much no other way of putting it.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • TreeRooster
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      I’m looking for the Society’s comments on religion, without success. However they do mention quite a bit about Theodosius Dobzhansky, including quotes and an award in his name. I think he was a theist, or at least a deist. They also give out a Stephen J. Gould award.

      • Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        I’m looking for the Society’s comments on religion, without success.

        Bingo! Somebody get TreeRooster a cigar.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • TreeRooster
          Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

          See below–sorry to double!

      • SLC
        Posted January 4, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

        The late Professor Dobzhansky was a devout member of the Russian Orthodox Church and was most definitely a theist.

        • Posted January 5, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink

          I too have read or heard that Dobzhansky was Russian Orthodox (and he may well have been, in the cultural sense), but his religious views were not orthodox (small ‘o’): he was more deist than theist. Francisco Ayala, in his obituary of Dobzhansky, writes:

          Dobzhansky was a religious man, although he apparently rejected fundamental beliefs of traditional religion, such as the existence of a personal God and of life beyond physical death. His religiosity was grounded on the conviction that there is meaning in the universe. He saw that meaning in the fact that evolution has produced the stupendous diversity of the living world and has progressed from primitive forms of life to mankind. Dobzhansky held that, in man, biological evolution has transcended itself into the realm of self-awareness and culture. He believed that somehow mankind would eventually evolve into higher levels of harmony and creativity.

      • SLC
        Posted January 5, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        In fact, the late Prof. Dobzhansky was a devout member of the Russian Orthodox Church and was most assuredly a theist.

        • Posted January 6, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

          I’d always thought so, too, but then came across Ayala’s obit (as an ex-Catholic priest and close friend, collaborator, and student of Dobzhansky, I figure Ayala would recognize theism if Th. D. believed in it). I also looked through “The Biology of Ultimate Concern”, Dobzhansky’s most philosophical book, and while evidently religious (in some sense) and sympathetic to Christianity (especially to the views of Teilhard de Chardin, also a Catholic priest), I could find no explicit avowal of theism, nor any mention at all of Orthodoxy (big ‘O). Can you point me toward your sources for his theism and Orthodoxy? Thanks.

  6. Posted January 4, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t accomodationism similar to adaptation? If one fails to accommodate it means one fails to adapt. Consequently it’s a failure to evolve.

    • loren amacher
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      Accomodating to an inadequate and insufficient idea has nothing to do with biologic adaptation. Unless this is a Poe, it is a moronic statement.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      That is exactly ass backwards.

      Selection for adaptation means something chooses (filters). Accommodationism is the attempt of not choosing (for facts and reality).

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 2:12 am | Permalink

      Accomodationism is the polar opposite to evolution or adaptationism in that both of the latter are future-blind and non-teleological, whereas weak-kneed godly-coddling intellectual-wanking accomodationism is entirely teleogically driven. It seeks a pre-determined goal (lo, that it might be spelled gaol).
      That conscious goal is to shun their potential allies, and seek Quixotic quests, tilting at Weslyian Windmills until the theists retire bored out of their tiny scones.

  7. Doug Bohlman
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    I envision a happy future in which intellectual integrity has won its most decisive battles. In this future, practically everybody can witness present examples of such betrayals of honesty for being as repugnant and as unbelievable as they really are. They will find the prospect of a similar situation in their time inconceivable.

    Maybe it’s a large-scale example of Dunning-Kruger, with an unhealthy fear of losing grant money, but my God, these people need to grow some balls. The cowardice of (some of) the scientific community before religion could possibly have the worst imaginable consequences if it is not stopped. How can the NCSE not see this? Religion seems to be retreating practically all on its own–and the scientific community hardly moves an inch to claim its new ground.

    Incidentally, I think history may well look back on the Jerry Coynes and the PZ Myerses of the world as being pivotal figures in the War Against Stupid. I guess that makes me an optomist.

    • Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      Balls balls balls, we’re always being told to grow some balls. I don’t want any god damn balls. And that’s good, because I have no chance of growing any.

      • Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

        What, you don’t have a spaghetti tree planted in your garden? “Shirley” you don’t buy pre-packaged meatballs — those things are like cardboard.

        Cheers,

        b&

      • Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think you need any.

      • Doug Bohlman
        Posted January 4, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

        Ovaries are roughly ball-shaped.

      • Michael Kingsford Gray
        Posted January 5, 2011 at 2:24 am | Permalink

        I agree, Ophelia, for what that it worth.
        It is a sexist phrase uttered without thought by mainly males, but I have also heard females employ it.
        Testicles are hardly the source of moral actions, and quite like the total opposite.
        Folk who employ the phrase are, in my experience, those who also tend to assume that pugnaciousness is an admirable manner with to resolve disputes.

        I have a mild ‘consciousness-raising’ campaign in progress with which to prod those who employ this silly idiom.

        I trust that all who read this will follow suit.

        • Michael Kingsford Gray
          Posted January 5, 2011 at 2:27 am | Permalink

          with to resolve disputes

          with WHICH to resolve disputes, of course.

          Damn this lack of an edit facility.

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 2:18 am | Permalink

      Your cogent observation about the respective historical rôles played by the aforementioned knights of the honest table is already panning out, as the nuggets of truth are sifted from the vast dross of theists’ infantile lies.

      A war against ‘stupid’? No.
      Such would be unfair, as one cannot easily rectify true stupidity.

      A war against ignorance? Yes.
      Ignorance is a curable affliction, despite what the various churches urge.

  8. Nick B.
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    This is dishonesty. It is intentional deception.

    The most offensive thing in there has to be: “most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings”. There is no way that is true. In fact, the converse is almost certainly true.

    And can anyone tell me if the NCSE claims to be neutral on matters religious? If not, does it acknowledge that it forwards a religious/theological view?

    • Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      I wondered if they chose the word “groups” precisely because it’s so vague as to be unfalsifiable.

      • Michael Kingsford Gray
        Posted January 5, 2011 at 2:31 am | Permalink

        They have been told often enough (by those who should know) that they are being blatantly dishonest.
        Let them choose between perfidy or piffle.
        Either way, it doesn’t look good for the lying bastards.

  9. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    I think some forms of religious belief are compatible with science. Some of the deist beliefs and pantheisms don’t conflict with science (mostly because they posit no current interaction with nature beyond the material).

    But then such remote and impersonal beliefs don’t satisfy many people’s desires for the supernatural. People are funny.

    • Tulse
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      deist beliefs and pantheisms don’t conflict with science

      But those aren’t really religions, are they? What aspects of religions do they have — are there groups of adherents who get together and practice rituals of some kind? Is there some coherent set of beliefs to which such groups formally adhere? Do these believers have an established history of practice?

      Or, instead, are such beliefs just vague expressions of personal belief like “there must be something more” or “God is the universe” made by people who are otherwise unconnected with each other.

      I see writers regularly talk about deism and pantheism as examples of religions that are compatible with science, and it ires me no end. At best deism and pantheism are vague personal beliefs, not religions.

    • gillt
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      God of the gaps arguments are not compatible with science.

      I could be wrong but aren’t deism and pantheism a god of the gaps argument and another manifestation of belief in belief?

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      Some of the deist beliefs and pantheisms don’t conflict with science (mostly because they posit no current interaction …)

      I can’t imagine how that works, they conflict with science method at their base and its result on the top.

      First, science tells us (because it works, and we know some reasons why) that parsimony is a best first guess. We have to explicitly test for unnecessary causality (agency). So deism and pantheism, which suggest “something more” is in conflict.

      Then you have to rationalize that it isn’t the good methods, it isn’t even the methods, but it is the result that doesn’t conflict. But you have no result to compare! So how does that rationalization really works, you lack the very knowledge that you want to test?

      Second, that “current” goes to the actual factual conflict. Physics is processes, and those processes works the same today as yesterday. We have absolutely no reason to think that quantum mechanics, say, was replacing “a pro-physics”.

      Moreover, as Hawking now explicitly points out, nowadays we know sound pathways for cosmology (and evolution!) which reject “previous interaction”.

      And what if there was such “previous interaction”? Since it describes agency, not process, you run straight into infinite regress. Who created the creator? Agency and infinite regress are both in direct conflict with science as we know it.

  10. Brian
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    “In fact, many religious people, including theologians, feel that a deeper understanding of nature actually enriches their faith.”

    Isn’t the flat assertion that faith/science incompatibility is a “misconception” really a statement not about science, but about theology and philosophy?

    As the statement proffered some arguments only relevant to psychology, the charitable thing to do is to interpret those that way. However, “Moreover, in the scientific community there are thousands of scientists who are devoutly religious and also accept evolution,” is simply execrable.

    “…most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings.”

    This claim is very likely untrue.

    In any case, I see nothing wrong with answering theological and philosophical questions in a FAQ. In addition, I don’t think that a showing a statement is philosophy and/or theology shows that it isn’t also science.

    “In science, only natural causes are used to explain natural phenomena, while religion deals with beliefs that are beyond the natural world.”

    I can’t help but admire the craftsmanship of that sentence, by which they manage to do all of their lying by omission.

  11. daveau
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    …a deeper understanding of nature actually enriches their faith.

    Funny, that. A deeper understanding of nature is precisely why I reject faith.

  12. Brian
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    And can anyone tell me if the NCSE claims to be neutral on matters religious? If not, does it acknowledge that it forwards a religious/theological view?

    It claims to be neutral, and in doing so it makes the broader claim that one can be neutral. I, apparently alone, (no one else accommodationist or Gnu has agreed with me to my knowledge), dispute this.

    (It is of course possible to comply with our legal norms that demand an outlook most consider neutral).

  13. Posted January 4, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Actually, I don’t think this is very accommodationist. The heading does imply that science and religion are compatible, but the content of the “Response” makes it clear that the compatibility they are speaking of is of the “are there people who accept X and Y” sort of compatibility, and not of the “are X and Y contradictory” sort of compatibility. It never says that science and religion are compatible in the metaphysical or epistemological senses. Rather, it makes the (true) empirical claim that there are religious people who accept evolution, and scientists who are religious. (The wording may be a bit misleading as to the implied frequency of scientists who fit this description, but it’s not literally false.)

    The empirical claim seems to me fair, and about what one would want to say about science and religion in a scientific (as opposed to philosophical) context. The website’s readers may or may not find the theology of Voices for Evolution compelling, but the “Understanding Evolution” site does not itself argue for or against the theology.

    • J.J.E.
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      I think you are right, it isn’t very accommodationist. But it is slightly accommodationist.

      For example:

      most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings

      I think that this, at least in the United States, is wrong. Most groups may perhaps disclaim conflict but still promulgate theological claims that do indeed conflict. But for the religious organizations, that’s just intellectual dishonesty (maybe of the “white lie” variety, but still dishonest). It’s like someone saying “My beliefs don’t contradict modern mathematics.” and “I believe that the repeating number 1.999… < 2." Modern mathematics will tell you that 1.999… is just another way to express 2. And anyone believing that 1.999… < 2 indeed has at least one belief that contradicts modern mathematics.

    • Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      [T]he “Understanding Evolution” site does not itself argue for or against the theology.

      Except that it does. It flatly rejects the very popular theological position that the Earth was created by a deity over a period of days, and it unapologetically embraces the almost-universally-rejected position that the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection is entirely compatible with doctrine.

      (Remember that any sort of deistic intervention in evolutionary processes is incompatible with the Theory and wholly unsupported by evidence.)

      The site and the NCSE both embrace and promote a particular unpopular (by numbers) liberal brand of theology. Worst of all, this theology has basis in neither scripture nor science.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • TreeRooster
        Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, failure to read all the way down. My comment from above:

        I’m looking for the Society’s comments on religion, without success. However they do mention quite a bit about Theodosius Dobzhansky, including quotes and an award in his name. I think he was a theist, or at least a deist. They also give out a Stephen J. Gould award.

        • TreeRooster
          Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

          I’ll reply to myself to say that I did find some comments on the Society’s site, albeit from a linked pdf advertising a free book.

          “Science and Religion Offer Different Ways of
          Understanding the World:
          Science and religion address separate aspects of human experience.
          Many scientists have written eloquently about how their scientific studies of biological
          evolution have enhanced rather than lessened their religious faith. And many religious
          people and denominations accept the scientific evidence for evolution.”

          • Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

            My point is that the Society doesn’t even mention religion (except tangentially, as you’ve found). That’s good, because religion has nothing to do with Evolution. All that’s necessary is to discuss evolution without any mention at all of religion.

            If somebody else brings up the topic, the only suitable response is, “Religion is a different approach to understanding the world; as such, it is not relevant to discussions about science.”

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Ichthyic
              Posted January 4, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

              “Religion is a different REJECTED approach to understanding the world; as such, it is not relevant to discussions about science.”

              fixed.

          • Leigh Jackson
            Posted January 5, 2011 at 5:03 am | Permalink

            Your quote represents the NAS’s promulgated position on the implications of evolution for religion.

            It’s the personal philosophical position of Francisco Ayala,lead author of Science, Evolution and Creationism. I assume this is the pdf link. Ayala was lead author of the book published at the behest of the NAS.

            As president of the AAAS Ayala set up Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion to nurture and propagate the same philosophy.

      • Posted January 4, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

        The theology about which the “Understanding Evolution” site is agnostic is the theology of “Voices for Evolution”; it’s clear from their statement that there are other theologies they are not agnostic about.

    • Tulse
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      the content of the “Response” makes it clear that the compatibility they are speaking of is of the “are there people who accept X and Y” sort of compatibility, and not of the “are X and Y contradictory” sort of compatibility

      But this is precisely the shell-game that the accommodationists play all the time, conflating personal psychological beliefs with ontological claims. If you read the NCSE’s website, or Chris Mooney’s writings, or practically any of the other accommodationist writers, you’ll see this conflation all the time: “Plenty of scientists are believers, so religion and science are compatible.” As others have pointed out, that’s like saying that being a Catholic priest is compatible with pedophilia.

      • Posted January 4, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        The “Understanding Evolution” site does not conflate the two notions of compatibility; it clearly only addresses the “there are people who accept X and Y” notion. To say they are conflating them is to conflate them!

        • Ichthyic
          Posted January 4, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

          no.

          the problem is, that accomdationists conflate the practical ability to compartmentalize disparate notiosn with epistemological compatibility.

          just because Ken Miller exists, does NOT make religion and science compatible epistemologies!

          this is what we’ve been pointing out to them for YEARS now, and it’s become beyond frustrating that they then immediately respond with the same strawman of the argument!

          • Posted January 5, 2011 at 10:00 am | Permalink

            But that’s precisely my point! All the “Understanding Evolution” site says is that “Ken Miller exists”; they draw no epistemological inferences from this fact. If they went on to say therefore science and religion are epistemologically compatible, they would then be engaging in the conflation that you (and I, and Jerry) rightly decry; but they don’t.

            • Tulse
              Posted January 6, 2011 at 9:47 am | Permalink

              All the “Understanding Evolution” site says is that “Ken Miller exists”; they draw no epistemological inferences from this fact.

              You and Understanding Evolution are both being disingenuous — the only purpose of saying that folks like Ken Miller exists is to imply that there is some intellectual respectability to the notion that science and religion are compatible. Why else would one point out scientists who are religious?

      • Michael Kingsford Gray
        Posted January 5, 2011 at 2:37 am | Permalink

        that’s like saying that being a Catholic priest is compatible with pedophilia

        Very poor choice there, all things considered, for the assertion is actually correct.

  14. Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    If they had only modified the following statement with the italicized addition, they would have been mostly right, and had balls of steel to boot:

    The misconception that one always has to choose between science and religion is incorrect. Of course, some religious beliefs explicitly contradict science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days, or that a man from Nazareth was born to a virgin and later raised from the dead);

    Yep, that explicitly contradicts science, I think. Why didn’t they mention that?

    • gillt
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      that a man from Nazareth was born to a virgin and later raised from the dead)

      Good point. What Christian (their obvious target audience), even moderate, would deny the literal account of Jesus’ life and death, a claim contradicting what we know about human physiology and biological life.

      Lying by omission.

      • TreeRooster
        Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        I think there is a key difference here. In the contest of evolution vs 6-day creationism, direct evidence exists for the first but not the second. In the contest of historical resurrection vs myth, no direct evidence exists. There is only hearsay vs physical impossibility (not a problem for someone who hypothesizes a larger reality which sustains our physics–the logical possiblity of miracles only requires us to live in a matrix).

        • Posted January 4, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

          Actually, we have evidence as iron-clad as it comes.

          We know Jesus is pure fiction because we have copious contemporary records and none of them even breathe a hint of anything vaguely remotely possibly resembling the Gospel stories.

          This includes perhaps the greatest cache of actual original documents from all of antiquity, the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as the nearly-complete (copies of copies) work of Philo, Pliny the Elder’s exhaustive encyclopedia, the prolific Roman satirists, and much more.

          The statement that Jesus might have been real after all is as meaningful as a statement that maybe Helen really did tell Gort, “Klaatu barada nikto,” on the White House lawn.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Tulse
            Posted January 4, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

            The statement that Jesus might have been real after all is as meaningful as a statement that maybe Helen really did tell Gort, “Klaatu barada nikto,” on the White House lawn.

            Well, Klaatu also rose from the dead, but presumably via superscience.

          • Michael Kingsford Gray
            Posted January 5, 2011 at 2:40 am | Permalink

            You have learned well, my son.
            Yeshua is 101% fiction.

    • CW
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      Balls of steel to boot? I’m not sure why you would suggest some kind of connection between having balls and having integrity but I can see why, if they are to be booted, you would want them to be steel. If you continue publicly conflating testicles with convictions you might want to invest in a steel set for yourself.

  15. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    It is a very old text too. I remember been referenced to that a s a good beginners text, but happened to see the theology espoused and it felt like a slap in the face. After ranting on some blogs about its political idiocy (IIRC, can’t find it now) I never went back. So much for helping “understanding”.

    If it isn’t dated, a wayback machine may tell how old it is.

  16. Andy Dufresne
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    It’s pathetic, this pandering.

    I still don’t see what would be so danged offensive about a science organization treating religious people like grown-ups. Just tell them the truth: “Look, if you’re a religious person, there’s a better-than-fair chance that science will contradict your beliefs at some point. Science establishes facts, and not every fact is going to be compatible with what your pastor says. Some people have a tough time with that, while others deal with it rather easily. But that’s the reality—that’s the truth of the matter. We’re here to answer any science-related questions you might have.”

    • Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Or, as the Evolution Society does, simply don’t mention religion at all.

      b&

      • Andy Dufresne
        Posted January 4, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        Exactly. …But if you must mention it, don’t B.S. people.

        • Marella
          Posted January 4, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

          I really don’t see what is to be gained by mentioning religion at all in this context.

          • Ichthyic
            Posted January 4, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

            I’ve always basically agreed with this perspective.

            If someone religious asks me how to reconcile their religion with science, I always tell them:

            don’t ask a scientist, ask those who formalized your religious beliefs!

            it’s not the job of AAAS to address philosophical bullshit, period.

            now, having said that, the only practical problem with this approach, is that people DO recognize that science has shown itself to be the only productive epistemology, period. They know this intuitively, because they aren’t dead from bacterial infection, or drive their car to work, or are busy reading things like this on their computer screens.

            so, even the religious begin to look to scientists as authority figures, and, being human and all, and wanting to be helpful, many have fallen into the trap of theologizing science itself for the religious.

            it’s a dangerous game to play, and while some think they are being genuinely helpful, one has to wonder if in the end, it isn’t all about ego.

            so, bottom line, if you think to ever try to reconcile science with some ideological belief system for someone who asks…

            DON’T

            you’re not doing them, science, or yourself, any favors.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      Similarly:

      “Look, if you’re a politically interested person, there’s a better-than-fair chance that science will contradict your politics at some point. Science establishes facts, and not every fact is going to be compatible with what your party says. Some people have a tough time with that, while others deal with it rather easily. But that’s the reality—that’s the truth of the matter. We’re here to answer any science-related questions you might have.”

      And so on.

      What made religion so special? (Except special pleading, of course.)

      • yesmyliege
        Posted January 4, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

        “What made religion so special?”

        The U.S. Constitution. And the lawyers of religious groups, who have been given legal standing to represent the educational interests of a nonexistent deity.

      • Marella
        Posted January 4, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        Unfortunatly economics is not even close to being a science, so people are free to believe what suits them in this regard. If there were some actual scientific evidence for any economic theory I expect that eventually most of the economists would subscribe to it just like in any other field of endeavor.

  17. MadScientist
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    I just don’t understand why they even mention religion at all. What’s that got to do with teaching science? Do the fundamentalists really try hard to learn and understand evolution simply because some people say it’s compatible with their religion? If so, show me the young-earth creationist who believes in evolution. I consider Francis Collins a creationist even though he’s not a YEC – he’s a variant of the Old Earth Creationist and believes in ‘directed evolution’ (humans are an inevitable outcome of god’s great plan).

  18. Posted January 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    “(e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days)”
    Instead of giving one example, it would have been more useful for a centre for science education to have listed all the religious claims that are incompatible with science. And I wouldn’t even include the patently miractulous, since they are “untramelled by the laws of physics (or chemistry, or biology, or astronomy…)”
    1. The earth was created before light. (Gen 1:1)
    2. Waster was created before light. (Gen 1:2)
    3. Light was created before light-emitting bodies (Gen 1:3)
    4. There were day and night before there were stars. (Gen 1:5)

    etc….

    • Posted January 4, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      Mentioning religion is a bad idea, as I’ve discussed above. But, if you’re going to do it anyway, you can’t give special treatment to one particular religion. If you must give an example from Genesis, only give one, and also give one each from Hinduism, Islam, and one or two long-dead religions.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Marella
        Posted January 4, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        Well you’re in America so I suggest the Aztec creation myth, don’t know anything about it but it’s at least local. In Oz we have the ‘Dreaming’ of the Australian Aborigines, full of cute ‘just so’ stories.

        • Posted January 4, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

          Or, for super extra bonus points, include non-religious folk tales. “For example, science is incompatible with the belief that the Grand Canyon was carved when Paul Bunyan carelessly dragged his axe behind him.”

          I know, I know. Much too antagonistic for a respectable organization.

          <sigh />

          b&

    • J. Schneider
      Posted January 11, 2011 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      Don’t forget: if simply read as history, the creation of a botanically fully flourishing planet before existence of the material, spatial/temporal universe. Of course no self respecting Genesis scholar reads the text this silly way.

  19. ennui
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    If you view Science as a set of beliefs about the universe, then any two-bit carnival barker with an offering plate can invent a bullshit story about god that doesn’t contradict those beliefs.

    If, however, you view Science as an evolving epistemology of what works, and you compare it to the various religious “ways of knowing” (*barf*) like intuition, faith, revelation and meditation, there just might be a conflict.

    We should get all the accommodationists a lapel pin with a lowercase, yellow ‘a’, possibly in Comic Sans.

    • Tulse
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      We should get all the accommodationists a lapel pin with a lowercase, yellow ‘a’, possibly in Comic Sans.

      Heh!

    • H.H.
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. The conflicts lies not in the conclusions of science vs. the conclusions of religion, but in their opposing methodologies. Evolution doesn’t necessarily have to conflict with the dogma of any particular religion, but that’s really nether here nor there. Science itself conflicts with faith and magical thinking.

  20. Prodigal Sun
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I just generally disagree with all the fuss about accom…aww forget it-i cant spell it.Look here folks-the truth will stand on its own two feet.It doesnt need you or me to stick up for it.Besides,I think NCSE strategy is going to accomplish more in the long run than this discussion will.Really,to the opposition it looks a lot like political correctness,and they WILL use against you.Mark my words folks.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      It doesnt need you or me to stick up for it.

      current gallup poll numbers in the US suggest othewise.

      • Prodigal Sun
        Posted January 7, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

        actually,statistically,we are doing pretty well.40 per cent acceptance is nothing to sneeze at.I suspect maaanny of the other numbers are people lying because of acculturation.It could turn out the actual subjective true believers are nonexistent.We havent technology to know what people are REALLY thinking.YET

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 2:53 am | Permalink

      I think NCSE strategy is going to accomplish more in the long run than this discussion will

      Such as?

      • Prodigal Sun
        Posted January 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

        history will show us.how can i possibly demonstrate that.surely you could have foreseen that before you wrote the reply.The truth of the universe,is uonvincible to gallup numbers.people can believe any delusion they wish.Try this-my dog sits by us while we watch tv.he never even looks at the tv.he has conception whatsoever what it is we are staring at.If that example doesnt clear it up.I can only conclude you are just as contrarian as your opponents.They probably know perfectly well what the truth is.They just lie to the polls,because THEY are smart enough to realize its just s stupid poll.

        • Michael Kingsford Gray
          Posted January 7, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

          That did not answer my very simple question at all, (from what coherency I was able to extract from your rambling response, which was very little).
          If ‘your dog not being able to comprehend television’ is an answer, then we must be living on different planets.

        • Notagod
          Posted January 10, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

          Have you tried; youtube dog wathcing tv?

    • Prodigal Sun
      Posted January 7, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      let me clarify that-its looks a little like stalinist show trial,without the NKVD to back it up.Thats what creationists would say if they read this site.But,let me clue you in on something-Ive got a pretty good hunch they are IGNORING us.

  21. J.J.E.
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    So, would you really like your donations to the NCSE go to funding the salary of Peter Hess? A person that promotes theology under the auspices of the NCSE? This is the primary barrier to my supporting the NCSE. I suspect any donations I make would go to paying people who I think undermine the integrity of science by pushing a theological perspective (i.e. the perspective that the “proper” reading of the Bible is one that doesn’t conflict with science).

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 2:56 am | Permalink

      That the NCSE actually employ a “Director for Religious Community Outreach at NCSE” is an abomination against sense and science.
      That is akin to a medical centre being kind to poisoners.

      • Tulse
        Posted January 5, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

        Or the NIH having an centre for alternative medici…oh, crap…

        • whyevolutionistrue
          Posted January 5, 2011 at 7:29 am | Permalink

          Ha, Mooney is speaking there on January 10!

          • Tulse
            Posted January 5, 2011 at 8:38 am | Permalink

            Seriously? Seriously? The guy who wrote about a “war on science” is going to speak at NCCAM? Does this guy not care about his credibility at all?

            • qbsmd
              Posted January 5, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

              Others have criticized him for not using the awesome communication skills he’s supposed to have to convert the superstitious to science. Maybe he’s finally gotten around to trying. If he gives a lecture on the benefits of scientific medicine to alt-med people, that’s at least something. If he appears more concerned with getting invited back, on the other hand…

              • Michael Kingsford Gray
                Posted January 6, 2011 at 12:04 am | Permalink

                … he may have “jumped the shark”.

          • Leigh Jackson
            Posted January 5, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

            Be interesting to hear what he says. I found a fine article on CAM by him from April.

            If he’s been paying attention he will know that the placebo effect has become the last redoubt of CAM mysticism. After loads of money and years of research fudging the truth is begining to out.

            • Leigh Jackson
              Posted January 5, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

              Damn, the article was April 2002 – number lock was off.

    • qbsmd
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      I hadn’t realized the NCSE was actually funding theology; I thought they just promoted the kind they like.

      At the very least, he should have to demonstrate some results to justify his job. A collection of letters from preachers saying that they no longer preach against belief in\teaching of evolution after learning his take on theology and science would be a good start. Sure, it would be anecdotal, but at least it would be evidence that he’s accomplishing something.

  22. Ken Pidcock
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to take the counterpoint on this. The incompatibility of evolutionary theory and theism is a central theme of ID creationists. David Klinghoffer:

    This may be why…thinkers who have tried to assert the compatibility of God and Darwin invariably end up changing the meaning of one or the other. Those, for example, who say that God may operate through the medium of Darwinian evolution have resorted to a logical fallacy. Again, the whole purpose of Darwin’s theory is to discover a model by which life could have evolved without a need for God. Anyone asserting a full-bodied Darwinism has, by definition, rendered God superfluous and irrelevant.

    The University of California Museum of Paleontology, NCSE, AAAS and everyone else who pisses us off with their accommodation see political value in trying to refute this. I’m enough Machiavellian to defer to their judgment.

    • J.J.E.
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      There’s a big difference between saying “not all Christians perceive incompatibility between Christianity and science” and “Christianity isn’t incompatible with science”. It is a crucial distinction.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

      Let me add that I’m not suggesting that honest scientists who acknowledge the incompatibility, including our gracious host, are somehow not helping. Truth has real value. It’s just that dissimulation can, too.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted January 4, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      The University of California Museum of Paleontology, NCSE, AAAS and everyone else who pisses us off with their accommodation see political value in trying to refute this. I’m enough Machiavellian to defer to their judgment.

      there’s a big difference between understanding political expediency, and understanding what the honest argument actually IS.

      example:

      Landmines are horrific. Most nations joined the UN in banning them (notable exceptions that will go unmentioned).

      Still, it’s not hard to see their tactical value in any given situation.

      likewise, the very concept of NOMA is not logically defensible, but it can and has had tactical application in the greater war for rationality.

      One can, and SHOULD be able to debate both the logic behind a concept, as well as it’s potential for tactical application.

      another example:

      those stupid holographic rubber arm bands some companies claim have “healing powers”, or create “better balance”.

      we all know that’s absolute bullshit.

      but they still can make money selling them.

      so, while we can easily analyze the scientific merit of “rubber armbands”, we also can just as easily recognize they do indeed have economic value to some.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted January 4, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

        too many examples, no bottom line.

        here’s the bottom line:

        -NOMA is logically indefensible, and scientists should not be involved in even trying to defend it, or any other compatibility scheme; let the PR hacks do that.

        -accomodationists (who I will classify as acting in the role of PR hacks), should really stop telling those of us who recognize the fallacies involved to shut up. If their tactics are that easy to see through, they should come up with better tactics. Otherwise, they’d be far better off remembering the “Streisand Effect”, and NOT call attention to the people who rightly criticize the logic of their endeavors, if they intend to be successful with them.

        this is exactly why people like Chris Mooney are detrimental to this whole scheme.

        they want to play the accomodationist card; involve themselves in the tactical game, but at the same time, they constantly harp on the “New Atheists”, not realizing that every time they do, they point their own intended audience towards the very information that shoots apart their own tactics!

        it’s fucking insanely stupid, doesn’t do ANYONE (except Chris Mooney – who can utilize his whinging to get himself a Templeton Grant and sell a few books) and deserves nothing less than a metaphorical slap in the face.

        the analogy would be someone who sells rubber bands to rubes, and at the same time, constantly whinges about critics by pointing them to websites that point out exactly why the rubber bands don’t do shit.

        result?

        the only people left actually listening to such a person are credulous rubes themselves.

        …and I think if one spends a few minutes reading the comments on Mooney’s blog posts, one couldn’t help but agree.

        • Michael Kingsford Gray
          Posted January 5, 2011 at 3:10 am | Permalink

          It must grate on Mooney when he ‘reviews’ his comments, deciding who plonk in the memory-hole, and who to retain.
          He is smart enough to recognise that the residue of posters represents the dregs sanity, and those whom he bans represent intellectual honesty personified.

          It must grate.

          • Ichthyic
            Posted January 5, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

            It must grate.

            I could just imagine his response, in private, away from the blog…

            “yeah, grates all the way to the bank…”

            *sigh*

    • Posted January 5, 2011 at 2:29 am | Permalink

      “Again, the whole purpose of Darwin’s theory is to discover a model by which life could have evolved without a need for God.”

      It’s all about them.

    • Leigh Jackson
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      “There is no surer sign of decay in a country than to see the rites of religion held in contempt.” N. Machiavelli.

      Francisco Ayala attained a position of power and influence within the NAS and AAAS hierarchies.

      No doubt he saw political and religious value in opposing ID – and atheistic scientism. His personal stamp is all over NAS/AAAS accommodationism.

      • Tulse
        Posted January 5, 2011 at 7:28 am | Permalink

        “There is no surer sign of decay in a country than to see the rites of religion held in contempt.” N. Machiavelli.

        We’re taking advice from Machiavelli now?

        • Leigh Jackson
          Posted January 6, 2011 at 8:06 am | Permalink

          Jerry for president?

        • Prodigal Sun
          Posted January 7, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

          mentioning Machiavelli.Now that could get us somewhere in understanding the american right,and karl rove

  23. SAWells
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    It would be refreshing to see a statement going something like:

    Question: I’m concerned about the possibility of conflict between science and my religion.

    Response: Your concern is noted. Now do you have a science question?

  24. Aqua Buddha
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t one of the insights of evolution that human existence is a pretty big accident (not that the evolutionary process is random). That is, if that meteor didn’t kill off those big reptiles 65 mya, we wouldn’t be here. Our arrival on the scene depended on countless contingent events that weren’t destined to occur in the way they did.

    Religion, on the other hand, tells us that God created man. Or in a more sophisticated formulation, that God set off a process with the end goal of the creation of humankind.

    These religious viewpoints (do “most” religious groups deny them?) are in no way compatible with the above scientific insight.

  25. Posted January 5, 2011 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    The discussion of Science and Religion compatiblity quickly degenerates to: How many practitioners of science are religious and using their numbers as arguement.

    Replace ‘Science’ with ‘Pedophilia’ above, to see how vacuous that argument is.

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 3:12 am | Permalink

      No vacuum at all.

      • Posted January 5, 2011 at 5:10 am | Permalink

        LMGTFY

        vacuous (vac·u·ous) -adj
        3. expressing or characterized by a lack of ideas or intelligence; inane; stupid
        (dictionary.com)

        • Michael Kingsford Gray
          Posted January 5, 2011 at 5:28 am | Permalink

          Acting on instruction:
          “Replace ‘Science’ with ‘Pedophilia’ above, to see how vacuous that argument is.”

          I find that “Pedophila” (sic) & “Religion” are not just compatible, but criminal bedfellows.
          This correlation is anything but inane.
          It is intentional and institutional.

  26. Posted January 5, 2011 at 4:01 am | Permalink

    I was reflecting on my previous religious beliefs and couldn’t think of any that were compatible with science.

    So, I’ll go out on a limb and say that the beliefs of fundamentalist Christianity, evangelical Christianity, mystical Christianity, liberal Christianity, New Ageism, paganism, and eastern mysticism are incompatible with science.

    • Dominic
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 4:45 am | Permalink

      Yes, they are all voodoo. Religion is no better than they are – they are the same thing only religion has the institutions. That’s why it is so funny when these idiots – sorry – ‘people of faith’ [clears throat] – sneer at the ‘esoteric’ stuff – their religions are ALSO esoteric rubbish.

      • Posted January 5, 2011 at 5:34 am | Permalink

        Hey, I never said Voodoo was incompatible with science. Many scientists are also sincere and dedicated Voodooists.

        Also, the principles of Voodoo have been paralleled in the “entanglement” phenomenon of quantum physics.

  27. Dominic
    Posted January 5, 2011 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    You are right to be angered. Nonsense.

  28. Posted January 5, 2011 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    If you’re looking for something to anger you, you’ll find it (I know, because I tend to do this myself). Are these writers really pandering to the religious? Or could it be that they’re simply expressing their honest opinions?
    In his book, “The Road Less Traveled”, M. Scott Peck, in a section entitled “Scientific Tunnel Vision” argues that evolution is not a denial of the existence of the Creator, but the opposite–an indication of the Creator’s genius. And I agree. We discovered evolution–but we could have never conceived it. It’s too complex. We saw the Creator as the Great Magician, who just zapped everything into existence. But evolution, the process by which the Creator creates (at least in this universe)–is far more complex than “magic”. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” but so does evolution. As mentioned, we discovered evolution–but we could have never conceived it. This is because the Creator is the ultimate intelligence–the Mind of all Minds. The Creator is not human. The Creator is not inhuman. The Creator is beyond human–so far beyond human that we cannot even conceive the Creator. Yet we can communicate with the Creator, no matter where we are, what we are doing, or what time it is. (There is no time, anyway–it is a construct of man, who cannot comprehend eternity.) This, whether you call it prayer or meditation or both, is the greatest privilege we humans have. No other species on earth can communicate with the Creator, as we can. Alot of devoutly religious people are turned off whenever I use logic to explain my faith. They obviously believe that the two are contradictory. But they’re not. For the Creator is pure logic, indeed the creator of logic, of reason in the first place–the Mind of all Minds.

    One can be just as insecure in his/her non-religious beliefs as another in his/her religious beliefs.

    • occamseraser
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      The Creator is not human. The Creator is not inhuman. The Creator is beyond human…
      I am the eggman
      They are the eggmen
      I am the walrus
      Goo goo g’ joob
      G-goo goo g’ joob
      Goo goo g’ goo
      G-goo goo g’ joob goo

      Don’t bogart that joint, Scott!

    • ennui
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      Hey Scott, next time you’re praying/meditating/hearing voices in your head/having a temporal lobe seizure, ask the Creator 1) what specific chemical reactions led to the first replicating molecule, and 2) how we can detect dark matter and dark energy. Nobel prizes await!

    • Leigh Jackson
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Peck may not have denied evolution but did deny the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Or rather, he co-opted them both and turned them into nice comforting mushy woo.

      • Leigh Jackson
        Posted January 5, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

        Scientifically meaningless but “spiritually” meaningful goo. Same business as de Chardin, Ayala, Collins, Davies and so on… (includes fine-tuning synergy with ID creationism and quantum woofulness)

  29. Leigh Jackson
    Posted January 5, 2011 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    “Isn’t the flat assertion that faith/science incompatibility is a “misconception” really a statement not about science, but about theology and philosophy?”

    Absolutely. Made by an individual the statement would be an opinion. Coming ex cathedra from Understanding Evolution it has the ring of holy dogma.

  30. Frank
    Posted January 5, 2011 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Jerry, you sound like the left-based critics of the Obama administration whinging about Health Care.

    Those of us who live in Jesusland can never forget that we all have the same enemy and it’s not the NCSE.

    Now I have to go monitor my state’s legislative website so we don’t get blindsided by another creationism bill. It’s a hell of a bigger threat than Francis Collins, Genie Scott, or whoever’s got your bile roiling.

    • Tulse
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      Frank, you’re missing the point. The issue isn’t what Francis Collins believes, but rather that a science organization is advocating a particular theological stance. All folks are asking is that they not do that — not that they promote atheism, or declare that all religious people are poopy-heads, just that they not adopt a theological position.

      • Leigh Jackson
        Posted January 5, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        The threat to science education comes from literalist biblical creationism. No way is anyone going to get those folks to change their faith if science can’t do it. They are damned right to be scared out of tiny minds about their kids being taught the truth about evolution; because any honest and inquistively minded child open to the beauty of science and wonder of life is going to give up believing what their parents are telling them.

        Your enemy is the enemy of the NCSE. Non-accommodationists are not the enemy of the NCSE. Accommodationists are going to have to wake up. The NCSE will lose nothing by dropping its accommodationist stance. It can carry right on doing what it does best and stop doing what it does worst. Educating the public about evolution and persuading nobody who isn’t already persuaded that evolution isn’t a threat to their creationism whilst getting right up the noses of a bunch if its supporters.

        Let’s come together for the bitter fight that has to be fought.

        • Leigh Jackson
          Posted January 5, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

          Ooops, that was meant for Frank.


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