A comment from reader agathosozoe, which I’ll put above the fold. I don’t want to respond at length; I’ll allow the readers to do this as it was a comment addressed to the readers. But be polite, as I ask when you address another commenter.
The more I read the comments here, the more I hear that from the atheist perspective, error has no rights. Thus, many that follow Jerry Coyne are convinced that I am in error. You see, I am a theist of the ilk where my world view begins with “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. If there were no prohibitions, would you then begin to burn at the stake folks like me? Will you ensure that I can’t teach my children, that I can’t get a job as a teacher? So then, such evil practices have “evolved” from the religious community of the middle ages to the secular community of today? Think about such a world – I for one, would not want to live in such a world where error has no rights.
Historically, mankind has primarily been religious, spiritual, and accepting of metaphysical ideas. Although Evolution does not properly deal with biopoiesis, I am confident that if you are an atheist this branch of science is also fully accepted as fact – it had to occur if there is no supernatural realm. Granted – pure naturalism is the framework by which you start your analysis of reality. However, how did you get here? As a theist I admit, easily enough, that major tragedy and evil has occurred in the name of God. Yet, the principles of freedom, by which the political and scientific trajectory that that entire western world has jetted from, started from good, creative, and investigative aspects of theist. Theistic scientist of the past may not have been Christians or Jews or Muslims (some were), but they practiced their craft and performed their investigation based on the belief that God gave the universe order and structure that can be discovered. If there is no God, they were wrong, BUT this is the perspective they had and this has given us the foundation of our modern society.
So, as you enjoy this supposed victory of mandating that evolution be taught as a “comprehensive and coherent scientific theory” and as Jerry as stated, you take this to mean “fact” (which I don’t – it’s strictly a comprehensive and coherent theory – valid science with valid questions, corollaries, and guidelines, but nonetheless, it is a theory), I ask you – take the high road. Don’t become that which many atheists have despised in our shared history about religious oppressors. I don’t want a new dark-age where all of human life is forced to fit into some scientific, deterministic, calculated, complex set of scientific canons, creeds, and maxims. Love, relationship, care, compassion, empathy, grace, forgiveness and the like need the freedom to exist without being codified as some complex psychological outgrowth of evolutionary necessity.
Just three remarks:
1. Who ever said we’d burn people at the stake for their beliefs, keep them from being teachers, or ensure that he can’t teach his children? It’s the religious people who do stuff like that! We fight religion with words and writings, don’t prevent anyone from being teachers so long as they don’t foist their religious beliefs on others in the public schools, and feel (but don’t legislate) that it’s abusive to indoctrinate children with religion. And really, in an atheist world “error” would have rights? (Well, there would be no right to teach creationism in public schools!) What about what religion does when, as in Iran or Saudi Arabia, it gets the upper hand? Do women have a right to drive in Saudi Arabia, a right to go to school in Afghanistan, or do Catholics have a “right” to engage in homosexual behavior?
2. Historically, “mankind” has oppressed women and minorities, killed strangers, and tortured animals. What was characteristic of the past isn’t perforce correct. This person should read Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature.
3. If evolution isn’t a fact by this reader’s lights then neither are viruses and bacteria that cause disease, or atoms as a fundamental chemical unit of matter.
The reader’s concern is duly noted. I commend agathosozoe into your hands.